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Imagine There’s No Heaven

As you read Pastor Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, it becomes apparent that as confused he is about the existence of  hell, he is just as muddled in his beliefs about heaven. He is quick to point out that in all the descriptions he finds of heaven in contemporary Christianity, “heaven is obviously, somewhere else”  (Love Wins, pg. 24).

Bell thinks he can make his point about “heaven being elsewhere” by using a nonsensical list of questions he must have pooled from his church’s kindergarden department: “When we get to heaven what will we do all day?  Will we recognize people we used to know? What will it be like? Will there be dogs there?” Because the Bible does not give us a full descriptive response to Bell’s questions, the assumption is that believing heaven is somewhere else is problematic.

The reader is blindsided by Bell when he brings up the fact not all people will be in heaven according to Christianity. Not all our uncles, aunts, grandparents, brothers and sisters . . .  nor even our parents will necessarily make it to heaven (pg. 25).

Behind Bell’s questioning is his underhanded aim to plant doubts in the reader’s mind whether heaven is a real place and whether God is cruel by not allowing everyone into heaven regardless of their relationship to Christ.

A big chunk of Bell’s chapter on heaven is devoted to  Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. There Jesus  engages a wealthy young man in a conversation about eternal life.

However, Jesus, according to Bell, blows a great opportunity to tell the man how to get to heaven. Instead, the Lord talks to the man about keeping the ten commandments and focuses on his relationships with other people rather than God. Since the ruler thinks he’s kept all the commandments dealing with treatment of others, Jesus tells him to go sell all his possessions and take care of the poor. Bells concludes from this encounter Jesus was not concerned with telling the man how to go to heaven.

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