Red Letters

Red Letters


Rob Bell and Love Wins

posted by Tom Davis
I’ve just finished reading Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins and this review comes on the first day of its release. I have mixed reviews and emotions about this book. If reading it will do anything, it will make you think about why you believe some key concepts of the Christian faith. These are important issues for Christ followers and those seeking to follow Christ. They aren’t to be treated flippantly. If you do anything, my encouragement is to not just take what Bell says at face value. Instead, research and study the texts that are in question. See what historical Christianity has always stated and agreed that these text mean. Don’t believe inside the vacuum of one book.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Is Rob Bell a universalist? (the belief that every person that has ever lived will be saved) According to his own words Bell says, “No.” Although he alludes several times to the fact that “Salvation is realizing you’re already saved. We are all forgiven. We are all loved, equally and fully by God who has made peace with everyone. That work is done. Now we are invited to believe that story and live in it.” (p. 174) He also claims that because God ‘wants all people to be saved,’ (I Timothy 2), God will get what He wants. (p. 99). Because if billions of people weren’t saved, God wouldn’t be so great, he would ‘fail in the end.’ (p. 99-100). 

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Does he believe in a literal hell? Again, according to his own words, “Yes.” But he has a different interpretation of what hell means than historic Christians which I’ll talk about below. 
Let me share what I thought was good about the book.
(1) At the core of my being, I believe the truth about the greatness and the magnificience of God’s love. There isn’t a stronger message in the Bible. Bell does a great job highlighting this fact. He paints vivid and unique pictures regarding how high and wide God’s love is. This is truly good news and news that the entire world needs to hear shouted from the rooftops. 
(2) What is the reality of heaven? To me, Bell’s understanding is heavily influenced by the theology of N.T. Wright. The second chapter “Here is the New There,” is basically a repeat of what Wright talks about in his book, Surprised by Hope. The idea here is that we begin eternity now. God’s kingdom is coming to the earth now and will finally culminate in the restoration of the earth. Heaven isn’t in the by and by somewhere in glory, we see glimpses of it in what we do today. Bringing about God’s justice, loving our neighbor, caring for the poor are all examples of us living this new life. 
Now a few areas of concern.
(1) Rob Bell is attempting to give different viewpoints on some of the most important, historical historical doctrines of the Christian faith with little or no backup. Footnotes, expert opinions, etc. 
(2) His approach is a bit trivial in matters of Christian theology that really matter. As an example regarding hell he gives the interpretation of the word for hell, Gehenna, being a garbage dump that was on fire and then says, “So the next time someone asks if you believe in an actual hell, you can always say, ‘Yes, I do believe that my garbage goes somewhere.” (p. 70) That hardly answers the question and I’m pretty sure hell has nothing to do with you taking out your garbage. 
(3) On that note, he reinterprets the doctrine of hell. Bell says he believes in a ‘literal hell’ (p. 72) then says, ‘Those aren’t metaphorical missing arms and legs. Have you ever sat with a woman while she talked about what is what like to be raped?’ (p. 73). Then mentions several other horrible earthly scenarios. For him it seems, hell is confined to the bad things that happen on earth. “Hell is giving us what we want.” (p. 74)
(4) Bell introduces some sloppy thinking about God simply because “it tells a better story.” (p. 112) My question is according to who? The world? TV? Movie plots? Just because he thinks there’s a better story in the idea that God will eventually bring everyone into heaven (Except those who completely reject heaven. Not by rejecting Christ, but continuing in their own bad behavior) doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s his opinion and his is one of millions of others. What makes it true or untrue? What the text says in whole and the truth of what has been handed down from Biblical scholars throughout the centuries as a starting point. I can make up all kinds of stories. Harry Potter’s adventures is a great story but just because it is so doesn’t make it true.
(5) In numbers of places within the book, Bell takes specific verses and makes them say what he wants them to say without looking at what the text is saying as a whole. One example in the chapter on Hell (and there are dozens of others) is his argument for Sodom and Gomorrah. He argues from Ezekiel 16:53 that the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters will be restored and end in restoration. In other words, Bell says their story isn’t over, what appeared to be a final smoldering, verdict regarding their destiny wasn’t over (p. 86).  But this has nothing to do with the people that existed during the judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah back in Genesis 19, that was 1500 years previous. They weren’t getting a second chance, it was the city itself that was to be restored, that’s what Ezekiel was talking about, again 1500 years later. To suggest otherwise is just, well, silly and bad biblical exegesis. This is a classic example of the isogesis of the text vs. the exegesis. Isogesis takes one text out of context to make it say whatever one wishes it to say. Exegesis takes a look at the passage as a whole and compares it to the rest of what is occurring in the Bible so there is a holistic view and interpretation. The isogesis of scripture is king in Love Wins.  
(6) In Bell’s interview on Monday night, March 14th, he ended by saying that he wasn’t smart and he wasn’t a theologian. But he’s seen the Good news in action and it’s about love. I’m sure he was trying to lighten the content and be a bit self-depracating. But if his statement is true, then perhaps he shouldn’t try to single-handedly reinterpret Biblical traditions that are thousands of years old and have been verified by countless numbers of Christian scholars. To reinterpret core Christian principles based on feelings, or a ‘better story’ might be a way to sell thousands of books, but in the end all it happens to be is Rob Bell’s opinion. 
I was excited to read this book. Especially because of the emphasis on God’s love for the world. As I’ve said, this should be the message ringing clear from the mouth of every person that says they are a Christ-follower. Bashing Rob Bell or anyone else who disagrees with you on a Biblical issue by calling them an idolater, heretic, liar, etc., is of no profit to anyone. We should be able to have these conversations in a civil manner and hear both sides of the argument in an environment of mutual respect. But in the end, it’s not my truth that matters, it’s the truth o
f the ages, the truths that have gone before me and have stood the test of time. 
As I continued reading, I did cringe regarding the number of attacks levied on historical Christian beliefs without any scholarship, research, primary or secondary sources. In the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) I received, there wasn’t a single footnote listed.
If you read this book, think for yourself. Do your homework about what the text means. There are plenty of research materials available online. Truth does matter and ideas do have consequences. In life and at the end of time we alone are responsible for what we say, what we know, and what we profess to be true. 
Pilate knew the importance of truth when he said in John 18, “What is truth?” Why did he ask this question? According to Ravi Zacharias, “Intent, in the pursuit of truth, is prior to content, or to the availability of it. The love of truth and the willingness to submit to its demands is the first step. But second, Jesus said something even more extraordinary. After identifying his Lordship in a kingdom that was not of this world, he said, ‘They that are on the side of truth listen to me’ (John 18:37). Jesus was not merely establishing the existence of truth, but his pristine embodiment of it. He was identical with the truth.  This meant that everything he said and did, and the life he lived in the flesh, represented that which was in keeping with ultimate reality. Therefore to reject him is to choose to govern one’s self with a lie.”  
“I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus, John 14:6.
 

