I must make a confession. With each progressive chapter in this book, it becomes more difficult for me to continue writing this review. It has nothing to do with my desire to finish; rather it has everything to do with the fact that Bell’s writing toward the end of the book is spent propping up everything he said in the early chapters of the book. In all honesty, I feel like the book is put together backwards. The chapters on heaven and hell would likely have been better toward the end. Chapter six of Love Wins is entitled, There Are Rocks Everywhere. It is a rather puzzling title upon first glance. At first, my mind began to wander toward how the rocks will cry out if Jesus does not receive the praise he is due. I was wrong. As you read through this chapter, the meaning of its title becomes clearer.
Bell begins this chapter with a couple of unique stories about how individuals came to Christ. The first guy was smoking pot and making drawings when he became suddenly aware of a warm, loving presence that forced him to the ground, prostrate on his kitchen floor. While pinned to the floor he became utterly aware of his need for Jesus to save him. The other guy was in an accident at work, and while blacking out he encountered the mythical white light that we have heard so many testify about. His encounter with the light caused him to feel a profound sense that he was not “good and right.” Both of these men surrendered to what they perceived to be God with repentance, and both of them, according to Bell are living changed lives.
It is not my intention to dispute those testimonies. For that matter, I have heard of people in the midst of the spiritual darkness in Iran being born again through the medium of ongoing, repetitive dreams about Jesus. They would have the same dream every night about Jesus for months on end; no missionaries, no other Christians, they only knew what they knew about Jesus from the Qur’an. I know God can save those he desires to save using whatever means necessary to save them. Bell’s use of those testimonies is an introduction to a larger concept.
“What kind of universe are we living in? Is it safe or dangerous? Is there a force, an energy, a being calling out to us, in many languages, using a variety of methods and events, trying to get our attention?” (p. 141)
Let me cut to the quick. The heart of the matter for this chapter is this: Bell contends that Jesus is found in many places, and in more places than most people is willing to consider. What does that mean? Building upon the strange testimonies, he moves to where Paul speaks of the spiritual rock from which the Israelites drank.
“For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, ESV
Paul is referring back to an older story in Exodus 17 where Moses struck a rock and water flowed out for the Israelites to drink. Paul reveals that the rock was actually Christ, and he is the one from whom the water flowed. It echoes reminders of the conversation that Jesus had with the woman at the well in John chapter 4 when he offered her “living water.” Bell contends that Paul finds Jesus in that rock because Jesus can be found everywhere. Suddenly, this is starting to take on a pantheistic feel.
One of Bell’s key arguments in this chapter centers around Jesus’ claim in John 14:16, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is an exclusive claim. The ONLY way people can come to the father is through Jesus Christ. But here is where Bell departs from orthodoxy (once again):
“And so this passage is exclusive, deeply so, insisting on Jesus alone as the way to God. But it is an exclusivity on the other side of inclusivity.” (p. 154)
I had to reread this page a few times to wrap my mind around the nonsense of that statement. It is a nonsensical logic. My understanding of what Bell is saying is that the inclusivity that precedes exclusivity is this: The path to Jesus comes through many different avenues and paths, but they all lead to one mountain. Then, once people reach the mountain and find Jesus, the exclusivity of Christ kicks in. These people will know and understand that Jesus is the only way to God. This argument simply cannot hold water.
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:14-17, ESV
God has ordained that people come to faith through the preaching of the Word of God. People who are steeped in Hinduism simply do not magically come to a realization that Jesus is the only way to God. The Gospel must be preached to them. Even in the case of the Iranians I mentioned earlier, the Gospel was presented to them through the medium of their dreams. God moved for those people in an extraordinary way, but we should not expect that to be normal because he has commissioned us make disciples in all nations.
So when Bell says there are rocks everywhere, he means that Jesus has placed himself in the midst of many different paths to God, therefore making him inclusive, but insisting that once these people see recognize Jesus they will embrace him as the ONLY way, making him exclusive. If this is true, why do we not see multitudes come out of these false religions to claim Jesus as the only way? This cannot be reality. Bell’s rocks are silent.