December 1, 2020

iMonk Review Of Love Wins

It is a popular pastime in our society to deride the entertainment industry for its barrel-scraping lack of original ideas, but sometimes stereotypes exist because they’re true. Plus, barnside targets make for easy scores. Take, for example, the time-honored story of a man and a woman who can’t seem to get along, but, for some reason, find themselves overcoming obstacles and falling in love. Often these ill-matched lovers are brought together through some whimsical means, like sharing a taxicab or bumping into each other in a produce section, spilling a display of forbidden fruit onto the floor.

And then there are times when the machinations of love (and screenplays) use the good ol’ green card to bring our pair together. One of them must get married in order to evade deportation back to their country of origin; the other begrudgingly agrees to such a marriage of convenience. Hijinks ensue as the couple first can’t stand each other, and then gradually begins to accept each other, then after a series of struggles end the story with an embrace and a kiss and a happily-ever-after.

Not only does that describe the plot of many a romantic comedy, it also describes a widespread evangelism technique I’ve seen at work in my midwest, Bible-belt environs. Usually it plays out like this: “You don’t want to be deported (i.e. go to hell), do you? Instead, accept this marriage proposal (i.e. free gift of grace) from this other person (i.e. Jesus) so you can go to heaven (i.e. live happily ever after at some point in the future).”

I’ve actually seen this international love story play out in the opposite direction in the lives of my wife’s parents. He was a rugged and handsome football player from Texas; she was a delicate flower from Costa Rica. She moved to the United States to provide for a family back home, met him, and though they didn’t even speak the same language, they fell in love and married. My future in-laws got a marvelous, life-giving relationship with their best friend and, tucked away in her back pocket as an ancillary benefit, my mother-in-law became a U.S. citizen.

Reading Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, I came away with the distinct impression Rob Bell’s goal with the book was to get us to focus on the story of my in-laws instead of the romcom.

Full disclosure: I don’t really care for Rob Bell, or at least for the media image he conveys. I don’t care for his writing style; I don’t care for his over-earnest speaking delivery; I don’t care for the way he portrays himself as an iconoclast, intentionally stirring the pot of controversy. I really don’t care for the way he charges admission when he tours, so you can buy a ticket to hear him preach.

Which puts me in the uncomfortable position of defending Rob Bell.

Granted, Rob Bell brought this on himself by writing the book he wrote. That’s his deal. He is rabbinical in his approach, asking questions, then answering those questions with other questions. It’s a thought-provoking approach, to be sure, though he inevitably smarms it up with an “ain’t I a stinker?” smirk peering through the hip fonts and sentence fragments.

That said, there’s nothing revolutionary in Love Wins that I hadn’t read before. Imagine putting N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, and part three of Robert Farrar Capon’s Between Noon and Three into a blender and running it on high until it becomes an easily digestible slurry. But instead of drinking the whole thing, just skim the surface. That’s Love Wins.

I appreciate the stated goals Rob Bell had in writing this book, to present a, yes, Jesus-shaped spirituality to people who have had their faces smeared with the odious brands of Christianity we see in modern culture. And as far as that goes, he’s accomplished his task. Love Wins is a book that hopefully makes you say, “I am fascinated by these ideas and would love to explore them more deeply through the recommended reading list at the end of the book.” That reading list, by the way, includes the three authors we just blended into mass palatability.

As much as I don’t care for Rob Bell, I liked his book enough (after checking it out from my local library) to buy it for my wife as a Mother’s Day present. Back in my teens and early twenties, I worked for a local Christian bookstore for six years and still have a sense of loyalty to them, so I hopped in and asked for the book.

“We don’t have it,” they said.

“You don’t have it in stock or you don’t carry it?” I said.

“We don’t carry it.”

Wondering if this was a phenomenon to this particular bookstore, and living in the midwest where we have more than one Christian bookstore, I phoned two other stores to find out if they carried it. They don’t.

So I bought it at the hulking, secular Barnes & Noble. Where it was a best-seller.

Which is why I say I’m in the uncomfortable position of defending Rob Bell. What are we so afraid of that we can’t expose people to ideologies that may not hew closely to our tightly held evangelical beliefs? I’m no Biblical scholar, and I know so little about church history you wouldn’t be able to examine it under an electron microscope, but I didn’t spy any heresy in Love Wins. Unconventional thinking, sure, but the main points are all there. Jesus is still the savior, the cross and resurrection still the ultimate in redemption and the only way back to the Father.

Bell asks questions that he doesn’t answer, hems and haws, plays a bit of a shell game with Greek translations, but the overall message of the book is this: don’t base your faith on pocketing a “Get Out of Hell Free” card and instead join the redemptive work God is doing in the world right now.

So why does the Christian subculture refuse to let Rob Bell make this point to Christians? Why are they shying away from this particular controversial figure while prominently displaying material from authors that non-evangelical Christians find controversial?

I tried to contact the corporate offices of these three stores to put these very questions to them. Of the three, two of them gave me a “No comment” while the third one emailed me a prepared statement saying they “have thoroughly reviewed and discussed the title… and have decided that this book does not align with [their] beliefs.”

These stores are free to sell whatever they want, but I wish I could know the rationale that went into the Love Wins ban. One store even went so far as to pull all of Rob Bell’s previous works (but you can still buy seven different books by or about that other evangelical self-styled and media-savvy iconoclast, Sarah Palin). What was their thinking? They won’t tell me. Feel free to speculate in the comments section below.

Rob Bell is not a litmus test, nor is Love Wins, but the furor sparked by the book, as well as the kneejerk reactions of the evangelical subculture are yet another reason to bring up a question we ask all the time here on Internet Monk:

What are we so afraid of?

Why, as Christians, can we not simply marry for love?



  1. Ok, I haven’t read the Rob Bell book. But, I am amazed that the Christian bookstores “won’t go there” with Rob Bell but Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen are on all the shelves??? How is Osteen NOT a heretic but Bell is?

    • But Osteen is so nice.

    • Its all about money, and why shouldn’t it be. The bookstores are stores, they sell things…that’s how they pay their mortgages and feed their kids. The stores regular patrons would stop buying things in them if they carried Rob Bell’s book, but the patrons are either in love with or at least ambivalent to Osteen and Meyer. So as a business they made a business decision on how to keep their business open. Christian bookstores ARE NOT ministries or even non-profit organizations. For them its all about the money they earn from catering to a certain segment of our culture.

      • Sounds like censorship by selection and preference. Is it is based on economic goals? No problem at Barnes & Noble. But no self respecting person in a Lifeway would be seen buying that book unless, like pornography, they slipped a Tim LaHaye cover over it and quickly stuffed it into a brown paper bag .

        • Agreed Staurt. Fundegelicals can be hard to gauge at times because they can be so reactionary. There is no consistency to their standards. At the fundgelical mega church I used to attend here in DC they would keep John Eldredge out of their bookstore and small group program because he is an open theist. And despite this church’s harsh stance toward spiritual gifts they have no problem whatsoever using the music and carrying spiritual material from the largest Pentacostal church in Australia. 😯

          (Eagle scratches head…)

    • Given some of the dross I’ve found in my local Christian bookstores, it’s really pathetic that *this* is the book which apparently crosses a line… :-/

    • Given some of the toxic material in a lot of fundy bookstores, I’m amazed the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t declared them a superfund sight!! 😛

    • It’s funny. One of the links Christianity Today posted on Facebook today regarded churches in Ghana confronting fake pastors. How can you tell a fake pastor from a real one? The fake ones seem to be the “successful” ones.