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Sonia

posted March 15, 2011 at 4:49 am


Hi Tom,
Jesus told people that if they were taught of the Father, they would be able to judge whether his words were true or not. Truth seekers are the ones who will find truth, for most of the time we find what we search for and no more. The Pharisees searched the Scriptures, but they did not recognize Truth when He spoke to them.
Why the heck am I writing this? I’ve no idea–this isn’t what I sat down to write, and now I can’t remember what I was going to say. Oh well, make of it what you will.
I appreciate the tone of your post. I agree with much of what Bell said in his interview (no plans as yet to read the book), not all I think, but if he’s as sincere as he seems, he has a right heart and spirit. Unity of spirit in Christ in the bond of love is what we’re called to–not unity of systematic theology.



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Jason

posted March 15, 2011 at 9:59 am


Good review, Tom. I appreciate the fact you pointed out of Bell’s not using sources for his claims. And he seems to undercut his claim he’s not a universalist by the other claims in his book.



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Rachel Olsen

posted March 15, 2011 at 10:21 am


Hey Tom. I appreciated this thoughtful review.
All my best ~ Rachel



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Karen Ehman

posted March 15, 2011 at 10:35 am


Hey there Tom–
Thank you for your non-knee-jerk, well-thought out analysis of this book. What a firestorm it has created! I have many asking me about it but I won’t have time to get a copy & read it for a week or two. Thanks for giving me a place to send those who want a solid, biblically-based review from one who has actually read the book!
Will be in touch soon for that blog interview I promised on CHC.
In Him,
Karen



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Angela White =^)

posted March 15, 2011 at 10:45 am


“Truth does matter and ideas do have consequences.” Thanks for taking the time to read this book and lay this out. I’ve appreciated the Nooma videos for a long time as good stand-alone’s, but have found it hard to digest (maybe “unnecessary” is a better word here) much of Rob’s printed material. I watched the trailer to his book with my 10 year old daughter standing behind me. “Mom, I don’t get what that guy is saying. It doesn’t seem to make sense.” “I think it’s more about getting us to think that about what we should think,” I said. “Let’s take it as that, okay?” She thought through that for a moment, then said, “Okay.”



