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Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived
Author: Rob Bell
Publisher: Published March 15th 2011 by HarperOne (first published January 1st 2011)
ISBN: 9780062049643
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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Millions of Christians have struggled with how to reconcile God's love and God's judgment: Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this "good news"? Troubling questions—so troubling that many have lost their faith because of them. Others onl Millions of Christians have struggled with how to reconcile God's love and God's judgment: Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this "good news"? Troubling questions—so troubling that many have lost their faith because of them. Others only whisper the questions to themselves, fearing or being taught that they might lose their faith and their church if they ask them out loud. But what if these questions trouble us for good reason? What if the story of heaven and hell we have been taught is not, in fact, what the Bible teaches? What if what Jesus meant by heaven, hell, and salvation are very different from how we have come to understand them? What if it is God who wants us to face these questions? Author, pastor, and innovative teacher Rob Bell presents a deeply biblical vision for rediscovering a richer, grander, truer, and more spiritually satisfying way of understanding heaven, hell, God, Jesus, salvation, and repentance. The result is the discovery that the "good news" is much, much better than we ever imagined. Love wins.

30 review for Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Can a book be valuable, even though most people reading it don’t agree with its philosophy or conclusions? Can a book be valuable, even if the writer is flawed in his editing process, his debating skills and his rhetorical approach? Most people have predictable reaction to books they don't agree with. First, they don’t recommend that others read the book. Second, they find as many people as possible who also don’t agree with the book and mutually trash it. Third, they refuse to see any value in th Can a book be valuable, even though most people reading it don’t agree with its philosophy or conclusions? Can a book be valuable, even if the writer is flawed in his editing process, his debating skills and his rhetorical approach? Most people have predictable reaction to books they don't agree with. First, they don’t recommend that others read the book. Second, they find as many people as possible who also don’t agree with the book and mutually trash it. Third, they refuse to see any value in the individual parts because they reject the book as a whole. This is a classic blunder to make with books. The most insidious viewpoint to hold onto is one you will never challenge or allow others to challenge. That implies you are not willing to be wrong or to be shown how you are wrong. The greatest false beliefs are those which go unchallenged for a long time. Truth can always withstand the scrutiny of examination. That’s why the Bible has been around for so long. Rob Bell is a pastor in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is claimed by others, but not by Mr. Bell, that he is part of two movements within Christianity: the Postmodern and the Emerging Church movements. I cannot confirm or deny either of those claims. He has written a book called “Love Wins”, which has been challenged and vilified in many places on the Internet. The book is an examination of the belief in Hell, and in God’s punishment for sin. I expect there will be thousands of such book reviews coming. The book was marketed in a controversial way and as such was already condemned even before it was published. I’ll be clear. There is much I don’t like about the book myself. But I will leave the critical examination to others. I want to be that ‘other’ voice in this sea of opinion. I want to list what I believe are the best parts about this book. I do this so that even those who disagree with Rob Bell will stop for just a moment and consider that God may have prompted him to write it. I don’t mean it is inspired or even full of truth. But God can still nudge along someone to write something, even if that person is not completely accurate. Who of us are? The Most Valuable Parts of the Book, “Love Wins” 1. He asks great questions. He asks the kind of questions that church leaders hope non-believers never ask. These are thoughtful, direct and well-crafted questions. They are designed to attack the doctrines of hell and God’s wrath in such a way that we have to start from scratch in deciding why we believe the things we do. Here are some examples of the hundreds of questions he asks: Why does God tell us we have to forgive everyone, including our enemies, and then He doesn’t do the same with sinners going to hell? Does God punish people for infinite amount of years with eternal torment for things they did in their few finite years of life? How does a person end up being part of the lucky few who don’t go to hell? Chance? Luck? Random Selection? Being born in the right place at the right time in history in the right family, speaking the right language? Is there no hope for someone who dies and is not a believer? What is the age of accountability? What happens if a person dies a day before that age? Does he go to heaven? What happens if he dies the day after that age? Does he go to hell? What EXACT prayer does one have to pray to get into heaven? What if we get the wording wrong? What about people who have prayed some version of the prayer? Or any prayer? Do they get in for making an effort to talk to God? Is Hell the best God can do with the unbelievers? So does the kind of person you are not really matter as long as you have prayed the right prayer or believed the right things? Can a good person who doesn’t pray the prayer and a bad person who keeps doing bad things after the prayer go to heaven and hell respectively? Do we have to care about this world if it’s just going to be destroyed anyway? What if the only person who ever shared Jesus with you was the man who beat you up every day and then sang hymns while he did it? Do you get to escape hell because the example of a believer was so bad? Can you do anything to receive God’s grace? If you have to believe, is it really grace? What about the guy whose sins were forgiven because of the faith of his friends who let him down through the roof with a rope? Does the faith of someone who knows you count? If it doesn’t, why did Jesus tell him his sins were forgiven? 2. He Doesn’t Believe Hell is a Single Issue: For instance, there is no doubt that Rob Bell believes in hell. He says it three times in the book that he believes there is a hell. But then he separates the issue. His questions (and perhaps his own struggles) relate to issues like “Who will go to hell” and “how long will hell last?” and “Will God ever give those in hell another chance?” For a long time in the Christian Church, these issues were all wrapped together in one package: We were told if we mess with one part of the package it spoils the whole lot. But some of the current beliefs in the evangelical church about hell borrow more from Dante’s “Inferno” than the Bible. Bell makes the case that these ideas need to be discussed and challenged. 3. He Shows us the Value of Dialogue alongside Systematic Theology: Modernists are those who like to have neat and tidy categories for everything. Post-moderns believe that it is always premature to decide on what truth really is until we have all the facts. Since we are never sure we have all the facts, we need to be careful about being overly dogmatic. In this book, his stated intention is to throw open the discussion on hell, heaven and divine punishment so that all the implications and questions can be asked and the answers dissected for accuracy. Most modernists like to have their beliefs wrapped up and decided upon so they are not open to challenge. Debate perhaps, but not challenged. It used to be that several doctrines were considering too sacrosanct to ever question. The doctrine of Atonement (the belief about what happened on the cross to our sin and how it affects us now); the doctrine of the Bible (i.e. whether it is God’s Word or man’s invention); The doctrine of the Trinity (a belief that God is one being in three persons) and the doctrine of the church (i.e. its legitimacy and form). If one questioned or differed on these doctrines, then they could be dismissed as wrong and heretical. Added to that list is the doctrine of Hell. Without a proper understanding of hell, the atonement, the trinity, the church and the Bible, one is considered outside the barriers of good theology. But if you study church history, you’ll come to realize that all these doctrines were debated in their day and survived. The earliest was the Trinity. Then came Atonement. Then the Church (it’s still being debated), and then the Bible. The only one that has not been seriously discussed by the most conservative elements of the church is Hell. Why? It is strongly believed if there is any softening of the position on hell, it will destroy the last reason we do evangelism. After all, if there is no hell, then why witness to someone? Yet, witnessing to people has almost become extinct in today’s church. Few individuals do any evangelism and we still maintain a conservative view on hell. So perhaps Rob Bell’s book will foster enough reaction so his questions will not be swept under the carpet. 4. The discussion on the word “Eternal”. Bell focuses much of his thesis about hell on the interpretation of one word: aion. It is the word often (though not always) interpreted “eternal”. In John 3:16 when it says those who believe in him will “not perish, but have eternal life”, the Greek word there for eternal is aion. Even though I think he does a less than acceptable job interpreting this word, he does right to question our understanding of it. The primary meaning is not “forever”. It does mean eternal, but not in the sense of time. More in the sense of permanency. Eternal life is also a quality of life and not just a reference point in time. God has eternal life with him and not just in the sense that he is eternal. We can never be eternal like God since we have a beginning point. So, I applaud Rob Bell for bringing this word to our attention. I await better scholars and more able communicators to tackle that word before I feel satisfied what it means. What I don’t appreciate about the book can be summed up in two ideas. First, he starts with what he considers the logical end game for God (i.e. God’s love will win everyone over) and then figures out how the Bible can end up there. That is turning the issue on its head. His logic and hermeneutics (the study of how we learn from the Bible) are not skilled and what comes out is a very complicated end-product. Most people reading this book will get lost in the vagaries of the theological machine he is riding. Second, his Narrative viewpoint is not consistent. Mainly, he interprets the parables of Jesus as if they are part of the story being told by God to man. The Narrative approach believes that we must understand where the story was when Jesus taught and not where it is today. God is not telling the story the same way today. I understand that approach. But then, in a number of places in the book, he stops interpreting narratively and uses different Bible verses as “proof-texts”, reverting back to a modernist way of proving a point. I wish he had stuck with one approach or the other.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kate Davis

    Rob's not a universalist. But God is.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    I felt excited to read a book that is causing so much controversy in the Evangelical Christian world. It's nice to feel "current." After watching Bell's trailer for the book and watching the Nooma video style of the presentation, I was looking forward to seeing how he would flesh out his ideas about heaven and hell in the book. It was disappointing to find out that the first chapter of the book was nearly word-for-word the trailer that I had watched on the internet. The entire book is written li I felt excited to read a book that is causing so much controversy in the Evangelical Christian world. It's nice to feel "current." After watching Bell's trailer for the book and watching the Nooma video style of the presentation, I was looking forward to seeing how he would flesh out his ideas about heaven and hell in the book. It was disappointing to find out that the first chapter of the book was nearly word-for-word the trailer that I had watched on the internet. The entire book is written like an overlong Nooma video - short sentences that often end in question marks, pauses for thinking (space on the page), and a few comments that lead to near-conclusions and then just hang there in the empty space on the page. This works really well in a Nooma video. In a book, I was hoping for something more. The wide margins, extra space between the lines, and the occasional shift to free verse form make the book seem a lot thicker than it is. And I guess this is my chief criticisms: it's just too thin. The idea of a loving God sending some/many of his creatures to eternal suffering is a major problem (sorry fellow evangelicals!), and thus it deserves a major examination. Instead, we have Rob Bell presenting only a glancing of an alternative scenario to the end of times, using specific parables and passages from the Bible. It makes me wonder if I have made the mistake of thinking that I am the target market of this book - it must be aimed at people who aren't ready to embrace the gospel of Christ because they can't reconcile this strange doctrine of judgment. I am coming to this book having embraced the gospel but knowing (and struggling through) the passages that have led to the conclusions of the general church, and I was hoping for an in-depth analysis of these passages. Instead, I felt like I was reading a book written by a nice guy who is hopeful that things will turn out better because of a different reading of a few passages, but he isn't quite ready to deal with the toughest parts of scripture. There also seemed to be a need to stay current. In the midst of his musings on heaven and hell, Bell references his experience at Eminem's 2010 comeback concert in Detroit: "...It was then that I noticed something fascinating. Eminem was wearing a cross around his neck. Now, we see crosses all the time, that's nothing new. They're around somebody's neck, on a church building, on a sign at a sporting event. It's an icon, a sign, a sculpture, it's on someone's arm as a tatoo - the cross is everywhere." (Is Rob Bell is trying to present his musings as found poetry? Just because your prose may sound nice, I don't think it needs to be presented in verse form.) It's unclear to me why he needs to reference Eminem except to let me know that he can handle the modern rap concert experience. What is clear to me is that Eminem wearing a cross is NOT fascinating, since his next comments are that it is utterly predictable and ubiquitous. By the end of the short chapter (they're all short), Bell muses more about whether Eminem has found the truth and maybe that's why he wears a cross. It feels like a forced youth pastor move to me. There are some strong parts of the book, particularly the second last chapter that examines the prodigal son story. Here, Bell is finally taking strong steps towards developing his theology, even challenging the prevailing atonement theory (Jesus rescues us from God). If only he wrote the rest of the book in this fashion! Rob Bell certainly has the best of intentions in writing this book. It's been awkward watching him get kicked around during the Love Wins press tour. He keeps saying that he wants to begin the conversation. Hopefully, there will be others who will say more. There already has been some thought-provoking books on this subject. Brian McLaren does far more with this topic in "The Last Word and The Word After That," actually covering everything Rob Bell touches on. Clark Pinnock's (out of print) "A Wideness In God's Mercy" asks the same question and examines the scriptural passages very closely (and it ends humbly: "If I'm wrong about this, God has enough mercy to forgive me."). The best of the bunch would be N.T. Wright's "Surprised By Hope" - it's scholarly, readable, and expansive. Oh, yeah - there's also a guy named C.S. Lewis who wrote an imaginative and thoughtful story called "The Great Divorce." Rob Bell mentions this and N.T. Wright's book in his recommended reading section. If "Love Wins" can lead all of its readers to these two books, then it is certainly not a waste of time - it's just a brief beginning to a rich conversation.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Books Ring Mah Bell

