Love Wins by Rob Bell

In Book Reviews by Antwuan Malone

Love Wins

A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Every Lived.

Author: Rob Bell
Review by: Antwuan Malone

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Dead or alive, everyone goes to heaven, unless they don’t want to. But they’ll all want to… sooner or later.

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Quick Take:

Rob Bell is not your typical Christian Pastor/Writer/artist. But I bet you knew that already.

If you are familiar with any of  Rob Bell’s work, you already know the tone of this book. You know he’ll ask great questions, provide some shock value, and offer different looks and interpretations of scriptures than you’re used to.

On the matter of Heaven and Hell, Bell offers alternative viewpoints to their traditional Christian definitions, and in so doing created a firestorm among the general Christian community. Is he a heretic or a preacher of good news? Does he shake the foundations of our understanding of salvation and grace for the sake of a feel-good, simplistic gospel, or does he free us from misinterpreted institutional church dogma that casts God in a negative light?

While I feel Bell’s heart is in the right place, I cannot endorse this book for its doctrinal accuracy. It does have its merits though.

The Skinny:

This is a hard review to write.  In this book, Rob Bell raises so many questions, both directly and indirectly, it makes me want to try to cover them all in this review.

Of course, I can’t do that.

There is a more exhaustive (but still not all-inclusive) series of posts I’ve written on this site called “The Love Wins Experience” which covers the book chapter by chapter. I hope you will visit those posts and join in on some of the good discussion on topics each chapter brings up. Having written that series frees me to make this review a more bird’s eye view of this book, in one sense. As long as that bird is the eagle.

What I mean by my eagle-eye view is this. What is the book really about? Is it really about Heaven and Hell and where they will be after this age? Is it really about salvation from Hell? Is it about the idea of God ‘not getting what he wants,’ of ‘Jesus saving us from God,’ Or is it something far more fundamental to the Christian experience.

Support Candid Christianity: Buy Love Wins from this site.

You will read in many reviews that Bell is a heretic, or that Bell misunderstands or misinterprets scripture (you’ll see that in my own posts), and that he is offering a feel-good gospel that takes all the Bible’s good press and rationalizes away the bad press. The writing in this book justifies many of those accusations. Bell has put forth a book that tries to play two sides of the scriptures, yet somehow doesn’t credit God as having more than one side. Bell is ready and willing to speak about God’s love, which is amazing and worth the majority attention for most of our talk about Him. But even he must remember that God shows us for two-thirds of his Holy Book, that He is more than kind, happy, Care Bear, if you will, Love.

And in so doing, he has presented a “brat’s god” who only operates in the kindly part of love’s economy.

Bell is known, in this book particularly, for revealing “the question behind the questions.” For Bell that question is,”What is God like?” But for me, this book was all about the idea of grace.

Reading this book challenged me over and over again. What does God’s grace really look like? How far does God’s grace (alone) really carry us? In what way does God’s grace, a validation of his love, collide with His holy and just nature ? Is that collision a harmonic dance, or an explosion? In other words, does grace nullify God’s holy and just essence? Can such opposite natures justice (judgment) and grace (love) coexist as the essence of one being?

God is asking us to fulfill our original purpose of loving relationship with him. Jesus removed the barrier of judgment so that we could choose to return to that purpose. That’s the good news!! Thus, through the judgment of God satisfied in Jesus, grace is extended for us all. Through the paradoxical picture of the cross, God shows himself as Judge and Love at the same time.

Faith is the key.

Bell neglects the doctrine of faith as the vehicle for getting us where God wants us. Perhaps Bell should consider Faith as the topic of his next book, because there is no mention of it in this one anywhere. You know, the faith that goes with grace (for by grace are ye saved, through faith), the faith mentioned alongside Love and Hope (to ideas Bell does key on) in the famed 1 Corinthians 13 passage.

Faith is the reason God can Love and be Just at the same time. Faith is core to choosing to love God because he first loved us, not because he’ll save us from eternal damnation. Faith is the linchpin to grace and judgment, the engagement ring that ties the two together as one. Without faith, grace is a mere accommodation to circumstance, not a call to a relational union. Without faith, we will always see Hell as punishment instead of personal choice, and heaven as “the safe place” instead of the “place where Love lives.”

Without faith, it is impossible to please God. And what will please Him more than our choice to return his Love!

This is the key to reading this book. See God as a relational being, not as a judge. Not because he isn’t a judge, but because he’s already exercised his judgment on His Son. Thus, heaven and hell, wherever they happen to be (and I don’t believe either are here now) are not rewards or punishment. Hell is not the wrath of God on unsaved men. It is the natural result of choosing to disengage with life and love.

If you stick your hand in fire, would you say the fire punished you by burning your hand? Absolutely not. Fire burns. It’s what it does. Life, love, light, peace — these are the virtues of God. To say no to them, is to naturally receive the opposite of their effect. Death, misery, darkness and chaos.

God is asking us to fulfill our original purpose of loving relationship with him. Jesus removed the barrier of judgment so that we could choose to return to that purpose. That’s the good news!! Thus, through the judgment of God satisfied in Jesus, grace is extended for us all. Through the paradoxical picture of the cross, God shows himself as Judge and Love at the same time. Love’s “winning” is in our ability to choose God through trusting faith in what Jesus’ does for us on the cross!

So in closing. Bell’s book fundamentally falls a wee short. It misses the importance of faith, as it continues to fuel the “brat God” with the punishment talk of Hell as “God’s judgment.” Grace changes the whole effect of our works. No one gets what they deserve now that Christ has died. His death covered all sins. By neglecting the part faith plays in God’s call for us to love Him, Bell will confuse the masses. Without the ideas of faith reconciling the judge of the Old Testament with the Love of the New Testament, we are left with a misunderstood God, and bad theology. Which, despite the fact that I believe Bell’s heart is in the right place, is what this ultimately offers.

Other Reviews:

Click to follow link:

Transcend Church’s Love Wins Review

Amazed & Perplexed Love Wins Review

Aaron Armstrong’s Blogging Theologically Love Wins Review

Christianity Today’s – Rob Bell’s Bridge Too Far

Christus Victor Ministries – Rob Bell is Not a Universalist

http://vimeo.com/24526678

Media

THE BEST and most interesting Rob Bel interview about Love Wins. It’s about an hour but you NEED to hear this if this book has captivated you.

Click: UnBelievable Interview with Justin Brierly (via Premier Christian Radio)

You Tube: AWESOME Remake of the Love Wins Trailer

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Buy It Here ~ Support Candid Christianity:

Click Book Cover or below link to purchase:
Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived

You will read in many reviews that Bell is a heretic, or that Bell misunderstands or misinterprets scripture (you’ll see that in my own posts), and that he is offering a feel-good gospel that takes all the Bible’s good press and rationalizes away the bad press. The writing in this book justifies many of those accusations. Bell has put forth a book that tries to play two sides of the scriptures, yet somehow doesn’t credit God as having more than one side. Bell is ready and willing to speak about God’s love, which is amazing and worth the majority attention for most of our talk about Him. But even he must remember that God shows us for two-thirds of his Holy Book, that He is more than kind, happy, Care Bear, if you will, Love.

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.