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Andi

posted March 15, 2011 at 10:52 am


Thank you for this well thought out review.



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Joshua

posted March 15, 2011 at 10:52 am


Thank you for quotaing R. Zacharias, one of the most brilliant thinkers alive today. The only thing that would have made the article better is a quote from Augustine, or Jesus. Particularly the one where He declares, “He who does not believe in me is condemned already,” “No one comes to the Father but through me,” or “I am THE Way, THE Truth, THE Life,”.
My beef with Mr. Bell his lack of both evidence (contextual biblical evidence) and a lack of backbone to simply COME OUT AND DECLARE WHAT HE BELIEVES without using questions to dance around criticisms. Man up, grow a pair, declare your belief, and bring evidence to back it, or else stop wasting everyones time trying to avoid every label that describes what you believe. Stop affirming or denying only after redefining terms, that’s blatant dishonesty. Stop pulling random Bible verses out of context to back your views.
Honestly. Cult leaders with a handful of followers will openly declare, I AM GOD INCARNATE, despite the world disagreeing with them; Rob Bell, with millions of followers, can’t even bring himself to actually defend a real theological position, even if it is flawed. Please, do some research, learn Church history, and stop being shocked or trying to be a martyr for presenting views that for 2000 years, people way smarter than you or I have said, “Well gee, maybe these aren’t good ideas, sine they aren’t Biblical.”
Oh, wait, there’s no solid, contextual Biblical evidence for his views. Guess that explains the dancing.



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jeff richardson

posted March 15, 2011 at 11:19 am


“If you read this book, think for yourself. Do your homework about what the text means. There are plenty of research materials available online. Truth does matter and ideas do have consequences. In life and at the end of time we alone are responsible for what we say, what we know, and what we profess to be true.”
There is truth in this statement, but it betrays a prevailing ignorance in modern fundamental religious circles of human psychology, neuroscience and personhood as understood by modern science. Our will is not nearly as “free” as Platonic Idealists operating as evangelicals portray and preach.
Are we free? To an extent. Are we responsible? To a degree. But any theology that lays my fate entirely at the feet of the decisions I make clearly constrained by the genetics I was born with, the parents I did not choose, the location of my birth and the national religion forced upon me, betrays a view of God that is internally incoherent and sadly destructive.



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Tom Davis

posted March 15, 2011 at 11:24 am


Jeff, no one has said anything regarding what you are arguing in your last paragraph.
And I’m not a fundamentalist.



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Laura Robertson

posted March 15, 2011 at 11:31 am


Thank you for the review. I have not read the book, since it just came out today, but I will not spend my money on it. However, I do think you were being a tad easy on Mr. Bell. Yes, this is just his opinion, but an opinion nonetheless that he is presenting as truth to the many people that listen to him preach. There is a name throughout the Old Testament and the New for people who present something as false as the truth…false prophets/teachers.
Unfortunately, there are too many Christians that don’t know what their Bible says and thus take the word of the man at the pulpit as the Word of God. From the hawkers of the prosperity gospel, to those that present the social gospel as THE gospel, churchgoers are having their ears tickled by words that make them feel good. Not words of salvation.
I am not worried about the Christians that pick this book up to see how it compares to what they know the Scriptures to truly say. My concern is for the youth that have made Mr. Bell a rockstar. They believe he speaks the truth. What is he going to say to all those that decide, “well heck, if there is no hell, what do I need Jesus for anyway?”
In Jeremiah 23:16-17 (NIV 1984), Jeremiah says…
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own mouths, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those that despise me, ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’” If Mr. Bell is not providing “false hopes,” I don’t know what else it could be called. To say that there is no hell is nothing but a false hope for those that want to believe there will be no consequences for those that choose to follow other gods. If “no harm will come to you” is not what he is saying, than I have missed his message entirely.
We may need to remember what Paul says about false teachers in Galatians 1:6-10. He does not mince his words. He clearly states “let them be eternally condemned.” We must, as followers of Christ, not be afraid to call a spade a spade. I am not judging his status as a believer, that is for God alone, but I can honestly say what he is peddling is not the Gospel and is not supported by a layreading of the Scripture. A Doctorate in Divinity is not needed to read the Bible and know that hell exists and that if we do not accept Christ as our Savior, hell is where we will spend eternity.
Thank you for your well-reasoned review and how clearly explaining how it lacks Scriptural backup. I am sure an entire book can be written explaining where Mr. Bell went wrong in his thinking. Oh yes, it is called the Bible. WE need to get back to studying it and knowing it better than we know the doctrines and opinions of man.



