Response to Love Wins by Rob Bell

I finished reading Rob Bell’s Love Wins last night. I enjoy reading Bell. He writes in what can best be called a “blog” style which for some reason I seem to connect with easily. I am not going to write a chapter by chapter review (Darrell Bock does a great job of that here) but I do want to share my positive and negative responses to Bell’s book.

The strongest positive impression I am left with from Love Wins is that heaven should not just be some ethereal idea but a concrete reality that those who know Christ are laying the foundation in our world today. Bell challenges the “heaven as an everlasting church service” image that many churched and un-churched people carry with them today. He does a good job of raising the need for Christians to be about alleviating the “hell” on earth by living out heaven (or kingdom) principles today. I am, as is Bell, also repulsed by the pride of those who claim to have a relationship with Christ and then clearly choose to not participate in helping to impact the world but instead continue to exploit and take advantage of others for their own comfort or gain.

I also appreciate how Bell pushes back on the “pray the prayer” approach to heaven. A prayer is a great way to demonstrate that you are placing your trust in Christ. But if your trust in Christ never results in tangible change in the way you live, the prayer and belief is pointless. The book of James makes the same point.  Jesus often did challenge the heart issues of those He encountered to help highlight what trusting in Him would cost.  The rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30 being one such case.

Bell seems to fluctuate between wanting judgment with consequences and then wanting judgment without consequences. He speaks clearly, and rightfully so, against the sin of this world and how that distorts many people’s understanding of God and the Gospel. But he also communicates that those who do not respond to God before death will be able to still be in process after death. I understand the concept but just don’t find Bell’s arguments successful. I see that he reads as much of his own view into the text of the Bible as he claims others have done.

I also struggled with the concept of God’s will that Bell talks about in Chapter 4 entitled, “Does God get what God wants?” I don’t see the concept of God’s love as a hindrance to consequences of the choices we make in our lives. Not to over simplify the concept, but I am a parent and my love for my children allows room for their disobedience and the resulting consequences of their actions. I don’t see God’s power or rule being comprised by man’s rebellion. I do believe that love will win in the end but that does not mean that all will experience it because they have chosen to not respond.

Because Bell is not writing a systemic approach to the issues of heaven and hell, there are many issues that are left either unsupported or unanswered. I appreciate the style for creating dialog and inviting others to investigate the issues. I would love for Bell to have written a more disciplined book that frames his understanding of the issues and how it would impact the way we should live. I feel like Love Wins is a good read even though it leaves one with more questions than answers.

2 thoughts on “Response to Love Wins by Rob Bell”

  1. Hey John. I enjoyed your thoughts on Rob Bell’s book. I loved your last sentence. I appreciate someone putting questions out there for people to wrestle with. I think so much of the controversy from the book has been the reality that many people just want to be told what to believe, so they don’t have to struggle with the questions.

    1. I agree that people don’t seem to want to think for themselves. That really can hamper our relationship with God because we miss out on the process of getting to know Him and understand Him in a personal way. It is one thing to believe in a theological position because someone has said it is true. It is quite another to have arrive at a position because of personal study and prayer, community process, and then application. Thanks for commenting!

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