Which Jesus? (Quote to Ponder: Rob Bell from Love Wins)

Which Jesus? (Quote to Ponder: Rob Bell from Love Wins) June 2, 2011

I finally finished reading Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”  I plan to write several posts on this book, but today I want to ask a question that Rob raises, which in my opinion is quite important when discussing issues surrounding evangelism.  The question is: “Which Jesus?

When People use the word “Jesus,” then, it’s important for us to ask who they’re talking about.

Are they referring to a token of tribal membership, a tamed, domesticated Jesus who waves the flag and promotes whatever values they have decided their nation needs to return to?

Are they referring to the supposed source of the imperial impulse of their group, which wants to conquer other groups “in the name of Jesus”?

Are they referring to the logo or slogan of their political, economic, or military system through which they sanctify their greed and lust for power?

Or are they referring to the very life source of the universe who has walked among us and continues to sustain everything with his love and power and grace and energy?

Jesus is both near and intimate and personal, and big and wide and transcendent.[1]

Which Jesus did you grow up with and which Jesus do you see portrayed to popular culture?  What does this quote bring to your mind?

[1] Rob Bell, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (Harper One, 2011), 156.

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  • I was blessed to grow up in a church that taught a Jesus that was (pretty close to) the Jesus found in scripture. I think all the flanelgraph stories might have mythologized him a bit, but I don’t recall Jesus being used to push some sort of unscriptural agenda.  

  • The quote reminds me of a fiction novel called “Imaginary Jesus”.  Worth the read. : http://mikalatos.blogspot.com/2011/02/get-imaginary-jesus-free-for-your-e.html

    • Sounds interesting, I’ll try to check it out!

  • I really enjoyed Brian McLaren’s take on different Jesuses in “A Generous Orthodoxy” – one thing I think he pulls out well is the way in which different streams of church emphasise different things about Jesus. Reminds us that we need to have a generous view of church and be willing to learn from each other.

    • @2cdfcb4e45678117764a223753bc21c0:disqus , I totally had that section in mind and almost added a quote from that book to the mix…  Good thought!

  • What is the normative though to rightfully discern which is a wrong view and which is a right view.    This quote/question is assumptive in nature regarding a viewpoint that many people have a wrong, or, dishonoring, perception of who Jesus is.  Also, if we can all assume that the majority of those who are called Christian would agree at the core fundamental understanding that Jesus is the “central life force” of everything, then at what point do the secondary paths they take deviate from Christ?

  • Ben

    Thoughts like this – or the ones mentioned here from Imaginary Jesus and Generous Orthodoxy – go to remind me why the whole “What Would Jesus Do?” fad of the 90’s turned into such a failure.  How could we possibly agree on what Jesus would do when we all seem to have such a different view of Jesus?  Given he’s a real person, multifaceted as he may be, so there can be only one Jesus, but it takes a great deal of thought and introspection before we can separate the real Jesus from who we want him to be.
    I have little to argue with about this quote, as it shows at least the beginnings of how difficult it can be to understand and discern the desires of a man who lived two thousand years ago.  The struggle I have with it is that after this quote Bell basically goes on to assert that all these views of Jesus are insufficient but his view somehow avoids all these deficiencies and gives a full picture of Jesus.  In the end we all have to land on who we believe Jesus really is, but his landing point seemed kind of arbitrary.

    • @openid-25432:disqus , but we have to understand that anytime someone is writing they are going to paint the picture of their argument, in this case Jesus, with their own spin.  I would be guilty of the same thing…

    • In fairness, it’s a problem that has been around for 200 years in the academy too, with the Quest for the Historical Jesus. I’d say on this one at least, theology not done in the academy is less problematic (mostly because it is more homogeneous!) than the Quests done in the academy. 

      I would definitely say, however, we need to remember Jesus define us rather than us define Jesus. But I’m a dodgy Scottish theologue who reads Barth 😛

  • The Jesus I grew up with was predominantly the “evangelical” Jesus (sorry if this term offends but this is what I’ve encountered over and over again in this subculture).  The evangelical Jesus is predominantly loving and accepting and willing to forgive sins but very unpredictable when I don’t pursue a holy lifestyle.  Whenever I’m “bad”, lukewarm, or neglect prayer and Bible reading, this Jesus can become a scary consuming fire of wrath, one that spits you out, locks you out, and denies you before the Father.  Of course I heard and read the Bible verses which back up that notion.  What it leads to is an endless cycle of commitment, failure to be fully obedient, recommitment, more backsliding, re-re-commitment etc.  It’s the kind of God whose love you can lose based on your own behavior.

    It took me a long, long time to discover what’s wrong about this picture and I regret not only the years wasted in fear and worry about possibly being rejected by God but also the impact on the people I preached to for quite some time with the same idea: “Repent or else!”

    • What you are saying about your early understanding of Jesus is a mischaracterization of what I would contend is the “evangelical” view of Jesus. (not that some do not sadly perpetuate this concept).  My father was predominantly loving and accepting and willing to forgive, BUT he was also demanding and expectant of appropriate and honoring behaviors from myself and my siblings as we grew up.  It wasn’t it opposition to my earlier statement of his love, but, instead, due to his great love.  I never viewed him as petty or spiteful when he acted with “wrath” towards my sinful behaviors.  When I stepped out of line his duty as a father was to hold me to a standard of behavior and outward living that would be essential to me maturing and developing into a responsible and caring adult.

      I think this has been a false dichotomy that has been set up:  Jesus is either loving and accepting, or he is unpredictable and angry about how I act.  He is NEVER unpredictable.  A father who does not clearly instruct his children on how to live and act, and then turns around and “swats” them for doing something he arbitrarily decides he does not like, IS atrociously unpredictable and evil.  A father who lovingly teaches and instructs right living, WILL provide appropriate consequences for actions outside of the correct paradigm of behavior. 

  • JonMiller

    i love the argument that Rob presents by simply stating “some Jesus’ need to be rejected……”, profound!

  • diannhbailey

    Jesus was a vigilant watch keeper who was looking for to condemn or indict, but please note, that is not my understanding of Jesus today!

  • diannhbailey

    In my childhood, Jesus was a watchkeeper whose job it was to condemn or indict.  
    Please note, that is not my understanding of Jesus in my adulthood!

  • Brad Thomas

    I like what C.S. Lewis said one time in the beginning of a lecture:  “The question is not what are we to make of Jesus, but what is he to make of us?”