We spent two weeks discussion Rob Bell's Love Wins. To our United Methodist imaginations, the controversy his book has generated seems a bit hard to understand--many of the things he speaks about have long been a part of our theological tradition. (He admits that his ideas aren't new... He just presents them in a way that speaks clearly to our contemporary time and culture.)
Which may be the best thing his book does: present a grace-filled theology in a way that reaches people outside of or new to the church, today. And present it with humility, acknowledging that people of good faith have interpreted things in a variety of ways over the life of the church.
Our United Methodist Church expects all of us church folk to think theologically. You can read all about how our Book of Discipline elaborates "Our Theological Task" here, but let me quote a bit of the good stuff:
Theology is our effort to reflect upon God’s gracious action in our lives. In response to the love of Christ, we desire to be drawn into a deeper relationship with the "author and perfecter of our faith." Our theological explorations seek to give expression to the mysterious reality of God’s presence, peace, and power in the world. By so doing, we attempt to articulate more clearly our understanding of the divine-human encounter and are thereby more fully prepared to participate in God’s work in the world.
While the Church considers its doctrinal affirmations a central feature of its identity and restricts official changes to a constitutional process, the Church encourages serious reflection across the theological spectrum.
Which brings me to my first question: did you find clear articulation of the divine-human encounter in this book? Where?
One of the perspectives Bell advocates is that we understand salvation as more than "getting into heaven after we die," and see an invitation to participate in God's salvation in this life as well. He criticizes Christian expressions that flatten salvation into being about what happens we we die. He claims that "Eschatology is about last things. Ethics are about how you live. Our eschatology shapes our ethics."
What do you believe about final things, and how does it affect your present life?
Bell presents his theology in poetic form, telling stories and using conversational language. Other theologians present theology differently: sometimes as statements of belief, as questions and answers, as linear argument.
How did his writing style effect his theology?