I thought I would move this post over from the old blog.
Well here it goes. The highly anticipated and eagerly awaited review of Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins.
I would like to be able to tell you that I approached this book without bias, but that would be a lie. Honestly, I approached it with a lot of bias. Bias against Rob, bias against the response of the piperites, bias against liberal christianity, and bias against all the buzz that’s been created on this topic. Anyways, there was a lot of bias, but I was aware of it. So, I tried to take that into account as best I could…
I’ll start my saying that the negative press against the book was blown out of proportion. It was not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. It wasn’t nearly as heretical as I thought it would be, and it was more thought provoking, in the good way, than I thought it would be.
That being said. I’d like to use a word that’s slightly less than heretical for the book. I think if Rob’s questions continue to go down the rabbit trail that he’s leading on then the book is heretical. That’s how I feel. I also feel like there are points in the book where Rob is dangerously close and probably even crosses a line he shouldn’t.
I’d also like to say the book is largely unfulfilling. Rob asks a lot of questions and it seems like purposefully doesn’t answer them. It’s like the point was to be provocative. Quick read, but you’re left scratching your head at points about what Rob actually thinks or what he thinks we should think…not my favorite kind of read.
So. Here is my review of the book in a little different form. Chapter by chapter.
Chapter One – What About the Flat Tire
Here is where it all begins. Rob tells his famous Gandhi story, along with stories of teenage atheists who didn’t have enough time and people who might not have heard because of a missionary’s flat tire. Or how does one get saved, baptism or a class or confirmation or born again or blah blah blah. Rob’s not asking any new questions here. And his desire for God to be loving is one that we all have. He also tells stories where Christians did tremendous wrongs and asks if people should follow that Jesus? That part was confusing. I don’t think all mechanics are liars because one of them is. I don’t think that Roger Goodell is a bad person just because Pacman Jones is… Bad logic on Rob’s part, but I understand his point. Sometimes we as Christians hinder the gospel.
Chapter Two- Here is the New There.
Again, nothing new here. If you’ve read Surprised by Hope by NT Wright you got Rob Bell’s paraphrase in this chapter. We need to care about the redemption of the world because the world is going to be redeemed. People should have clean water and we should lower our effect on the environment. I question Rob’s exegesis of 1 Cor 3 about flames in heaven and I’ve read that he doesn’t do justice to the age and age to come translating but I can’t speak to that on a professional level.
Chapter Three – Hell
This was a poor chapter. Weird also. Rob uses the fact that God was the God of Abraham Issac and Jacob to Moses to say that’s “an affirmation of God’s enduring and sustaining power over life and death” (page 66). Hmm. I always thought God was showing them the relational God that He was and how He was in covenant with them.
Then he says that Jesus only mean the city dump when he referred to Hell. And, “ the next time someone asks you if you believe in an actual hell, you can always say, ‘Yes I do believe my garbage goes somewhere’” (page 68).
Rob continues to say he believes in a literal Hell, it’s genocide and other terrible things that happen. He has “a hard time believed that somewhere down below the earth’s crust is a really crafty figured in red tights holding a three-pointed spear, playing Pink Floyd records backward, and enjoying the hidden messages” (page 70). None of us believe that Rob. But thanks for trying to belittle the evangelical mindset.
Then it becomes clear where Rob is borrowing from CS Lewis. On page 72 he says “God gives us what we want, and if that’s hell, we can have it. We have that kind of freedom, that kind of choice. We are that free. We can use machetes if we want to.”
True. Borrowing from the Great Divorce. We get what we choose. But, he doesn’t go the full step. It’s not just hell on earth. There’s a literal hell.
Rob also takes a passage from Ezekiel where he says that God will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her Gomorrah to mean that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah will be restored, just give it time.
Chapter 4- Does God Get What God Wants?
This is really the hinge pin of the book I believe. Does God get what God wants. We know that God desires for all to be saved, and that He gave Himself for all people. So, does he get what He wants?
Well, if you ask Rob you don’t get an answer. Maybe is what he says. He could now, or he could later but we don’t really know.
I believe if you ask the orthodox faith, the answer is no. We turn away and go after our own idols. He choose not to accept grace and mercy and cast judgment on ourselves. To me, that’s pretty clear in the biblical text.
Chapter 5 Dying to live
I don’t really know why this chapter was in the book other than to tell us that Rob went to an Eminem concert and Marshall Mathers wore a cross around his neck.
Chapter 6- There are Rocks Everywhere
Rob has trouble believing the supernatural, like many American Christians (myself included).
Here Rob talks about the inclusive exclusiveness of the gospel. Every one must come through Jesus. Rob does say that. However, he says he can do it through all kinds of different paths. Rob even says that the tomb is empty, that Jesus is what gets us into Heaven. But, he doesn’t make it clear that we have to believe in Him, it’s just He does the saving. If you’re a muslim or a buddhist, it’s ok Jesus saves you too. Very weird.
Chapter 7- The Good News is Better than That
Here Bell says many people don’t love God because they can’t love a God that chances so much when people die. All of a sudden he becomes wrathful and full of judgment.
This is why the Justice of God is something that has to be talked about in our churches today, and the fact that God is the Just Judge. It just has to happen.
Chapter 8- The end is here
Love is why Rob wrote the book.
That’s the review. I’m anxious to continue the conversation with many of you. I paid for this book, so if you really want to borrow it you can. But, I don’t recommend reading it. I really don’t. I don’t think it’s an orthodox way of thinking and I don’t think Rob gives any answers.
I’m pro questions. I think we need to ask questions. I think we need to talk about Hell. I just don’t think Rob did the topic near enough