    I had to pick up this book and read it for a few reasons: Controversy and debate. Rob Bell has his Mars Hill Church in my town. I know people that attend his church and love it there. I have heard so very much about this book, and thought the controversy was localized, but then I saw Mr. Bell’s idea of No Hell on the cover of Time magazine. When I picked the book up and brought it to the register, the cashier glared at it, then at me. (GLARED, I tell you!) She then launched into a lecture of sort I had to pick up this book and read it for a few reasons: Controversy and debate. Rob Bell has his Mars Hill Church in my town. I know people that attend his church and love it there. I have heard so very much about this book, and thought the controversy was localized, but then I saw Mr. Bell’s idea of No Hell on the cover of Time magazine. When I picked the book up and brought it to the register, the cashier glared at it, then at me. (GLARED, I tell you!) She then launched into a lecture of sorts about "false prophets" and leading people to question things. (oooh boy!) I didn't have the heart to tell her most days I’m an atheist. I should have. Just for fun. Certainly, I am in no position to get in a theological debate. I have not studied the bible intensely, but I do love the debate, and love to see the ways people interpret what they have read. That is what Bell does in this book. He lists all sorts of places in the bible where love wins, where God is love. I love Mr. Bell's take on love winning. From early on, I was often told I would be going to hell unless I was "saved". That really bothered me, not from fear, but from a “what kind of God would do that?” standpoint. What about those unaware, never exposed to of Christianity? (As Rob says, "what if the missionary got a flat tire?") It was then that I washed my hands of religion. What kind of God would send people to an eternity of torment for just not being exposed to “the word”? Or being introduced to it and having questions? I mean, HE gave us the brain to think and question... then He's going to punish us for that? Makes no sense. I love the message. God is loving. Love. What Rob Bell states is what I want to believe, on the days I believe in anything. The book is written like a speech, and while I believe it would have been great as a sermon, the format falls flat as a book. My curiosity has been satisfied, and I was not outraged. I can, however, see where the book would upset those that believe being saved is the only way. I give him credit for doing what most religions dare not allow: question.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Rosenberger

    Right now, it's hard to avoid the controversy that is surrounding this book. After being rejected by the Christian publishing powerhouse Zondervan for not conforming to its values, Love Wins was ultimately published by a secular company. Before the book was even released, conservative Christians were calling the author a heretic, a universalist, and a false prophet peddling a book that would lure people away from Christ and toward an eternity in hell. That's a pretty impressive feat for a 200 pa Right now, it's hard to avoid the controversy that is surrounding this book. After being rejected by the Christian publishing powerhouse Zondervan for not conforming to its values, Love Wins was ultimately published by a secular company. Before the book was even released, conservative Christians were calling the author a heretic, a universalist, and a false prophet peddling a book that would lure people away from Christ and toward an eternity in hell. That's a pretty impressive feat for a 200 page book that raises more questions than it answers. Many of his critics will grudgingly admit that Bell paints a great picture of Christianity; over and over, he shows it as a religion centered around loving one another as Jesus loved. To Bell, Christianity is more accurately reflected in the life of a person working in a refugee camp in a war zone than it is in the life of someone passing out tracts that promise eternal damnation unless one prays a certain prayer to Jesus. This book explores the concepts of heaven, hell, and who really ends up being "saved". As Bell points out, he's not the first one to discuss these issues, and Love Wins is probably best appreciated as a starting point that introduces issues that can be further researched. Bell has claimed that this book is couched in orthodoxy, and it's true that there are scores of bible verses included along with quotes from religious thinkers like Aquinas and Luther, but it can't be denied that this book ultimately seems to claim that everyone who wants to spend eternity with God can and will, even if they don't find the right path until after death. It also seems to say that hell is more often a self-created prison here on earth than it is a literal lake of fire. Finally, heaven is viewed as not simply a distant reward for the faithful, but as something that can and should be worked towards attaining every day, in this world, not only the world to come. I wish there had been citations instead of a "Further Reading" list, and sometimes Bell's writing style can get a little obnoxious, but despite that, I found this book moving and convincing; probably because it fleshed out (through bible verses, examples, metaphors and probing questions) what I already leaned towards believing. Personally, I think all biblical interpretations are subject to human error, but as Bell points out, "some stories are better than others." Love it or hate it, agree with it or consider it heresy, but it's hard to deny that the story Bell tells in Love Wins, of a good God who ultimately saves all of creation and creates a heaven on earth, is a really good story.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bradly J

    Zero stars. I found this book to be very distasteful. Let me qualify this. I have no argument with the idea of a loving God, that idea is entirely biblical. However, after carefully pointing out that he has referenced every verse with the words hell, hades, and sheol, I found most of Matthew 25 to be conspicuosly absent (no mention of "everlasting punishment prepared for the devil and his angels). Also missing is any mention of the lake of fire. Hell is treated as little more than a mental state Zero stars. I found this book to be very distasteful. Let me qualify this. I have no argument with the idea of a loving God, that idea is entirely biblical. However, after carefully pointing out that he has referenced every verse with the words hell, hades, and sheol, I found most of Matthew 25 to be conspicuosly absent (no mention of "everlasting punishment prepared for the devil and his angels). Also missing is any mention of the lake of fire. Hell is treated as little more than a mental state which people create for themselves. The holiness of God is mentioned once in the book, and seemed to me to have been seriously downplayed and, as a result, sin doesn't seem all that sinful here. There are places in the book where Bell's verbage in comments relating to Christians and historic biblical doctrine seemed unnecessarily sarcastic and mocking. The overall tone of the book seems to give the ultimate importance and supremacy of relevance to one's own experiences, rather than to objective truth, which is thoroughly postmodern. In general, Bell uses a lot of generalisations and glosses over certains details that are crucial to the subjects of sin and salvation, heaven and hell. He is careful, however, to warn against the evil of being in any way critical of theological perspectives one does not share. My question is this: if hell is little more than a psychological construct and if God really doesn't mind so much if someone sins a few times over a span of a few years, then what reason could there be for Jesus' death and resurrection, or even for His incarnation? (10-21-2011) One further thought which I forgot to include before. I have noticed a tendency in the writings of Bell (and other emergent writers), especially in this book, to place a great deal of focus on questions. While I have no major objection to questions (they do have a purpose), there is also such a thing as an answer. This book seems, like so many others, to just leave the reader hanging, with no clear answers. More than a decade of work in Christian retail has shown me that people are looking for answers. If clear answers cannot be found in the writings of well-known leaders, where will they turn? I believe this is an important part of the responsibility of pastors and teachers to be faithful to the Word of God. Without it, we are headed for trouble.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jared Totten

    Forgive me. I couldn't resist writing this in my best Bell-style prose. In this whole whirlwind that Rob Bell has stirred up, there is one group that has been conspicuously absent from the wide net of universalism that he and others have cast out. One group that has been neglected. Ignored. And they cry out for their just defense. I speak of course about Satan and the demons. After all, if God is a God of love, and if he loves all of his creation, and if he wants to see it all brought into shalom, and Forgive me. I couldn't resist writing this in my best Bell-style prose. In this whole whirlwind that Rob Bell has stirred up, there is one group that has been conspicuously absent from the wide net of universalism that he and others have cast out. One group that has been neglected. Ignored. And they cry out for their just defense. I speak of course about Satan and the demons. After all, if God is a God of love, and if he loves all of his creation, and if he wants to see it all brought into shalom, and if God will indeed reconcile all things unto himself, and if no temporary rebellion is worthy of eternal punishment—well then why not? But let me put it in Bell's own words: "At the heart of this perspective is the belief that, given enough time, everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God's presence. The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most "depraved sinners" will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God. "And so, beginning with the early church, there is a long tradition of Christians who believe that God will ultimately restore everything and everybody, because Jesus says in Matthew 19 that there will be a "renewal of all things," Peter says in Acts 3 that Jesus will "restore everything," and Paul says in Colossians 1 that through Christ "God was pleased to . . . reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven" (Bell, 107)." We're told more (and more often) about the final state of rebellious human beings than we are about the final state of the demons. Especially by Jesus. So if God's love overcomes all that has been revealed about judgment toward fallen humanity, certainly it can do the same for the demons. But if. If one accepts the reality of wicked, fallen spiritual beings whose rebellion is as continuous and ongoing into eternity as their existence . . . If one accepts the reality of a just judgment and eternal confinement and punishment of such beings . . . . . . well then demons aren't the only ones who fit that description and deserve that end. It would seem to me that demons—more so than "those who have never heard"—have the better argument for the unfairness of the Gospel (since it in no way, shape, or form is available to any of them). Yet I don't hear anyone fighting that theological battle. So can we expect Love Wins II: Stryper Was Wrong* any time soon? Of course not. Because even though it's logically consistent with Bell's reasoning as to why all humans will be saved, that's just not good PR for the universalist camp. Or perhaps Rob doesn't actually believe that God's love wins out over all resistance and redeems all hard hearts. Rob, for a universalist, that's not very inclusive of you. *Sorry, that was probably a very obscure reference for many of you. Stryper had a hit album called To Hell With the Devil.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda

    I rarely give books one star..... Rob Bell tries to give us a new (but old) perspective on heaven, hell and God's love. To be honest, I have never really been a Bell fan. His style of seeking truth, while earnest, seems awfully fallible. When the Bible and your own experience have almost equal weight, TRUTH can be very ambiguous. Things I agree with: * God is love and his love is huge for everyone. * Jesus came to give us right relationship with God. * Having a right relationship with God means bri I rarely give books one star..... Rob Bell tries to give us a new (but old) perspective on heaven, hell and God's love. To be honest, I have never really been a Bell fan. His style of seeking truth, while earnest, seems awfully fallible. When the Bible and your own experience have almost equal weight, TRUTH can be very ambiguous. Things I agree with: * God is love and his love is huge for everyone. * Jesus came to give us right relationship with God. * Having a right relationship with God means bringing his peace and healing to our world here and now. Things I am troubled by (that I think he implied or said): * Hell is the yucky stuff here on earth. * Hell is just heaven (except that you may not want to be there). * God will give us an eternity to choose him (except that some STILL may not choose). * Some, perhaps, maybe, might end up separated from God in the end. We don't know and we have to be OK with this "tension." This message is really palatable. I can imagine why people want to believe this. But when I think back over all the scripture he uses, I am not convinced it says what he thinks it does. He throws out A LOT of scripture taking much of it out of context or using it in ways I am not sure fit. For example, he spends a lot of time talking about the feast from the parable Prodigal Son, drawing out what it tells us about heaven, when I think the point of the parable was the state of people's hearts before God and the people we might find in heaven that surprise us. He spends another long section saying, "We define our God, then our God defines us." He also talks about this idea of God wooing us over an eternity as a "much better story." Huh? Since when do I get to tell God who he is and what story I think is best?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Controversial without going over the top (though many would argue with me - many who no doubt have not and will not actually read the book). Got a chance to see him speak, fascinating!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Allie

    FREAKIN' BEST EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN MATERIAL I HAVE EVER READ. So I'd recently started John Shelby Spong's Eternal Life: A New Vision (will write about that one when I finish it!), but then... B&N had this on display. I sat in the store and read it all the way through. OMG. 1) This is VERY BOLD for a megachurch pastor. Rob Bell is an open-minded contemporary voice, which mainstream Christianity in this countray has needed for a long time. MAJOR KUDOS. 2) He is eloquent and writes in an easy-to-rea FREAKIN' BEST EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN MATERIAL I HAVE EVER READ. So I'd recently started John Shelby Spong's Eternal Life: A New Vision (will write about that one when I finish it!), but then... B&N had this on display. I sat in the store and read it all the way through. OMG. 1) This is VERY BOLD for a megachurch pastor. Rob Bell is an open-minded contemporary voice, which mainstream Christianity in this countray has needed for a long time. MAJOR KUDOS. 2) He is eloquent and writes in an easy-to-read format. Lots of line breaks, kind of poetic. Sometimes a lil lame/pastor-y, but I enjoyed the rhetoric. He even gets a lil mystical toward the end. NICELY DONE. 3) He seems well-versed in his church history, which is rare for evangelical Christians. Moreover, he credits all of those thinkers of the past with the ideas that he presents to us. 4) I'm rusty & n00b with teh Bible so I can't critique here. I liked Bell's readings. They're about story-telling and transcendence. They're very rooted in both Jewish and Christian traditions and conscious not only of humanity but also of the world & nature, with death & rebirth being the cycles of life and the universe. Hell, he suggests, is on earth, as is Heaven, and we have the mission not to convert people to our beliefs, but to make the world better. (Some topics he highlights are environmental protection and racism, which I thought was interesting.) Jesus is unconditional love, all-inclusive, so that even if we don't profess to be Christians, we can participate. It's a compelling synthesis, a vision of Christianity that is generous and optimistic, true to the heart of the religion, and truly universal. Bell asks questions and doesn't tell us what is "right" to believe, but he invites us to consider and to imagine--imagine something bigger, something loving. I am extra delighted by this and by the huge audience that he is reaching. As a non-Christian, I TOTALLY DIGGED IT. Soooo going to own it and lend it out to my friendz!!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Randy Alcorn