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jeff richardson

posted March 15, 2011 at 11:39 am


Tom – I quoted your own statement back to you.



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jeff richardson

posted March 15, 2011 at 11:43 am


Let me do it again so we’re clear: “In life and at the end of time we alone are responsible for what we say, what we know, and what we profess to be true.”
Did you mean that or not as your summary statement? And if you did, please reconcile that with your reply to me that, “no one has said anything regarding what you are arguing in your last paragraph”.
And I didn’t call you a fundamentalist. But thanks for the clarification nonetheless.



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Ian

posted March 15, 2011 at 11:47 am


Thanks Tom. I pre-ordered Bell’s book and will look forward to seeing if I come to the same conclusions.
I saw a tweet you posted a few days ago where you referenced Love Wins as one of the most controversial books ever written. Was that a statement you made before or after you read the book?



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Cole

posted March 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm


Tom, I apprecitate that you don’t shy away from something because it is controversial nor do you enter into something because it is so, but you gave the book a thoughtful review which ended with the powerful words of Jesus “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus, John 14:6.



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Tom Davis

posted March 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm


Jeff, your comments in the last paragraph: “Are we free? To an extent. Are we responsible? To a degree. But any theology that lays my fate entirely at the feet of the decisions I make clearly constrained by the genetics I was born with, the parents I did not choose, the location of my birth and the national religion forced upon me, betrays a view of God that is internally incoherent and sadly destructive.”
I made not comments about whether or not the decisions I make have to to with genetics, parents, etc. That is what I was referring to. And yes, we are responsible for our lives, completely. If you commit a crime and stand before a judge for sentencing, you can blame your actions on society, the man, whatever, but they aren’t going to jail, you are.



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Tom Davis

posted March 15, 2011 at 1:14 pm


Ian – at that point I hadn’t read the book – only heard the rhetoric. After reading it, I must say that it is even more controversial than I thought.
Cole – thanks for your comment.



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Sherie

posted March 15, 2011 at 1:53 pm


Tom, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and for doing it in a well thought out, non-emotionally reactive manner. I have come to deeply appreciate that about you. I am an avid reader, yet had questioned if I could/should read this book. Your review has helped me to make a decision on what is best for me and why.
“We should be able to have these conversations in a civil manner and hear both sides of the argument in an environment of mutual respect. But in the end, it’s not my truth that matters, it’s the truth of the ages” I am very thankful you believe this, and that you allow us as readers to input, ask questions, and seek. We all are on a journey to find truth and have it affect us. Some are ahead in that journey, others of us may know some things but are still trying to find our way in certain areas. Books, blogs, and men’s thoughts give us room and opportunity to wrestle with things, but I am convinced that the Bible has to be my measure of truth.



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Tom Davis

posted March 15, 2011 at 2:16 pm


Thank you Sherie. I’ve always appreciated your insights on the blog.
So sorry I wasn’t able to connect with you while I was in Portland. George Fox had me booked every minute of the day. The good news is that I will be back there often because of my work with the University and Seminary so let’s make every effort to connect next time.



