Some people have asked me to blog about my thoughts concerning Rob Bell and his new book, “Love Wins.” I have hesitated because frankly lots of other people have done a great job at critiquing Bell’s book (like Relevant Magazine and Jeff Baxter – part one & part two). But, you know me, I love controversial subjects; so, I’ll share my thoughts cause I do have some.
Rob Bell, himself
When Bell first came onto the scene, I was hooked by his way of communicating God’s truth. He told stories; he helped make sense of scripture. He had a gift – and still does. I bought nearly all of his Nooma videos. I used them in my student ministries. Then Rob started down a path that seemed shaky. I first noticed it in his Nooma videos. The Truth started to seem opinionated; and some videos even breached on New Age practices. Soon, Rob’s personal beliefs started to go around the net, which caused me to question him even more.
Now, I never met the man (though I did rub shoulders with him at a YS convention in 2003). I’ve never asked him about his beliefs, and for that matter, I never really publicly condemned the man. I chose to get rid of my Nooma videos (and books), and I chose to distance myself from his teachings, but I never came out and said, “Rob Bell is not a Christian and is damned to hell for being a heretic.”
Like I said before, Rob Bell has a gift of communicating a message to people. I do believe the man is a Christian. I believe that he believes Jesus is the way to Heaven. I believe he is sincere in what he is trying to do: live out a faith that is authentic. However, I also believe that Bell is on a dangerous road. I believe that his new book is a misunderstanding of what scripture clearly teaches. I believe that while he has a gift for communicating, he is wishy-washy on certain issues which causes you to go “Huh?” all too often (things like the Truth of scripture, his personal beliefs). It’s as if he wants to tell the truth, but doesn’t want to offend anyone in the process. Sometimes, though, the Truth is offensive.
Rob Bell and his book, “Love Wins”
A couple of weeks ago, Bell’s new book, “Love Wins” went viral, and then it went on sale. The net was abuzz about Rob and his “universalism” beliefs about Heaven and Hell. Many critics were slamming him without having read his book. Others waited until his book was published before they gave their thoughts. Needless to say, those that wrote before and those that wrote after basically came to the same conclusions: “Love Wins” was a book that basically called for Christians to embrace a universalism truth that all people have a chance at Heaven, even after they die. Surely, a loving God couldn’t (and wouldn’t) mess with our free will to choose, even after death came and went.
To be fair, there are points that I agree with Bell:
- Heaven is a present reality … but it is also a real place that will come down upon a new earth
- Hell is a present reality … but it is also a real place where people who have rejected God will go
- All the evilness in the world can be likened to “living in hell” … however, only to a point can you do this (If hell is being unable to be in God’s presence, and God’s presence is still within the world right now, then this world cannot fully be likened to hell. Unless you remove God totally from the picture, which you can’t. Therefore, hell is a real place, but it’s not now, it’s not this earth.)
I would also agree with Rob Bell that God wants all people to be saved. It says in 1 Timothy 2:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
(1 Timothy 2:1-6 ESV)
And then again in 2 Peter 3:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
(2 Peter 3:9 ESV)
However, nowhere in scripture does it say that all will be saved. It simply expresses God’s desire for all of His children to accept Him. It’s His hope, but He also knows the reality that this won’t happen. The truth is, Jesus talks a lot about hell and those that will be going there. He also talks about making this choice (the choice for Him) before you die, because once on the other side, you don’t get a second chance. Here are some examples that illustrate this (by no means is this an exhaustive study, either, simply some basic examples).
Both men die, and both men go to their respective places: Lazarus to Heaven (Abraham’s side) and the Rich Man to death (Hades). The Rich Man calls out to Abraham and asks for relief for the pain and torment that he is receiving. Abraham answers “No; it is what it is. This is what you chose, and there are no second chances once you’re dead.” When death happens, your place of residence is permanent.
Jesus tells another parable about ten virgins who are waiting for the Bride Groom to come for them. Five stay awake, trim their wicks, and have plenty of oil in their lamps. The other five are lazy about getting prepared for their Groom. Finally, the Groom comes and the five awake women are taken in, while the five lazy ones are left outside. Upon them asking to be let in, the Groom responds and says, “I don’t know you.” It’s not so much about “choosing” the right destination, as it is about “knowing” the right Person.
Jesus, again, being questioned about those who will be saved, gives a tough response: those who will be saved will be few. Not everyone who calls Me ‘Lord’ will enter in, because I didn’t know them. Even though they had good intentions, they never cared to know Me.
The point above is reiterated: your walk with God is about knowing Him, not just being good. It’s about choosing Him before you die. It’s about living a life that reflects an honest and passionate relationship. Christ calls us to Himself now, not in the afterlife.
Love DOES Win
Romans says that it was because of God’s love for us that He came and died for us. It is God’s love that unleashes grace and mercy upon us – daily (Lamentations 3:22-23). It is God’s love that beckons us to come into a relationship with Him, to live for Him and not ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:14). From the moment we are conceived to the moment we breathe our last, God’s love surrounds us. It is when we have passed on from one life to the other that His love turns from grace to justice. Not because He suddenly hates us, but because while God is love, so God is also just. If we didn’t accept Christ’s atoning blood, while we were still alive, then we have no protection (no payment) for our sin after we die. We are alone, before the judgment seat of God Almighty.
In the end, God’s love does win. For those that have chosen Christ, His love brings us into His eternal glory and presence; He does not abandon us to the grave. For those that have chosen Christ, death no longer hold us; we merely fall asleep and awake in His presence. God’s love wins for those who choose Him now, and not after it’s too late. God’s love wins, always, this side of eternity. And it will continue to win for those who enter His Kingdom, for eternity.
Should you read the book, “Love Wins”? If you feel you must, then go ahead. However, please read in a mindset that what is written within the book is one man’s opinion, and not necessarily the Truth. I would also read up on some reviews about the book, so you know a bit of what to expect and how to process Bell’s shaky theology about Heaven and Hell. I gave two great links at the top of this post – both give some additional sources to check out.
Although, if you don’t read this book you won’t be missing anything special. In fact, you might even save yourself the trouble and just read what scripture has to say about Heaven and Hell. The Bible is clear about your final destination: you want to choose your spot before getting there, and once you arrive, you can’t ask for a refund or to be relocated.