Love Wins (part 1)

I am not a big Rob Bell fan. I don’t have anything against him; I’m just not a big fan. I loved his first book, Velvet Elvis. I have read a couple of his other books, but was not impressed with them. I have never seen any of the videos he has made and I have never heard him speak. I appreciate all he has done for the kingdom; I’m just not a huge fan.

To be honest, I really had no desire to read his new book, Love Wins. But after following some of the controversies around that book, I have decided to read it. If a book doesn’t hold my attention, or if I feel like I have read all this stuff before, I usually don’t finish the book. So I promise I will start reading Love Wins (I have already done so), but I can’t promise I will finish reading Love Wins. If Love Wins is like Velvet Elvis, I will finish it. If it’s like Sex God or Jesus Wants to Save Christians, I probably will not finish reading it.

I have decided to try and chronicle my way through Bell’s book by blogging about it. I don’t know how many blogs I will have on this subject, but I will blog about the book. I hope you follow me on my journey. If you have not yet subscribed to my blog, do so. You will be alerted every time I post a new blog.

Before I let you in a few things I have already read, I think it is important that I list a few of my assumptions going into the book. These are assumptions I had before reading a single word of Love Wins. So here they are with very little commentary:

  • I assume Rob Bell is a Christian and has not committed heresy.
  • I assume Rob Bell is a serious student of the Bible.
  • I assume Rob Bell is smarter, and more talented, than I am.
  • I assume Rob Bell wants as many people to experience heaven and as few people to experience hell as possible.
  • I assume Rob Bell loves Jesus and loves people.
  • I assume I already know Rob Bell’s conclusion on the subject of hell. Here it is: Whatever a person believes about hell is speculation, so regardless of our views we cannot be dogmatic. Thus, the more important thing is what are you doing about Jesus in the here and now and how does that affect your life in the present. Every day you can choose to work with God in bringing about the Kingdom of God on this earth, or work against God to create hell on earth.

What do you think about those assumptions?

So far I have read the Preface and chapter 1. The style of the book is like Bell’s other books. There are some interesting thoughts in the Preface. Chapter 1 is a bunch of questions and possible conclusions that people have been asking since the first centuries. The book is far too short to answer all the questions he asks in the first chapter.

If Bell adequately presents the purpose of the book in the Preface (which is what a preface is for) than his purpose in writing this book is to ask questions and to encourage the Christian world to not be afraid to ask questions. Here is a quote: “Some communities don’t permit open, honest inquiry about the things that matter most. Lots of people have voiced a concern, expressed doubt or raised a question, only to be told by their family, church, friends, or tribe: ‘We don’t discuss those things here.’ I believe the discussion itself is divine” (p. ix).

My main observation from chapter 1 is that it seems Bell is struggling with his own Calvinistic theology. Some of the questions he asks, in m opinion, are adequately answered in a classical Arminian theology. Maybe all Rob Bell needs to do is come to the dark side and believe that God has created everyone with a free will and that Jesus died for everyone so everyone can be saved, or damned. God has not predetermined some to heaven and the rest to hell. He has provided a way so that everyone can escape heaven if they so choose. God doesn’t send anyone to hell; they choose to go there through unbelief.

Here is a quote that shows his struggle with his Calvinism: “Of all the billions of people who have ever lived, will only a select number ‘make it to a better place’ and every single other person suffer in torment and punishment forever? Is this acceptable to God? Has God created millions of people over tens of thousands of years who are going to spend eternity in anguish? Can God do this, or even allow this, and still claim to be a loving God? (p. 2).

Here is another quote from the Preface that I think is important: “And then, last of all, please understand that nothing in this book hasn’t been taught, suggested, or celebrated by many before me. I haven’t come up with a radical new teaching that’s any kind of departure from what’s been said an untold number of times. That’s the beauty of the historic, orthodox Christian faith. It’s a deep, wide, diverse stream that’s been flowing for thousands of years, carrying a staggering variety of voices, perspectives, and experiences” (pp. x-xi).

It looks like that at least one of my assumptions is true.

Feel free to comment on anything I have written, or will write. Even if you have not read the book, still feel free to participate in the discussion. If you are reading the book, or have read the book, I would be interested in your thoughts.


5 thoughts on “Love Wins (part 1)

  1. I have read Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” and I think he is appropriately troubled by the unnecessary assumption that the Bible consistently teaches the concept of ‘eternal conscious torment” in hell. Bell seems to be concerned primarily with what such a belief says about the character of God. Most Christians spend little time thinking as deeply as Bell about the implications of believing that a God of mercy and justice would burn people forever in a state of conscious torture. People who remain unconvinced that Jesus is the Son of God and thus uncommitted to following him by faith (and that’s the bottom line reason that most evangelical and fundamentalist Christians cite as the reason people “go to hell”) may very well deserve to corrected by God in the afterlife if they are wrong, but to be burned forever in a state of conscious torture by God is indeed unjust. The punishment doesn’t correspond to the “crime.” I think Bell does a good job pointing out the troubling nature of such a position. Unfortunately, I think many Christian leaders will spend more time trying to anathematize Rob Bell than they will spend challenging Christians to actually think deeply about what they “say” they believe.

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