I finished Rob Bell’s controversial book, ‘Love Wins,’ this last week. The man really is an incredible writer and speaker – he is able to weave a narrative in a compelling way. I’m not sure it’s a book I would recommend, though. His vague rewording of scriptures and use of passages out of their original context for critical points in his theology negates the message he uses them for (Tony Jones commented on this as well on his blog, although not to the same degree I would). But he does it so well it’s easy to miss or catch. I don’t feel like recapping the book, or even giving a summary of it – enough people have done that already. I don’t need to comment on his writing skill or style – it’s brilliant. Here are the points that sum up my reaction to the content of ‘Love Wins’:
- I absolutely resonate with Bell’s frustration over a gospel that often times is preached that is only about saving people from hell. I love his comment that if that’s the case, it’s like we need Jesus to save us from God. We share the good news because it’s just that, good news – not some sort of escape message. We hold a joyful truth, not a fearful one.
- I am intrigued by his speculation that heaven will be on earth. I’ve always wondered why God speaks of remaking our world if we’re all moving on from it after death. I don’t know that I’m sold on it, but it gave a lot of my own wonderings about end times prophecy something new to chew on.
- I disagree with his view that people can be saved/accept Christ/choose God after death. This is where I thought he started playing loose with scripture, taking snippets out of context to make his points. I understand why he would want to; it would be comforting to think of, but it also lessens the urgency. Why bother spreading the message now if people can choose God after death? Once they’ve been exposed to Him in all His glory? Who wouldn’t change their mind in that scenario?
- I was alarmed with one of his closing theological statements. After quoting Jesus’s words in John 14, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,’ Bell makes a startling statement: ‘What he doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him.’ In other words, even if you think you’re getting to heaven through another way, it’s actually happening through Christ. My immediate reaction was shock, could he actually be claiming that people could get to heaven thinking they are being saved by other gods or religions and Christ saves them without them knowing it? Sure enough, as he goes on to explain over the next few paragraphs, he actually references Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and ‘Baptists from Cleveland,’ as being included in this view.
For me, that fourth point is where the book became dangerous. Bell is a powerful writer and speaker, and it sounds so good, but that kind of teaching, as well as the lessening of the urgency of the gospel makes this something I would rather not see getting passed around to those who don’t know the scriptures well enough to recognize when they are being misused.