Love Wins: Reviews from Amazon

“Well written conversation for people who aren't afraid of questions”
by Stephan Filimonovich / July 6, 2011

 

I am taken aback by the lengthy reviews quoting scripture that have nothing to do with the book itself. Preface: this is not one of those reviews.

If you are not afraid of simply thinking and asking questions, and/or are curious about what a more loving Christian faith might look like, you should read this, even if you yourself are not a person of faith. The voices of hate are so strong in American culture these days and receive so much attention that it's refreshing to read the words of someone strong enough to stand up to hysteria and calmly ask questions and reflect.

The writing is the voice of someone who is strong enough in his faith to not feel threatened simply by asking questions of it. The writing is accessible, clear, non-threatening, loving, warm, and - and this surprised me - supported by ample biblical "evidence," though the book is not in the style of "here's all the evidence, now you have to believe me." Far from it.

I am not a person of faith, at all. I don't even believe in God. But I am intrigued by the role of faith in the lives of others, and the powerful impact Christianity in particular has on politics, policy and discourse in the U.S. I am glad I let down my walls enough to read this book, which I picked up at an airport after hearing about it from my brother-in-law. He was raised by fundamentalist "Christians" in a hellfire and brimstone environment that has emotionally and psychologically damaged him beyond comprehension. Most of what he grew up learning was primarily about judging others, intolerance of others who are different or may not share the exact same beliefs, graphic depictions of what hell was like (for a three-year-old, no less), and changing ideas about what it took to get into heaven, always a moving target depending on who was doing the talking.

Unlike me, however, my brother-in-law, a very loving person, has never stopped trying to maintain and work out his faith with a vision of a truly loving (vs. judgmental and hateful God). I'm glad that he is reading this, and that he told me about it.

This is a really interesting, thoughtful book that I hope will serve as a beacon for the next wave of Christian thought and behavior.

Here's an interesting article: An Atheist's Encounter With Rob Bell (written by Ronnie Stockton) http://resistanceandrenewal.net/2011/08/23/an-atheist’s-encounter-with-rob-bell-by-ronnie-stockton/

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“If this is heresy, then I'm a heretic.”
May 25, 2011, by Joshua Burkett (Maryville, IL)

Thanks Rob (you big jerk) for coercing me to come out of the theological closet and proclaim my "liberal/heretical" views to the shock and dismay of all my fundamental family and friends. I've lost some friends along the way...

But I've found Christ in a way I've never dreamed.

It's books like Love Wins that has forever changed my faith and made me so madly in love with Jesus that I can barely contain it. I have a faith I actually want to share with everyone. I have a joy that's contagious. I now have a comfort, knowing that answers to questions that have long insulted my soul have been answered with sound scripture.

The thing I'm so baffled about is why is there so much venom against this book? N.T. Wright wrote this book. C.S. Lewis (sort of) wrote this book. George Maconald, Origen, and dozens of other faithful Christians throughout history have written versions of Love Wins. Heck, the very first edition of Love Wins was written by the Apostle Paul! (Oh noes! I just said a heresy!)

Another thing I'm so baffled about his how some Christians can believe in things like double predestination and not many people seem to care. But oh! If someone even suggests that God isn't some bifurcated deity torn between love and justice, it's time to start burning at the stake!

But isn't this theology sending people to hell? I can't seem to find anywhere in my Greek Bible that salvation is contingent upon acquiring a perfect doctrine. 2000 years of church history will tell you that finite minds trying to understand an infinite God is going to result in some variances. So maybe fighting over the ambiguity in the Bible isn't the most important part of our faith. Maybe...oh I don't know...the clear commands that came out of Jesus' mouth are more important.

But won't this theology stop people from evangelizing? Everyone I know that has acquired a more optimistic view of God tends to share Jesus more than others. I've seen this in my own life. My witness has increased by leaps and bounds.

So go ahead...casts stones, throw around labels; bring your scriptural bag o' tricks to tell me exactly why I'm wrong. Heck, troll my review in the name of righteous indignation. I don't care. I'll be too busy trying to find a tax collector to love on.

