Bell’s book is causing such a stir because it strikes at a fundamental debate: Is Christianity a revealed religion, one that rises or falls on its objective truth? Or is it merely an expression of timeless spiritual truths, perhaps one among many religions that capture the inner longing of mankind?
Bell’s side in this debate is illustrated by a curious omission. In a book about the love of God, Bell fails to mention one of the most profound and mysterious claims the Bible makes about the subject:
“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us.” (1 John 3.7)
This verse at once offends and amazes. It offends, because as revealed religion it claims that we don’t even know what love is, apart from God revealing it to us. It amazes by suggesting that this revelation of God’s love took place on a cross, an international symbol of suffering, criminality, and folly. Weird, strange stuff. Exactly what you get in revealed religion.
And it’s not a throw-away line. “God is love,” the Apostle John tells us a few lines later, in one of the most famous, most quoted lines about God’s love. But he continues: “And in this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be a sacrifice for our sins.” “God is love” only makes sense in the light of the cross.
Explain how the death of a Jewish man on a cross illustrated God’s love, and you explain Christianity. Bell’s book not only fails to do so, it barely makes an attempt.
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