    It contains some good and accurate things here and there, but unfortunately its central message is in explicit contradiction to Scripture and historic Christianity. Oddly, Bell insists that he’s not a universalist, yet his book indicates that he believes exactly what universalism does—that every human being will ultimately be saved, and that none will experience Hell. To teach this and yet claim you’re not a universalist (just because you disagree with some things that some universalists think) It contains some good and accurate things here and there, but unfortunately its central message is in explicit contradiction to Scripture and historic Christianity. Oddly, Bell insists that he’s not a universalist, yet his book indicates that he believes exactly what universalism does—that every human being will ultimately be saved, and that none will experience Hell. To teach this and yet claim you’re not a universalist (just because you disagree with some things that some universalists think) is like saying that though you cheer for the Red Sox you’re not a Red Sox fan, or though you own a dog, you are not a dog-owner. I mean, come on, go ahead and qualify the brand of universalist you are, but don’t deny you’re a universalist when your core belief is the core belief of universalism. The very fact that Bell can make such a statement and get away with it is indicative of the sort of cloudy thinking that has taken hold. I recommended before Kevin DeYoung’s excellent detailed critique of Love Wins. I want to add my recommendation of Dan Franklin’s new and outstanding 35-minute podcast concerning Love Wins. Dan is a clear-thinking, biblically-based pastor at my home church. (He is also a fine husband to my daughter Karina and a loving father to my grandsons Matt and Jack, but that’s not why I’m recommending this audio commentary!) Dan does a weekly podcast called Groupthink Rescue, and Love Wins is his subject this week. He’s also written a more detailed critique, but I found his podcast particularly clear, thoughtful and easy to listen to. If you’re going to invest just a half hour on this issue, I can’t think of a better way to do it. You can also listen to or download from iTunes, and subscribe to his podcast, which has other equally good episodes. I posted earlier a link to the chapter on Hell from my book If God is Good. Someone who read Bell’s book and then my chapter said to me that oddly, it appeared to them as if I had made an attempt at refuting every major point of Bell’s book. Obviously that wasn’t the case, since I wrote it two years before Bell’s book came out. But when I read Love Wins, at times I saw why this reader thought that. I suppose Rob Bell has successfully set forth all the modern presumptions that people bring to this issue, and that keep them from trusting the biblical teaching about Hell that has been part of historic Christianity. In addressing those presumptions, without knowing it, I was anticipating Bell’s book. This also shows that, as Bell admits, he’s not saying much that’s new. Unfortunately, he is reaching a huge audience, and his book sales have been further fueled by the controversy. But I would rather have more books sell and more people equipped to refute his teachings, then avoid the controversy—some things warrant controversy, and this is one of them, since the gospel itself is on the line—and not just before the watching world, but inside churches. What most breaks my heart is that, when it comes down to it, Bell is actually saying “Jesus was wrong.” Now, of course, he would never actually say that in those words. Nor does he consciously believe it. But because (as I show in both Heaven and If God is Good) Jesus is absolutely emphatic on the reality and nature and eternality of Hell, it is impossible to disbelieve in Hell, and to believe in universal salvation, and actually believe what Jesus said. Why? Because Jesus referred to Hell as a real place and described it in graphic terms (see Matthew 10:28; 13:40–42; Mark 9:43–48). He spoke of a fire that burns but doesn’t consume, an undying worm that eats away at the damned, and a lonely and foreboding darkness. Christ says the unsaved “will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). Jesus taught that an unbridgeable chasm separates the wicked in Hell from the righteous in Paradise. The wicked suffer terribly, remain conscious, retain their desires and memories, long for relief, cannot find comfort, cannot leave their torment, and have no hope (see Luke 16:19–31). Our Savior could not have painted a bleaker picture of Hell. C. S. Lewis said, “I have met no people who fully disbelieved in Hell and also had a living and life-giving belief in Heaven.”[1] The biblical teaching on both destinations stands or falls together. If the one is real, so is the other; if the one is a myth, so is the other. The best reason for believing in Hell is that Jesus said it exists. Some will say, “Okay, maybe Hell exists, but no one will go there, or if they do it will only be temporary; surely Hell is not eternal.” But Jesus said, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). Here in the same sentence, Christ uses the word “eternal”(aionos) to describe the duration of both Heaven and Hell. Thus, according to our Lord, if some will consciously experience Heaven forever, then some must consciously experience Hell forever. The best reason for believing Hell not only exists, but will be inhabited by people and is eternal, is that Jesus said so in the clearest possible language. It isn’t just what Jesus said about Hell that matters. It’s the fact that it was He who said it. “There seems to be a kind of conspiracy,” wrote Dorothy Sayers, “to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of Hell comes from. The doctrine of Hell is not ‘mediaeval priestcraft’ for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ’s deliberate judgment on sin.... We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ.”[2] Why do I believe in an eternal Hell? Because Jesus clearly and repeatedly affirmed its existence. As Sayers suggested, you cannot dismiss Hell without dismissing Jesus. Atheist Bertrand Russell wrote, “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in Hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.”[3] Shall we believe Jesus or Bertrand Russell? For me, it is not a difficult choice. C. S. Lewis said of Hell, “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of Our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason.”[4] We cannot make Hell go away simply because the thought of it makes us uncomfortable. If I were as holy as God, if I knew a fraction of what He knows, I would realize Hell is just and right. We should weep over Hell, but not deny it. Rob Bell is a pastor, and has a lot of influence on other pastors, and not only in emergent churches. And that is perhaps the greatest tragedy in this. Titus 1:9 says this of the church leader: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” It is every pastor’s job to correct doctrinal error, particularly in the central issues of the faith. When a pastor actually promotes doctrinal error, this is particularly serious. And it puts a heavy responsibility on other pastors, who understandably don’t want to appear to be critical, to correct and refute doctrinal heresy. It grieves me how many people are reading Rob Bell’s book and books such as The Shack (where universalism is not explicit but clearly flirted with) and other writings contradicted by Scripture, whose pastors don’t consider it their job to enter into controversy. We have elevated tolerance over sound doctrine, and appearing to be nice, over being truthful. As Jesus was, we should be full of grace and truth, not choose one over the other. We dare not act as though love demands we be quiet about the truth. In fact, Scripture calls upon us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). I would encourage all pastors to address this issue. Consider going to your pastor and asking him to preach about the biblical doctrine of Hell in light of all the fuzzy thinking on this issue that is out there, and has been galvanized through Bell’s book. (Fifteen years apart, I spent hours in dialogue, citing passage after passage, to two different highly influential former pastors, each of whose books have sold millions of copies to evangelical Christians. Both of these men gradually became universalists, and they believe most of what Bell is now teaching; perhaps one of them influenced him, I don’t know.) It is not loving to be silent when people are told the lie that they need not turn to Christ in this lifetime to be saved from their sins. If people believe that there is no Hell, or that they cannot end up in Hell, or that Hell is not their default and fully deserved destination, then it virtually guarantees they will end up in the Hell that Rob Bell doesn’t believe in. In the final day no one will stand before me in judgment. No one will stand before Rob Bell in judgment. We will all stand before Jesus in judgment. And it is His view of Hell, not mine or Rob Bell’s, that will be proven, forever, to be true. If Rob Bell is right and there isn’t an eternal Hell, or no one will end up there, then Jesus made a terrible mistake. And if we cannot trust Jesus in His teaching about Hell, why should we trust anything He said, including His offer of salvation? We may pride ourselves in thinking we are too loving to believe in Hell. But in saying this, we blaspheme, for we claim to be more loving than Jesus—more loving than the One who with outrageous love took upon himself the full penalty for our sin. Who are we to think we are better than Jesus? Or that when it comes to Hell, or anything else, we know better than He does?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ben De Bono

    At this point you've probably had more than your fill of opinions on Love Wins. But since I'm never one to shy away from controversy, I'll throw mine in there anyway. Before I get to the actual content of the book, I want to first talk about it in terms of quality. Rob Bell is an incredible communicator. Hearing him speak, regardless of how you feel about the content, is pretty incredible. Because of that I was surprised by how much I couldn't stand his writing style. Seriously, almost every pag At this point you've probably had more than your fill of opinions on Love Wins. But since I'm never one to shy away from controversy, I'll throw mine in there anyway. Before I get to the actual content of the book, I want to first talk about it in terms of quality. Rob Bell is an incredible communicator. Hearing him speak, regardless of how you feel about the content, is pretty incredible. Because of that I was surprised by how much I couldn't stand his writing style. Seriously, almost every page of this book was like claws on the chalkboard. I found his writing to be choppy and lacking much of any flow. Maybe that's because he insists on putting weird paragraph breaks mid sentence. It's extremely annoying. I haven't read anything else by him so I can't say if this is standard for him, but based on Love Wins I think Rob needs to stick to speaking. For as good as he is at that, his writing style is, in my opinion, badly in need of some work. That said, I'm in the minority position on his writing style and the main point with the book isn't style but content. Let me start with the good stuff (and despite the fact that this will be a critical review there is a lot of good stuff). First, his chapter on Heaven is phenomenal. He hits it spot on and is dead right about how our typical, evangelical view of Heaven does not line up with what the Bible actually has to say on the subject. N.T. Wright's influence is very visible in this chapter and that's a good thing. I think Wright is one of the best theologians out there today and I'm glad his teaching has a significant place in Rob Bell's work. Second, I'd say the same thing, though slightly less enthusiastically, about the next chapter describing hell. We're not talking yet about what Bell has to say regarding whether or not hell is permanent. At this point he's just describing hell. Let me say here that if you've heard people accuse Bell of not believing in hell they're wrong. He clearly believes in a literal hell. You can't come away from this book thinking he believes anything else. Third, I am grateful that he's raising these issues. I don't agree with his conclusions, but he's absolutely right that there are a lot of Christians asking these questions and we owe it to them to stop giving crappy, cheap, cop-out answers. That was a very good, and much needed, reminder to me as a pastor. I owe more to the people I'm ministering to than the cheap answers they've typically been given. The good stuff I just described makes up a significant portion of the book. Before I launch into what's bad, let me say that my disagreement is primarily focused on two chapters out of eight. Chapter 4: Does God Get What He Wants and Chapter 6: There Are Rocks Everywhere. A couple of my criticisms carry over to the book as a whole, but for the most part the rest of the book is either good or I'm neutral on. So to be clear, roughly 75% of the book I'm ok with. I say that because it's not my intention to rip on Bell or tear him down as a horrible heretic. I'm good with 75% of what he says. The other 25% has some major issues. To start with I want to describe the positions Bell is advocating. In chapter 4 he argues for the position that hell is not permanent. He puts forward the concept of postmortem evangelism. He argues that the idea that God would ever stop pursuing someone, even after death, is not compatible with the idea of a loving God. Since God desires all to be saved he will pursue us until that happens, while simultaneously giving us the freedom to continually reject him. In chapter 6 he argues for a strong inclusivist position on the issue of salvation. He argues that it is not necessary to be a Christian in order to have Jesus save you. He applies this not only to cultures and people that have never heard the Gospel but to those that have as well. In other words, it's possible to be a Muslim, Hindu, whatever and still follow Jesus. Bell recognizes some will disagree with him on these issues. His main concern is not so much to convince everyone to these positions but to argue that these positions are compatible with biblical orthodoxy. He states several times that orthodoxy is a wide stream and these positions fall within that stream. To me, that's the real issue at hand. Are these positions biblicaly orthodox? Whether I agree with them or not, do they fall within the stream of orthodoxy? This link: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/t... is to a great article that outlines a spectrum of positions on the issues salvation. It's a bit long so let me briefly summarize the nine positions it describes. 1. Church Exclsivism - you are only saved if you're a member of a church 2. Gospel Exclusivism - you can only be saved by hearing the Gospel 3. Special Revelation Exclusivism - you can only be saved through special revelation. In some cases this may come apart from the Gospel 4. Agnosticism - we don't know the answer to what happens to those who haven't heard but we trust God's goodness and generosity 5. General Revelation Inclusivism - It's possible to be saved through general revelation, God revealing himself through nature 6. World Religions Inclusivism - Jesus can save through out faiths and religions 7. Postmortem Evangelism - For those not saved during this life, the opportunity for salvation exists even in hell 8. Universalism - Jesus will save everyone regardless of their belief or faith 9. Pluralism - all paths to God are equally valid A couple observations before I continue. Rob Bell has been accused of being a universalist. He isn't, at least not according to the criteria above. I say that because I think it's important to be accurate, fair and to correctly define the terms we use. I'm using the list above as my criteria and according to that Rob Bell is in no way a universalist. Of course, that doesn't mean his views are without issue. Rob Bell is clearly advocating positions 6 and 7 on the above list. According to the author of the article those fall outside biblical orthodoxy.I agree. I believe the church has traditionally accepted positions 1-5. I personally believe position 1 to be unbiblical but I would say anywhere from 2-5 can be well defended biblically and historically. Personally I'm mostly in position 4 with a bit of leaning toward 5. Rob Bell's defense of positions 6 and 7 is very problematic. First, he attempts to support the positions using Scripture. In doing so he pulls verses way, way out of context. Take for example Jesus' condemnation of Capernaum where he says that on the day of judgment it will be worse for them than for Sodom and Gomorrah. Bell interprets this to mean that there's still hope for Sodom and Gomorrah. That interpretation is absurd and it fails to take into account Jesus' use of hyperbole and metaphor. Bell is happy to include genre in his hermeneutic when discussing things like the judgment described at the end of Revelation, but he ignores it when it's something that supports his case, such as verses in Psalms. It may be possible to defend Bell's position biblically but he has not done so. Instead he has practiced extremely poor hermeneutics and shown a complete disregard for context. The same thing holds goes for his attempt to show that his views have been historically held by the church. He offers a few sources for evidence. He claims that Origen and Gregory of Nyssa held to the idea of postmortem evangelism. He claims that Augustine references several unnamed people who hold the view. Finally, he uses a quote by Martin Luther that seems to support the view. In the case of Origen he's right. However, many people in the church have rejected Origen's teaching as a whole because of this. I don't think that's fair but when we're arguing for historic acceptance you can't ignore that. The evidence is sketchy about Gregory of Nyssa. I have no issue with Bell claiming him as a possible example but he acts as though it's definitive that he held this position. It isn't. Augustine's quote is far too vague to be considered as evidence one way or another. But it's the Luther quote that really pushes me over the edge. First, the quote is from a private letter. Second, it's taken way out of context. Third, I'm confident Luther rolled over in his grave when Bell wrote this. Bell repeatedly attacks the position that only a few people make it into Heaven while the rest suffer for eternity but THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT LUTHER BELIEVED! Luther does not agree with Bell and, given Luther's infamous lack of tact, would probably have had some very pointed things to say about Bell. It's here that Bell completely loses me. Misquoting Luther in this way shows that he has no regard for the actual evidence for and against his case. He's pulling stuff way out of context and hoping his audience doesn't look to closely. Quite frankly it's insulting and another example of really bad writing. When it comes to his argument for world religions inclusivism, the same hermeneutical concerns apply. Rather than rehashing that, I want to focus on what Bell says regarding the exclusive and unique nature of Christianity. He makes the statement that Jesus is bigger than Christianity and does not belong exclusively to it. Now, if we're talking about Christianity in terms of an organized church I agree. Jesus is bigger than Catholicism/Protestantism. He's bigger than any denomination or local church body. For any of those groups to claim exclusive access to him is a major theological error. However, if we define Christianity as the Universal Church then Rob Bell is 100% dead wrong. Jesus and the Church are inseparable. It is his body. To follow Jesus is to join the Universal Church and that is what Christianity, stripped of all of it's organized and denominational elements, is. When Rob Bell makes the argument that Jesus can save through Islam, Hinduism or any other faith he is denying the biblical nature of the Church. Let me be clear, Jesus can certainly save those who are Muslim, Hindus or anything else. However, by their salvation they are called out of their religion and into the Universal Church. There may, in some cases, be some cultural practices that stick around but the idea of a Hindu Christian or a Muslim Christian is not biblical. When Paul and the early Apostles preached the Gospel they called people out of pagan practices and to Christianity. He also called people out of Judaism and to Christianity. This is part of why Paul had so many issues with the Judaisers. The idea of someone continuing to sacrifice to pagan gods or keep the law to the same degree the Jews did was unthinkable to Paul and much of the early church. But when Rob Bell claims that it's possible to be a Muslim Christian that is exactly what he is suggesting as a possibility. It is not biblical. It is not historically orthodox. It should be soundly rejected. So to wrap up, where does that leave Rob Bell? Some have dismissed him entirely (e.g. John Piper's now infamous tweet). Others disagree with my assessment and see no issue at all. But for those of us who see the problems, where does that leave us? I'm not going to proclaim Bell a heretic. I believe that his view on world religions inclusivism is heretical and represents a serious error, but I'm not going to say he should be wholly rejected as a teacher because of it. I'd rate his view on postmortem evangelism as heterodoxical. It's not as serious as outright heresy but it goes beyond biblical orthodoxy. It does not fit into the wide stream Bell is such a fan of referencing. If there is a case to be made for it, Bell has failed to effectively do so. My star rating: 1 star for style/quality. 3 stars for content. That averages out to 2 stars

