Rob Bell, his New Book and the Definition of Love

The blog world went crazy today (at least among pastors). News of Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. I have been a fan of Rob Bell’s few several years, he has challenged me, pushed my thinking and helped to shape my beliefs by the questions he has forced me to ask. I try not to throw out good books because I disagree with them as many Christians seem to do. In fact, some of my greatest growth in terms of my spiritual journey and theological beliefs have come from the writings of Rob Bell and Brian McLaren with the questions they forced me to wrestle with. Depending on your maturity, how long you have followed Jesus and some other factors should go into deciding to read books that you disagree with theologically.

So, what is this all about? Bell’s new book comes out in March and his publisher released a description:

Fans flock to his Facebook page, his NOOMA videos have been viewed by millions, and his Sunday sermons are attended by 10,000 parishioners—with a downloadable podcast reaching 50,000 more. An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Time magazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation. Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.

Now, as a speaker and filmmaker, Rob Bell is second to very few. They also released a trailer to go with the book, which is now all the rage.

While it is difficult to know what all will be Bell’s book, this gives a pretty good idea what the gist is and taking the leap from his other writings it isn’t surprising that this is the turn he is taking. Bell’s point about who knows where people stand is true. We are not the judges and all I have to go on about his book is this video, description and what I’ve heard him say in sermons before this.

Here is where I struggle with universalism. Jesus did not die on a cross to save us from God. He died on a cross to rescue us from our sin to be made right with God. Like Bell, I believe love wins, but not how he describes it. To believe in universalism, you have to toss the idea of sin, the idea that God is holy and set apart, different. You have to toss the belief that Jesus died on the cross, the beauty, glory and agony of that love. Why would he have to do that if “love wins” and we all “get in.”

Think about it as a parent, if I see that my kids are doing something destructive, will I stand by and do nothing? If they do something wrong, are there consequences I will bring to bear or natural consequences they will have to experience? Yes. It is the same with God. The idea of universalism creates this image of a God who is needy for me. Saying, “It doesn’t matter if you have spent your entire life living as if I don’t exist, in total opposition to the way I have dreamed creation to live, come spend eternity with me.”

Love does win. Love has won, but not the way Bell says it does (but I am interested to read his book).

HT: Justin Taylor

For some more helpful thoughts, check out what Kevin DeYoung and Brent Thomas had to say.

14 thoughts on “Rob Bell, his New Book and the Definition of Love

  1. It is possible to believe that the Bible is the word of God, that Jesus is the only way to God…and that everyone is going to heaven. For example, I do.

    It is also possible to believe that the wrath of God is active against sin, that everyone should repent in order to avoid judgment…and that everyone is going to heaven. For example, I do.

    What Bell believes about these things, I do not know. I am standing up for the truth of God.

    • Mike,

      I would be curious how you get to the belief in the wrath of God and sin and that we all need to repent and that everyone is going to heaven. Why do we need to repent if we are all going to heaven? What role does the wrath of God play if we are all going to heaven?

  2. Rob Bell + Universalism = Fireworks.

    Justin Taylor, knowingly or unknowingly, has ignited a full blown war with this blog post on Rob Bell. 😉

    Look out folks, it’s a “Reformed vs Emergent” battle within the Blogosphere, Facebook and Twitter for the next several days.

    Buckle your seat belt; it’s gonna get a little rocky…

  3. Hi Josh – I’m glad to see that you are questioning Bell and comparing to what Scripture says. This may sound harsh, but Bell sure seems like a wolf to me (and McLaren). My family and I left a church over this stuff that came in our church. I’ve been a Christian for a long time and simple know my Bible. There writings are not Biblical and deceptive (and I’ve personally read several of there writings) I’ll be praying that you see the same thing (looks like you are seeing some of it). Blessings.

    • Jan,

      I’m glad you read their books instead of just taking other people’s word for it. That is important. I have read every book they’ve written and they’ve challenged me to solidify my beliefs and shown me where I disagree with them.

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