  2. Honestly, it’s the fear of the slippery slope…which really exists (the slope that is). No one knows where the edge is, but we’re tired of falling off it. Bad theology (though not always out right heretical) is pervasive and growing in our communities, then Rob Bell wants to ask questions about the few things we still hold on to pretty tightly. He might be questioning motives and understanding, but it feels like he’s questioning Truth with REALLY poor scholarship and exegesis.

    • The reason I don’t stock it at our store is simply what Brendan says.
      Nothing to do with crossing a line or a ban.
      It is not well written and has lousy scholarship/reasoning, in my opinion. Why would I bother? I want to stock good quality books. I’m not out to make a buck.
      I’ll order it in for people though and give my personal opinion in the meantime.

  3. I read the book, and just re-read the first chapter. It’s not great as far as writing goes, but I liked it and found it thought provoking, even enjoyable, despite calling into question many of the things hammered into my head during my Southern Baptist, walk-the-aisle-and-say-the-magic-prayer upbringing.

    • i read his Velvet Elvis…he makes some great points in there, but his writing style takes some getting used to…

  4. I think yours is the best review of ‘Love Wins’ I’ve read thus far. I personally thought it was the weakest of his books that I’ve read, but I thought that charges of heresy were greatly overblown.

    *In case you’re wondering, I’ve also read ‘Velvet Elvis’, ‘Sex God’, and ‘Jesus Wants to Save Christians’.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      So the worst you can say about it is not Heretical but just Lightweight?

      • Yes, I think it has other weaknesses (the writing isn’t that great at parts; no citations for his research, etc.), but heresy isn’t among them.

  5. the response to Rob Bell the glaring symptom of fear. that is one reason i do appreciate him even though i may not totally agree with his conclusions or even how he gets to a conclusion thru the twisting+turning manner he takes his reader thru.

    i find him less threatening than say a Mark Driscoll or John MacArthur. why? it is all in the delivery i suppose. whereas Bell actually ‘invites’ questions & encourages thoughtful discovery, the for-certain Reformist spokesman with all their intellectual/scholarly & strength of personality assurance come across as more smug. arrogant. superior. and therefore they feel much more qualified to speak up/out against any perceived than those that question the concept of hell or homosexuality or Arminianism. it is this knee-jerk quash any perceived heretics before they have a chance to elicit respectful conversation that had me convinced the messenger was as crucial to the message as Paul pointed out. loud clanging cymbals putting the doctrinal kibosh or any doctrinal contrariness i tune out. doesn’t matter what theological notions they uphold, being cocky about it or having that distasteful air of superiority simply has me thinking what they are preachin’ ain’t what they’re practinin’…

    • Actually I feel just the opposite. Dr. Macarthur will plainly state what he believes the Bible says. You are free to ignore him.

      But Bell (and his buddy Mclaren) are evasive. They take the moral high ground (pretending to be humble), all the while exuding “cool shame” against anyone who disagrees with them (“you’re so arrogant, to believe in absolutes”). Again, actual debate or arguments are below them. They “just want to ask questions”.

      Maybe it’s just me.

      • I don’t see anything that looks like Bell denying absolutes anywhere. Actually, I’ve heard him say a number of times in person and in interviews that what he’s interested in is actually talking about the Truth as it stands apart from our little subculture’s attempt to claim it for ourselves. He’s not wishy-washy at all. He simply starting from a different place. Where Bell starts from is the assertion that God is love and the God love us all, and the ultimate expression of that love is Christ and what He did while on earth and ultimately at the cross.

        • But what is love? For many, love is defined by rock songs and mushy feelings. That is Bell’s starting position.

          • Hardly… I would say love is defined as Christ dying for us while we were sinners. I think Bell would say something similar.

            How would you define it?

          • Love is proclaiming what is truth, and doing what is right.

          • Well I’ve also seen fundegelicals “in the name of love” use the Bible to beat the living crap out of someone in sin. WWJB (Who Would Jesus Beat) 😛 😛

          • One more Mike says

            Who Would Jesus Beat!! Now that’s funny!!!!!!!


      • when i was actively involved in the charismatic/Pentecostal leg of my faith journey, MacArthur came out with his book Charismatic Chaos…

        since he himself was never a charismatic, his observations on some issues he railed against were not only uncharitable, but flat out mistaken…

        the reason i wanted to read this book was simply to be challenged by an outside observer that did see things that were indeed questionable, quirky, esoteric, just plain wack. but how he went about it along with the co-author (was it Hank Hanegraaff?) became an effort in making fun of things he had no business trying to address…

        to be honest, i did find some of the questing helpful as it supported some of my unease about things i had personally experienced & had questions about…

        there was an anecdote being shared at that time which could have been as much urban legend as truth, where MacArthur ended up in the same elevator at some convention or hotel with Jack Hayford shortly after the book was released. the encounter was, well, one of tense acknowledgment of the topics tackled in it.

        there where well-founded responses from the charismatic camps most notably the Vineyard & 4Square churches. some of the sloppy writing or conclusions certainly needed to be rightly addressed, but it was funny that MacArthur attempted to pass himself off as an expert in charismatic church history & experience when he himself incapable of providing personal experience or having any real authority to do so. it was then i began to recognize this trend of speaking up about something that did need to be questioned, but not debunked with self-appointed authority as he came across doing…

        • The book (Charismatic Chaos) creates straw men examples by using quotes out of context, which men it then blows down. And readers who don’t check out these things for themselves remain snug (smug?) in their anti-Charismatic positions, believing the “proven” claims of McArthur.

      • I found it hard to ignore some of MacArthurs comments about Catholics when my family was burying my Irish Catholic grandmother in 2009. Lovely way to go through a funeral…

    • Fundegelicals use fear to control people. Many do it…that was one of the take aways I got from John Piper when I read his book “Don’t Waste Your Life” I was afraid that unless you do something extraordinary (this is during my drink the kool-aide, brainwashed fundy days…) you weren’t doing anything for God. You take away the fear…they lose power. Maybe that’s why fundy’s say and do the things that they do. When a tornado hit an ELCA church in Minneapolis where the Lutheran Church was debating homosexuality, was John Piper trying to capitalize on people’s fear who lived through the ordeal? The timing of some of certain Christian books begs the question…..

  6. I read Bell’s book almost as soon as it came out, and I really liked it. I guess I’m sort of a fan of Bell, but not in the “OMG, he’s so great” way. I just think what he does is useful because it creates a hunger and interest in people for theological thinking who typically would have no use for it. Personally, I think I liked Love Wins a little more than his other books simply because I think it revealed his heart more than the other books he has written. Also, I think that there is simply a dearth of accessible books talking about the cosmic scope of salvation . There are a number of books by N.T. Wright that I could point to that do a better job than Bell does, but, let’s face it, there are lot of people who will read Bell that would never think to read anything by Wright.

