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.