I think it might be an internet rule that if you are a Christian and a blogger you must write a review of Rob Bell's latest book, Love Wins. I don't want to run afoul of the internet so here is my review. I know that many of my readers have not read other reviews but I should say, there's probably nothing too original here. Much ink has already been spilled in reviewing Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell, so I will not be offering a traditional review here. Rather I will be answering some of the questions that people have heard about the book.
What is the thesis of Love Wins?
Rob Bell’s writing style doesn’t lend itself to clarity. Any time he is getting close to a conclusion, instead of saying what he believes or even what he means, he asks leading questions. But it seems that the thesis is as follows:
God gets what He wants. Because he is loving, God wants everyone to be saved. Love wins.
Again, he never comes out and says that everyone will be saved, but he makes that implication strongly. Apparently they will be saved even if they desire nothing of God. Although he doesn’t reconcile this tension.
Is Love Wins at least careful with the scriptures. Does he come to his conclusions Biblically?
In short, no. One would have to strive to mishandle the scriptures as much as Bell does in Love wins. He is a pastor and one charged with preaching the word. He should have a basic grasp of hermeneutics, but he is utterly irresponsible with God’s word. One brief example is quoting John 12:47 [pg 160] to say that Jesus didn’t come to judge the world. However, in that very same sentence Jesus says that His words will judge those “who reject me.” There are so many examples of either terrible hermeneutics or outright mishandling of the scriptures that it would be hard to list them all.
What about the holiness of God, does he care about that?
The word Holy appears on page 182. That’s it. And on page 182 he describes substitutionary atonement correctly and follows it by suggesting that it teaches a false message. So yes he does deny the holiness of God. The god of Love Wins is loving, but he is not holy. That is not the God of the Bible!
I have to also say that Bell is very loose with the way he speaks of the Trinity. He doesn’t deny the trinity, but he is not at all careful in the way he speaks. It is extremely off-putting to hear somebody say Jesus and God. It implies that Jesus is not God.
Does he really deny the atonement?
He does in fact describe the crucifixion as a powerful metaphor. And he says that “most of us do not understand sin, guilt, and atonement in those ways.” He says the first Christians, “put the Jesus story in language their listeners would understand.” I wonder if he has read the book of Hebrews? I said at that outset that His style doesn’t lend itself to clarity. Bell never actually says anything. What he does is imply it in a way that only an idiot could deny what has been said. So yes, he strongly implies that the atonement is just a metaphor.
Is there anything good about the book?
I will give him credit for understanding Heaven as a physical place. Many times in many evangelical churches, heaven is seen as this ethereal place that neither seems heavenly or particularly real.
Also the book is quick to read.
Would you recommend the book?