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jay Miklovic

    This book was not altogether horrible, and there were a few paragraphs here and there that were commendable. I certainly agree with Rob's optimistic assessment of 'the end times' and find that to be a refreshing departure from the depressing and unbiblical eschatology so popular in American Fundamentalism. As far as style... The style of the book was at least unique, which is rare in a work like this. But. I found the style to be. Annoying mostly. Entirely. Not only because of choppiness. but. because This book was not altogether horrible, and there were a few paragraphs here and there that were commendable. I certainly agree with Rob's optimistic assessment of 'the end times' and find that to be a refreshing departure from the depressing and unbiblical eschatology so popular in American Fundamentalism. As far as style... The style of the book was at least unique, which is rare in a work like this. But. I found the style to be. Annoying mostly. Entirely. Not only because of choppiness. but. because. I. Paid. For. a. 200 page book. That was mostly. white space. white space. white space. However it was unique, and I do appreciate uniqueness. So why the one star? Mostly because of the theology, but not entirely. I found Brian McLaren's "New Kind of Christianity" to be bad theology as well, but I willingly gave it three stars because he intelligently defended his views. With McLaren you could respect his mind, and you could not merely dismiss him without first dealing with his claims. Bell's book, well, not so much. There was little need to deal with any of his points, because he made so few. The rendering of the prodigal son story was tragic. The usage of the rock in the wilderness story was tragic. Almost every quotation from Paul was tragic. Everything was blown out of context with no respect to the actual flow of the scriptures or the arguments of the apostle Paul or other biblical writers. After thinking some about this book and trying to get to the foundation of it I would say that ultimately this book sets itself up as a polemic against penal substitution, Jesus dying because of, and for our sin. The other frustrating part of the book, along with the drama surrounding its release is how the Bell uses questions. The book with it's constant barrage of questions essentially puts substitution on the witness stand and then badgers it with a 1000 questions giving it no time to answer. The assessments that many have made that "Bell is just asking the right questions" and "he is not advocating Christian Universalism" are bogus assessments. Questions are almost never neutral, and the questions he asks are not neutral. Asking questions is a great way to get your point across, cheezy Gospel tracts that look like $1000 bills do the same thing. I have no problem with using questions to make a point, I do have a problem with readers and authors acting like questions are always innocent or neutral. Finally, I have heard so many people say "Read the book first, then express your opinion". Well I did that, but it probably wasn't necessary. Bell himself affirms that he says nothing in this book that hasn't been said before. I whole heartedly concur with his own assessment. Bottom line. This book is like classic universalism dressed in skinny jeans and wearing trendy thick rimmed glasses.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Okay so I guess this isn't the kind of book I'm expected to read. But hell who cares about expected. I'm not the biggest fan of christianity in the world. I grew up congregational and was told at 14 that children were too stupid to have opinions about god. I was evangelical for a couple years (yeah whole way talking in tongues and all, anyone want to talk about group theory). Eventually, for complicated reasons I decided I didn't believe in god. For years I've been part of a religion forum, it u Okay so I guess this isn't the kind of book I'm expected to read. But hell who cares about expected. I'm not the biggest fan of christianity in the world. I grew up congregational and was told at 14 that children were too stupid to have opinions about god. I was evangelical for a couple years (yeah whole way talking in tongues and all, anyone want to talk about group theory). Eventually, for complicated reasons I decided I didn't believe in god. For years I've been part of a religion forum, it use to be on myspace but over the years various contingents of the group have migrated to various other places. I decided to read this book when one of those people told me Rob Bell was a heretic. And they're right he is. I mean he actually talks about context in the bible. And I don't mean the old testament, kill all the guys that just got circumcised context but did you know there was context to what jesus said? yeah no joke. She told me that what he said wasn't true biblically, as someone who's read the bible, I'd say it is, he definitely admits to things christians don't usually admit like context. She said he cherry picks, and really that's just the pot calling the kettle black, if you don't cherry pick the bible makes no sense, but with that I think he is more broad and encompassing than a lot of people and even directly addresses stories that don't on surface agree with him and explains his reading of them. And lets go pragmatism for a second. what's the outcome of all this? He says that christianity is about love and mercy not eternal damnation. and I'm sorry but anyone that thinks love is heretical, I'm not sure I want anything to do with their religion. A really good point he makes: You can convert anytime you are alive, but the second you die you are condemned to hell forever. this tells us god is a merciful god till we die, then when we die no more second chances, this feels like 2 gods. the main problem religionwise, most of what he says sounds like nonreligious reincarnation in buddhism, the hungry ghost metaphor. basically he almost makes god redundant. I'm cool with this cause living for the afterlife is unhealthy, but I get why it scares christians, if god isn't out to get them they get all uncomfortable in believing in him, which is of course a problem that bell seems to want to fix.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    This is a pretty good book and it deals with a subject that needs to be looked at. I'm not going to try and go into the subject in depth here in the review as it will be to some controversial and I'm not going for that. If you wish to discuss it in comments I'll join in so long as we keep things civil. And that says a bit about the book's subject. Christians should always be civil, but too often those of us who claim the name of Christ tend to act or react in the wrong way. Bell here attempts to This is a pretty good book and it deals with a subject that needs to be looked at. I'm not going to try and go into the subject in depth here in the review as it will be to some controversial and I'm not going for that. If you wish to discuss it in comments I'll join in so long as we keep things civil. And that says a bit about the book's subject. Christians should always be civil, but too often those of us who claim the name of Christ tend to act or react in the wrong way. Bell here attempts to take a look at the teaching that is so prevalent in some groups that says there is a small number of people God is saving but the vast majority of humanity is destined for an eternity of punishment. Even when I was part of a church that taught this I could never understand it when I looked at what the Bible teaches about God and his character. God is love, He is a loving God of mercy and grace. It just never made sense. I have over the last several years come to see/believe that this is a misunderstanding of scripture and not the plan of God, not the provision made by Jesus Christ when he died and rose for "all people". This book attempts to look at this. I give it a 3 star rating because it tends to be somewhat convoluted and I think in his attempts to explain his understanding he tends to actually muddy the water a bit. So, it's a pretty good book, maybe a good part of a study on this subject, but I don't think it will really clear things up much.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert Donahue

    The very fact that this book is being attacked & misrepresented by so many from the status quo (you Pharisees of today) only highlights its exposure of (sadly uncomfortable, to those whose egos yearn for the eternal exclusion & "conscious torment" of vast majority of the billions of souls that God (according to status quo sadists) created for the sole purpose of torturing them for eternity. The hypocrites attacking Bell, if they would or could analytically examine their own sloppy attack The very fact that this book is being attacked & misrepresented by so many from the status quo (you Pharisees of today) only highlights its exposure of (sadly uncomfortable, to those whose egos yearn for the eternal exclusion & "conscious torment" of vast majority of the billions of souls that God (according to status quo sadists) created for the sole purpose of torturing them for eternity. The hypocrites attacking Bell, if they would or could analytically examine their own sloppy attacks on 'Love Wins', would be forced to examine their baseless assumption that all they need do is recite the magic word "holiness" to avoid thinking about the (horrific to them) concepts that God is love & God/Love gets what God/Love wants (like the last lost sheep). Why so many haters think that "holiness" is a disembodied, sadistic force stronger than God/Love and that forces God/Love to torture most of the people God loves forever and ever/ever/ever--and why they assume this with no support, just because they were told so by some human--it boggles my mind. Always has. There are more-academic treatments of these issues out there: The Evangelical Universalist, by (pseudonym) Gregory MacDonald comes to mind. Also, tentmaker.org is a treasure trove of current and century old writings exploring the sadistically heretical "eternal conscious torment" dogma in depth. Read the Unspoken Sermons of the writer who most influenced C.S. Lewis--George MacDonald (Lewis said he knew of no other man "nearer to the heart of Christ" than MacDonald). Read the most influential early church father, Origen. And another early church father, Gregory of Nyssa. (The author of 'The Evangelical Universalist' came up with his pseudonym by adding the 'Gregory' of Gregory of Nyssa to the 'MacDonald' of George MacDonald. Read the 20th Century's most influential theologian, Karl Barth. These are but a few of many other Christian voices from the 2 Millennia "conversation" that Bell is reminding us of. The conversation that terrifies so many of you, indicating weak faith & an interest in preserving the Roman-created, borrowed-from-pagans status quo that is sadly stronger than an interest in Truth (which requires a humble willingness to be open to one's own human fallibility & thus ever open to learning more & more about God, even if major paradigm shifts are required [like the Reformation, as a 'non-threatening' example]).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Todd Miles