    I actually was able to go to one of Bell’s speaking engagements on his tour for the book, and the thing that came across to me the most from that evening was that Bell really thinks that theology should serve the church, not vice versa. What I mean by that is that Bell has no interest in arguing theology simply to be right. Virtually every question he answered or story he told was from a pastoral perspective. He came across as being genuinely interested in the people he talked about and interacted with. I really think his goal is to show people the love of the Father more than anything else.

    • “I really think his goal is to show people the love of the Father more than anything else.’

      I think so, too, Phil. This is the only Rob Bell book I read and I did like it. I was quite sure in reading the book that he was influenced by Lewis and Wright and since he recommended them as further reading at the end of the book, I am now sure of it.

      I know some people don’t like the style of his writing, but I enjoyed it. I was a nice change of pace from the stuff I usually read.

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Ahh… the book that kicked off the “Rob Bell vs Team Hell” knock-down-drag-out.

    • haha, let me know when they print the T-shirts

    • We need to have a WWF professional wrestling match. Tag team Mark Driscoll and John Piper vs. Rob Bell and Brian McClaren. I’ll put down $20.00 on Rob Bell! 😛

      • Yes, but could they agree on the rules of the match? …and who gets to make the rules??

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    So why does the Christian subculture refuse to let Rob Bell make this point to Christians? Why are they shying away from this particular controversial figure while prominently displaying material from authors that non-evangelical Christians find controversial?

    My guess?

    Huge Installed Customer Base, same as the QWERTY keyboard or internal-combustion automotive infrastructure.

    They’ve got so much invested (both financially and emotionally) in the Altar Call Get-Out-of-Hell-Free-Card scenario it’d be too devastating to change. So much invested in the sealed-off Just-Like-Fill-in-the-Blank-Except-CHRISTIAN Christianese subculture where they can their noses squeeky-clean waiting for the Rapture that switching to any other approach means all their life and culture and time and energy invested would come to naught — “Vanity, vanity, all is Vanity!”

    And that is one of the scariest situations to find yourself in, to the point that you have to justify spending your life in the old paradigm by sticking to that paradigm no matter what and viewing the other as a mortal threat. We see the same dynamic working out in Creation-vs-Evolution.

    • OR, is it possible that some simply disagree with him? And who is “refusing to let him make his point”? What does this even mean? Of course he can make his point. He is on every TV show, the cover of TIME, and the subject of every blog. But aren’t people who disagree with him free to say so? I find it hilarious that when he teaches some old liberal ideas packaged as some new thing, saying he is only trying to start a conversation, those who enter the conversation are said to be unloving conservative brutes. Both his attackers and defenders at that point have played right into his hands.


      • Brendan H says

        “Those that enter the conversation” make such brilliant ripostes as “Goodbye, Rob Bell.”

        That’s not a conversation.

        • I agree with you on that, I do not support that kind of response. I just think it is OK to converse, even debate. Reactionary comments like Piper’s don’t help anything.


    • When I was in Mormonism HUG I occasionaly bumped into a situation where some people had difficulty with the LDS faith. Despite those deep concerns the Mormon church was their life, and they stayed because they are comfortable with that approach. The thought of leaving the LDS faith and losing friends, community, support network, etc.. is too much. I was surprised after my own spiritual faith crisis that I discovered many fundegelicals act similar to the Mormons on a host of issues. You don’t rock the boat, you go along, shut you mouth and fit in.

      But admitting your wrong about the rapture, or any other screwed up part of fundegeliclasim I think is one of the biggest acts of humility that can be displayed. Yet I don’t think we’ll see that becuase as the entire Rob Bell situation has shown how many evangelicals are a slave to pride. From John Piper, to Mark Driscoll to Christian book stores. This review was very surprising, it almost confirms what Chaplin Mike said about the reactionary nature of some fundgelicals a few months back.

      • To be fair it isn’t just Piper and Driscoll railing against this guy. Many confessional Lutherans have railed against these teachings for some time. Listen to Chris Rosebrough sometime. Maybe the reason why people get so reactionary is because Piper et. al are reactionary and we automatically go on the defensive when they speak. I am not a fan of Piper or Driscoll mainly because I am not a Calvinist and I was left in a devastating place after being led by some Piper disciples but, just because I have no desire at all to engage with their material or listen to their podcasts or ever come in contact again with those that adore them, it doesn’t mean they are wrong about this. I hear some good things about Bell but, I have heard from others not just in this Piper camp warn people about Bells propositions. Just a thought.

        • Agreed. I don’t like railing against anyone, but after you get past the more knee-jerk reactions from both pro and con, there are quite a few people who haven’t been fans but don’t use the Emergent/Bell world as a punching bag. I’ve read plenty of people who would be prone to like Bell, but didn’t think too much of the book.

          I know this don’t fit the “fundagelical” meme that’s festering around here, but Christianity is bigger than the pigeon-holing of naming and shaming — and that goes for everyone.

        • True…but there are some differences. John Piper, Mark Driscoll, etc..have a stage and they have people who follow their teachings without examing them through a critical thought process. They also have resources and use it against Rob Bell and others. The battles they choose are quite subjective especially in regards to “Emergent” etc.. I mean after all John Piper tweeted off Rob Bell saying, “farewell” in a flippant manner. Is that how discussion is supposed to be engaged? Part of the problem I suggest is that John Piper and others have clung to things and don’t allow discussion on them. It’san all or nothing approach, with this take it or leave it attitude. I would like to know why Christianity has become so unconditional and unflexible. There’s a larger interpretation that just the neo-Calvinist approach. Remember…John Calvin is the “in” thing with young people. That’s why individuals such as John Piper are popular. But remember the fundegelicals go through fads. In 15 years people will yawn at John Calvin’s teachings and find someone new to cling to. It’s a part of church history. It’s on going cycle….

          • I think it’s true that many leaders have people who believe what they say without any critical examination of the message, it’s a bit unfair to criticize certain leaders when blind following can be found just about anywhere. There are some who will not entertain questioning or discussion on many subjects, but I’ve found that most pastors or leaders (in my experience anyway) don’t mind questions; they simply know what they believe and won’t budge on that issue.

            Why is Christianity so unconditional and inflexible? Some issues (alcohol use, dancing, the how of creation, mode of worship) are, to borrow the expression, open handed. We don’t have to agree on some issues to enjoy unity under Jesus. Other issues are closed handed: the trinity, the sinfulness of man, sanctification by faith alone, these issues are essential to the Christian faith and cannot be compromised. Unfortunately some folks don’t seem to understand the difference between the two.

            Fads come and go among some believers, which I think is more about human nature than something exclusive to the Christian community.

            I’ve heard the term fundegelical before, and I know what you mean. I don’t know you personally, but based on some of your comments you seem to have been badly hurt spiritually in the past. Please continue to seek Jesus. I know some of His hard headed followers (or in some cases “followers”) can be rude, hurtful, controlling, and want to be “always right”, but please don’t miss Jesus who said “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17). Jesus came to save. Grace and peace!


