Love Wins: Review
Book Review: “Love Wins” By: Rob Bell
Controversy has been the cloud “Love Wins” has been shrouded by. Christians are complaining, arguing that Bell is an unorthodox heretic.
Well I believe it’s a discussion about heaven and hell that NEEDS to be had…but maybe I’m just an unorthodox heretic too. No, that’s not it…no; I’m a Christian who thinks Christendom’s worldview has become more a gospel of escapism and fire insurance rather than of redemption and renewal through Christ.
“So when the gospel is diminished to a question of whether or not a person will “get into heaven,” that reduces the good news to a ticket, a way to get past the bouncer and into the club.” – p. 178.
Redemption and renewal… this is the hope of the gospel in Christ… and this is the worldview that Rob Bell argues for in his new book. Do heaven and hell exist? Bell says yes. I believe they do too…and I believe that people all over the world are living in both right now. I also believe that as Christians, it’s our job now and in the future to bring heaven to those living in hell. Most people don’t need to be told their lifestyle will lead them to hell. No, many are well aware of the hell they already dwell in. The problem is really about love. Am I loved? This is what people want to know.
“God is love, and to refuse this love moves us away from it, in the other direction, and that will, by very definition, be an increasingly unloving, hellish reality.” – p. 177.
Why are people claiming that he’s a heretic? It seems to me because they need to know who goes to hell and who doesn’t. And he’s not willing to say. And neither am I. Many argue that he’s a universalist, but he’s clear about his belief that Christ alone can save everybody…He’s just not willing to say in what way this all-powerful, all loving God is going to show Christ to different people from different cultures all over the world.
Bell lays it out well:
“John remembers Jesus saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
This is as wide and expansive a claim as a person can make. What he doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that get people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and restore the world is happening through him [Christ].
And so the passage is exclusive, deeply so, insisting on Jesus alone as the way to God. But it is an exclusivity on the other side of inclusivity.
First, there is exclusivity:
Jesus is the only way. Everybody who doesn’t believe in him and follow him in the precise way that is defined by the group doing the defining isn’t saved, redeemed, going to heaven, and so on. There is that kind of exclusions. You’re either in, or you’re going to hell. Two groups.
Then, there is inclusivity (universalism):
The kind that is open to all religions, the kind that trusts that good people will get in, that there is only one mountain, but it has many paths. This inclusivity assumes that as long as your heart is fine or your actions measure up, you’ll be okay.
And then, there is an exclusivity on the other side of inclusivity:
This kind insists that Jesus is the way, but holds tightly to the assumption that the all-embracing, saving love of this particular Jesus the Christ will of course include all sorts of unexpected people from across the cultural spectrum.
As soon as the door is opened to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Baptists from Cleveland, many Christians become very uneasy, saying then that Jesus doesn’t matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter what you believe, and so forth.
Absolutely, unequivocally, unalterably not true.
What Jesus does is declare that he, and he alone, is saving everybody.
And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe. He is as exclusive as himself and as inclusive as containing every single particle of creation.” – pgs. 156-157.
If I could give a criticism, it would be that Bell is somewhat vague, not willing to fully come down on where he stands. However, I think this purposeful. I think he leaves it open because he wants there to be discussion. He wants us as Christians to really look at the beliefs we hold onto about heaven and hell, because they matter. They influence our actions in the world.
Wherever you find yourself, this is worth a read. Whether you’re Christian, or of another religion, whether you’re agnostic or atheist, it’s a valuable read. If nothing else, read it for the historical, cultural, literary, and grammatical analysis of the passages in the Bible about heaven and hell.
If you’re interested in further reading, read the book!
If you want to read some better reviews, check out these links: