Rob Bell has a new book coming out this month called Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived and it is already gaining a ton of attention. It has been one of the most popular topics on twitter. It has hit the CNN religion blogs. It has been blasted by guys like Justin Taylor and reviewed from a more optimistic perspective by Kurt Willems. What has caused all the stir has not been an actual reading of the book. It hasn’t come out yet. The stir has come from information put out by the publisher and a few small snippets from the book itself and from this Promotional video:
I can’t respond to the book since it isn’t out yet but I can respond to the points he is making in this video that I assume mirror some of the contents of the book.
The Gandhi Example:
The Gandhi example seems like a straw man or a loop hole. He picks someone that the majority of of Christians would say, “Yes, I really would love if Gandhi were in heaven” because if anyone deserves to be in heaven it would be Gandhi, right? So does Gandhi make it to heaven by his own good works? I am not playing the judge here but we can’t wish Gandhi to heaven just because he did some great things. There are other scriptures we could turn to that might point us to God’s mercy on people like Gandhi (Romans 2:12-16). But what it appears to me that Bell is doing here is to pick the most likable non-Christian we all are familiar with and use him as a “loophole” of sorts that it opens up our thinking of how we want heaven to be or who we want to be there and in the process jetison what scripture actually teaches. 2 Peter 3:9 teaches us about who God wants to save – “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God wants to save Gandhi. He wants to save Hitler. He wants to save everyone. That leads us to his next point but before we get there…if God is going to save everyone (which we don’t know that is what he is saying but lets assume he is for a moment) why not use Hitler as your example because he is part of the “every person” group right? Again, I am not saying that is what he is teaching here until we can all read the book for ourselves.
Jesus Rescues You From God:
Bell said this is a subtle teaching in our churches because we teach Jesus had to die so that God wouldn’t send us to hell. Again, Bell has twisted things up into a strawman approach to make his point. We don’t become Christians to keep God from sending us to hell. Some may teach that somewhere and scare people toward faith. I am sure that happens. But that is not a fundamental teaching of Christianity. Jesus followers didn’t follow him out of fear. They followed him out of love. So do we. Jesus and God aren’t at odds. Jesus didn’t die to keep God from sending people to hell. Jesus died to reconcile us with God because God wants to bring all people love and life and light and wholeness. He is making all things new. Unfortunately some people, whether they have heard the Gospel or not, will continue to choose death via their lifestyle even though there is a better way.
The Good News is that Love Wins:
I agree. Love does win. I am not certain where he is going with that. I hope he is not saying all people have to be saved by God because love wins in a way that changes the free will of those who have chosen something other than love in the way the view God and neighbor. We know that in the end God is love and that God and his people are victorious over sin and death and everything that is wrong with this world. But will that undo people who choose to live lives far from God, who embraced a lifestyle and culture of sin and death in an unrepentant, harsh and uncaring way?
I am not writing this to judge a guy out of context and based on a book that I haven’t read. That is not my point. But I do think it is fair to evaluate what he has put out there for what it is worth and try to avoid making assumptions beyond that. I hope this goes well. I hope Bell thoroughly embraces scripture and let what the Bible says develop and grow our views of who God is and what his plans are for mankind rather than who we hope will be saved. And I hope he doesn’t use straw man arguments throughout his book. Time will tell.
Last, read Greg Boyd’s post on the book…he has already read it and shares his thoughts.