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
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
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)
“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
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
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
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.
“A 61 Year Old Evangelical
April 27, 2011, Ronnie Meek "RamMan" (Nashville,
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
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.
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
As far as the issue of "universalism"
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