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“A 61 Year Old Evangelical Pastor's Take”
April 27, 2011, Ronnie Meek "RamMan" (Nashville, TN USA)

I am not a Rob Bell fanboy; however, I do have a generally positive opinion of the little exposure I've had to his ministry. When Love Wins was first being reviewed and its author was being held up in many quarters as satan's chief apostle my first instinct was ignore it. (There are only so many books one can read.) Finally, the clamor reached so close to home that I had to give in and read it for myself. I don't like to let third parties do my thinking for me.

The uproar is understandable. Bell has a habit of asking hard questions. He also has a tendency to not provide definitive answers to the hard questions he asks. And when those questions concern the issues of heaven and hell and the possibility of universal salvation...well, the sacrificial fat is clearly sizzling on the altar.

It is hard to pin down Bell's position and I am strangely OK with that. I suspect the reason is because these are some very complex questions and the Bible is somewhat lacking in absolute clarity. Where the Bible is lacking in absolute clarity we extrapolate dogma at our own risk. Honestly, when it comes to eternal things I think the Bible gives us the best picture we can possibly process from our finite frame of reference. Sometimes that picture seems confusing because things that seem exclusive of each other in this world can actually be essential to each other in the various dimensions of eternity. (What sense does it make in this world to die in order to live?)

Do heaven and hell exist? Of course they do, and Bell would be one of the first to assert their reality. He does have a little different take on what, and when, heaven and hell are but he certainly doesn't deny their existence. Far from making them smaller and less meaningful he actually makes them bigger and more meaningful. I think there is room for disagreement among true believers on this topic especially since none of us have ever really been to either place. I actually find Bell's concept of heaven to be challenging and somewhat more exciting than big mansions and streets of gold.

The real problem most Evangelical believers will have with this book concerns the question of universalism. Is everyone going to be saved? Can a person find redemption after this life? My inclination on both of these questions is to say, "No." However, "No" does give rise to some legitimately serious questions and both positions can be argued from scripture with some powerful verses backing up each camp.

At this point I feel compelled to point out that Bell's position on universalism is essentially identical to the one held by C. S. Lewis. Having read almost everything by Lewis my thoughts had already turned to The Great Divorce and The Last Battle as well as various quotes from his lectures. I was not at all surprised when Lewis was cited in the end notes. Both Bell and Lewis seem to essentially hold the position that God is going to save everyone He can. They both believe that a person can go to hell but they have to really want to go there. That assertion is not as strange as it may sound. Lewis' The Great Divorce is a fantastical story but it shines a big bright light on human nature.

Am I comfortable with the notion that if everyone is going to be saved, or can be saved after this life, then strenuous efforts need not be made to bring people to Christ in this life (and the sooner the better)? Not at all, and that is not what I hear Bell saying. Am I comfortable with allowing God the right to do what He wants however He wants and would I be thrilled if everyone did get in to heaven? You bet. Do I know exactly what God is going to do about all of this? No, but I trust Him.

This is a short book and Bell doesn't even try to tie up all the loose ends. (I would be quite interested in hearing his take on the "second death".) What he does do is open a conversation that the vast majority of Christians who have ever lived would be comfortable having. It is only in the Western (mostly North American) church and over the last two to three hundred years that these issues have been considered resolved and beyond discussion. Hopefully once the journalistic hype and reactionary hysteria have died down this little book can make a positive contribution to the advancement of God's kingdom. Frankly, after all the hate and vitriol in the current Evangelical dialogue I'm quite ready to see love win.

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“Ask Why Love Wins Has Hit a Nerve…”
March 28, 2011, by Phillip (usa)

Bell has obviously hit a nerve. The polarized reactions are unprecedented and reveal that he is on to something both in regards to the nature of hell and the nature of the Kingdom.