          • Eagle, you are right. Piper behaves in a very cold manner. Remember he is a Baptist first and a Calvinist second. Both of those aspects normally give you a bit of coldness. There is a reason why I have heard Calvinists call themselves the Frozen Chosen.

  9. I appreciate your remarks on the Christian bookstores. I certainly wouldn’t mind if they sold the book, though in truth their reasons for the embargo are probably economic (they believe they would lose more business by selling the book than they would gain).

    As for you review of the book, your assessment of it’s contents seems breezy unless hell is not really a serious subject.

    • hell is a hot topic nowadays (just couldn’t resist)… 😉

      yes, it is a very serious subject. but not just the theological considerations & how the graphic imagery of hell developed throughout Church history. that itself is a fascinating study in itself. it isn’t that the topic or gradual development of hell problematic as is they way it has been used, manipulated, presented, & in a way almost worshiped as a core doctrine unto itself…

      i think Bell as well as others posting here that there is very significant exaggeration & over emphasis of the concept of hell as it has been abused throughout the centuries. i am not a budding Universalist although i appreciate the theological argument for it. for the most part, it would seem those of the staunch Calvinist camp would be the last ones to defend the more ghoulish details of it so vigorously if in fact God has already determined who is damned & who is not…

      and that is what is usually missed in Bell’s dealing with the topic. is he trying to reel in the traditional religious hype concerning hell & bringing it back to its proper place as treated by Jesus & the Early Church? interesting to do a study on every one of Jesus’ statements about hell, hades, sheol. when viewed in context to the setting He addresses it, exactly who is He addressing & why? and did He ever use the topic in a way we have seen it be used today? i have heard some pretty graphic descriptions of hell intended to shock the hearer into some intended response. did i think it effective? appropriate? done in context to the grander story of redemption & the heart of God???

      nope. and that is why Bell is dredging up this old topic once again. i don’t think he is ‘watering’ down the reality of hell or that God will address every wrong. i think Bell wants to unburden the concept of hell from accumulated theological baggage that has been added where it was never intended. can this be done without fear? or done respectfully? intelligently? even passionately? if not, why not?

      yes, hell is serious business. but let’s view it not as an equal opposite of heaven, but a condition God remains in absolute control of & may even manage in a way we cannot comprehend from this side of the veil…

      • One of the issues I can’t move past and am stuck on is the concept of hell for people that never heard the gospel. Okay…so someone in Oklahoma City has an opportunity to accept Christ and they deny him and go about their life. That I can understand if a person WHEN given the opportunity to God says “No” A person such as that going to hell makes sense. Now you take someone in Wuhan, China on the Yangtze River in 100 AD. They are born, they live and they die. They have had no Bible and no missionarys who visit them to tell them the “Good News”. And these people are going to go to hell becuase they never did business with God? That’s what a loving God will do? (Eagle scratches his head…) I wish fundys would address this issue and try and explain it. It seems as if many will ignore it, or as I heard once in my fundgelcal church in DC they will quote Romans and say, “there is no execuse for not knowing God”. How they can say that in some situations just makes the bullshit alarm go off in my head. There has to be another explanation….

        • hell is an area that I believe many sincere but mistaken Christians venture out into when really it is none of their business to make vain assumptions about its supposed inhabitants, how they get there & why…

          there is much more certainty given the topic than is really revealed to us in scripture. and the historical fill-in of added details has not helped with the current version(s) accepted today.

          then it is how such concepts are used that makes hell out to be a tool of acceptable homiletics. or live presentations/crusades ala Heaven’s Gates & Hell’s Flames…


          being that God is indeed merciful & i believe will err on the side of grace vs. judgment (James 2:13) i think He does work with the moral awareness/sensitivity in every human being regardless of culture or time they inhabited. after all, the Golden Standard of all human behavior is Jesus & since we do know no one can meet such perfection it will have to be according to God’s use of that standard that anyone can stand. those that have not heard the gospel do not exist in a vacuum as robots simply meant to fill in a quota of humanity with their eternal fate already sealed. i think their are those individuals that have a sense of their fallenness/brokenness together with a concept of a creator/deity that is close to what we have defined Him to be thru Church history. and what about children that die? babies. stillborn. or every fertilized egg whether or not it develops much after that. are NDE something worth considering? one child that have had a NDE identified his sister that was either stillborn or died shortly after birth.

          since there is little detail about what happens at death, let alone the final destination of every created soul throughout history, we can determine that Jesus kept such information deliberately vague. i don’t think He ever intended for extended trips there to help fill in the details. Mary K. Baxter anyone? i think He left us with just enough information to be sober minded about our very limited/fragile life & how He came to conquer death+hell as the Last Adam. and do i feel it is necessary to toss in the gory details of hell when sharing the gospel? personally, i do not add to anything that isn’t stated by Jesus in the context He is recorded mentioning it. in other words, i am less inclined to inflate hell’s importance in the gospel message & make it the bait-and-switch deal it sometimes is used as.

          i do not fear or dread hell. not for myself personally. and not for my loved ones. not because i think it is unimportant, i just don’t need to add to anything they have not already heard. in other words, it is not a foreign concept to them. i was not raised in a hell pressured Evangelical “gotta witness” religious upbringing which may account for my low-key understanding of hell in the gospel message…

          anyway, we all have to come to some theological conclusions regardless of alternate viewpoints & how they are either emphasized or discounted. part of our faith journey Eagle. i do not feel any need to defend my viewpoints or raise them up as the new standard all others will be measured by. i live out my faith quietly, daily, thoughtfully & i let myself off-the-hook many, many years ago to be the bible answer man…

          blessings on your journey…

          • Michaela Stephens says

            Doctrine & Covenants 137
            A vision given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, in the temple at Kirtland, Ohio, 21 January 1836 (see History of the Church, 2:380–81). The occasion was the administration of the ordinances of the endowment as far as they had then been revealed.

            1–6, The Prophet sees his brother Alvin in the celestial kingdom; 7–9, The doctrine of salvation for the dead is revealed; 10, All children are saved in the celestial kingdom.

            1The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell.

            2I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire;

            3Also the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son.

            4I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold.

            5I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept;

            6And marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.

            7Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;

            8Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;

            9For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.

            10And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.

          • Michaela….

            I don’t think the answer to the question about hell is going to be found in Mormonism. Been there..done that!!

        • Ah, the missionary’s dilemna:

          Eskimo: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”
          Priest: “No, not if you did not know.”
          Eskimo: “Then why did you tell me?”
          (quote from Annie Dillard)

          Actually Eagle, your comments could easily generate a whole new discussion. For the moment, let it suffice that when the book of Romans says that all men are without excuse, that logically means that all men (including our ancestors in Wuhan in 100 AD) have had opportunity. Romans 2:14 implies this, even though the phrase “law unto thmselves” makes some people very nervous.

          • You know, as sad as this is, that quote makes me realize that deep down there is a part of me that feels that the Gospel is a trap. Isn’t that awful?

        • I know you complained about having Romans quoted at you, but how about this part:

          14 Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.

          People have an innate knowledge of good and evil and will be judged according to that, even if they don’t know the Law. The thing is, who can honestly say that they have a completely clean conscience?

