Rob Bell, Love Wins, and the End

If you are reading this, we are (mostly) all still here and the end is not yet.  May 21, 2011 has come and gone and here we are.  So, perhaps it’s time to ask what “the end” is all about.

Obviously, for some it’s about getting the date right.  Deciding whose left behind, caught by “the thief in the night”  — a brick short of the full spiritual load — and, of course, the wise virgin and the faithful watcher.  What so much of the contemporary conversation about the end focuses on is that all important, ever relevant, irrepressible question: “What’s going to happen to me?”

So, the questions revolve around “Where am I going?”  “When will I get there?” and “What is required to make sure that happens?”  And, if not, then there are the questions that arise from a zero-sum spirituality: “Who’s not going?” — because I can’t go to heaven unless you go to hell.

But have you ever wondered why the Bible is so damned (pun intended) fuzzy about all of that?  Have you ever asked yourself, “Why is the best answer to all of those questions, ‘What kind of God do you believe in?’”

The answer?  The Bible doesn’t care about the answer.  So it doesn’t try to answer.  The answer Job’s author offers is typical.  In response to Job’s demands for an answer, God responds, “Were you around when the foundations of the world were laid?”  Similarly, the writer of Revelation effectively argues, “God wins…hope you are going along for the ride.”

The Bible isn’t all that worried about you and me.  It’s worried about the fact that God made claims that history seems to frustrate.

So, when the Bible talks about the end, it’s all about how God makes good on those promises.  It’s not that God doesn’t love you or me.  The stakes are just larger.

That’s good news really.  God is committed to something bigger than you and me and we get to go along for the ride.  God is committed to being God.

The details?  Is Ghandi in heaven?  What about people who haven’t heard or think differently?  Questions like that are above our pay grade.

We were called to participate in the Kingdom.

To usher in its existence — among the weeds in the field and the wheat husks on the threshing floor.  That’s more than enough.

Open yourself to the call of God.  Weigh in.  Participate.  But don’t take yourself so seriously.  After all — it’s not the end — yet.

About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and consulting editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, as well as several books: A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an Episcopal priest), live in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and five grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, Sophie, and Drew, with a sixth on the way.