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Micah

posted March 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm


This sounds a lot like Universalism to me. In past years as we saw Carlton Pierson bring these exact ideas before us. Today he fully endorses homesexual and other lifesytles. It is difficult to remain popular and run a hip, popular church and at the same time speak on tough spiritual truths. While it is true that the sin that people produce in the world causes great pain and suffering, this doesn’t null the reality that there can be a real hell or a real heaven.
I think scripture clearly demonstrates that God loves the entire world and that his sacrifice was made is sufficient for all people. Scripture also clearly shows that any or all that receive Jesus will be saved. It also clearly states that anyone who rejects God will also be rejected by God in eternity because God in His great love allows individuals to choose His presence or absence in their life both now and after death.
We need to confront the week theology of any leader, even those on the “cutting edge” of creative ideas because popularity doesn’t equal truth. Hope Rob Bell doesn’t find himself transfering the leadership of his life from that of Christ to that of a deceiving spirit.



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Bev

posted March 15, 2011 at 3:06 pm


A big AMEN to all that Sherie said.



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eneubauer

posted March 15, 2011 at 3:51 pm


Dear Tom,
First, I wanted to quote two short passages from your post prior to my comment for context:
“Bashing Rob Bell or anyone else who disagrees with you on a Biblical issue by calling them an idolater, heretic, liar, etc., is of no profit to anyone. We should be able to have these conversations in a civil manner and hear both sides of the argument in an environment of mutual respect. But in the end, it’s not my truth that matters, it’s the truth of the ages, the truths that have gone before me and have stood the test of time.”
“Rob Bell is attempting to give different viewpoints on some of the most important, historical doctrines of the Christian faith with little or no backup. Footnotes, expert opinions, etc.”
I too, like many others, became interested in Bell’s new book when word leaked about its content and his perspective. Granted, I have not picked up a copy but thoroughly enjoyed your post. I would like to make a statement regarding a running theme of many. While I agree with you that we should be able to discuss theological perspectives in a civil manner without resorting to “name calling” I do think it is important to make distinctions.
If in fact your second statement is true then Bell (& his followers) has real problems. One cannot approach this subject with its implications and not expect blow back. Especially, as you and others contend, if he arrives at a conclusion which diverges from solid biblical / traditional scholarship. Some contend that Bell is a heretic – this term is most likely misplaced. However, it seems to me from your review that he may be guilty of incredulity, which is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. At any rate…we must come to conclusions and be honest with the results. I do not believe in asking questions to just as the question. We must ask, think and conclude…while placing those conclusions in the light of the accepted and orthodox scholarship of the ages. Again, thanks for your post and I will be reading this book.



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Kevin Matthews

posted March 15, 2011 at 5:58 pm


I thought I’d post my thoughts from my own blog post today. I think the big picture of what Rob is trying to do is being completely missed my most of us. My post is called Tension & Rob Bell…
Tension is something that defines much of life. Our desire to run from it and realization that we can’t escape it, defines much of what we do. I’ve seen this played out recently in Christian subculture and it has now reached beyond it. Rob Bell has a new book out called Love Wins. If you haven’t heard about it, just Google it and you’ll see the uproar it is causing inside the evangelical world, and the attention it’s getting outside of it. My intention here isn’t to defend Rob, I haven’t even read the book yet but it’s on the way. I do however love the way he communicates. I’ve read all his books and seen him speak several times. For all the controversy he’s brewing, God has used him in incredible ways.
Many people get frustrated at the way Rob is answering questions regarding heaven and hell. I find it very interesting though. He seems to be comfortable with tension that most of us aren’t. We want concrete solid answers and direction. Now I’m not saying God doesn’t provide answers in scripture about heaven and hell because he does. I’m also not trying to argue about the afterlife here. I’m simply trying to point out something very interesting that I see Rob doing. He’s inviting all of us to enter into the tension, and I mean all of us. He isn’t limiting the conversation to theologians or Christians, he’s invited everyone in. I believe one of the things he’s doing is trying to share the idea of how inclusive the gospel is. What I mean by inclusive is that God’s love is for all of us.
So many are quick to point out that the road is narrow into the Kingdom of heaven, not wide. I understand this, but I have a question. So if the road is narrow, does that mean God’s love is narrow? This is what I believe Rob is wanting the watching world to see. Instead of defending himself to evangelicals, he is focusing on sharing the beauty of Gods love with the world. What a shame that most people would rather condemn Rob than see what is truly happening here. I LOVE that he did his book release last night with an open door. He was interviewed by a jewish author, and several questions from the audience were from people that wouldn’t call themselves Christ followers. Instead of defending himself, he kept pushing the conversation in the direction of Jesus. Instead of just answering the questions about heaven and hell, he allowed the tension to exist.
Why are we so uncomfortable with tension? What do we want Rob to say when asked about hell? Do we really think fear is motivator in sharing the gospel? I think at the heart of who Rob is, his beliefs probably don’t sway that much from mainstream Christianity. I believe the core of what he’s doing is trying to spread the gospel not by fear, but through love. Some would argue he’s doing this by watering down the truth, but I disagree. There are many mysteries when it comes to heaven and hell, many tensions to live with. I think that trying to solve some of those mysteries can leave us spinning our wheels on the wrong things. We should be focusing on bringing God’s Kingdom here today, with everyone and everything that we encounter.
As follower of Christ, our job isn’t to spread a gospel of fear and it sure isn’t to condemn Rob Bell or any other person. God is the ultimate judge, and we need to remember what role He asks us to play. Entering into life’s tension is where we learn real trust, real acceptance and real forgiveness. I don’t pretend to understand why God loves us the way he does, but I love him because he loves me. I don’t love him because I’m afraid of hell. The gospel isn’t supposed to be spread like some horrible horror movie or the awful movies I saw about the rapture as a kid. It is truly the good news.



