As I read through Rob Bell’s book for the first time I made a few notes. For what they are worth, here are my thoughts on chapter 6.
In this chapter he says that the Israelites drunk from the rock that was Jesus without knowing it. I guess the point is going to be that you don’t need to know Jesus in order to benefit from what he has done for you. One thing to bear in mind though, is that though all who drank would have been physically refreshed, they would not all have been spiritually renewed. My understanding is that it has always been through faith in God’s revelation of his saving grace that people are saved. Now what was seen dimly in the OT sacrifices etc is seen clearly in the person of Jesus.
He points out that in John 12 it says Jesus will draw all people to himself and that:
“John remembers Jesus saying “I am the way the truth and the life. No-one comes to the father except through me” (Chap 14). This is as wide and expansive a claim as anyone can make. What he doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and restore the world, is happening through him.” p154
But doesn’t other bits of the bible give us a pretty good idea that it’s responding to the gospel that does it? Is any other way ever described?
“As soon as the door is opened to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Baptists from Cleveland, many Christians become very uneasy, saying that then Jesus doesn’t matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter what you believe, and so forth.
Absolutely, unequivocally, unalterably not true. What Jesus does is declare that he, and he alone, is saving everybody. And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe….
Talking about baptism, the Lord’s supper he says:
“these symbols are true for us because they are true for everybody. These are signs, glimpses, and tastes of what is true for all people in all places and at all times – we simply name the mystery present in all the world, the gospel already announced to every creature under heaven.
He holds the entire universe in his embrace. He is within and without time. He is the flesh – and – blood exposure of an eternal reality.” p159
“People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways…they drink from the rock, without knowing what or who it was. This happened in Exodus, and it happens today. The last thing we should do is discourage or disregard an honest, authentic encounter with the living Christ. He is the rock and there is water there for the thirsty there, wherever there is….sometimes people use his name; other times they don’t.” p 158
Is Rob saying that Jesus saves everybody and then opens the way to God through Buddhism, Islam and New Age religion and philosophies? Does Jesus stand at the end of the wide easy path and welcome all in along with those who travelled the narrow path? Surely the most important question is what are the possibilities for entering eternal life? Can we drink from Jesus through worshipping Baal? I really don’t know what to say to all this. I feel I have misunderstood something here.
I love playing “it” with my children. The catcher chases the other players and tries to touch them. When you get touched you are out of the game. When all players have been got the game ends. In order to make the game last longer we sometimes have a “home”. If you are “home” you are safe and can’t be got. Now one of my children likes to keep adding “homes” so as I am about to get her she nominates a nearby tree as “home” and grabs it. Can we do that with eternal life? As death and judgment come near can we call anything home knowing Jesus will be in it, or is there just one home that is Jesus and is called Jesus?
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (ESV) Acts 4:11-12
There are no other bases nominated by God as “home” other than Jesus. A name is not a mysterious unknown reality that has many expressions and handles. It is the handle. A name is given so that we might take hold of God’s grace and mercy and there is no other handle given to us. Sure in the OT other handles were given to be taken hold of by faith, but they all pre-figured and pointed to Jesus so that when he came we would take hold of him as the reality to which they pointed. To make them mean that any and every expression of sincere belief can be a means to eternal life, is like driving through a no entry sign and over arrows in the road pointing in the opposite direction. I surely must have misunderstood what Rob is saying here. The shadows in the OT were shadows of Jesus. Now Jesus is here we should not be looking to take hold of shadows. There are no more shadows!
Does “as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe” mean that Jesus is the only way, but that there are many doors that don’t look like Jesus that actually are Jesus? That the nearest, most convenient tree is home? Surely not. Have I misunderstood what the book is saying here?