          • So it doesn’t very culture by culture…. What people will do in China they will also do in Saudi Arabia or Brazil. Things don’t change. How are people who don’t know about the law expected to understand it? I think in your explanation the culture is being left out, and that is a contributing factor in all this discussion. Do you understand what I am saying?

        • ‘For you have often asked: “A man is born
          upon the bank along the Indus, with no one there
          to speak, or read, or write of Christ,

          “and all that he desires, everything he does, is good.
          As far as human reason can discern,
          he is sinless in his deeds and in his words.

          “He dies unbaptized, dies outside the faith.
          Wherein lies the justice that condemns him?
          Wherein lies his fault if he does not believe?”

          the eagle once again began: ‘To this kingdom
          no one ever rose without belief in Christ,
          whether before or after He was nailed up on the tree.

          ‘But observe that many shout out ‘Christ, O Christ!’
          who shall be farther off from Him,
          on Judgment Day, than such as know not Christ.

          ‘The Ethiopian shall condemn such Christians
          when the two assemblies go their separate ways,
          the one forever rich, the other poor.

          ‘What shall the Persians say then to your kings
          when they see that volume lying open
          in which their many infamies are all inscribed?

          The question is this: given that the rational virtues are not sufficient to save, and that unaided human reason cannot come to proper faith without the Divine Revelation in Scripture and the grace of God, how is it consonant with God’s justice that those who have never had a chance to hear the Gospel may be damned for simple lack of faith and not for sin?

          And the answer is debatable, because we don’t know what will happen. We cannot say with certainty of any one human being that he or she is undoubtedly, unquestionably, in Hell. Not even Hitler or bin Laden.

          ‘Let the people, then, not be too certain
          in their judgments, like those that harvest in their minds
          corn still in the field before it ripens.

          ‘For I have seen the briar first look dry and thorny
          right through all the winter’s cold,
          then later wear the bloom of roses at its tip,

          ‘and once I saw a ship, which had sailed straight
          and swift upon the sea through all its voyage,
          sinking at the end as it made its way to port.

          ‘Let not Dame Bertha and Master Martin,
          when they see one steal and another offer alms,
          think that they behold them with God’s wisdom,

          for the first may still rise up, the other fall.’

          The question of the virtuous pagan and the unbaptised infant was what brought about the concept of Limbo: since we are all born under the stain of Original Sin, which means we are debarred from Heaven unless we are united with Christ through baptism, then the unbaptised/unbelieving cannot be saved. Yet God is just, and so how can it be just to condemn to torment those who have done nothing to deserve it?

          So the hypothesis of Limbo (which I’m old enough to know, and which – let me digress quickly – was never taught as a doctrine that must be believed on pain of anathema, but rather was permitted to be taught as a speculation that was not contrary to faith. I know a lot of people think that Limbo *had* to be believed and then after Vatican II it was dropped so that the Church changed her mind, but it’s really more like science – a better hypothesis comes along, so you change the theory. Theology is the Queen of the Sciences, after all).

          Limbo was conceived as being such that the pains of Limbo are simply the deprivation of the Beatific Vision (and so there is no hope there). Otherwise, it is a place of “perfect natural felicity” – the Elysium of the Greeks and Romans, if you will. No bodily ailments or ills, no pain, no suffering, no war – the reward of the natural virtues. But Heaven is reserved for the supernatural ones.

          Well, the modern idea is that we don’t know. So we must rely on the mercy of God. It is to be hoped that dead infants and children below the age of reason are in Heaven, and we have no reason to think otherwise. As for virtuous adults, that is all in the inscrutable purview of God’s judgement, which we cannot speculate about, except to say that God is both just and merciful, and justice may surprise us with its results.

          What we should be concerned with is not the spiritual fate of someone ten thousand miles away, but our own; we are the only ones that we can say, with any certainty, are going to Hell.

          • Wow!! You have some good poetry Martha!! You are really gifted with that!! 🙂

          • Eagle, it’s not my poetry, it’s from the “Paradiso”, the final volume of the “Divine Comedy” by Dante (sheesh, you’d think I was getting paid to push him or something).

            It’s the recent translation by the Hollanders (a professor at Princeton and his wife who is a poet). I really liked his first two volumes, but found the “Paradiso” less involving – however, the entire project is excellent.

            You can find the translation online at the Princeton Dante Project, but the books have very extensive, very good notes which fill in the historical, theological, political and so on background (extremely useful when you’re trying to navigate through the tangles of Florentine politics and who was exiling whom when).

        • Well, Eagle, you may appreciate this quote from John Wesley [though few evangelicals seem to be aware of it], and from memory so it may not be a hundred percent exact but close:

          ‘He that believeth not shall be damned’ is spoken of them to whom the Gospel is preached. Others it does not concern. And we are not required to determine anything regarding their final destiination. But this we know, ‘that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.’

        • lona mueller says

          David Bercot’s, “A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs” [Ante-Nicene Fathers] is the only commentary on the Scriptures I really seriously care about. Unfortunately, there is presently only one online source: check out and scroll down to “Christ’s descent into Hades.”

          (link removed. Please direct people to sources w/o using links)

  10. Loved this line – “That said, there’s nothing revolutionary in Love Wins that I hadn’t read before. Imagine putting N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, and part three of Robert Farrar Capon’s Between Noon and Three into a blender and running it on high until it becomes an easily digestible slurry. But instead of drinking the whole thing, just skim the surface. That’s Love Wins.” Well said.

    I hear what you’re saying. All in all, I liked the book (though Surprised By Hope is the book to read). Which is why I found myself handing out SBH more than Love Wins at my church. It was the best “bait and switch” I ever had and the first I never regretted 😉

    While I appreciated certain parts of the book, I thought it fell a little flat at the end and thought it didn’t pay enough attention to the role of the Holy Spirit. He asked excellent questions, offering answers without being dogmatic about his position and of course did an incredible job at creating conversation. Honestly, I think I’m going to look back on this as a good thing. (I blogged other thoughts too in case you are interested).

    I do want to say that I think it’s cool that you defended the book though you don’t particularly care for Rob’s style.

    • I do want to say that I think it’s cool that you defended the book though you don’t particularly care for Rob’s style.

      Second that…. even cooler than peroxide blonde hair and Birkenstocks…


      • I will “third’ that. This was a very fair review of Bell’s book, Michael. Thank you!

        • That should be ADAM, where I wrote Michael! Darn. That’s the second time I did that in comments here. Sorry, Adam. Adam, Adam, Adam.

          • That’s a natural mistake, Joanie. There are so many MIchaels on here, it’s a bit like the Philosophy Department of the University of Woolloomooloo where everyone is called Bruce, and when a new professor joins who isn’t called Bruce, he is immediately dubbed “New Bruce”, to avoid confusion.

            So Adam is really “New Michael” 😉

  11. Frequent Internetmonk contributor – Scott L., has a review of Rob Bell’s book which is also worth reading.

    Go to and search for “love wins by rob bell review”

  12. Wait a minute…I thought Piper already sent this guy to Hell! What’s he doing with a new book out?

    I’m gonna go home, pray with some saints, and kiss my Bulgarian Orthodox icon of Christ on the Cross. Then I’m going to pray the Jesus prayer a few times, and read some Eusebius and Eugene Peterson later on tonight.

