A Grand Rapids, Mich., pastor has created an eight-minute film in response to the conversation surrounding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.
Pastor Jeremy Bouma teamed up with film producer Loyd Jenkins, the president and executive producer of Fallen Tree Productions, last week to shoot the film in a 130-year-old church building in Lamont. The movie, which is untitled at the moment, will premiere on June 2 on the Grand Valley State University campus in Grand Rapids as part of a series of discussions called “JESUS WINS: A Story of Hope.”
Bouma, who is the planting pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Grand Rapids as well as the author of “the (un)offensive gospel of Jesus,” describes the movie as a NOOMA-type of film. Set in a church building, a congregation listens to a pastor preach while Bouma narrates a lament over the loss of historic truths of the faith, including the deity of Jesus, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the afterlife and judgment.
“It’s a call to return to the fundamental pieces of the historic Christian faith,” Bouma said today in an interview with The Christian Post. “So we make reference to Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, Doug Pagitt’s A Christianity Worth Believing, and Rob Bell’s Love Wins as nods to that broader issue within the church of forsaking the historic Christian faith and exchanging that faith – and the Gospel itself – for something that is entirely different.”
Bell, who was named by Time magazine to its 2011 list of 100 most influential people, created a firestorm of controversy with his book, Love Wins – which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 10 weeks – by taking a position of mystery when it comes to salvation and judgment. He has been labeled a universalist and a heretic.
“In the book, I write about how some have believed that all will be reconciled,” Bell told Time, “and while I long for that as I think everybody should long for it, I don’t take a position of certainty because, of course, I don’t know how it all turns out.”
Bouma noted that Bell’s message appears to be hopeful.
“It says you can find hope in a God who simply accepts you in a message that says ‘you are in, now just accept that you are accepted,’ but this message is not hopeful because it is not honest,” the pastor said. “It isn’t honest about the reality of judgment.”
He went on, “Scripture, from beginning to end, speaks of the day in which every single person on the planet will be judged – either in Christ or outside of Christ. And that is a deep flaw and a deep problem and issue that I, and many other people, are having. He is not being honest about the whole counsel of Scripture.
“Sure, hell is mentioned maybe eight times by Jesus or Paul and so he deals with these eight instances in which hell – the word itself – is mentioned, but the idea of judgment transcends the few instances in which hell is mentioned.”
Bell’s book, he added, reveals broader problems within American Christianity such as biblical, theological and historical illiteracy. A failure to be literate in these areas makes it easier for believers to be led astray from the foundational orthodox doctrines of the faith that saints have believed throughout history.
“The Scripture has always been read alongside tradition – perhaps not in a more Catholic sense, but even as Protestants we have always read Scripture in line with the ways in which the communion of saints have read the Scriptures,” Bouma highlighted.
In an attempt to help people in Grand Rapids better understand those common foundational truths while also giving people a forum to ask tough questions, Bouma will be teaching and moderating the “JESUS WINS” series. The events are free and open to the public. They will cover what Bouma calls the major acts of God’s story: creation, rebellion, rescue and re-creation.
“All of these pieces have great bearing on one another,” the Grand Rapids pastor said. “And I think it’s unfortunate, but the church has lost the plot to the story. And in my town, at least, I see this as being a very vital part of recapturing that plot.”
The “JESUS WINS” series will be held at the Eberhard Center on the GVSU campus. Premiering the movie and holding the discussions on the campus rather than renting a church building is intentional.
“I began thinking through how vital it is for the church to sit at the intersection of where life happens in the community and how so often we require the people in the community to come to our house before we are actually willing to go into theirs,” Bouma explained. “So I thought, man, this is such an important discussion that we need to take it into the city square.”
Bouma said he has not heard from Bell, but would love to have the opportunity to sit down with him and have a conversation.