First I would say that if you are not at all open to a Restorationist view you probably will not be convinced here. (See footnote)

Contrary to many critics Rob DOES talk about sin, judgment, the anger of God, the centrality of Christ as the only way to true life, and the amazing multi-faceted beauty of the Cross. He does not paint a picture of easy-believism but rather calls the church to meet and obey the Jesus of the Kingdom that is NOW not just the Jesus off in the future when you die. The chapters on the kingdom and the Prodigal Son are worth the book.

As far as the issue of "universalism" is concerned:
Rob Bell is NOT a universalist as defined as "all paths are equal and valid ways to God." No, I believe he is a hopeful Christian Restorationist. This means he believes the atonement of Christ was both sufficient and effectual for all. A Restorationist would believe that it is only through the cross that redemption is procured and creation is restored. This view holds to the orthodox creeds (which do not mention an eternal torment BTW). Ultimate Restorationism reconciles the two views of God: the God who loves and desires all be saved but can't (Arminian) with the God who is sovereignly able but has chosen not to (Calvinism). But it appears that Bell is still in the process of working through this understanding. Please do not try and extract everything from Rob Bell, search out the Scriptures yourselves and read other authors. Check out the interlinear Bible online and see what these verses mean and where ideas have been assumed and words therefore added. We need to do our homework and be Bereans.

MY OWN PERSONAL STORY: Being raised by the "god who left it up to me to choose," I lived in constant terror of whether I believed enough of the right things or with the right motives. As a young adult I switched to the "god who is sovereign over your salvation" and a gloom and dread colored my life from that time on. I felt I could never really know if I was one of the very few elect since I kept having the "symptoms" of an unregenerate soul (ie., sin, doubt, fear). I could never enjoy anything deeply since there were so many souls on their way to eternal destruction (maybe even mine!) The darkness and despair were overwhelming and almost impossible to shake. I would have times where I would suppress it but that only led to guilt for not thinking "eternally" and not caring for others enough to tell them the "truth." It sucked the joy out of everything. Obviously this is not the experience of everyone but for those that feel compelled to take to heart the teaching and its implications this is its logical end.

I am much older now and have been forced to look at this view of Ultimate Restoration through Christ. I am not into pop theology or post-modern church culture, but I have read and studied extensively from the Puritans and reformers, Sproul and Piper to Keller and many writers in-between. I feel I can maybe speak a word of wisdom from the longevity and experience of my Christian journey. To me the only view that makes sense, fits the overall Story of God in the Scriptures, unifies the 2 opposing Gods of Calvinism and Arminianism and presents the gospel as REALLY good news is that of a God who is BOTH loving enough to want all to be restored AND powerful enough to make it happen. When it first broke into my heart I thought, "maybe I don't have to be cuckoo anymore."

But MORE needs to be written. I think Bell may very well have just let a bunch of prisoners out their cells who were "faithful" only on account of fear. I've already seen it; "God loves everybody and we're all saved so let's party!" Alarming. Well actually, it's progress: we now know what the linch-pin has been for many...fear of eternal hell. And The Religious have now become The Sinners (the younger brothers). Believe it or not, that's a step in the right direction: Jesus said, "Truly I say unto you, the tax-collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom AHEAD of you."

This would go hand in hand with the need for a logical view of judgment. The eternal torment view has been ineffective as a deterrent because no human being could think about it long enough to take it seriously. If they did it would drive them insane. We need to dust off (and finally take seriously) verses like, "The Lord will judge HIS PEOPLE. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Heb 10:30-31) Yikes. But if this is in the context of a loving Father, it's scary but it's good and it will be redemptive. I can process that kind of judgment and therefore I might think about it long enough to strike a holy fear in me and bring real repentance and change. God knows, right now the Church has very little restraining it from adultery, abuse, pride, control, substance abuse etc., ("For the LOVE of Christ constrains us." Rom 5)

Thank you Rob Bell and our prayers are with you brother.

(For a thorough study on the topic by someone who has spent much more time and research see free online book, "Hope Beyond Hell" by Gerry Beauchemin, a solid orthodox evangelical missionary. Or Dutch reformed scholar, J. Bonda's "One Purpose of God").