Millions of Christians have struggled with how to reconcile God's love and God's judgment: Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this "good news"?
Troubling questions, so troubling that many have lost their faith because of them. Others only whisper the questions to themselves, fearing or being taught that they might lose their faith and their church if they ask them out loud.
But what if these questions trouble us for good reason? What if the story of heaven and hell we have been taught is not, in fact, what the Bible teaches? What if what Jesus meant by heaven, hell, and salvation are very different from how we have come to understand them?
What if it is God who wants us to face these questions?
Author, pastor, and innovative teacher Rob Bell presents a deeply biblical vision for rediscovering a richer, grander, truer, and more spiritually satisfying way of understanding heaven, hell, God, Jesus, salvation, and repentance. The result is the discovery that the "good news" is much, much better than we ever imagined. Love wins.
©2011 Robert H. Bell, Jr. Trust (P)2011 HarperCollins Publishers
I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed "Love Wins". I've never been a Rob Bell fan, having started (but never finished) "Velvet Elvis" and "Sex God", but this book is worth picking up and wrestling with. For that reason — the value of wrestling with its topics — it will stand as one of the more important popular books of the decade. It isn't very deep. It isn't very broad. But it asks excellent questions and it has reached a large audience with those questions.
After having just read C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" for the second time, I began Rob Bell's "Love Wins". The similarities are apparent. It's quite clear that Lewis' perspective on the subject of Hell has influenced Rob. I don't think that Bell's views of the Afterlife are identical to those of Lewis, but he's certainly not less orthodox in this area than Lewis.
One thing that struck me a little less than half-way through: "Love Wins" quotes from Scripture a lot — much more than the average Christian book, I would say. Significantly, Bell doesn't spend a lot of time trying to take verses that seem on the surface to contradict his points and show how they really don't contradict his points. Instead, he spends most of his time quoting Scripture in showing how frequently and in how strong language the Bible at least seems to indicate that eventually "all shall be well". This is significant because it's apparent that his purpose with this book is to get us to dialog about Heaven and Hell — about the tension between how we often view world history, in light of Christian belief, as a tragedy, though the Bible in many places rises to the highest superlatives of grandeur seeming to tell a different story. The Bible does say powerful things like:
• "As in Adam all die, so in Christ all shall be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15)
• "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him — those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord." (Psalm 22)
• "Love is patient... it always protects... always hopes... Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13)
• "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him." (Ephesians 1)
• "At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2)
• "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1)
• "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man." (Hebrews 2)
• "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." (Luke 2)
• "For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets." (Acts 3)
• "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces." (Isaiah 25)
• "I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth; for the spirit should fail before men, and the souls which I have made." (Isaiah 57:16)
• "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever." (Psalm 103)
• "For I will not fight against you forever; I will not always be angry. If I were, all people would pass away — all the souls I have made."
"His mercy endureth forever." (Psalm 136)
Those verses sound pretty all-encompassing. And the list just goes on and on, in both Testaments. We need to talk about this. There are passages in the Bible that sound just as strongly certain of the ultimate reconciliation of all people as other passages do of the ultimate condemnation of some people. Scripture contains many forceful words on both 'sides'. Who are we to dismiss either emphasis out of hand? Who are we to baulk at such a serious issue? Not one drop of ink was spilled by the Bible's own authors to attenuate the clear strength of such phrases as "the final restoration of all things". Paul never corrects himself or bothers to lessen the force of his words, and James doesn't correct him either.
So, how should we take such a difficulty? Do we try to write it off, saying, as many have, "Well, 'all,' of course, doesn't really mean 'all.'"? No. Besides, the same kind of flippant response could be used against the word 'eternal' in passages which speak of 'eternal hell' -- and with surer linguistic support (we knew this about the word 'eternal' even in my diehard, hellfire fundamentalist seminary: we just didn't like to talk about it much). But I don't think it's the most helpful (or healthy) to approach the apparent paradox in this way at all.
What we should do: Accept that the Bible leaves many questions unresolved, and at least sometimes on purpose. Accept that the Bible forces us to trust God for the truth; it isn't here just to spoon-feed us. Paradoxes aren't contradictions. They are truths we don't know how to reconcile. And we little fools have to learn to be okay with that! If an Infinite Being exists, then there is an infinity of truth which must forever be unknowable to any particular finite being! That is, there will always, always, always be for us far more mysteries among the truth than certainties. We will always have gaps in our knowledge. Don't you think it's time we admitted it? Our certainty must reside precisely in a Person, not in a knowledge of facts -- or are we just another sort of Gnostic?
