First, I am very happy to see that BWIII is reviewing this book. He always does a phenomenal job. As I read Love Wins I have some challenges in how I can approach sharing any thoughts on it. I am an analytical thinker and this book is hard to dissect that way. So I hesitate to do that to a book that wasn’t meant to be read that way but at the same time it is at the core of how I think and process things. So I will do my best to deal with this book in a fair and accurate manner.
I have to agree with several others who have commented that Love Wins isn’t an outline of any kind of systematic theology. Some say he is telling a very artful story. That is partly true but part of his telling the story is deconstructing another story and replacing it with what he believes is the central story of scripture. In order to do that in a convincing fashion you have to prove that the “old story” missed the point but you also have to prove that it really was the story that people believed was “the story” before you can say that there really is relevance in trying to revitalize what the Gospel is all about and get it back to its original, non-hijacked, intention. The temptation is to build a straw man around the most extreme and most easily discredited branches of Christianity in order to create the tension that we really do have a problem here or that the majority of Christians really have missed the point and gone with all the wrong narrative threads in the Gospels to the neglect of the one big one Bell wants to highlight.
Now here is where the artistry comes into play. When you deconstruct something the questions you choose and don’t choose are of the utmost importance. It is important that you ask certain questions in a certain order to start teasing things apart. Bell must ask hundreds of questions in this book. His point is not to drive you crazy with questions. His point is not to get a logical and impartial answer on each and every one. His point is to get your mind moving in a certain direction to convince you of the point he is making. The problem is by default there are other perfectly good questions that don’t get asked. They don’t get asked because, while they are incredibly relevant, they don’t advance his point and so they are left out. I understand that no one is able to address every issue or examine every side of every issue. At the same time I keep getting the feeling that there are many key questions that are purposely left out of this book because it would put a flat tire on Bell’s main thesis.