Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Love Wins: A Review on Rob Bells Book

I Just finished reading Love Wins, a book written by Pastor Rob Bell, a supposedly controversial book about Heaven and Hell. 
Claims of heresy have been floating around and many a stir has been made by one man’s new look into an age old argument. 
What about heaven & hell? 
Is God really going to punish people forever and ever throughout all eternity? 
Is Rob a universalist? Etc...  According to Rob Bell the answer is....
Rob Bell is not a universalist. 
If anything, his book is more a rejection of the typical understanding of Hell that the majority of Christians hold. 
Rob asks:
“Have billions of people been created only to spend eternity in conscious punishment and torment, suffering infinitely for the finite sins they committed in the few years they spent on earth?”
Love Wins rejects this understanding but doesn’t say in the end what happens with those who ultimately reject Gods love (I’ll explain later why I believe this takes place). He rejects an ever burning, torturous hell. Therefore if that was your curiosity about his book, perhaps your curiosity is answered. 
Hopefully you will continue to read and understand that his book is more than a repudiation of the “typical” view of hell but rather a valid attempt to get people to think in different directions within the scope of Christianity. 
Love Wins, in the end is true. Love does ultimately win. Therefore what I enjoyed most about this book is this line which I believe to be true: 
“Love demands freedom, and freedom provides that possibility.” p. 94
God has allowed each of us the freedom to choose Him or not. Love demands such freedom but in the end Love wins because we in essence get what “we want,”
“That’s how love works. It can’t be forced, manipulated, or coerced. It always leaves room for the other to decide. God says yes, we can have what we want, because love wins.” p. 101
Rob goes out of his way to show the love of God, to entice others to see God’s love from a different point of view. To demonstrate that God is at work to save everyone including those that do not fit in our theological boxes. 
God is trying to save the Muslim. 
God is trying to save the Buddhist. 
Yes, yes, yes God is trying to save the world!  
And God will do what ever it takes to get that done. 
It is a resounding yes that God is trying to save everyone. 
I believe that and that is why I enjoyed the book because it paints a beautiful picture that God is love.
In all it is a simple book to understand. However there are other aspects of the book that are incomplete and this is where I differ form him theologically.
Rob rejects God tormenting people forever and so do I, but then Rob can not come up with an explanation as to what happens with those who Rob even acknowledges have the freedom to reject God. 
He misunderstands scripture and hints at the notion that the saved and the lost will live in a parallel “state” throughout eternity. Rob goes even as far as to speculate that the gates in the New Jerusalem will never be shut therefore speculating that the lost can perhaps change their mind and enter the city of God. 
“But gates, gates are for keeping people in and keeping people out. If the gates are never shut, then people are free to come and go. Can God bring proper, lasting justice, banishing certain actions-- and the people who do them-- from the new creation while at the same time allowing and waiting and hoping for the possibility of the reconciliation of those very same people?” p.96
All this stems from his misunderstanding of what happens at death. He rejects an eternally burning hell and rejects universalism but doesn’t quite know what to do with the lost. Since in his framework he believes in an immortal soul he leaves it unclear what happens to the lost. He has bought into the very first lie, “you shall not die” uttered by Satan to Adam and Eve. 
I personally believe that the strides he makes in this book would be complete if he properly understood the state of the dead. 
In summary Rob is trying to demonstrate that God is love and I commend him for that. I commend him for thinking outside of the main stream of Christianity and rejecting a view that God is a tormentor yet I encourage him to be more faithful to the scriptures. 
We humans do not have an inherent immortality because only God is immortal. 1 Tim 6:16


  1. Hmmm...very interesting. So you wouldn't label that as universalism? Kind of sounds like it to me. Seems like he would be good to go if he would just accept the Hebrew understanding of death--that death is a sleep--and that people will ultimately be redeemed and be in heaven or be destroyed. That would dovetail perfectly with everything else he seems to be suggesting. Thanks for the post.

  2. @Rodlie, I say he isn't a universalist because he is not dogmatic about any one scenario except that he rejects an eternally burning hell.

    All his other options that he espouses are "could it be" type. He is not sure on any other. I would say confused hence he is grappling hard on how to balance ultimate freedom that God gives us to choose Him or not while rejecting the common view of Hell.

    It all revolves on not understanding death. I personally believe if he truly understand death he would see truly a clearer concept that Love truly wins in the end.

  3. hey gio,

    thanks for the post, it was very insightful. rob has to be a very bold individual to step outside the box of traditional christian thinking on hell. he's good at asking questions and making people think.

    i guess its a new age when individuals write books while still being confused themselves about issues (isn't that what blogs, diaries, and journals are for?). questions are good, but what good are questions without answers? especially when the bible is clear about the answers. who knows, maybe this will lead him to take a look at other aspects connected to heaven and hell, such as what happens to people when they die, etc.

  4. Yes, Rob is very bold and now that I read your comment I chuckle that his book is like one long Nooma video. It is more like a conversation starter in which he ask plenty of questions and lets his readers decide what indeed they believe.

    He does though make strides that others fail to make but you are correct some questions demand, at least, an attempt to an answer.

  5. @ Jonathan - thats a good point but blogs, diaries, and journals don't make money unless you publish them, which is possible exactly what he did.

    He might have been studying with the church of LDS. They also believe that everyone will be in heaven. Though you might be a servant (for bad Mormons) or preparing to be god (for really good Mormons) everyone will be there.

    Thanks for the review…just another book I know i won't read. :)

  6. I'll be writing a another review on his book because of he has a limited conception of God's power and love. Will explain in the next review over the weekend.

  7. It's awfully arrogant to presume *you* know the state of the dead! :)

  8. @anonymous but you can't presume I don't either. We can study it together if you like. :)

  9. The difference being that you base a lot of theology on those presumptions, whereas I do not! ;)

  10. @anonymous a person has to stand for something otherwise he/she falls for everything. Don't be so open minded your brain falls out. ;) once again if you would like to study it together we can strictly from the Bible.

  11. Nah, I don't need to study the state of the dead; it has no pertinent value to my daily walk with Jesus. It seems to for you, and that is fine. But not being SDA, it doesn't concern me in the least. I guess I will find out the truth of it once I am dead myself! :D

  12. @anonymous, Fair enough. Have a good night and God bless you always. One day we'll meet in heaven and we can find out and laugh about who was correct. lol

  13. Thanks Gio for the review. I'm just shocked that this made front page news on Time Magazine, "What if there's no hell?" (April 25, 2011). My answer to that question is that there would be a lot less fear-based, ultimately powerless Christianity. Fear might be enough to get people to show up at a big, entertaining church service for an hour a week, but it's not enough to motivate lasting formation of Christ-like patience, purity, kindness, self-control and the rest.

    I have to point the finger at us Adventists as well, because although we might criticize other Christians for fear, we sometimes frame the Second Coming and the Unpardonable Sin as fear-based motivations as well.

    So much guilt and fear in the churches, and so little of the true love of Christ. Maybe that's why Paul prayed the Ephesians 3 prayer!