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eneubauer

posted March 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm


In response to K.Matthews
“So many are quick to point out that the road is narrow into the Kingdom of heaven, not wide. I understand this, but I have a question. So if the road is narrow, does that mean God’s love is narrow?”
First, to comment on this quote…God’s love is not narrow and in this reference the term is use as a metaphor. It is not speaking about God’s love or acceptance of us (hence why He gave His Son) but of the human condition. So often when we read scripture one says, “Well – what does this say about God” rather than looking deep within and asking, “what does this say about us?” Maybe the road (in a sense) is narrow because of our willful disobedience and unwillingness to accept the awesome love of God. God is love this is true and He is desirous for all to come and worship. The problem – freedom and our ability to reject this love.
In addition, I don’t think people are unwilling to live in the tension of tough questions. We do this every day – personally and professionally. We do this with our children and friends. We do this with politicians and with the president. We do this with belief. If we take Tom at his word (having read the book) then we have to ask why is Rob Bell asking questions and making implications without proper sourcing (in the light of est. truth) especially around fundamental theological questions (i.e. Heaven & Hell)?
I think one of the problems is our passionate desire to ask questions with the foreknowledge of NOT arriving at answers. This, love of the question, provides cover for not making decisions (which ultimately lead us to the love of God) and shirking the responsibility of true, Christian leadership.
I think we will profit from the questions – but only when one arrives at answers and then tests those at the feet of 2000 years of accepted history. A truly great history.



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Jeff richardson

posted March 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm


Tom – I appreciate your response and I should say I appreciate the kind tone of your review, even though I find it lacking.
To your analogy, the American justice system may truly sentence me to a punishment even though the choices I made could have been to a large degree constrained by powers beyond my control. But then, in that case, two points apply: the system is acting to protect society from me and future crimes I might commit and second, the system isn’t the power that determined my genetics, my parenting or the culture and society into which I was born. So the analogy, while catchy, is completely inadequate as a response to the problem. An issue universalism takes seriously and conservative theology ignores.



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Ryan Gear

posted March 15, 2011 at 7:43 pm


You’re right that Rob basically agrees with N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope. I blogged about that recently.
I believe, however, that Rob is definitely within orthodoxy in his teachings. He is not a universalist. C.S. Lewis is another recent (relative to Christian history) author who had some serious questions about hell?
Here’s one question about hell worth considering- Is God the kind of Father who is willing to light his children on fire for all of eternity? If you are a parent, are willing to burn your children? If so, please check yourself into a hospital before you do.
When the Gospels report Jesus talking about hell, it’s in reference to the city dump called Gehenna. Figurative language, word pictures, basically, are not literal enough to base entire dogmas on.
Hell is something that no one on earth has figured out.



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Steve Jespersen

posted March 16, 2011 at 12:48 am


Great review, Tom. The book brings to my mind a few questions:
1. Why bother spending the money to buy the book if it all doesn’t matter anyway? I guess I really don’t need to know the information in the book because love will win.
2. Why would I ever get my butt out of bed on a Sunday morning to go to Mars Hill to listen to him since love will win?
3. Why would God sacrifice His only Son if it really wasn’t necessary?
That is how my simple mind works.



