This book won't get the same thorough treatment most of the book reviews I write get. With Rob Bell, it's pointless. He's a polarizing figure and most people make up their minds about Rob Bell the man before they even read him. Most people make up their minds about Rob Bell's conclusions from the conclusions of bloggers, tweeters, and YouTube theologians.
Rob Bell's writing style is not readable to me. I bought Love Wins the week it was released and tried to read it, but couldn't. It opens with rapid fire questions and extra-biblical concepts I already wrestle with and don't have the answers to and Bell never stops to let me catch my breath and he doesn't explore any of the controversial concepts enough for me to stop and think about what I actually think about what he's writing. His writing annoyed me the way the previous sentence probably annoyed you.
He writes like he speaks and that rarely works for most orators, speakers and preachers. So when I found that Bell reads the audio version of this book, I downloaded it and that worked better for me because, like him or not, Bell is a very engaging speaker.
Now I sound like a fan.
If your theology is based on Covenant Theology, Reformed Theology, or the extra-biblical but logical conclusions of TULIP, you won't be a fan.
If you've given yourself permission to name by name those who inhabits hell even though the Bible never reveals these things, then you won't be a fan either because Bell takes you on and he's not very nice about it.
Here are this blogger's conclusions about Love Wins:
Bell rips into a little bit of everybody's extra-biblical dogma like a pitbull rips into a cat.
When Bell exposits scripture in this book, he doesn't stray from orthodox treatment of the verses he explores.
He's not a heretic.
If you're a believer and you read Bell's book, there isn't anything in it that will cause you to stray from the truth of the gospel as presented in God's Word.
This is a book that purports to use a Christian worldview to tell of God's amazing love for all mankind. When you dig beneath the surface, it is simply a universalist manifesto that makes Christ's death on the cross meaningless. Read Kevin Deyoung's review online for a full critical analysis.
Rob, as always, is articulate & inventive in his style. This book just smashes a whole bunch of assumptions that you probably have if you grew up in church. If you don't have a church background it might also be helpful to dispel any concerns you have about Christians being judgmental. When more people read this book & catch onto Rob's wavelength church will be a very different place. A really refreshing read.
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If you get that Love Wins, then you understand that, but for the Grace of God, there go you or I (however awful that may be). NT Wright clears up lots of confusion in Surprised by Hope (pp. 175 to 183): When Jesus was warning his hearers about Gehenna he was not, as a general rule, telling them that unless they repented in this life they would burn in the next one . . . It is on earth that things matter, where they will burn, not somewhere else." "Jesus simply didn't say very much about the future life." There will be judgment because idolatry plus dehumanization plus habituation results in evil or sin "by one's own effective choice . . . beings that once were human but now are not, creatures that have ceased to bear the divine image at all." "Those creatures that still exist in an ex-human state, no longer reflecting their maker in any meaningful sense, can no longer excite in themselves or others the natural sympathy some feel even for the hardened criminal." However, especially depraved individuals who have no evidence of humanity in them, who are hardened criminals, who have come out of Romanian orphanages and suffered complete absence of bonding, respond out of the most profound absence of the capacity to be human, due to failure of the mother-child bond: there, but for the Grace of God go you or I. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that those who live in accordance with the reality of God as manifest in Jesus the Christ (explicit or implicit) and reflected in their capacity to believe, think, feel, imagine and act in accordance with God's will, adjusting for history, culture, family and individual experiences will win God's infinite Love. I believe this is what Bell's book is all about: Agape.
Having studied theology, I agree that Rob Bell is not talking about anything 'new' here. However, his eloquent method of delivering such a complex theology in simple terms makes this piece of work brilliant.
I loved this book for the simple reason that it deepened my love for God more, even though it didn't support traditional dogma. Even though I am not an evangelical person, I have talked to others about God and faith more since reading this book than ever before. I cannot recommend it more.
It has been said that true inteligence is being able to understand a position without accepting it. In that spirit I've read this book several times and listened to it several more.
Verdict: I am deeply disapointed that such a great writer and thinker has gone off in this direction. It's compelling and gets plenty of conversations going, but at the end of the day it's just herecy in it's pure form. There is no continuity in the idea that "God gets what God wants" in the end! Biblically, this proposition is contradicted in Revelation 20:11as Satan and his demons are cast into outer darkness in judgment, along with death and Hades.
Very well read and written.
Sadly, it is heretical doctrine that will lead many to confusion and ultimate ruin. That's a sad thing.
It has been a long time since I wanted to say Amen. Thank you Rob for cutting through the fog and making the stories clear. I would go back to church to listen to you talk. Thank goodness for your podcasts and books.
Rob Bell knows how to get your attention! This book and the campaign with it have certainly done just that. The theology nerds out there (like me) are going ape over this series of questions, which leads to more questions, and ultimately leaves you questioning.
In a paradoxical and enigmatic way Bell weaves through issues surround the touchy subjects of heaven, hell, and where we end up at from a historical linguistic conservative reading. The challenge is, many of his answers appear to be liberal. This creates an uproar because ultimately, he bobs and weaves enough to leave the door open for many possibilities.
Here's what I loved about the book: the focus on Jesus. As you read (listen) to Bell you can't help but be curious about the Jesus he's curious about. You find yourself wanting to know more of this Jesus.
Here's what I found lacking in the book: the Holy Spirit. Bell talks a great deal about Jesus and God the Father, but rarely mentions the Spirit. He either takes the Spirit for granted or doesn't want to raise questions about this controversial person.
Overall, I think people should read (listen) to this book because it gets you thinking. It also creates some great conversations. If people can start talking about the dynamics of the Kingdom of God being just as real today as they are in the future, then maybe we'll start acting like the Kingdom is now and not yet. Without a doubt, we could all agree then, truly Love Wins!
Have you ever felt like modern church leaders more resemble the Pharisees of the Bible than they do Christians?
Preaching hatred and discrimination. Focusing on collecting and amassing money, power and extending influence. Judging everyone. Condemning anyone who doesn't go to their church and believe exactly what they believe.
Those are not the Christian values I believe in. They are not the things that I know in my heart are right, but yet I hear them endlessly from today's "Christian" churches.
Love Wins provides Biblical explanation for the things I've always felt in my heart were right but could never quite explain. The God and Christ I believe in are too big, their love and compassion too expansive to fit into the little box that modern churches want to stuff them into. Rob Bell does a fantastic job of fleshing out these truths.