    I am iMonk. Hear me roar.

    • “I’m gonna go home, pray with some saints, and kiss my Bulgarian Orthodox icon of Christ on the Cross. Then I’m going to pray the Jesus prayer a few times, and read some Eusebius and Eugene Peterson later on tonight. I am iMonk. Hear me roar.”

      Well played, sir.

    • Cute, Lee!

  13. I was a bit surprised to find this book at both Family Christian Stores and Mardel:

    Angry Conversations With God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir by Susan E. Isaacs.

    Maybe they don’t know that it has its fair share of vulgarisms, and the author doesn’t tidy up the details of her messy sex and drinking life. Which is one reason why it only took me a few minutes of skimming it to decide to buy it.

    ‘Cause it’s authentic and spiritual (and humorous) and centers on Jesus. And asks the questions of God and faith that “nice Christians” aren’t supposed to ask.

    Kinda like Rob Bell does.

    Put Isaacs’ book on your Shopping List.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Susan is a frequent contributor and occasional interviewee on Steve Brown, Etc. With only one exception, I find her blogs at SBE to be the best writing there. She’s flippin’ awesome.

      • Well, now I have to look into Susan Isaacs. I like reading Anne Lamott. Does that bode well for me liking Susan Isaacs?

  14. Each of us are given different spiritual gifts. Rob Bell’s happens to be a remarkable ability to connect with mostly white, relatively affluent, college-educated Gen Xers and younger.

    His style, both speaking and writing, won’t appeal to a lot of people outside that group. And that’s all right. There are other people God has selected for that task (like N.T. Wright).

  15. Well, this was a rather unhelpful review. It was more about the reaction to the book rather than the book itself. Actually, I’ve noticed that while Bell’s critics actually quote the book and examine his arguments, pro-Bell reviews mostly consist of “conservatives are mean.” I’ve found these to be the most helpful and thorough reviews:

    See Jason Berggren’s April 4th review at his blog
    See Kevin DeYoung’s review at Gospel Coalition

    I find it funny how so many reviews say that Bell’s just asking questions. Calling the view of Hell that every branch of Christianity has believed for 2000 years “toxic” and “misguided” sounds a lot more like a proclamation.

    (links removed–please direct people to sources w/o using links)

    • “I find it funny how so many reviews say that Bell’s just asking questions.”

      Yes, I agree, Cipher. He asked questions and then he presented answers. He specifically said something like “Here are some answers.”

      • But that’s not how his defenders present it. It’s always made out as if Bell’s just asking questions like the 13 year old in a youth group, rather than using that as a rhetorical tool to present an argument, in this case post-mortem salvation. Bell is not simply ruffling feathers to get people thinking, he wants to retell the Gospel in a way that runs completely counter to how it has been since its beginning.

    • The reason it’s hard to take many of the negative reviews of the book too seriously is that they are basically equating “historical Christianity” with being “big R” Reformed or Calvinist. That is most obvious in DeYoung’s review that you mention. The thing is these guys refuse to accept the fact that the Gospel can be explained in a number of different contexts and that there are valid ways to conceptualize atonement apart from a rigid penal substitutionary scheme in which Jesus’ death was primarily, if not only, a way to appease the wrath of God.

      Actually, I think many of the controversy surrounding the book is rooted in what Michael Spencer referred to as “transactionalism”, or the idea that what we do determines the way God reacts to us. The fact is a lot of Christians still operate from this assumption, and they simply have a nagging fear that some day the other shoe will drop. I know I did for a long time. It’s taken me quite a while to come to the place where I honestly believe God’s love for me is unconditional. And at its heart, that is what Love Wins is saying – God’s love for us all is unconditional. Could Bell have more airtight arguments, a better handle on writing style, history? Sure, I suppose so. But talking about those things doesn’t really matter to me if we as Christians can’t agree on the fundamental nature of what God is like. To me, that’s really the heart of the matter.

      • You mock me for equating historical Christianity with Reformed theology and yet you confuse what the Bible calls love with a 21st century Western sentimentalism. It might be good for you (and Rob Bell) to go and research ancient near east culture a bit. You’d learn a thing or two about Hell also.
        I know full well about other ways of understanding the gospel, like ancient patronage or Christus Victor, which Bell likes so much But that does not somehow mean that penal substitution stops existing, or that it is clearly taught in scripture. The funny thing is, it’s Calvinism and penal substitution that are the reason I know that God’s love is unconditional. The idea that what we do determines God’s response sounds like Arminianism to me.
        In the end, Bell is advocating the view that we get another chance at salvation after death. If this was normative Christianity, then I would become a Muslim. If I get another chance to go to Heaven (actually, Bell says we have infinite chances), then what I believe in this life doesn’t matter. I might as well believe something where my decision matters because if Bell is right, then I still get another chance. And that’s what’s dangerous about what he’s saying, because people could easily take it and use it to justify not carrying out the Great Commision, because everyone’s going to get a chance anyways.

        Oh, and we do know something about God’s fundamental nature: God is holy. Rob Bell’s “god” is not holy, and I want nothing to do with it.

        • Adam Palmer says

          Cipher: A couple of points.

          First, to your statement above that “pro-Bell reviews mostly consist of ‘conservatives are mean.'” I don’t believe I even came close to portraying that sentiment in this piece, but if that’s what you read, then let me set the record straight: I wrote this article as a means of bringing out the larger point of Bell’s book, which is that Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross is not a get-out-of-Hell-free card; it is an invitation to join in the redemptive work God is doing in the here and now.

          The theology behind “Love Wins” is nothing new, and I mostly agree with what he’s saying; I just get agitated by the way he’s saying it. MOST of it (not all) comes from N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, and Robert Farrar Capon, and I have neither the moxie nor book-learnin’ to tussle with any of those heavyweights.

          In your second comment, you wrote: “If I get another chance to go to Heaven (actually, Bell says we have infinite chances), then what I believe in this life doesn’t matter.” But that’s just the whole point of the book, to encourage people to take their eyes off an end goal that’s all tied up in sliding into heaven (or, better put, avoiding hell). Instead, Bell (bullet-pointing the argument made by N.T. Wright in “Surprised by Hope”) is encouraging believers to live in the here and now, to trust that Christ’s redemptive work is not something that happens at the end of our lives but that IS happening, right now, this very second. That, to me, was the message of “Love Wins.”

          One last thing: you’ve obviously read the book and you even more obviously take issue with much of the content. That is your prerogative. But please don’t assume that someone whose argument runs counter to yours is “mocking” you. That sort of thing will get us nowhere.

          Grace and peace (and I mean those sincerely, Cipher).


          • Adam and Phil, I apologize if I was harsh. This blog has a talent for hitting raw nerves for me. I was seeing red while writing that (actually, that was the second draft. I probably would have been banned for my first one). It’s a pathetic excuse, but I’m still young and have trouble controlling my emotions sometimes. Actually, I haven’t read the book, I’ve simply read many reviews and seen Rob Bell in other media.