    So much has already been written on this book, that there is no reason to rehash it. Here were my biggest frustrations, not necessarily in order: 1. His complete lack of interaction with the holiness and justice of God renders his idea of the love of God deficient and impoverished. By focusing on the love of God, while excluding other attributes, Bell not only distorts the character of God, but he also distorts the love of God. 2. His historiography is tendentious and misleading at best, dishonest So much has already been written on this book, that there is no reason to rehash it. Here were my biggest frustrations, not necessarily in order: 1. His complete lack of interaction with the holiness and justice of God renders his idea of the love of God deficient and impoverished. By focusing on the love of God, while excluding other attributes, Bell not only distorts the character of God, but he also distorts the love of God. 2. His historiography is tendentious and misleading at best, dishonest and/or disingenuous at worst. To claim that his ideas/questions have enjoyed any kind of support by the orthodox Christian Church is simply not true. His appeal to Luther was a criminal case of ignoring the context of a statement. 3. His work on Matthew 25:46 is horrific. To suggest that eternal punishment is a limited time of pruning is absurd. The bad thing is: He knows better. 4. I know that he denies being a universalist and I need not accuse him of being one. I will say that you can find ALL of his arguments in Christian universalist literature. Further, to hide behind a defense of “I’m just asking questions” is illegitimate. After all, Luther was just asking questions. (Marc Cortez, my colleague and faculty Dean at Western Seminary pointed this out.) 5. The authors of Scripture and Jesus were not troubled by the concept and reality of Hell. Perhaps in our modern sensibilities (hardly an effective guide) questions arise, but the doctrine of hell solved problems for the writers of Scripture. Bell’s talk of personal private hells does not do justice to the biblical teaching of a future reality, the sinfulness of sin, the holiness of God, nor does it answer some of the most common questions of suffering, like “Why do the righteous suffer?” “Why do the wicked prosper?” I know that it is popular to deny the importance of the afterlife (Bell being exhibit A), but such denials fly in the face of the biblical storyline and teaching.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Terrible book. He pretends that orthodoxy is so deep and wide that practically nothing is unorthodox. I read this in Barnes & Noble over several days. I took lots of notes on it (Gmail folder) and may post some of it here eventually. Kevin DeYoung has a 21-page review here. Donald Miller has a funny review here (scroll down a little). And in a spoof of Rob Bell's promotional video, some goofballs made a parody video.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rod

    So is Rob Bell hellbound? We'll try and figure it out by the end of this review. Cross your fingers Robbie. I put off reading this babble for a few years - but since so many liberal and Evangelical church-goers claim to love this crap: I better give it a look. And what the Hell did I find? Not the Biblical hell, that's for sure. I'm still not fully sure what Rob was insisting. Some hippy dribble about love and Buddhist enlightenment with a splash of reincarnation (or new birth cycle?). Makes me w So is Rob Bell hellbound? We'll try and figure it out by the end of this review. Cross your fingers Robbie. I put off reading this babble for a few years - but since so many liberal and Evangelical church-goers claim to love this crap: I better give it a look. And what the Hell did I find? Not the Biblical hell, that's for sure. I'm still not fully sure what Rob was insisting. Some hippy dribble about love and Buddhist enlightenment with a splash of reincarnation (or new birth cycle?). Makes me wonder why people like Bell can't just join a moderate Buddhist community and leave Jesus alone? I noticed a thing about liberal Christians and how they doctrinally enforce their god's demands: Everyone goes to heaven ---- except those pesky Conservative Bible-loving Fundi's who claim it's all about Jesus - it's the REAL hell for them. EVeryone else gets Rob Bell's NEW and improved hell. There is so much wrong and missing from this book I could write another book. Hopefully somebody does. But here's some: Bell tells a story (Pg. 25) "And so there's a woman sitting in a church service with tears streaming down her face, as she imagines being reunited with her sister who was killed in a care accident seventeen years ago...If what the pastor says about heaven is true, she will be separated from her mother and father, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends forever, with no chance of any reunion, ever...because the people she loves the most in the world do matter to her." If Bell was a real Bible scholar he would go to that very specific and brutal verse by Jesus: Luke 14: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Now most church-goers are going to shout: "Please, don't quote that verse EVER - just ignore it and maybe it'll go away." Which is what Rob does. Actually Rob does this to most of the Bible. But back to the point: It's all about Jesus your Savior, lamb slain for YOUR sins, King of Kings. If your close associates aren't interested - so be it. If you prefer them over Jesus? So be it. And once more from Jesus: Luke 8 (I sure love the book of luke) 20And it was reported to Him, "Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You." 21But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it." I was hoping Bellboy would touch on God's purpose behind the Lamb Slain For the Sins Of the world: Isaiah 53 speaks of this - Isaiah 53:4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed...Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; Rob's God would NEVER do anything like that? But as we know: the God of the Bible indeed required that of Jesus (the God/man). I like how the King James Version put it: "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin" Bell's god would never be pleased by such monstrosity. But any Christian knows an eternal King is WORTHY of His Kingdom and people. ---------------- AS much as many spiritual people claim to love Jesus, many really don't like or agree with what He said. Maybe they'll do as Thomas Jefferson did and just cut those parts out. Or just ignore them in a hipster type fashion like fun-loving Rob does. Rob really is a lazy forgetful Bible scholar and theologian. When I started this book I had two Bible accounts on my mind for Rob to magically straighten out. He failed. One was the account of Ananias & Sapphira in the Book of Acts. Chapter 5 9But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. Rob Bell's charming hippy guru (golden calf) Jesus would never do something like that. He's just begging everyone to come to him. The other account was: 2 Samuel 6 6But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. 7And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God. How horrible, thankfully Bell's god doesn't behave like that. Never. You can't sell Jesus at Starbucks with a story like that (or about 50 other Bible stories Rob fails to mention). And that's my problem: Who exactly is Rob's Jesus? He's certainly not the Jesus of Revelation 19 and 20. Satan will be released from his prison 8and will come out to deceive the nations ...their number is like the sand of the sea. 9And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. And we lived happily ever after. But not Rob - He wants those poor misunderstood deceived nations that were attacking God's people to be joyfully embraced in Heaven as well. Rob doesn't approve of God's wrath or vengeance. Rob is much more loving and a better humanist than the God of the Bible...How dare Jesus not meet Rob's expectations. Of course the theological challenge of the last story (Satan and Demons in Hell) is something Rob fails to touch. Can God send demons to hell for their one time rebellion --- but not mankind for their endless rebellion? Sure, maybe, sort of. Who knows. Rob leaves stuff like that out. He just likes playing with his few favorite Bible verses. And this is my problem with all people who hate the idea of God's election or judgement: It's okay for the demons to NOT find salvation and endless opportunities for repentance and choosing Jesus - but certainly not people? Especially atheists and family members who ignored Jesus. Not them! Rob doesn't seem to like ANOTHER New Testament verse: Hebrew 9 27And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. Sorry, the Bible is clear: One death - then judgement. Ouch! Just like the angels had one chance. You don't hear them complaining. Rob makes a huge mess of all the parables. He claims those cute little children's stories are to help people think. Bad Rob! It's actually the opposite. (Does Rob even own a complete Bible? I think some pages fell out.) Matthew 13 10Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 15For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ WHAT? That's not the way liberal scholars read it. "But to them it has NOT been given". Hmmm... ________________________ Rob really wants his Buddhist Jesus to teach us how to be reborn. He says, "Death and resurrection. Old life for new life; one passes away, the other comes. Friday then Sunday. You die, and you're reborn. It's like that." But Jesus was God, He really didn't need to die or be reborn. He was paying a debt price we could never pay. There's no Buddhist cycle in Christianity. Jesus did not need a rebirth. WE need to die to our old life - that life that would never choose Jesus or put him first. Remember: the Angels had to remind people to NOT fear God -- because it is obviously natural. A huge issue for a total Bible loving Christian like me is: 1 Timothy 2 1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Many abuse this verse (some lovingly, that's kind of nice.) by failing to read the chapter before it. But simply, God wants all people to be saved: EVEN KINGS and people in high positions. Here's a test: Go through the Bible and underline all the people that God justly cuts their lives short (or their health?). For instance: the 42 Youths (or children?) who mock Elisha in 2 Kings 2 and get TORE UP. Or Elijah and the 50 men killed by God's fire in 2 Kings 1:12. Does God love everyone? Even Satan's children? I'm not so sure. Bell thinks little of the Crowns that will be distributed To God's people (pg. 44) "Apparently, in the unvarnished presence of the divine a lot of things that we consider significant turn out to be, much like wearing a crown, quite absurd." Nice lazy theology there Rob. But don't EVER belittle a Crown that God has given. Revelation 4 9And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11"Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power Don't go there Rob. Which brings us to another eternal Heavenly issue: What is more important to Jesus - Peace/Love on Earth OR Jesus Biblical eternal Kingdom? Rob basically spends the whole book picking away at this ludicrous distant heaven that's all about Jesus - but Jesus thinks very differently on this matter. Luke 10 18And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Jesus seems to think that it's RATHER IMPORTANT that your names are written in heaven. Similar to the lady who thinks Jesus Mom should be blessed in the here and now. But Jesus says: Luke 11 27As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” YES, Read all of the word of God and keep it. Not just the few liberal Starbucks Hipster stories that rob builds his buddy Christ on. ___________________________ Rob makes an embarrassing mess of many Bible stories. One is the Rich man and Jesus. Rob just doesn't get it: Mark 10 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Rob doesn't like this treasure in heaven idea - Rob wants it NOW! Never mind that the Richboy didn't get into discussing the first 3 commandments...love God first. Rob says: "selling his possessions will open him up to more and more participation in God's new world. the one that was breaking into human history with Jesus himself. Hmmm? Interesting. Does Rob mean THIS KINGDOM: John 18 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” What the...? NO, no fighting. Starbucks Hipster pastors don't fight. Rob made a NEW Jesus that doesn't need to fight. Like Gandhi and M.L.K. mushed together and eating Tofu dogs and discussing Smart cars. It's funny that Rob doesn't like the fighting bits in the Bible (all 1000 of them) but he automatically jumps to the "Hell is a gruesome torture chamber" for God's eternal judgement. Weirdly, this is what poor-lazy atheist Bible scholars do. Surprisingly, Rob often approaches the Bible like an atheist - quickly assuming the worst and cherry-picking random verses to push forward his point. Wait a few years - and I think Rob's true religion will Shine its Light. But here's what the Bible says about hell: no mention of people being tortured, no people screaming, no people drowning in a lake, no people melting in fire. The Bible bit that matches ALL the other Bible statements about hell is: Luke 16: The rich man also died and was buried, 23and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ Parable or not: That sounds like a judged man sitting in a fiery hell. Hmmm, isn't that what the rest of the Bible says about hell? YES, yes it is. The hellbound guy is even having a conversation, he mentions a small bit of water would be nice --- now if I was on fire, I'd want a HUGE KEG OF WATER. Nobody is abusing this guy mercilessly: no demons with pitchforks or chains pulling his body apart (like the Islamic Quran mentions. Nasty stuff there.) That sounds just like the place Satan, demons, and Jesus hating folk might dwell for all eternity. (still accumulating sins of course - no reason for them to stop hating in hell.) And that is a problem for Rob's thinking: Our heavenly nature, and our hellish nature. Again, it seems Rob's Bible is missing those pages. The people of the world aren't suddenly one day going to start loving Jesus. Remember what happened the last time He was here? Not so nice. And, A nation restored is NOT personal salvation. Sorry Rob. There may be a reason the Bible goes into so much detail about the promised lands borders - they might just be in effect again one day. But that isn't Salvation of everyone. Remember that crazy verse: Matthew 7 13“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Rob thinks EVERYONE easily finds it. Rob even thinks Sodom & Gomorrah find joyful salvation: "And if there's still hope for Sodom and Gomorrah, what does that say about all of the other Sodoms and Gomorrahs?" Slow down Rob. Sound out the words like you did in Grade 1. Matthew 10 "Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town." Rob sure is optimistic. I didn't see the words SWEET PLEASANT SALVATION in that sentence. What it said was "MORE BEARABLE". If it totally sucks for one group of people --- then it will suck just a little less. NO reason to get excited and write a new Bible. So why exactly is it Less Bearable for these 1st century towns over Sodom? Because Sodom wasn't looking at a Holy Spirit influenced Witness of Jesus THE SON OF GOD and King of Kings. These people had the truth so close to them -- but they denied it, the dust was shook off the disciples feet. So why care if Bell has a Hellish flaw or a humanistic love infatuation? Is that a big deal? As i've seen with all liberal Bible adjusters: It's never just a minor flaw or two - I bet Bell has 100's of flaws in his theological closet. He has shown us only a few of them here, but I bet if I start looking into more of his writings we'll start seeing exactly how far his disagreements with the Bible actually go. Soon his Bible will NOT be fully inspired by the Holy Spirit. His Jesus will not be in agreement with all of the material in the Gospel accounts. Sure it starts with erasing Hell and slightly adjusting Heaven - but you have to sweep under the rug much of the Bible to even come close to pulling that off. This is what Bell thinks of God's holiness and justice (*as well as love): "In this story, heaven and hell are within each other, intertwined, interwoven, bumping up against each other." Sorry Rob, the Prodigal story is NOT the full Gospel as presented in the New Testament. Don't make a religion out of a story that's meant to confuse non-christians. Bell comment: "Millions have been taught that if they don't believe, if they don't accept in the right way, that is, the way the person telling them the gospel does...God would have no choice but to punish them forever in conscious torment in hell." Doesn't that sound like something an atheist would state? Yes, whatever Jesus said IS THE RIGHT WAY. Who cares what people say -- Either Rob Bell, or Benny Hinn, or The Pope -- get your Christian beliefs right from the source. Don't trust these theological idiots. Don't worry, God is fully in charge, His Holy wrath is perfect and His Grace is always properly applied. Only a liberal or atheist would doubt this based on the content of the Bible (God's very word). Some think that as long as your 51% good (in God's favor) then you make it to some heaven somewhere... But that's bad theology. It's either 100% or 0%. You are either God's children or you're Satan's. John 8: The Children of the Devil …43"Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44"You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45"But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.… Many assume that God calls all of humanity His children. Is that what the Bible says? Was Jezebel God's child? Was all those God had killed HIS CHILDREN? Let's take that one further - Was Satan God's child? Will Satan be beside Rob Bell in God's Heaven? Why or why not?: Very few seem to look for the answer to this (maybe their brains will explode from the answer?) ________________ So would I protest at a Rob Bell event? Hell no, If you love embracing crap liberal theology be my guest. God has allowed you the freedom to embrace the lies or Golden Calf's of your choosing. But don't say the Bible didn't warn you.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Gregg

