The Giant Story
Rob Bell's latest book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians (Zondervan, with Don Golden), is his most substantive yet. It's nothing less than a holistic, biblical theology of salvation—written, paradoxically, in Bell's typical sentence-fragment style. CT senior managing editor Mark Galli sat down with Bell, founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to probe him on some of the more striking statements in his book.
You say that "something has gone terribly wrong with humanity." What do you mean?
I was born in 1970, a child of the Enlightenment. We put someone on the moon. We'll figure out cancer soon enough. Look what we can do. And yet more people than ever have died in the last 100 years from bombs. So, we have been taught, give Steve Jobs enough time, and he'll come up with something.
At the same time, Rwanda, 1994—we didn't step in there. Then Darfur—didn't we learn? So we have this profound sense of empowerment coupled with a profound sense of disempowerment, and I think you have a lot of people with a profound sense of angst.
You say, "Jesus is leading all creation out of the land of violence, sin, and death." You've added the word violence to the Pauline "sin and death." Why?
The myth of redemptive violence—Caesar, peace, and victory—is in people's bones so deeply, we aren't even aware of it. You crush the opposition, that's how we bring peace.
Early in the biblical narrative, one brother kills the other brother. In the arc from Genesis 4 to Genesis 11, there is a growing epidemic of violence. It's almost like the writers are saying, "Look at this." It's like cracks on a windshield. A pebble hits your windshield, and it just cracks and cracks.
I'm getting my son a video game the other day, and I'm talking to the guy who runs this video store. He's telling me that when Halo 3 came out, they had 350 people at midnight lined up outside the door. You can't believe the excitement that people have for a game in which you shoot people. Violence is just assumed. It's everywhere.
Are you a pacifist, or do you think that a truly Christian church has to be a pacifist church?
My dad is a U.S. Federal District Judge and gets lots of death threats. On Father's Day a couple of years ago, there were bodyguards in the driveway at our house. And I am okay with that.
But I sit right in that tension. Sometimes people say no police, no armed forces, no anything. And the truth is, whether I am falling short of Jesus' teaching or not, there are situations where I am really glad that there is a policeman standing right there and that he has a gun. So I don't know how exactly you work that out in detail.
But my hope would be that as a Christian, you would have a larger imagination. Take Saddam Hussein. Your first impulse would be, "Man, if he wasn't in power, it would be great—and the only way is to bring in a hundred thousand troops." To me, the third way of Jesus is always asking if there is an imaginative, subversive, brilliant, creative path.
You say that using whatever blessing or gifts we have, we are called by God "to make the world a better place," and that through the church, "God has a plan to put the world back together." What do you mean?
Last week in our church, we had a couple tell about their marriage and infidelity and pornography and alcoholism. They got involved in the life of our community, and some people came around them, and they have been working through that stuff and they are still married. They are finding a new life together. In most situations, they would have divorced, and the kids would have bounced back and forth between homes. A really, really beautiful, healing thing has gone on there. And that is a living, breathing demonstration to me of the reconciling power of Christ.