Mar 18, 2011
Love Wins by Rob Bell: A Book Review
When I read a tweet from popular reformer John Piper in response to Bell's promo video about his book I was disappointed. I was not disappointed in Bell, but in Piper. John Piper had not read the book but was able to make a judgement call nonetheless. The tweet: Farewell Rob Bell. That sounds a whole lot like "Your dead to me", and very little like Jesus.
Now on to the book. First of all a follower of Christ must believe that Jesus is the only way to God through His death and resurrection. They must repent of their sins, and trust in Christ alone to forgive and change them.
This being said I believe Rob Bell is a believer. In the book he says that Jesus is the only way to God and he explains the personal decision to turn from his sins and follow Christ. Could it be that I am mistaken about his relationship with God? Yes. But then again, it is his relationship with God, and I am neither Rob Bell nor God.
He explores various fringe strands of Christian theology that he calls Orthodox. I assure you these are not Orthodox views and many are Heterodox. Does this in an of itself matter. No. Orthodoxy is simply clinging to commonly held views, while Heterodoxy is challenging them. In this way I would be proud to be a heretic in some areas of theology.
What theology is in the book? Bell argues that Heaven and Hell are real, but only as a state of mind. He claims that Heaven will be a perfected version of our current Earth and that Revelation for all intents and purposes has been mostly fulfilled. Is this ok? Perhaps not, but it does not deviate from the Gospel message--Yet.
Can someone believe that Hell is not eternal and be a Christian? Yes, this blogger does. Can one believe that Hell is not a literal fire and still be a Christian? That depends on whether you believe Billy Grahm is a Christian. There is even greater wiggle room when it comes to the end times. Pretribulational rapture is the dominant view today, but it was not before the Scofield Reference Bible pushed it as the only view. Can good Christians disagree about the small things and still follow Christ and share His Gospel with others? I believe the answer is yes.
What about the non-negotionables in Bell's book. He says that (and I am paraphrasing) Jesus is the only way, but He has forgiven even those who do not trust in Him. He says that His death paid for everyone in the worlds sins whether they like it or not. He does not believe that sincere belief in Allah or other gods save anyone, but that they will be given multiple chances to come through Christ after death (this narrowly and dangerously keeps his line of thinking on the edge of the Christian camp).
He believes there will be a time of pruning in which the goats will be made into sheep. He thanks C.S. Lewis for most of his theology. Before you throw Bell to the wolves you need to go back and read Lewis' Mere Christianity where he says that Budhists and the like can be saved by following that which is most Christlike in their belief system. In His book The Last Battle, Aslan counts things done in the service of the enemy as things done for him. Universalism is at the core of Lewis' writings that most Christian herald with the works of Wesley, Luther, and Calvin.
All of Bell's ramblings about universal love by God ignore the responses of the Apostles to questions about being saved. The Philippian jailor asked what he had to do to be saved and Paul told him that he must believe (Acts 16:16-34). The bottom line is found in John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." They will not see life. That is pretty clear to me.
All in all the book is pretty dangerous. In an attempt to make God seem to nice to really punish sin, Bell has given God a new meanstreak to consider. So my question to universalists everywhere is why? Why would Jesus let his disciples die in the ways that they did, telling them if they denied Him then He would deny them? Why would He do this when everyone would end up with God anyway? Why could they not just worship in private and keep to themselves? Why was it so important that they take His Gospel to the whole world at any cost? Because He is the only way, and the church is His vehicle to get His life saving message to the masses.
This book may be dangerous and subversive, especially to a new believer. There is a lot of scripture in the book, but no context provided and in many places no references given. It is predominately speculation about what a good God should look like based on our human understanding. Bell creates a God that humans can completely understand, because he is cast in our image rather than we in his. Isn't this the same thing? No. Because we see through a glass darkly (1 Cor 13:12). We have sin in our nature and so we can not remake God in our image without distorting His greatness, justice, power, and love.
Love doesn't win. Love already won. Death and sin are conquered to all who believe.
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”