    I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed "Love Wins". I've never been a Rob Bell fan, having started (but never finished) "Velvet Elvis" and "Sex God", but this book is worth picking up and wrestling with. For that reason — the value of wrestling with its topics — it will stand as one of the more important popular books of the decade. It isn't very deep. It isn't very broad. But it asks excellent questions and it has reached a large audience with those questions. After having just read C.S I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed "Love Wins". I've never been a Rob Bell fan, having started (but never finished) "Velvet Elvis" and "Sex God", but this book is worth picking up and wrestling with. For that reason — the value of wrestling with its topics — it will stand as one of the more important popular books of the decade. It isn't very deep. It isn't very broad. But it asks excellent questions and it has reached a large audience with those questions. After having just read C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" for the second time, I began Rob Bell's "Love Wins". The similarities are apparent. It's quite clear that Lewis' perspective on the subject of Hell has influenced Rob. I don't think that Bell's views of the Afterlife are identical to those of Lewis, but he's certainly not less orthodox in this area than Lewis. One thing that struck me a little less than half-way through: "Love Wins" quotes from Scripture a lot — much more than the average Christian book, I would say. Significantly, Bell doesn't spend a lot of time trying to take verses that seem on the surface to contradict his points and show how they really don't contradict his points. Instead, he spends most of his time quoting Scripture in showing how frequently and in how strong language the Bible at least seems to indicate that eventually "all shall be well". This is significant because it's apparent that his purpose with this book is to get us to dialog about Heaven and Hell — about the tension between how we often view world history (in common Christian belief), as a tragedy, while the Bible frequently takes wing in the grandest and most poetic of all its superlatives, in the telling of a different story. The Bible does say powerful things like:"As in Adam all die, so in Christ all shall be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15)"All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him — those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord." (Psalm 22)"Love is patient... it always protects... always hopes... Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13)"Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him." (Ephesians 1)"At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2)"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1)"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man." (Hebrews 2)"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." (Luke 2)"For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets." (Acts 3)"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces." (Isaiah 25)"I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth; for the spirit should fail before men, and the souls which I have made." (Isaiah 57:16)"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever." (Psalm 103)"For I will not fight against you forever; I will not always be angry. If I were, all people would pass away — all the souls I have made.""His mercy endureth forever." (Psalm 136)Those verses sound pretty all-encompassing. And the list just goes on and on, in both Testaments. We need to talk about this. There are passages in the Bible that sound just as strongly certain of the ultimate reconciliation of all people as other passages do of the ultimate condemnation of some people. Scripture contains many forceful words on both 'sides'. Who are we to dismiss either emphasis out of hand? Who are we to balk at such a serious issue? Not one drop of ink was spilled by the Bible's own authors to attenuate the clear strength of such phrases as "the final restoration of all things." A lot of us would feel compelled to pause our reading right there to clarify to an audience, "Of course, he doesn't mean 'the final restoration of all things." But Paul never corrects himself or bothers to lessen the force of his words, and James, who is often seen as Paul's critic in Scripture, doesn't correct him either. They leave the strength of the phrase hanging in the air. So, how should we take such a difficulty? Do we try to write it off, saying, as many have, "Well, 'all,' of course, doesn't really mean 'all.'"? No. Besides, the same kind of flippant response could be used against the word 'eternal' in passages which speak of 'eternal hades' — and with surer linguistic support (we knew this about the word 'eternal' even in my diehard hellfire fundamentalist seminary: we just didn't like to talk about it much). But I don't think it's very helpful or healthy to approach the apparent paradox in this way at all. What we should do: Accept that the Bible leaves many questions unresolved, and at least sometimes on purpose. Accept that the Bible forces us to trust God for the truth; it isn't here to spoon-feed us. Paradoxes aren't contradictions. They are truths we don't know how to reconcile. And we little fools have to learn to be okay with that. If an Infinite Being exists, then truth expands to infinity and that amount of truth which must forever be unknowable to any finite being is infinite! That is, there will always, always, always be for us far more mystery in the truth than certainty. We will always have gaps of infinite size in our knowledge. Don't you think it's time we admitted it? Our certainty must reside precisely in a Person, not in a knowledge of a fact — unless we are just another sort of Gnostic. What the Bible tells us without question: 1) It's big trouble if we don't trust and obey God. 2) It's a big salvation which God has in store. You want more detail than that? What for? I fear that we drive ourselves toward intellectual certainties in order to put off real, concrete behavioral changes in our lives. Trust Christ and obey Him, and suffering will turn at last to joy. That's it. Some way or other, however God does it, whenever God does it, whoever it includes, love wins. Goodness wins. God wins. Whatever that means, it is the best possible of all outcomes, because it is the outcome the perfect God will have orchestrated. If we trust Him, then it will be enough. That, I think, is the point of "Love Wins". But if we merely assume that what we have been told as true is indeed true, then we merely perpetuate the very root problem that got us to the point where God allowed (at least) or encouraged (at most) a Reformation in the first place. The pursuit of truth requires a willingness to accept that which we do not already accept (this is the cornerstone of learning), and a willingness to accept that many things we do not know, and will never know, are also true.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David A.

    I was sympathetic, but I was skeptical, when I first heard of Love Wins, a hipster treatise on Jesus and human destiny. I've appreciated Rob Bell the several times I've seen him speak; I liked his cadence and his rhythm and his horn rims and color scheme, but I also liked his way of thinking about the Bible. As evangelical as he is--he was raised in Michigan and educated at Wheaton College, for pete's sake--he manages to step back from evangelical subcultural ways of seeing and find a new angle I was sympathetic, but I was skeptical, when I first heard of Love Wins, a hipster treatise on Jesus and human destiny. I've appreciated Rob Bell the several times I've seen him speak; I liked his cadence and his rhythm and his horn rims and color scheme, but I also liked his way of thinking about the Bible. As evangelical as he is--he was raised in Michigan and educated at Wheaton College, for pete's sake--he manages to step back from evangelical subcultural ways of seeing and find a new angle that is nonetheless evangelical. And hipster. Bell makes it cool to be nerdy about the Ancient Near East. Without Rob Bell I'd not be hip to Jesus' Hebrew identity and its implications for how I read the New Testament. I'd probably also still be wearing lame round Harry Potter glasses instead of these cool boxy black frames. I owe Rob Bell a lot. But given all that, perhaps you can understand my skepticism about Love Wins, which was, barely a year ago, aggressively promoted and derided as a book rejecting the cosmic reality of hell and the eternal, conscious punishment of the wicked. My skepticism was, frankly, partly due to my sympathies. It's neither fun nor cool to think or talk about the fate of people who don't believe that Jesus is Messiah, the Way, the Truth and the Life, that his cross and resurrection secure our eternities for us. Hell is a major buzzkill, and I'm sympathetic to any argument against it. But I had my doubts that someone as stylized as Bell could write a strong enough case for setting aside the well-vested evangelical tradition about hell. Those three-, two- and one-line paragraphs, those vast blank spaces between thoughts, this mere 35,000-word book could hardly knock hell off its privileged perch. Could it? I owe Rob Bell an apology because I've made style and substance mutually exclusive, and Bell has shown that they don't need to be. As fast a phenomenon as Love Wins was (it's been in print fourteen months and had two books refuting it within four months of its release, but when was the last time you heard someone talk about it?), I'm now imagining that it took Bell years to write. In some ways it consolidates years' worth of themes that he's traveled around speaking on--he almost slips and tells us on more than one occasion that "the gods aren't angry," and each chapter could be easily reimagined as one of his popular Nooma videos--but it also reflects a whole lot of reading and digesting and thinking, and writing and revising and refining and distilling. Love Wins is simplicity on the far, far side of complexity. That's good, because Rob Bell needed to do his homework on this one. It's not just hell he's playing with, his critics would argue; it's the very nature of God. And Bell knows it: in fact he writes Love Wins because of what a more hell-happy worldview has insinuated about God's character. Bell includes a nice, albeit too brief, list of further reading at the end of the book; I'm not sure it's an adequate list, because while Bell has clearly done his homework, his book is really only the Cliffs Notes on the subject of hell for the rest of us. There's no rigorous debate with his opponents; you could read this book and imagine that any such opponents are on the fringes of society and the verge of extinction. Trust me, they're not: I'm a little nervous to click send on this review for fear of how people near and far will react to the number of stars I gave it. My initial reaction when Love Wins came out was (and I think I posted this somewhere), "If I'm going to read about something as significant as the fate of every person who ever lived, I'm not going to read about it from Rob Bell." I'm glad I did, and I think he did a great job with it, but I'm not going to debate anybody about it till I've read a lot more on the subject. In this respect, Rob Bell reminds me of Miles Davis. Not the greatest trumpet player who ever lived, Miles Davis was nevertheless a musical genius, understanding the evolution and interplay of multiple genres more acutely than almost anyone. He was also a great popularizer, tracking emerging trends and new insights on the jazz scene and bringing them to a wider audience. Given the hegemony of more traditional evangelical perspectives on the fate of those who have not professed faith in Jesus, and given how freely the dominant culture-makers in contemporary evangelicalism use their power to maintain that hegemony, and given the trauma that such a view of hell can induce on people of good will and fragile souls, I'd say a little Miles Davis might be the best thing for us. So thanks, Rob Bell, for Love Wins and my glasses and for giving me new ways of thinking about the eternal destiny of the cool. And I'm sorry I've not given more respect to your particular genius, your particular coolness.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Erunion

