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Rob Bell: Love Wins review

Yes, I read it.


The book struck me as not being nearly as heretical as some of its detractors wrote nor as biblical as his supporters wrote. It has an endorsement by Brian McLaren and yet recommends a book by Tim Keller for further reading. In fact if Tim Keller, Brian McLaren and NT Wright could have their genetics mixed with those of a beat poet, you may wind up with this book.

Chapter 1: Bell asks a ton of questions in his typical leading but not giving away too much style. The questions are so backed with emotion "Does it really not matter what people do but only what they believe?" and are staccato, repeating one after the other. The chapter than ends with Bell saying that the rest of the book will attempt to answer the questions.

Chapter 2: Like Brian McLaren did in his book on a "New Christianity" he starts by critiquing that classic evangelical image of people walking over a cross to get from this world to paradise with God in the next. Bell argues that God does get angry over injustice and that we all have sinned and contributed to the injustice. He then has a slightly different take on Jesus' meeting of the rich young man than I had heard before where Bell denounces greed and warns that it will keep us from experiencing God. He then hints at a view which I can only describe as being akin to purgatory or rather a discipleship process that one needs to go through before fully enjoying heaven: "Those flames in heaven would be hot. Jesus makes no promise that in a blink of an eye we will all be different people...To portray heaven as bliss... How many of us could handle that as we are today?" He than argues that heaven is much more earthy than we imagine and that it begins in the here-and-now.

Chapter 3: In this one he seeks to define hell. To his credit, he quotes a lot of Scripture. (Revelation 14.10 may be the only relevant verse he left out) He interprets them to show that hell is a metaphysical reality which one can be saved from through Jesus in this life OR the next: "So when we read 'Eternal Punishment'...Jesus isn't talking about forever" In some places it sounds a bit like CS Lewis' book "The Great Divorce" which he recommends in the back. I was not wholly convinced either with the unique interpretation he gave of Luke 16, the story of the rich man in hell and Lazarus though he said some interesting things.

Chapter 4: Argues that if not everyone is in heaven than God doesn't get what he wants and that people will be able to repent in hell.

Chapter 5: Argues that though sacrificial metaphors and talking about Jesus' blood are technically correct, we need different metaphors for today's audience. Emphasis the resurrection of Jesus. Sounds like NT Wright's book on hope which he recommends int he back.

Chapter 6: Argues that since Jesus transcends culture he is working in other religions to save people though they do not know his name.

Chapter 7: This chapter sounds a bit like Keller's book "The Prodigal God" which he recommends in the back. He also argues against the idea of God being angry or Jesus propitiating wrath: "A loving heavenly father who will go to extraordinary lengths to have a relationship with them would, in the blink of an eye, become a cruel, mean, vicious tormentor...If there was an earthy father like that, we would call the authorities... let's be clear, we do not need to be rescued from God"

Chapter 8: He gives a good invitation to place trust in Christ and than states that Love is God (Is this the same as "God is Love"?) and that Love wins. 


  1. Thanks for reading the book so I don't have to:)

  2. I am becoming more "universalistic" in my theology as I get older. It's probably due to the influence of Philip Gulley (If Grace Is True, etc) and a whole lot of wishful thinking. But I will check this book out too. Thanks for the review.

  3. It doesn't sound like what I was brought up on in my traditional southern baptist church, but I think its hard to be 100% dogmatic in any direction when I can't see the whole picture of God and eternity.

  4. Still haven't read the book yet, but I'm reminded of Timothy Keller's argument in The Reason for God. "The belief in a God of pure love- who accepts everyone and judges no one- is a powerful act of faith. Not only is there no evidence for it in the natural order, but there is almost no historical, religious, textual support for it outside of Christianity. The more one looks at it, the less justified it appears." Immediately before that, he says that the God of love is also a God of judgment. I'm still wrestling with all of this right now and trying to figure out exactly where I stand. It just reminded me of this. It's scary, but God is both.

  5. Good quote, thanks Katrina. For those you didn't see the Rob Bell interview by Martin Bashir, it's on youtube:

  6. I'm baffled that people cannot see through Bell's writings. The problem with Rob Bell is not just simply what he believes BUT how he gets there.
    Here's another review of Rob Bell's book, Love Wins.


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