            I’m probably not familiar enough with Wright or Capon to take them on, but over the years I have realized something that is personally very shocking: C.S. Lewis was wrong about Hell. People do not go willingly to Hell; they are thrown. The gates are not locked on the inside; God closes them shut. Lewis was a masterful writer, a first-rate thinker, and the biggest influence on the way I think about Christianity, but he was not a biblical scholar. The imagery he used for Hell, with perhaps a few exceptions, just aren’t biblical. (my thinking on Hell is best summed up by J.P. Holding at

            To be honest, I don’t see how the idea of people gaining salvation in Hell helps me live in the here and now. If everyone is going to always have the chance to be redeemed, then why should I spend my time helping them? I’m going to Japan in a few days to help with earthquake relief and evangelism for the summer. My motivation is the fact that, with Japan’s small Christian population, most of that nation is heading for Hell. And that thought distresses me so badly I can’t describe it. Because I don’t want anyone in Hell, I want to go and spread the gospel and show Christ’s love to them so they can be saved from that terrible punishment.

            But if they can gain salvation in Hell, then all the wind is taken out of my sails. Suddenly, there’s no urgency to spread the Gospel. I mean, sure they could spend a long time in Hell, but they’ll get out eventually. And 100 years, 1 million years, 100^100^100 years in Hell is nothing compared to eternity in Heaven, so they aren’t losing anything by not knowing Christ here. I might as well just sight see in Japan. Instead of caring about people here and now, Bell’s ideas would motivate me towards apathy, and that is what I find so dangerous about them.

            There are a lot of other issues I have with this book, like the insult it is to our brothers and sisters who have suffered and died for the cross, but this is getting too long. Adam, thank you for responding to my anger with kindness and gentleness. Again, I’m sorry for my lack of self control.

          • If people aren’t losing anything by not knowing Christ here if they don’t ultimately go to (or stay in) hell, then your Christ is kind of lame. I’d argue that when you stop believing in hell, you start viewing Jesus more highly.

          • Marie, since I’ve come to know Jesus, I have lost everything. Why should I cling to Christ now, and lose everything, when I can know Him later?

          • Is the fear of hell the only thing in christianity that motivates you?
            Is fear of a negative consequence, fear of punishment, the only thing to get you to act in a certain way?
            Do you want others to belief in God because they would fear for their own lives?
            Do you want them to accept some doctrines because then they escape torment?

            But in what way is your message good news?

            What about the words in first John, that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”?
            If God is love, and perfect love drives out fear, and this fear has to do with punishment, doesn’t this mean that punishment is out of the question?
            Doesn’t this mean that we are motivated by the love of God for us – the knowledge that he loves us, motivates us to love Him and others?
            Are we then not motivated to spread the good news (That God loves us) out of enthusiasm for this message, and not out of fear? Because it IS good news?


        • Cipher,
          The fundamental nature of God is that He is love. This is what we are told in 1 John 4:8. Paul also tells us in Colossians that Christ is the image of the invisible, meaning that Christ is the perfect representation of the Father. If a tradition or doctrine presents a picture of God that differs greatly from what was revealed in Christ I question it.

          Yes God is holy, but saying God is holy doesn’t mean He is something that is altogether unapproachable. It means He maintains His sacred separateness from creation. The wonder of the cross, though, is that through Christ we are all invited into the eternal dance of the Trinitarian perichoresis.

          As far as whether we “need” hell to maintain evangelical fervor, I’d say I grew up with that as a constant nagging to me. I was constantly told that I needed to witness to my classmates, people I met on the street, or whoever because if I failed to, I would be responsible for them missing their chance to avoid hell. I tell ya, it’s a lot of pressure on a 12 year kid. I dealt with this guilt for a long time in my life.

          But then, a few years ago, something started changing in my heart. I believe it was as a result of my leading a campus ministry where I got to meet a lot of kids from all sorts of backgrounds. I started realizing that my motivation to evangelize these kids out of fear was actually blinding my eyes to actually relating to them as people. It was only when I let go of my worry for their eternal state and let God deal with that that I started feeling freedom to actually be a real person. I believe God loves all these people unconditionally, and He does want to deliver and save people, and He actually wants to work through us. The question, is though, are serving God out of joy or out of duty. I’ve done the duty thing. It sucks, and I’m through with it.

          I do commend you for wanting to reach the Japanese people affected by their horrible circumstances. I do hope, though, that you see though, that they aren’t simply headed for hell, and that a lot them are dealing with hell on earth now. I pray that you reveal the love of the Father to them as you are there, and I pray that even through this tragedy, you can be Jesus’ hands and feet to them.

    • Dear Cipher,
      I really really don’t like cyber arguments, but as I’ve been doin a bit of research on Church history lately, a comment you made really struck me.

      “Calling the view of Hell that every branch of Christianity has believed for 2000 years “toxic” and “misguided” sounds a lot more like a proclamation.”

      I just posted a comment regarding the Orthodox perspective of heaven and hell, and it may interest you to read about it. Personally I don’t think Rob Bell is a heretical Christian – just maybe a heretical Protestant. 🙂 Also, I know that what a lot of what Orthodox Christians believe is difficult for Protestants to swallow. But even the Pope (and we all know that the Pope and the Eastern Orthodox do not have the friendliest of records) is kind of like, “Well, you gotta hand it to the Orthodox. They may actually be doing what the Apostles were doing in AD 33.”

      They have a strong tradition of “growth without change,” and I would say that if anybody has preserved ancient, historical, Christian doctrine for 2000 years, it’s the Orthodox Church – and no offense, but definitely not the Protestant Church, which let’s face it, didn’t exist until about 500 years ago (Really, no offense meant. I am Protestant…for now. 😉 ). And it turns out that Rob Bell is in many ways just echoing some of the basic theology that the Orthodox have upheld for a hecka long time. But I realize that since you’re a Calvinist, arguing from a non-sola-scriptura perspective is probably completely pointless. 🙂 And in that case, please don’t hesitate to disregard everything I say.

      Also I have a lot of Calvinist friends myself, and I don’t want to lump you all in one category but in my experience, you people are scholars! You really have a reputation for knowing why you believe what you believe, and that is commendable. Since you are a Calvinist, I know for a fact that you can argue your point, but I’m not too interested in arguing, just bringing something to the table.

      So, I just wanted to point you to my comment on Orthodox theology, if you are interested, and maybe you’ll find it as exciting as I did – or at least understand where Rob Bell may be coming from. Grace and peace!

  16. David Cornwell says

    I’ve read several reviews and discussions of the book and have no intention of reading it. But I sure like the way Adam Palmer writes.

    • Agreed. I wished he would have engaged with the argument of the book more, but his writing is wonderful.

      • Adam Palmer says

        Aw, thanks, fellas.

        Daniel, I intentionally wrote this piece to be less of a review OF the book and more of an opinion piece about the overall reaction TO the book. I wasn’t even planning on writing about it until that whole dust-up with my local Christian bookstore.

        As far as engaging with the argument of the book: Bell doesn’t really make much of an argument to engage with. He asks a lot of questions, then answers them with questions. The biggest argument he makes is not one for heaven or hell but rather one for his particular style of writing/teaching; I’d hazard to say I engaged with that argument quite a bit in this piece.

