Two random thoughts and a question for you on this dreary Saturday in Paradise, Pennsylvania:
1) My new blog is brought to you by Jeff Burkholder. Have a look around. Then check out Jeff’s various comics: Zoidland, The Social Life of Frank and Linh, and The Ouro Brothers and the Neverending Tour.
2) I’m two days into my weekend of being a single-parent while Maile enjoys herself at the beach. Scorecard: Emergency Room Visits – 0; Frozen Pizzas Eaten – 2; Kids’ Movies Watched – 4; Baths Taken – 3
3) Tomorrow is the first day of the book discussion I’m leading at church on “Love Wins.” Today’s question is, “What ground rules need to be in place to ensure this remains a positive, learning experience about what God and the Bible say about heaven and hell?”
14 Replies to “How to Discuss “Love Wins” Without Screaming Like Children”
Rule #1 should be that people are allowed to finish their sentances without interruption, no exceptions.
Perhaps you could have a Pitchfork of Privilege that people have to have in order to speak up? When a new person has a thought, they raise their hand and the Pitchfork of Privilege is passed to them. Perfect.
Thanks to you, that is my Rule #1. I also like the Pitchfork idea, although that could end very badly. Perhaps a Conch? (That’s my daily “Lord of the Flies” reference).
My pastor did a series of conversations around this book. (a regular feature he does from time to time called Tuesday Conversations – held in homes or coffee shops). He introduced it with a look at the words dialogue (to talk through) vs. discussion (derived from “cuss” – concussion, etc. – to hit over the head). He is great at facilitating dialogue, asking lots of questions to get people thinking, etc. It was a really fruitful dialogue. He blogs at terrytimm.com if you’d like to check out his companion posts on the topic! Kudos to you for engaging the conversation.
What?!? No concussions? I will definitely check out his site – thanks Dianne.
In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. — St. Augustine.
I don’t know your demographic, but if there’s already some knowledge of “Love Wins” within the group, asking them whether the topics in the book are “essentials” or “non-essentials” could help identify who’s really passionate (angry?) and who’s just really interested.
Good call Caleb. I especially like your perspective on why people might be there. That’s something I’m going to bring up.
How much of the existing criticism of the book are you planning to summarize? That might, if not forestall some people’s anger entirely, at least let them know that there are others out there (e.g. blogger/pastor Justin Taylor) who have difficulties with the book. Taylor, for example, thinks that people will put off turning to the church, believing that it will all work out eventually. But if Hell is already present, in the state of not knowing a loving deity, how much of that would people really want to go through? How many human lifetimes would they want to spend in eternity continuing the same agony as before?
If people aren’t going to turn to the church (or stop smoking, or make whatever improvement in their lives we might want them to), methinks they will use *any* excuse not to do so — I really don’t think people need a book called “Binge Drinking Is Okay” (of course, I hope no such book exists) to justify their drinking to excess, if they don’t see that as a problem in their lives.
Are you reading my mind Gwyn? Please get out.
Good idea to mention existing criticism.
First of all, I wish you luck and commend you for taking on this book in a group setting. I love Rob Bell’s style: question, question, question – I would try to remind people that no question is too hard for God and that we aren’t going to offend him or somehow stumble upon some truth that He isn’t aware of by asking questions we think are challenging for “all truth is God’s truth.” There is no reason to fear a question like “is eternal conscious torment for the majority of humankind consistent with a god who describes himself as compassionate, merciful and loving?” I, personally, find hope in Bell’s answer to that question but it, of course, raises more questions- so we read the Bible and lean on fellow questioners (word?) and pray that we are, at best, getting closer to the truth rather than farther.
Great insights Steve – so much of it comes back to fear, doesn’t it? Thanks for coming by. Please tell Coral hello for me.
Not sure if you read Greg Boyd’s post about doctrine and love but maybe even before you start you could lead everyone through a look at 1 Corinthians 13 and have a discussion about that first. It might totally reshape your dialogue.
Also, outlaw proof-texting. No one gets anywhere by firing of disembodied verses like bullets. Always look at larger contexts. (I had a conversation with a guy about the book and he would do that. I later found that verses he was throwing at me meant very different things in context.)
Good stuff here Ben. This morning we didn’t even start the book, just went over some ground rules, spoke about Romans 14 and made sure that no one will ever use the phrases “The Bible says,” or “Rob Bell says,” without having a page number or chapter/verse. Good point about context.
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