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Horror is not my cup of tea. I generally avoid horror films, though I’ve watched a few over the years and maybe even enjoyed one or two. But I don’t seek them, don’t rent them, don’t get into them around Halloween. Though I am fairly described as an avid reader, meaning I read and take a break to read some more, I have never read a Stephen King novel. Not my cup of tea.

But I just finished reading the original Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker. I read this because I was recently given a Nook for my birthday and on it discovered about 6 books installed for free. In this set was the eBook Dracula, a book now considered one of the classics. Since awhile back I decided to read a number of first edition classics I thought, “Why not start with the Count?”

It was a strange book, bloodier than I expected given the date and times in which it was written. For me, Stoker made his characters spend too much time traipsing through the woods or road to who knows where. I skipped some of these passages. But there’s no question the book is a classic for several reasons: original ideas applied to scary storyline, interposition of religion, the occult, and outright fantasy, sexual overtones that were at once twisted and common, a building run to the finish.

Dracula has been adapted, presented, and re-adapted in story and film. Vampires in general are enjoying a new run in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight Series” books and films, a storyline featuring youthful love and lust, vampires and wolves. And vampires lead the way in HBO’s “True Blood,” a television series that tries to outdo itself in picturing the occult, blood and gore, homosexuality or hints of it, fractured relationships, witches, other assorted odd creatures, and a huge dose of sexuality mixed in with all this in a manner that reaches beyond kinky to creepy.

As I said, horror isn’t my cup of tea. And I recommend Dracula only for those who want to experience a well-written story featuring distasteful topics. The Count is hateful and anti-religion. Indeed he is a satanic Antichrist archetype, and the book is filled with religious references, both respectful and disparaging.

I have no favorite characters in a book like this, even the heroes of the story. All in all, I can check if off my reading list and let the book, like the Count himself, vanish into dust particles and out of my life.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Rob Bell’s Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, And The Fate Of Every Person Who Ever Lived has taken the Christian community, if not the general public, by storm. It’s become a bestseller in the process. It’s also become a highly controversial book provoking considerable backlash from opponents and impassioned affirmations from proponents. These reactions have been immediate and continuing. Some reactions have been based on reasoned consideration, some pretty much on emotion, but reaction nonetheless. And controversy sells books.

Commentary based upon in-depth study from people schooled in relevant disciplines usually takes more time to develop. This is one thing that makes Michael E. Wittmer’s Christ Alone interesting. Reports indicate he and his publisher wrote and produced the book, respectively, in less than two months, yet Wittmer, a seminary professor with an earned doctorate in theology, gave Bell’s book and viewpoints the careful, thorough, theologically astute evaluation they deserve.

The core of the controversy generated around Love Wins deals with whether there is indeed a real hell, whether the Scripture teaches people who reject Jesus Christ will one day be eternally punished in hell, and whether a God who loves can allow such a thing to happen, thus perhaps giving people who need it an after-death chance at salvation. In the end, Bell seems to suggest no one can be consigned to hell by a God whose “love wins” over all forces, including an individual’s rejection.

While Bell argues otherwise, rejecting or even re-envisioning the idea of hell, asserting the existence of post-mortem salvation, and claiming everyone, universally, ultimately goes to heaven are ideas on the edge if not out of the mainstream of historic orthodox Christianity. Hence the noisy reactions.

Wittmer approaches the matter with a Christian’s fellowship, avoiding denigrating Bell as a person, and a scholar’s care, evaluating Bell’s theological arguments with Scripture. He does both well.

The crux of Wittmer’s critique is that Bell does the following in his book:

--frequently omits without comment consideration of multiple important passages of Scripture dealing with topics the book addresses, including salvation or the “lake of fire";

--constructs a weak, one dimensional, humanized view of God that does not align with the Sovereign God of the Bible;

--offers hope he cannot substantiate scripturally, or as Wittmer says, “Our hopes are only as strong as the reasons we have for holding them”;

--argues for post-mortem, that is after-death, second chances to accept salvation, yet provides no scriptural justification for this view;

--presents a view of heaven more in common with Purgatory than with Scripture’s description of a New Heaven and a New Earth;

--contends all men and women are saved or at least will be saved, a view called universalism, and does not seem to grasp the depth of human depravity and sin described in the Bible and evident in the world, or recognize that if this view is true, it effectively eliminates a need for redemption and Jesus’ sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection;

--presents hell as not much more than our worst days and worst issues here on earth, a place people may stay for only a time and experience purging, none of which aligns with Scripture’s description of hell as an eternal place of judgment, suffering, and separation from God;

--opens the door to other religious views and interpretations, particularly as apply to salvation, that do not comport with Scripture;

--changes the meaning of the Gospel creating as Wittmer puts it, a “tale of limitless happy endings” wherein “nothing is ever really at stake.” In this approach, Wittmer says the Gospel is “the tepid news that you don’t really need saving, that you’ve never been lost except in your imagination, and that God already accepts you just the way you are.”

Wittmer graciously and effectively demonstrates why Rob Bells’s Love Wins should not be considered an expression of historic orthodox Christianity or of latter day evangelicalism. By so doing Wittmer has done a service to the Christian community, offering theological and philosophical perspective on what Bell shares, thus helping people develop their own understanding of the worthiness of Bell’s writing.

Bell is entitled to his doctrinal views. It is, after all, a free country. But the popularity, good feeling, creative communication, and contemporary nature of his views do not make them correct in terms of what the Bible says.

While Bell’s earlier books were quirky, interesting, and thought-provoking considerations of tradition and culture, Love Wins jettisons what the New Testament books of 1, 2 Timothy and Titus call “sound doctrine.” Bell is no longer tossing aside traditions that may no longer be justifiable. He’s tossing aside biblical teaching he finds uncomfortable or doesn’t believe fits his view of what he wants to be true. Love Wins is therefore not simply controversial but careless and confusing. Consequently, the book should not be trusted as a guide to what the Bible teaches.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

when u don't have alot of money is it wise to buy food to store on a credit card?
Mike, thanks much for your kind comment. Blessings to you and yours.
There is a biblical case for everyone is going to heaven. Thus, there is no need for us to equivocate on the subject.
Heard a lot of people talking and didn't want to read the book itself - appreciate your amazing ability to hold my interest through out this entire presentation and appreciate the amazing spirit in which you have written - you will be quoted in my conversation with others - thanks so much.