Author: Rob Bell
First Published: 2011
Topic: The Gospel, the afterlife, biblical interpretation
Let me start with the positives about this.
Love Wins is not a particularly long book. You can read it pretty quickly, took me roughly 6 hours to finish it. It is written in way that is easy to read, nothing comes across as too ‘heady’ or academic which is great. I think Rob Bell deserves a writing commendation for bringing across a topic that could have been handled in a highly academic matter in such a way that anyone can approach it and understand what he is saying. That’s fantastic. I’ve noticed that many books that deal with important topics are difficult to read for the every-man so I can appreciate that Bell has made this approachable for everyone. He also has quite a bit of humour and uses it effectively throughout the book.
Rob Bell also invites disagreement and questions. He is open to it and that comes across in the book. He explains that he knows people have different viewpoints and that he is simply sharing his viewpoint, his opinion on the matter. I’m sure we all know of people that when they say or do something, they say it without the intent of inviting discussion on the topic and state that their word is the final say on whatever is being discussed. So kudos to Rob Bell on being so open, that’s an admirable trait.
Speaking of disagreements:
Rob Bell uses Scripture a lot, but not always correctly. I found a few pieces in the book where he quoted a piece of Scripture and I was thinking “Hang on a second, the context means something completely different if I remember right” and when I checked, lo and behold, the context gave that verse a very different meaning. Sometimes he even leaves out a particular piece of a verse (e.g. Mr Bell, John 3:16 has the words “whoever believes shall not perish” in the verse, we all know that, don’t try and ignore that) when it doesn’t suit the point he’s making. There are also passages in Scripture he straight up ignores (e.g. Jesus’ words on judgement in the gospel of John) So, there’s that, ignoring context and twisting scripture.
Pay attention to those words “ignoring context and twisting Scripture”. They evoke an emotion, a feeling that makes you think a certain way. I did that on purpose. It’s called emotional language and Love Wins is full of it. This kind of talk and language is used to make someone feel a certain way so that they are more likely to agree with what you say, even if they disagree with it mentally. Rob Bell does this throughout the book and it smacks of manipulation. Whether he does it deliberately or not, I’m not sure, but I do know that it is everywhere.
Ultimately, I disagree with Bell. While he puts forth the idea that even after people die, God will turn every heart by His sheer beauty and awesome power, his reasons for it seem like a very emotional reading of the text with some fairly unintelligent use of Scripture to back it up. The argument he uses, can a good and loving God send people to Hell, has been answered centuries ago, during the time of Origen (an early theologian), and I see nothing in Love Wins that would convince me of Christian Universalism being correct.
Conclusion: Read with an open mind but also a cautious one. You are welcome to disagree with Rob Bell. The book is pretty well-written and Bell’s point is made effectively. There are only few flaws but those same flaws are fairly major ones that severely impact the conclusions reached in the book. Overall, I would say this isn’t recommended reading but I don’t discourage people from reading it either.