Rob Bell

Book Review: Love Wins

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?


A Snarky Book Review: Love Wins

What if somebody wrote a book that didn’t say anything?It just asked questions… loads of questions.

Love Wins book coverWhat if those questions were all leading? Could that count as actually saying anything? Does this post so far leave you with any doubt of what I am trying to communicate? It is, after all, almost all questions.

Can I deny that I said anything? All I really did was ask a bunch of questions. Is it a problem if the questions all have self-evident answers?

What if somebody used the word “story” in virtually every other paragraph? Would you find that annoying?

What if somebody wrote with no concern for how much paper they used? What if there were random line breaks everywhere? After commas, After ellipses... Even for no reason whatsoever?

And then followed that with like 4 blank lines also for no reason whatsoever.

How long could I write like this before it became incredibly annoying? Would 194 pages of this be more than you can stomach?

Also, what if this book cost 11 dollars but took under 2 hours to read, even while making notes in almost every page?  Would that affect your feelings toward the book?

If you enjoy this style of writing I recommend Love Wins by Rob Bell.  If you find it silly or annoying or you just wonder if this is what they call "emerging grammar" then I say skip it.

Thus ends the snarky portion of my book review  Read the next post if you want a serious review.

Holiness and Love Win

This title is obviously inspired by the title of Rob Bell’s newest book Love Wins, but I have not read that book.  I have however seen it reviewed in a handful of places.  So I will say a bit about it here then move on to my point in this post.  If the quote from Russell Moore’s blog, The Blood-Drained Gospel of Rob Bell, is accurate, (and it is) then Rob Bell is simply not a Christian.  One cannot claim to be a Christian and deny the necessity of the blood of Christ.  The cross is the center of Christianity.  If it is unnecessary, then we can toss out everything else the Bible has to say.  Let me put that a slightly different way.  Why would someone feel the need to call themselves a Christian if they deny the atoning work of Christ?  If the cross is merely “the  Jesus story in language listeners would understand.”  That is a denial of the atonement.  The person who says that is Christian in title only. In past generations Christian liberals abandoned the scriptures because they didn’t want to be embarrassed by academics.  Now it appears Christian liberals are denying the gospel because they don’t want to be embarrassed culturally. It’s the same story just a different generation, and it is sad.

There is, however, something about the character of God that all Christians struggle with.  This struggle is what starts someone like Rob Bell down the path toward universalism and it is the same thing that causes other Christians to feel as if God would never redeem certain “types” of people.

The Bible makes it clear that God is Love.  In fact, it directly says, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) The Bible also makes it clear that God is Holy and says so directly. (Leviticus 11:45)

The Holiness of God means that He hates our sin.  Has a hatred of it more than we can imagine.  And even the sins we think are cute, or the ones we are somehow proud of, God hates.

The love of God means that he is willing to forgive, and even forget, all of our sins. Through the Son He has justified us and does not see those sins.  He loves us more than we can imagine.

Here is where it gets difficult for every Christian I know.

We all tend to place the holiness and love of God on a continuum and we find that we view God far on either side of that continuum.  If we overemphasize the holiness of God we become legalists and think we are somehow righteous because we are able to keep God from squashing us.  If we overemphasize the love of God we become antinomians (or universalists) and think that we can behave however we wish because God will forgive.  (Apparently Rob Bell would say that God will forgive even if we desire to reject Him)

Neither of those views of God are true or fair.  God is perfectly holy AND perfectly loving. He hates our sin and he loves us enough to forgive it.  The hard part is understanding this and living accordingly.  I do not want to worship a god who is not loving, neither do I want to worship a god who is not holy.  Fortunately, I do not have to make this choice.  The God of the universe is both and all Christians will do well to remember this.

I hope I have been able to say this clearly.  I welcome your comments.