I started reading Joel Green’s recent book, “Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible.” Dr. Green was my Exegetical Methods & Practice professor at Fuller Seminary, and one of the most intelligent human beings I have ever come across. I haven’t finished reading the book yet, but so far, it has caused me to think about my own preconceived notions of what it is to be a human. This book is a challenge to the traditional theological conception of human beings as either a body/soul dichotomy or a body/spirit/soul trichotomy.
Most Christians are dichotomists, believing that the real essence of humanity is in the soul or the spirit. The body perishes at death, but the soul is eternal and survives after death. Dr. Green makes a compelling case for a biblical monism, the view that the bible does not conceive of humans as a compilation of diverse parts, but as a whole person, an integrated self. Humans are not embodied souls. Nothing of the human survives after death. A person quite literally dies at death.
I chose not to make any comments on Rob Bell’s new book, “Love Wins” until after I had read it myself. So after reading it, let me state from the outset that Rob Bell is not a universalist; at least, not in the popular conception of what universalism entails: the salvation of all human beings everywhere regardless of whether they were an Adolf Hitler or a Mahatma Gandhi. Most people’s concept of universalism means that eventually everyone ends up in heaven. That’s not Rob Bell’s view.
Having said that, I don’t think this is Bell’s finest book. “Velvet Elvis” was a much better book. I think every Christian living in the 21st century should read that one! This book is more polemical, written to combat an extreme fundamentalist view of the afterlife. You know, you’ve seen those people carrying signs on the street corners proclaiming hell and eternal damnation. Frankly, they do more harm than good.
The book began when Bell’s Church had an art show regarding what it meant to be a peacemaker. Someone had included a Gandhi quote in her art piece to which someone else attached a piece of paper: “Reality check: He’s in Hell.” (more…)