, Thomas Talbott"]I love this wonderful little book. I love it because it asks all the right questions, avoids pat theological answers, and penetrates the heart as well as the mind. The late David Allan Hubbard, formerly President of Fuller Theological Seminary, often said, if I may paraphrase: “Today, the church needs more poets, not more theologians.” Well, Rob Bell writes like a poet and fully understands why St. Paul described Christians as “ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Having captured the spirit of the Christian gospel (or the Christian “good news”), Bell has written the perfect antidote for those Christians—and there are many—who find that lifeless preaching and a rigid theological message have steadily crushed their own spirit over time.
A book like this will never consistently receive five-star ratings, however. Even before the book was published, the heresy hunters, especially those who would twist the New Testament message of love and forgiveness into a message of fear and guilt, were out denouncing the book. By their hysterical nature, some of these early reactions, including some public (and almost unbelievably self-righteous) calls for Rob Bell to repent, demonstrate conclusively, I believe, that much of the opposition has nothing to do with careful Bible scholarship.
Not that the book presents itself as a work of scholarship. I daresay that every theological theme in the book will find support in the work of some first-rate Bible scholar or another, either Calvinist or Arminian, conservative or liberal. But as Bell himself clearly understands, any interpretation of the Bible as a whole must be more than a work of scholarship; it is also a work of imagination. And it is Bell’s inspired imagination, that is, the way in which he puts biblical ideas together, that enables him to address so effectively those crying out for a word of consolation and hope.