    Before this book came out, people were often confused why I disliked Rob Bell. He was too ephemeral, played too loose with 2nd Century Jewish tradition – reading it back onto the 1st Century, before the destruction of the Temple. He seemed to be a good public speaker, though, and whenever I sat through his sermons utterly unmoved, my Christian friends admonished me for my heart of stone. After the book came out, it seemed I had suddenly joined some sort of cabal that was eager to stamp out anythi Before this book came out, people were often confused why I disliked Rob Bell. He was too ephemeral, played too loose with 2nd Century Jewish tradition – reading it back onto the 1st Century, before the destruction of the Temple. He seemed to be a good public speaker, though, and whenever I sat through his sermons utterly unmoved, my Christian friends admonished me for my heart of stone. After the book came out, it seemed I had suddenly joined some sort of cabal that was eager to stamp out anything that Bell said or wrote. I am sure such folk exist, but I have not met them. My suspicion, however, is that this is mostly because many folk were unfamiliar with say, Athanasius, and had never seen a rigorous theological debate before. Don’t know. But that is not entirely why I disliked this book. My reasons are similar to Twilight in this regard; the writing is choppy and imprecise when it needs to be clear, and excruciatingly verbose when it does not. For some his speaking and writing are of a great help, that much is sure, and I don't begrudge this in itself. But I often worry that if this is Christianity’s quality writing, then perhaps it has come a long way from, say, C.S. Lewis. But of course, as G.K. Chesterton remarked, just as soon as something has become a ruin, there is already someone there admiring it by moonlight, or perhaps moonshine. As for Bell’s actual argument, I found it rather ephemeral when it needed to be precise. He plays shell games with the Greek text – somehow aion gets translated as “an intensity of experience that transcends time.” I had to read those sections with the Scott and Liddell A Greek-English Lexicon, Ninth Edition with a Revised Supplement in hand, which left me quite cranky. (It’s a big, unwieldy book which one of the final authorities in how to translate a Greek word. Many of Bell’s glosses are not supported at all by this book.) He also construes certain Christian traditions, such as Augustine and Luther as being in favor of or receptive to a purgatorial Hell – in Luther’s case, construing a subjunctive as an indicative sentence. Bell, who I understand has some sort of major degree in theology, seems unwilling to actually address the history of a tradition and how it went away and why. Instead he leaves most of his quotations and borrowings unsourced. It’s not clear to me if he’s trying to be scholarly or merely inspirational. If inspirational, I wish he didn’t quote sources at all. If scholarly, then I wish he actually addressed the thousands of arguments that have gone down through the years. He says his book is about an early Christian tradition, but this doesn't acknowledge that traditions do not arise out of a vacuum; particularly in the Greek world. Thinkers were constantly talking and arguing to one another, and one was expected to be quite well read if one were a writer. As for whether hell is a place you can get out of, he does seem to be taking a cue from Lewis, but Lewis in the The Great Divorce (which, incidentally, is heavily contradicted in The Last Battle, judging from the latter’s annihilationism) is borrowing from John Milton, one of the greatest English writers of all time, perhaps secondly only to Shakespeare: Me miserable! which way shall I fly Infinite wrath and infinite despair? Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell; And in the lowest deep a lower deep, Still threat’ning to devour me, opens wide, To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven. Milton emphasizes that even when leaving Hell, Satan cannot escape Hell. Bell emphasizes that we enter Hell before ever getting there. This is nice, but Bell is so adverse to the idea of disproportionate suffering that he says that God would never willingly let this happen to people. Fair enough, but you have things like oh, Luke 13:28 where people get kicked out of God’s rest - or rather, God Himself casting people out of His presence, which is not our view of loving God at all. If Bell addresses counterarguments in the slightest, I cannot detect it. But then, maybe Bell is simply trying to inspire, rather than instruct. But if so, why does Bell leave us with a sort of “Well maybe Hell isn’t permanent” or even a “People who say that Hell is permanent are engaging in a picture of an unloving God that isn’t of the Bible” rather than just simply “God’s love is big.” Bell kinda sorta engages in an argument, but he doesn’t put enough pieces down to help us escape a wishy washy faith, where we kinda sorta maybe wager, a la Pascal, that maybe God will be nice enough to let us off the hook. In such a situation, it would be better to assume a Sadist Deity who only promises love in order to inflict greater amounts of suffering on its creatures. Why? Because if the bet doesn’t pan out, you are in good shape. God is love. But if the bet does pan out, then such a deity would never be able to actually harm you. You never relinquished your innermost self to such a suffering. This is the sort of thinking that I don’t think Bell deals with. Books like this could never be a cure-all, at least not the cure-all my friends promise me it is. What really bothers me is that for many people, this is the only book they will read all year.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    Bell wants more out of this book than he gives. He is right: Evangelical, Fundamentalist Christianity has its problems. But whereas it seems like he wants this book to reach out to those who are disenfranchised with main-stream Christianity, he's instead managed only to p***-off the fundamentalist block by stirring up all this controversy. That's also a bit odd, because I didn't find that much of what he wrote to be uber-unorthodox, heretical, or controversial. He makes the point that Christianity Bell wants more out of this book than he gives. He is right: Evangelical, Fundamentalist Christianity has its problems. But whereas it seems like he wants this book to reach out to those who are disenfranchised with main-stream Christianity, he's instead managed only to p***-off the fundamentalist block by stirring up all this controversy. That's also a bit odd, because I didn't find that much of what he wrote to be uber-unorthodox, heretical, or controversial. He makes the point that Christianity has always been open to multiple interpretations, with people being uncertain of the exact meaning of Christ's words - the disciples, the early church, all the way to present day – this list is hardly exhaustive. He also makes the point that nothing he says in this book is new. Bell didn't mention this, but I found it funny that mainstream Christianity is out there castigating Bell for his heretical beliefs on hell, yet embracing/ appropriating C.S. Lewis when their stances are so similar. (Lewis was an annihilationist... Bell borders more on universalism, but I wouldn’t put him there either...) Mostly, Bell is saying, "Look, we don't know. I understand we have the Bible - and that's our guide, so people can argue that we do know, but until we die, there's a lot we don't know. Until then we just read and interpret and pray - with the understanding that we don't know." We read this for our book club, and we were/are lucky blessed? enough to have an atheist in the club... one who didn’t just give us the finger and walk away for choosing this book. He made the point though, that the book wasn’t really for him. I don’t mean, not his style. I mean it wasn’t written for him. And I think Bell wanted it to be. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the review, I think Bell wanted this book to be for atheists, agnostics, and those who’ve left the church. But it’s not. It is definitely an internal debate within Christianity. You can’t argue from the Bible with those who believe the Bible is a bunch of hogwash. You can’t talk about the symbolism and meaning found in the parable of the prodigal son to someone who hasn’t heard the parable. In that sense, Mr. Atheist Friend is right, the book isn’t for him. ... it’s probably not for him –like, his cup of tea- either... I really didn’t like Bell’s hipster, patronizing tone. You’re cool. I get it. You’re accepting. You’re tolerant. You go to Eminem concerts. You sit on barstools drinking beer while nodding and squinting real knowingly as people talk about their beef with Christianity. And yeah, Christians are a bunch of hypocritical jerks. I’m a hypocritical jerk, and just admitting that makes me less of one, but the pride I feel at admitting that makes me more of one. At least I’m breaking even... But I’m not like those Christians. I’m cool. Bell, you are cool. And maybe I’m just jealous of your coolness, but I feel like you’re trying too hard. That said, he makes some valid points. Assuming Christianity is true, there’s a lot going on in it. All throughout the Bible, God is a God of reconciliation. He’s a God of hope, and a God of things to come. He’s a God of restoration. The views of many Christian denominations concerning hell are basically the same: bad/ unsaved people go there forever. Bell’s question: “If God desires (as He said He desires) all to be saved, does He not get what He wants? Or does He not truly desire that?” *Squeaky internal Jim Gaffigan voice* “...But what about justice isn’t God just too?” Please don’t red herring me and lose track of the question. This is God we’re talking about. I also appreciate that Bell asks questions that typically don’t get asked. So often, I’m with other Christians I think – that can’t be right... But I don’t say anything because I’m afraid of stirring the pot. Sometimes the pot needs to be stirred, and while Bell doesn’t say anything too novel, he asks a lot of the questions I’ve wanted to ask and I appreciate that.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I both understand and fail to understand why this book stirred up so much controversy. I fail to understand it, in that it seems to be a reasonable reading of Scripture based on Hebrew culture and teachings, on how the rabbis taught by asking questions, on how Jesus himself taught by asking questions, and I agree wholeheartedly with the backbone of the book, which is that God's unfailing love is bigger than we can imagine and is waiting for everyone who will turn to it. How that could be controv I both understand and fail to understand why this book stirred up so much controversy. I fail to understand it, in that it seems to be a reasonable reading of Scripture based on Hebrew culture and teachings, on how the rabbis taught by asking questions, on how Jesus himself taught by asking questions, and I agree wholeheartedly with the backbone of the book, which is that God's unfailing love is bigger than we can imagine and is waiting for everyone who will turn to it. How that could be controversial to the majority of Christians, of people who claim to follow this loving God, I do not understand. But when Bell starts questioning people's set beliefs on the nature of heaven and hell (both of which are loosely defined in Scripture- I have read the Bible twice in ESV, thrice in NIV, I know what I'm talking about to some degree- they are vague constructs, scripturally speaking), there I can very easily see how this book got blasted from so many evangelical sources. People are very attached to fixed, complex theologies. Bell has a fluid one. People like to put things in boxes and compartments that make it easier to digest and explain life, choices, good, bad, and all manner of what else. Bell doesn't box things in; he looks at Christ and his saving work and sees a beautiful mystery where others see an event that needs extensive explaining, defining, and contextualizing to be properly understood. Some people love the unknown, others fear it so much they try to make unknowable things known. Now that I've wandered irreparably into metaphor and spun a story instead of making any concrete points or pulling quotes or proofs, I guess my positive rating of the book needs no further explaining (if you've read it, or any of Bell's works, you'll get that). I liked it. A lot. I like Rob Bell's writing style, and I love his heart for those who are hurt and lost. I love that he's bold enough to publish something he knew would be misunderstood and blasted by many, for the sake of extending hope to other people who've been blasted and misunderstood by those same many. I believe that reading Scripture with an eye to extracting strict doctrines and a belief system is an enormous task requiring years of study and effort, and all may prove to be an exercise in missing the point. Christ laid out two commandments: love God with all you can muster, and love your neighbor as yourself. He simplified all of the Law and Prophets into that, and the Church wasted little time re-complicating all of it. Bell doesn't, to me, seem to be trying to throw out everyone else's theologies and doctrines- he just refocuses on what he believes (and I agree) is the point of Jesus' message: forgive, love, show compassion, and inspire hope in other people. And frightening people, guilt-tripping them, and manipulating them into churches by confronting them with a strict, immovable doctrine of an eternal, awful, torturous hell does nothing to further that message of love. It hurts people, it drives people away. Regardless of what you believe of heaven and hell (I love and respect people who have a wide variety of beliefs on those subjects, and my own beliefs are quite honestly vague and uncertain [again, I've read the Bible, and what I get out of it in those areas IS vague and uncertain, thus my hesitance in taking a firm stance]), regardless of your doctrines on the afterlife, the fact remains that in THIS life, Jesus tells us to reach out to the hurting, the sick, the poor, the oppressed, and to liberate them with a message of hope and love. He tells us that the greatest love we can show is a willingness to die for them. That is the teaching of Christ we can very clearly pull from Scripture, and should be most focused on, since it's the example He gave us in both His life, and His death on the cross. My two cents. Pick it apart if you wish.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Update 3/3/2018: I liked this book even more this time through, which was at least the 4th time I've read it (or listened to it, in this case.) I still enjoy listening to Rob Bell read the audiobook more than I enjoy reading his books. And I still want to dig deeper into the theological issues raised here. Review from 2014: I liked the audiobook more than the written version because I do not care for Bell's writing style, and listening to it felt more like him talking/teaching, because it was act Update 3/3/2018: I liked this book even more this time through, which was at least the 4th time I've read it (or listened to it, in this case.) I still enjoy listening to Rob Bell read the audiobook more than I enjoy reading his books. And I still want to dig deeper into the theological issues raised here. Review from 2014: I liked the audiobook more than the written version because I do not care for Bell's writing style, and listening to it felt more like him talking/teaching, because it was actually Rob Bell reading the audio-book. The book leaves me wanting more, ready to dig deeper into some meatier theological books. But I think Bell would appreciate that reaction.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Controversial book? Nah… New stuff? Some. Old Stuff? LOTS!!! As Bell starts the book and explains Heaven (nothing new if you read N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope) and Hell (nothing new again if you have heard Rob Bell's sermons before.) However, what is new, is Bell talking about Hell as a place for correction, not for damnation, but instead for a chance for redemption. Believing that in the end God's love wins because God's love is stronger than any other thing in the universe, Bell believes tha Controversial book? Nah… New stuff? Some. Old Stuff? LOTS!!! As Bell starts the book and explains Heaven (nothing new if you read N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope) and Hell (nothing new again if you have heard Rob Bell's sermons before.) However, what is new, is Bell talking about Hell as a place for correction, not for damnation, but instead for a chance for redemption. Believing that in the end God's love wins because God's love is stronger than any other thing in the universe, Bell believes that all people have the opportunity to reject or accept God's love even in the afterlife. I wonder if Bell has ever considered the Eastern Orthodox view of Hell in his processing? Hell in the Orthodox church is not the absence of God as it is in Protestant and Catholic theology but Hell is experienced in the presence of God. I truly appreciate that Bell writes in his book differing theological viewpoints and though he ultimately doesn't agree with them, he shows them because they are legitimate thoughts/beliefs based off of Scripture. Bell simply doesn't think it resounds with how He has been reading Scripture. I don't blame him. The irony of all the controversy of Bell's book is what he says in the book, "To shun, censor, or ostracize someone for holding this belief is to fail to extend grace to each other in a discussion that has had plenty of room for varied perspectives for hundreds of years now." (p.111) That's the thing, even his church website doesn't say you have to agree with Rob Bell to be a member in the church he founded. There are a variety of beliefs about Hell. We can conjecture based on Scripture but we don't fully know the mind of God on this issue. But we can try and work through what Scripture is telling us about it. Is God's love more powerful than someone's rejection of Him? Lots of questions in this book and Bell doesn't answer all of them (thank God...) but he leaves them open for us to do the digging ourselves. Another thing I appreciate about the book is the redefinition of words that have become so commonplace for us today that we take it for granted what they mean. Without getting into them the use of the words Aion (or eternal life), Hades, Gehenna (Hell?), Aion Kolazo (a period of pruning), etc. just to name a few that can be helpful when interpreting the very difficult passages. I love that Bell says this, "The point then, as it is now, is Jesus. The divine in flesh and blood. He's where the life is." (p.129) Christianity as Bell explains is not a set of doctrinal statements, but "When we say yes to God, when we open ourselves to Jesus's [sic] living, giving act on the cross, we enter into a way of life. He is the source, the strength, the example, and the assurance that this pattern of death and rebirth is the way into the only kind of life that actually sustains and inspires." (p.136) That's the kind of life I desire to live, one that is sustainable (not a faith that is about highs and lows all the time) and inspires others. Earlier in the book Bell points out that those who talk about heaven after death don't do very much on this side to help out with the suffering of this world, and those who talk about heaven here on earth don't think very much about heaven after we die. And one criticism that I find very poignant is, "This is why Christians who talk the most about going to heaven while every body else goes to hell don't throw very good parties." (p.179) I mean, haven’t you been to those sour Christian parties? Quite a while ago I had been reading a book about different saints in Christian history, and Origen was one of them. As soon as I read Bell's book it made me think about Origen's writings. I know what people may say about this.... Jeff... Origen was considered a heretic.... yes but Origen is credited with much help to Christian theology. And very recently, Pope Benedict XVI had very positive things to say about Origen and how he should be respected by Christians. You can read it on this website http://www.zenit.org/article-19466?l=... . And really... heretic? Sure, some of Origen's stuff was a little out there...but nevertheless He is a follower of Christ as best as he understood. And that’s the thing, Bell is pointing us to read what the early Church Fathers ( who are not perfect…I know, but give an indication of what the early Church was processing) and a lot of the early Church actually had beliefs about some kind of ultimate reconciliation of all people to God. Why? All that to say don't throw out what Bell is saying just because you disagree with him. he's okay with you disagreeing with him, he just wants people to start having good conversations about these issues without making "glib" statements. As someone from an Eastern branch of Evangelical Christianity, this book made me say AMEN! time and time again, though I don't agree with Bell on all of his thoughts... he's asking good questions, and doing it in a way that is WITHIN the broad range of Christian tradition. This may not be something you grew up with or have been learning in your church now, but other Christians throughout the centuries have believed other things than you...does that make them less Christian? Does that mean that they go to "hell" as you understand it because they don't agree with you? I am glad for the amount of conversation this book is causing... And I hope we can do it in a spirit of sharing/dialogue rather than stark condemnation before one has even read what they are condemning. Because, in the end you may surprisingly agree completely with the very thing that you had condemned (but didn’t take the time to read). For fun here’s a video clip of Rob Bell stating his theological beliefs, but the last line made me laugh… (watch this clip of Rob Bell Comes Clean) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfboAz... I hope we stop calling each other heretics and start to dialogue with one another so that we can be more solid followers of Jesus. Shalom!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    One of the main reasons I wanted to read this book is because I’ve enjoyed Rob Bell’s teachings in the past. I’ve seen many of his Nooma videos and listened to countless podcasts of his sermons. I heard that Bell may be proposing some controversial views on Hell within this book, so I decided that I wanted to read it for myself rather than accept other people’s opinions about his writing. I was surprised by the fact that within the first page and a half Bell wrote that he feels the belief that a One of the main reasons I wanted to read this book is because I’ve enjoyed Rob Bell’s teachings in the past. I’ve seen many of his Nooma videos and listened to countless podcasts of his sermons. I heard that Bell may be proposing some controversial views on Hell within this book, so I decided that I wanted to read it for myself rather than accept other people’s opinions about his writing. I was surprised by the fact that within the first page and a half Bell wrote that he feels the belief that a “select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell,” is, “misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’s message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear” (Preface, viii). After reading this, I was expecting to find line after line of ideas that I disagreed with in the following pages, but ended up being on board with a lot of what Bell had to say. One place that I felt a lot of disagreement rising up within me deal dealt with views on how people come to be saved. Bell seemed to be arguing that people could come to be saved, even if they ascribed to other faiths, by following the essence of who Jesus is. I felt that the greatest strength of this book was that it asked thought-provoking questions that others are seemingly afraid to ask. Even though I didn't necessarily agree with all of the conclusions that Bell came to, I did like the fact that the questions were being presented. Sometimes I felt like there were too many questions being presented consecutively without Bell attempting to answer anything, however I believe it is good to make people think about why they believe what they believe. Even though I didn’t agree with many of Bell’s conclusions, I don’t think any of us should believe everything that we’ve been told about God and the Bible without investigating it for ourselves. In the end, I didn’t finish this reading with the new understanding that Rob Bell is not a Christian after all.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Wheeler