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Karl Edwards

posted March 16, 2011 at 1:01 am


Tom,
Another point that I would add to your thoughtful analysis is Rob chooses to use a rare interpretation of the Greek word for punishment in Matthew 25:46 in making his argument that hell is a place of “pruning” and not punishment. See below as well as this link: http://www.forananswer.org/Matthew/Mt25_46.htm
objection: The Greek word for “punishment/cutting off” is KOLASIS, which comes from the Greek word KOLAZÔ which means to cut off or prune. The Emphatic Diaglott also uses the phrase “cutting off” and it gives the explanation that most versions confuse KOLASIN with BASINOS conveying the meaning of “torment”. It goes on further to say that KOLAZÔ “which signifies ,1. to cut off, as lopping off branches of trees, to prune, 2. To restrain, to repress…..3, to punish, to chastise. To cut off an individual from life, or society, or even to restrain, is esteemed as punishment.” p.106
Response: It is true that KOLASIS is derived etymologically from KOLAZÔ. It is also true that in Classic Greek, KOLAZÔ means “to prune, to cut off.” However, there are several problems with asserting that KOLASIS should be properly translated “cutting off” because of its relationship with KOLAZÔ. First, determining the meaning of a word by its derivation is an example of the “etymological fallacy.” D.A. Carson states that presuming that a word’s meaning is bound up with its root or roots is “linguistic nonsense” (Carson, Fallacies, p. 28). Words may or may not share semantic range with their etymological forebears. In many cases, they do not. The fact that all modern lexicons define KOLASIS as “punishment” and not one lists “cutting off” as a possible definition, suggests that it does not mean “cutting off,” regardless of what KOLAZÔ may mean.



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eneubauer

posted March 16, 2011 at 9:02 am


A Quote from Ryan Gear:
“Here’s one question about hell worth considering- Is God the kind of Father who is willing to light his children on fire for all of eternity? If you are a parent, are willing to burn your children? If so, please check yourself into a hospital before you do.”
I find it quite interesting that so many are so quick to question God, “If God does this or that – is He really a good God / Father?” Not sure why we are not putting the onus on man? We have a choice…embrace the crazy & awesome love of God and live eternally in His presence or reject God’s love (via His Son) and risk eternal seperation (punishment). Hell, in whatever form it is, does not negatively reflect on God. All of us have been given so many chances, so many choices, so many opportunities to embrace God’s love. Yet this conversation, from Rob Bell to Ryan Gear seem desperate to make this a refelction on God and not on man. Not quite sure why!



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Roy Blizzard III

posted March 16, 2011 at 11:32 am


Dear Tom, Thanks for your review. I’ve read several excerpts from Rob Bell’s books and many others like him. I have some huge issues which you rightly point out. I’d just like to say that he is in no position to comment or write a book trying to explain squat in the Bible. He knows no Hebrew, Greek, Latin, has no background in Hebrew studies and archeology, paleontology, geography of the middle east, Talmudic studies or any other related field. So why is anyone even listening. I’ve been studying this stuff since I was 10 and my father went to work on his graduate degrees at UT in these areas and believe me this is complicated stuff to understand. Yes the Love of God is universal, and we are free to choose it or not, but understanding the text is hard if you don’t know Hebrew and even then it can be difficult. Even the 1st word in Genesis has been horribly mistranslated and led to all sorts of misbeliefs. Too bad good shade trees have to be wasted on drivel such as these type of books. You can find me on facebook and you can read my blog I’m reworking on http://church-exodus.blogspot.com/



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Mike Ratliff

posted March 17, 2011 at 2:14 am


Tom, I appreciate your comment: “Bashing Rob Bell or anyone else who disagrees with you on a Biblical issue by calling them an idolater, heretic, liar, etc., is of no profit to anyone. We should be able to have these conversations in a civil manner and hear both sides of the argument in an environment of mutual respect. But in the end, it’s not my truth that matters, it’s the truth of the ages, the truths that have gone before me and have stood the test of time.”
It really does lower us to a level not consistent with the message of love Jesus exhibits throughout his ministry to bash each other, no matter how different we may believe. The self-righteousness we sometimes exhibit does not provide the basis for loving Christian relationships or for effective, positive Christian witness.



