The doctrine of free will is a toughie. I don’t think our fallen little minds are capable of fully grasping the reality created by the all-knowing, all-loving, perfectly just, holy God of the universe. And that limitation doesn’t bother me. The Bible calls us to trust and obey, and so clarity in all things is neither necessary nor possible. How puffed up do you have to be to have a mindset that requires understanding the things of God? By mere logic that attitude is wholly irreverent and simplistic. Even if we just marvel that the sun rises each day, isn’t the natural conclusion the one we find in Hebrews? What is man that God is mindful of him? (2:6)
Christians can spend an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to resolve the tension between mankind’s free will and God’s sovereignty, but personally I’m drawn to the wisdom of Ravi Zacharias, who suggests that it is better to have answers to the big questions than to be discouraged by the mystery in smaller ones. I concur with Zacharias that Jesus provides the best answers to life’s biggest questions about origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. If I know that God lovingly created me in His image, that I will find meaning in life by glorifying him, that the Bible is the moral authority for life, and that my destiny as His follower is to spend eternity with Him, the rest of life’s questions are beans by comparison.
Yet a recent tweet by John Piper regarding Rob Bell caused a flurry of controversy, and there are aspects of this controversy that are quite important and actually touch on all these most important questions: origin, meaning, morality and destiny. I almost wish it was just beans, because I abhor controversy, but I don’t think it is. The verbal spears started flying when in response to this video (which is the promo for Bell’s forthcoming book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Whoever Lived), Piper tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell.” People on both sides of this are indignant, and yet to my knowledge, neither Piper nor Bell have weighed in directly.
There are many points raised by Bell’s video. One that I find perplexing is the implication that that we do not have any semblance of free will. Bell seems to suggest that everyone will be in heaven, regardless of whether a person wanted to reject Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. This makes us sound like little dolls the Creator moves around in life, and that in the end we are all marched into heaven. But we are made in His image. We aren’t robots. And the idea of rejecting Jesus and his sacrifice should break our hearts, not be treated as irrelevant. Bell is right — Love is always the winner. But because we have free will, Love is not always accepted. I’ll wait to read the book to take a firm stance on Bell’s theology. Yet I’m not optimistic that the book will convey the sad reality that sometimes, in the human story, pride wins.
In Sex God, Bell wrote: “If you have ever given yourself to someone and had your heart broken, you know how God feels.” Yes, Rob Bell, we can break His heart, I agree.
But may we not! May we not take the sacrifice of Jesus for granted, may we follow His loving example and do as He asked by telling the world about Him. May we have that child-like faith that He so desires for us, and may we all remember that there is nothing puffed up or in your face or disdainful in the faith of a child.