What the Bible tells us without question:
1) It's big trouble if we don't trust and obey God.
2) It's big salvation God has in store.
You want more detail than that? What for? I fear that we drive ourselves toward intellectual certainties in order to put off real obedience.
Trust Christ and obey Him, and suffering will turn at last to joy. That's it. Some way or other, however God does it, whenever God does it, whoever it includes, love wins. Goodness wins. God wins. Whatever that means, it is the best possible of all outcomes, because it is the outcome the perfect God will have orchestrated. If we trust Him, and it will be enough.
That, I think, is the point of "Love Wins".
But if we merely assume that what we have been told is true is indeed true, then we merely perpetuate the very root problem that got us to the point where God allowed (at least) or encouraged (at most) a Reformation in the first place. The pursuit of truth requires a willingness to accept that which we do not already accept (this is the very foundation stone of learning), and a willingness to accept that many things we do not know, and will never know, are also true.
yes - because the Author reads it. So if you work in a cubicle like I do -- it's hard to take a break to read a book. But with the audio version it's like having the author their reading the book to you.
It sheds light on the fact that literal reading of the bible with understanding the spiritual symbols leads to a pretty evilish view of god and that robs hope love and peace from our lives and the lives of others.
It says that God Would have all Men to Be Saved.
The it says that God Is Love.
And finally Love Never Fails.
Which means God will get what he wantes eventually.
A chance to listen during work.
Adam is not more Powerful than Jesus -- In Adam all Sin but in Christ All are saved.
Rob Bell does what the apostle Paul did in the epistles - explained what Jesus did and what it meant for their time. (Plus, if you know the epistles, so many of Bell's sentences have an uncanny resemblance to verses that he's almost quoting them, but in a way that they feel fresh and shocking, the way Paul's words must have sounded to his listeners.) I had to listen to it twice back to back, just for the joy of it. It's a beautiful revisioning, stripping away the cultural overlay of centuries, stuff we've added to the faith that isn't essential. In fact, I think I should listen to it again. And you definitely should too.
Once you begin listening, it's easy to understand why Rob Bell founded a church that now has 10,000 members. Few authors do even a workman-like job of reading their own work. Bell does a great job. You feel as if he is sincerely talking to you personally, which is a good thing because he is talking about God, Jesus, Heaven and Hell, names and places so misused by TV preachers as to rob Christian theology of any authenticity. Bell offers understanding where many others only offer overwrought opinions.
It is possible that this book may even help convert a some churchgoers to Christianity.
Sure, I'd love to hear your story....
This feels a bit like taking a theology class, watching a great play, and talking to your best friend. This is one of the most interesting explorations of Christianity, inviting us to expand our view of God and Jesus. This is going to cause controversy and will be considered radical. But more than that it will make us reconsider what we believe and why.
I thought this book was a work of art. It's gorgeous.
Sure, I have some questions, and I'm going to dig in and find answers. We all need to. It's really worth it. Our perspective on this effects our perspective and worth that we assign to every man, woman and child that we pass on the street.
It's an awesome thing.
There's nothing to be afraid of or offended by in this book- absolutely nothing.
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.
Don't know what all the fuss is about, this book is amazing. If it does nothing more than help you think about what we believe then it has done its job. I think that people need to read this book and then leave it alone for a while, let it settle, test it. Nothing new in it, but there are many things that need to be said that have not been said for a very long time.
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.
Rob Bell delivers a thoughtful and provoking message to both Christians and unbelievers. Each chapter develops ideas so creatively and effectively. However if an unbeliever were to read this book would he come to the conclusion that he is a person who has violated God's character and is in desperate need for a redeemer??? God's love can only reach down to an evil heart because of the death and ressurection of Jesus. My concern is that this book preaches a gospel that God accepts humanity because he is too nice to condemn people, rather than preaching The Gospel that every man must cry out to Jesus who has made the way possible. The cross is the path to God and the path to salvation . . .You cannot get to God by trusting in the fact that he is too good to send people to hell. You cannot get to God by trusting that "love" will give you a free pass . . . Yes God sent Jesus because of his love, but we must be drawn to Jesus at the cross. Does this book draw people to the cross . . .
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