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Jyl

posted March 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm


I am assuming I can comment on this area, it doesn’t say Nonchristians should not post here.
My only comment is read the book: Not Rob Bell’s,,, the New Testament.
Where does it even say all Christians go to Heaven?
Jesus talks about a Kingdom of Heaven coming to earth.
Psalms says Heaven is only reserved for G-d and that men have to stay on earth.
I fail to understand how Christians even came up with the idea only they go to Heaven. I read the book over 30 times and I never saw that in it.



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BM

posted March 18, 2011 at 8:48 am


This article encourages readers to think for themselves, but qualifies the validity of every observation as requiring footnotes from someone else’s research. That doesn’t square. I think it’s cool that a book today can encourage people to examine the power of love (and Bell particularly appeals to those alienated by the church’s dogmatic and incomprehensible traditions). We need more love and less judgement.



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Chick Curry

posted March 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm


Let me make a radical yet obvious point. The history of christian scholars know nothing of hell no more than the history of islamic scholars or any scholar in all of history. Who could offer empirical commentary on hell? Whether real or metaphorical how can anyone truly debate its exitence beyond the biblical reference? Giving ultimate deference to the Bible in your faith is understandable and a key compenent to resolving obvious intellectual and psychological confilcts that come to pass when living your faith in a world of constant contradictions. However, we can not debate the existence of hell and its pratical components as we do with any tangible topic on earth. The existence of hurricanes or earthquakes or the igredients of chocolate cake. Not to be trivial or irreverent but there are countless volumes that contain information regarding the experiences of our life on this planet and these are generally considered to be fact. To my knowledge, no one debates the existence of hurricanes not even those who have been spared the awful reality of experienceing one. So there is the most obvious white elephant!! Not who is a universalist or a heretic but who can honestly speak with ultimate authority outside of personal faith on the topic of hell?



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Carole Turner

posted March 23, 2011 at 1:49 am


Wow, you jumped into the frey ;-) Thanks for the review, I respect your opinion.

I posted my review of all the reviews of this book, check it out if you like..

http://www.carolesmithturner.com/2011/03/my-review-of-reviews-of-rob-bells-book.html



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DB

posted March 26, 2011 at 12:25 pm


God is Love but we don’t know that Love fully until we come to the Cross (a place of shame and disgrace) and see that Love leads us to a place of death where we find Love’s Son, Jesus, so that we may have Life and Life more fully. Through a very brutal murder, we find life. This is a paradox and a mystery that the Holy Spirit shows us as Christians. The world will not understand and there will always be false teachers leading others astray if it were possible but God (who is Love) never leads Christians (his children) astray. Jesus is the Truth and we know that He is the Light as well and shows us the way.
Remember the apostles (and many, many beloved children of God) were all murdered except for the apostle John and yet God loved them as well as all other people who have died because of their faith in Jesus as the Son of God. The Love of God sometimes takes us to a place of suffering and sorrow. That hardly means that God is not a loving God. We see through a glass darkly but we have the Holy Spirit who gives us the insight and courage to do and go where Love takes us.
We live in a time where we want to see God as only loving in a way we consider to be loving. We need to remember that we are the created and He is the creator. God is not obligated to love us or forgive us. We are not entitled to a comfortable life that our definition of a loving Father is required to give us. After knowing God who is Love we are to examine our actions and know ourselves and others by the things that we and they do. God is Love and we are all a part of each other and every created thing so when we are graced by knowing God through Jesus we realize the Love of God is so very great that our actions show who we are and that can take you to many crosses where you think you have been abandoned but know that at the end of it all is a Love that can never die. That is when you know heaven is real and Love will take you there now and when this physical life ends.



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Andy

posted April 1, 2011 at 7:54 pm


Thanks for the review. I think people get too stuck on the labels, or they disagree or agree on an emotional level and then react. I think the initial response to any “hot button issue” should be to look at the logic and scholarship (both biblical and secular historical. If an author,no matter how creative does not perform due diligence in getting their facts right there work no matter how shocking an provocative should not be taken seriously



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Pingback: “Love Wins”… perhaps a fairly inadequate review on my part. | ChrisKozacek.com

Chris

posted April 4, 2011 at 5:01 pm


Thanks for these thoughts. I included this article on my post about “Love Wins”. Good insight!



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Sean

posted July 27, 2011 at 7:13 pm


Here’s another review of Rob Bell’s Book, Love Wins.

http://www.hellsbell.net



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