    I've been sitting here trying to come up with some witty way to describe what I thought of this book. It's not happening, so here goes, in plain language. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. It has changed my life and given me words for what I want to teach my son about God and God's plan for creation. It asked some tough questions and offered some interesting answers. It challenged some of my old beliefs and expanded my definition of God's love. It offers the most beautiful depiction of the gosp I've been sitting here trying to come up with some witty way to describe what I thought of this book. It's not happening, so here goes, in plain language. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. It has changed my life and given me words for what I want to teach my son about God and God's plan for creation. It asked some tough questions and offered some interesting answers. It challenged some of my old beliefs and expanded my definition of God's love. It offers the most beautiful depiction of the gospel story I've ever heard. Is it controversial? Oh yes. Is it universalist? Possibly. Is it 100% about Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross and God's -- the one true God's -- love for us? Absolutely. I don't know that I agree with every single phrase or line in the book, and I think some of it was oversimplified, which led to that big bad controversy before its release (namely, the chapter titled "There Are Rocks Everywhere" seems painted with a bit too broad a stroke, although I think -- in the context of the entire book -- I understand where Bell was going with it). But the point of the book -- that God's invitation to us is about PARTICIPATION in his plan for creation rather than a Get Out of Hell Free card; that his love is bigger than anything we could imagine, so it's ridiculous to insist on putting limits on it; that we ARE eternal, therefore we can choose to live in "heaven" or "hell" right now on earth; that the Christian thing to want is for EVERYONE, in the end, to be reconciled with God, and that that hope should shape how we interact with people -- THAT, I agree with, 100%.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Burns

    A hopeful and honest book by one of Christianity's most progressive and dynamic thinkers. The questions Bell asks are ancient ones, made relevant today by he startling shallow hermeneutic in most evangelical circles. The vitriol Bell received when Love Wins was released is due largely to the group think mentality that now permeates modern faith. The political and commercial ties to a culture that is both uneducated and underfed in the nuances of critical thinking have hamstrung the church's abil A hopeful and honest book by one of Christianity's most progressive and dynamic thinkers. The questions Bell asks are ancient ones, made relevant today by he startling shallow hermeneutic in most evangelical circles. The vitriol Bell received when Love Wins was released is due largely to the group think mentality that now permeates modern faith. The political and commercial ties to a culture that is both uneducated and underfed in the nuances of critical thinking have hamstrung the church's ability to address questions honestly. Love Wins is intended (from the Introduction) as conversation starter. Unofrtunately, the dualism of our religious and political culture (one side is right, the other side is wrong) is less interested in asking questions (a Rabbinic tradition) and more interested in determining the (only) correct dogma. But for those who are interested in asking the big questions, and wrestling with them, this book is a wonderful and thought provoking read. If there's one criticism of Bell's book, it would be his writing style, which read more like a collection of cue cards than an attempt at serious prose. That said, very few Christian "thinkers" are doing what Bell is doing these days. Most pontificate on why they (the commonly accepted answers) are right and stay away from the really challenging questions (and possible criticisms from their uneducated congregants and bloggers). Years from now, Bell's books will still matter. The others will languish in the libraries of old churches, and theological institutions won't bother referencing them. Why? They never said anything in the first place.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Althea J.

    I'm Jewish but there are lessons from the story of Jesus that give voice to my world views, one of which Rob Bell shares in the last line of his book: "may you know deep in your bones that love wins." I believe that love does win. I believe that love, tolerance, and acceptance should be the driving force of everything I do. And I certainly don't need to be Christian to embrace that view, and many others put forward by Jesus. I think that living my life in a way that happens to be consistent with I'm Jewish but there are lessons from the story of Jesus that give voice to my world views, one of which Rob Bell shares in the last line of his book: "may you know deep in your bones that love wins." I believe that love does win. I believe that love, tolerance, and acceptance should be the driving force of everything I do. And I certainly don't need to be Christian to embrace that view, and many others put forward by Jesus. I think that living my life in a way that happens to be consistent with many of Jesus' teachings is something that unites me with those who worship (or don't) a loving God. I don't think my Jewishness is something that should define me as "other" and I certainly don't agree with many of Christian faith who believe my Jewishness will send me to hell, regardless of how I live my life in-line with Jesus' lessons and regardless of the love and mercy Christianity heralds in God. Rob Bell articulates an inclusionary approach to understanding Christianity. This book was fantastic in how it wrestles with the meaning and intentions of the Christian bible in a way that uses the text to bring this inclusionary approach to light. In doing so, it indirectly spoke to issues that are of great concern to me (aka not discussed by Bell in this book, but issues that could benefit from the insights shared by Bell)... There is a stark contrast between the teachings of Christ and the hatred, exclusion and intolerance exhibited by extreme Christians and Evangelical churches. IT ASTONISHES ME when I hear of "Christian" parents condemning and kicking their own children into the streets for who they love. Stories of people being shunned and kicked out of "Christian" communities. Stories of harassment and bullying by "Christians" of women seeking health care. "Christians" who immediately judge me and proclaim I am going to hell without even knowing me and the goodness & love I live to perpetuate in this world. There is a huge disconnect between what these people claim to believe and how they act and live their lives. And it comes down to 2 things that I can tell: One is the way Christians are manipulated for political ends by politicians and church leaders. The other, is the biblical literalist movement that has Christians analyzing the words of the bible so obsessively that they miss the point entirely and then claim superiority in knowing "the right way" it is supposed to be interpreted. As to this first point, I have major beef with the way the Christian religion has been politicized. ------The following is the sidebar context of where I'm coming from on this first point. NOT at all addressed by Rob Bell in his book, but definitely why I dig Rob Bell's less divisive approach to Christianity. ---------------------------------- Christian identity has been brilliantly (evilly) used to manipulate people to vote against their own interests, by aligning itself ILLOGICALLY with the Republican Party. - The GOP constantly enacts invasive policies based on proclaimed "Christian" moral high ground that is contrary to the fundamental Republican concept of small government. Look, believe whatever you want. Practice whatever you want. I don't care. But don't be imposing laws based on your religion that have REAL controlling impact over my health care and my love life. That is simply not the Republican thing to do. - Which, by the way, gets Christians voting for candidates and policies that fly in the face of the very teachings of Christ that they assert as central to their identity ---- Kinda hard to love thy neighbor and look out for those in poverty and need, when the services and funding allocated for doing so are cut. Kinda hard to protect God's creation while simultaneously protecting corporations from regulations that might get them to curb some of the disastrous poisoning of our environment. That is simply not the Christian thing to do. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- But when not being used to manipulate people for selfish and often downright evil ends, I'm a big fan of Christianity. Real Christianity. Anything that encourages community, engagement with the world and the people in it -- I'm down! Christ in particular imparts some fantastic lessons about reaching out to those in need, tolerance, love and acceptance. Which is why I am so very very confused by the actions of people who self-identify as Christian, but act anything but Christ-like. In addition to the unfathomable success of how the Republicans have branded themselves The Christian Party, I think there is a HUGE problem with fundamental Christians who claim ownership of Christ, and use their literal allegiance to select words in the bible to propel totally unChrist-like behavior of intolerance. In Rob Bell's book, Love Wins, he challenges his readers of faith to ask questions. He tries to cut through all of the ways The Word has been bastardized over the years, to examine what God intended to say. Bell does not condemn the biblical literalists, he challenges them to ASK QUESTIONS. To wrestle with the text in the same way that the first century scholars did. He does not assert a singular interpretation, but he does provide some very compelling exploration of such concepts as heaven, hell, and God's fallibility. Bell calls Christians on their hard nosed interpretations, which end up having harmful repercussions on communities and on the psychology of those who live in fear of a vengeful, angry God. I LOVE what Bell says about there being one mountain with many paths. He tells the story of missionaries going to faraway cultures and encountering people who say, "Oh, so you have named him Jesus Christ. We have been worshipping the force of nature, creation, goodness, mercy and love for years, but we did not have a name for it." This inclusionary view embraces those values that people of many different faiths share. It lessens our manmade divisions of geography and circumstance. It honors God's presence in ALL of his creation, and not just the select few who claim to know him best. Bell also points to how the traditional Christian view of heaven/hell really makes a mockery of God and Jesus' ability to communicate. If God is infallible, why are the majority of humans, billions and billions of people, destined to be tortured, burning in hell for billions of years? Is he THAT shitty at reaching people? And what kind of God gives life to a man, gives him just a few dozen years to figure things out while on Earth, and then condemns him to an eternity of suffering if he doesn't encounter a message that sufficiently speaks to him before he happens to die? As Rob Bell says, "What if on the way to the meeting that would potentially bring the Word to a group of people, the missionary gets a flat tire? Should that entire group of people be condemned to hell because that meeting was cancelled?" My favorite might be Bell's account of Jesus' story of the rich man and Lazarus, the poor man who begs at the rich man's gates. Jesus the social revolutionary! Jesus the SJW! He called for the equality of man, busting down the hierarchies of the patriarchal social order. There's no racism in heaven. No classism allowed. So hell becomes the inner torment of those unwilling to let go of that old way of thinking. So those Christians who claim to know THE RIGHT way to worship God, and that their knowledge and belief is their ticket to salvation.... There's a surprise coming for you at the end of your rainbow... Thinking you are better than other people... Not something that's allowed in heaven. So MAYBE don't stand there and tell me I'm going to hell for how I worship God. It's possible that that very attitude might cause you to lose your seat at the table, my friend. Claiming to know the one true way to worship God is a superiority trip that the Christian God doesn't get down with. Love is very personal. And we have a choice to embrace love or not. We can live with the intention of creating heaven on Earth or we can live in a way that hastens an apocolypse that sends a select few to a heaven that exists on some unknowable plain. We can emulate Jesus' teachings or not. I choose love. And I believe that love is available to everyone who chooses to embrace it. There is one mountain and many paths. "May you know that this love is as wide as the sky and as small as the cracks in your heart that no one else knows about."

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