        Thanks for reading!


  17. Clay Knick says

    I’ve liked Mark Galli’s articles on the CT web page. I thought the book was rather creative, as one person has said a great piece of rhetoric, but an average theology text.

  18. That’s a review?

    • I think it was a fine review, Dave. Michael writes, “I didn’t spy any heresy in Love Wins. Unconventional thinking, sure, but the main points are all there. Jesus is still the savior, the cross and resurrection still the ultimate in redemption and the only way back to the Father.:

      That seems like an important thing to let people know.

    • Adam Palmer says

      Dave: See my response to Daniel a couple of comments up. Thanks for reading.

      Joanie: I’m extremely flattered that you got the impression Chaplain Mike wrote this review, but it was actually just li’l ol’ me.


      • Adam, I knew it was YOU who wrote this piece. Sorry I wrote “Michael.” When I wrote “Michael” for some reason I was thinking Michael Bell!

  19. Haven’t read the book yet but posts like this are one of the main reasons I keep hanging out here. This site is almost unique in its abiltiy to express differences and diversity with a strong foundation of charity towards others, even (especially) those with different views. I think this review expenplifies that.

    It makes me sad that this charitable approach is missing in many corners of evangelicalism.

    Have read a littel of Rob Bell and don’t think he’s a heretic. Not willing to consign him to hell like some already have. Whatever its flaws, I think his style and approach have the potential to bring the gospel to many who would never darken the doors of a typical conservative evangelical church. And for that I am glad.

    • “I think his style and approach have the potential to bring the gospel to many who would never darken the doors of a typical conservative evangelical church. And for that I am glad.”

      I agree, John.

      • i would caution using that rationale though. it is one thing to be gracious to Bell in his efforts, but we should not use the excuse to permit shallow theological approaches or witty novelty as a means to an end…

        just look at the responses to the David Barton approach in the previous article…

        we can use persuasion in a passionate way, but where does the writer cross the line by resorting to manipulation or marketing? remember, this one book was promoted thru video teaser & a stirring of the waters before it was ever launched…

        methodology is important to the message, no? how it is presented just as critical as the content. Bell much more huckster in the manner he introduced his book. is that necessary? honest? appropriate in the artificial way it was promoted?

        we discussed this marketing strategy in the first article about Bell & his book. i think it was the first on iMonk anyway. no doubt Bell is marketing savvy. and his publisher & PR folk provoked curiosity thru their method.

        anyone read McLaren’s book The Last Word and the Word After That? that was the last book i read of his. anyway, the concepts addressed are similar & done in a similar fashion. did they actually reshape or tweak or in any way change my view of hell? no. did they stimulate some thought with concepts i had not considered before? yes. was it sufficient in how it provided answers that were or still nagging? nope. using a questioning style was deliberate & i can appreciate it for them choosing to use it. however, i don’t see it being the new standard of making a case for or against anything of a theological nature.

        i am glad the questions do get asked though. and anyone that has already formulated their viewpoints have nothing to fear from such questioning. if i find David Barton’s historical tidbits unsavory & therefore avoid them, i can do the same with Bell or McLaren or any other writer/promoter. i have enough confidence in my faith tested journey to analyze & cling to any good discovered if i am willing to sift thru the larger proportion of chaff. sometimes the effort is too overwhelming for me to wade thru. and i feel mostly content to concentrate on the very truths i do believe in & find still a challenge to live out in my day-to-day…

        • but we should not use the excuse to permit shallow theological approaches or witty novelty as a means to an end
          Agreed, but that’s a subjective call sometimes. One man’s fresh and broad-based approach may be another’s shallow theology and mere witty novelty. If Bell were denying the deity of Christ or the substitutionary atonement or avoiding the gospel consistently and entirely (like some very popular preachers/authors), I’d see it differently.

          just look at the responses to the David Barton approach in the previous article
          Apples and oranges to some extent. Barton’s agenda is political/dominionist and he clearly distorts the truth and lacks credibility and peer review. Bell’s motive for the most part still seems to proclaim the gospel.

          we can use persuasion in a passionate way, but where does the writer cross the line by resorting to manipulation or marketing?
          Not sure, but I can usually identify it when I see it. If Bell does this, he’s certainly not the first or only Christian writer to resort to such. That doesn’t make it right, but it does spread the blame some. Including to the publishers and publicists,

          That said, I agree that I wouldn’t take Bell’s book as a deep theological reference work or the last word on the subject. In fact, there are very few works I’d do that with.

  20. Good review. Good comments. I have read the book and like it very much, but can understand why there could be disagreements. But the discussion is important. Great job Rob, Adam, et al.

  21. Good review. People are too quick to judge as if they are the authority on a particular subject matter. Thinking and asking questions are not bad things that is why God gave us a brain and the ability to think and reason in the first place. But I also could see with this book why issues arise that is why people should think and reason through those issues even if its different then what you have always done or thought. Dont be afraid of things just because they are different.

  22. So…does Gandhi go to hell or not?! I’m not reading it unless he answers it in a black and white fashion!

  23. I do think some of the rhetoric from Reformed quarters has been overly harsh and I didn’t think Kevin Deyoung’s review was very convincing (in particular, his treatment of “God is love” is rather pathetic).

    However, one thing his defenders miss is that Rob Bell has brought some of it on himself with his huge condemnations of traditional Christianity. People sometimes equate him to CS Lewis, but Lewis was irenic and cautious when he made a theological statement (for example, he was ambivalent about penal substitution, but he thought it was a reasonable position and did not condemn it as evil and toxic). Lewis was not a perfect theologian, but he was wise, kind, and charitable. Rob Bell, on the other hand, is deliberately inflammatory and makes sweeping overstatements.

    • I haven’t read the book by the way, but I have followed the discussion somewhat. My positions on hell are far from settled, but I will probably end up somewhere to the left of the Reformed view but not at universalism.

    • What exactly is “traditional Christianity”? I have Eastern Orthodox friends who are pretty sure that they represent the Christian tradition. And to be honest with you, a lot of what they believe about hell is pretty close to what Bell is talking about.

      What I see is a wrestling match from different powers that be about defining the boundaries of who is and who isn’t a “traditional Christian”. It’s more of the same type of power struggles that have defined evangelicalism for a very long time.

      Also, just to clarify something. Bell, as far as I know, doesn’t say that the doctrine of penal substitution is “evil and toxic”. Here is the quote from the book that people mention when they talk about his use of the word “toxic”.

      This love compels us to question some of the dominant stories that are being told as the Jesus story. A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and that to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.

      What Bell is saying is “misguided and toxic” is that a particular belief about the nature of hell is central to the Christian faith. And he’s correct about that. There isn’t a unified doctrine of hell that unites all Christian traditions, and making it a litmus test for true Christianity is simply wrong.

      • By “traditional Christianity”, I mean what a great number of Christians have believed for a long time, not necessarily all of them. I’m aware that the mainstream protestant view of hell is not a historic Christian dogma on the level of the deity of Christ. The Orthodox church does have a very different framework, and even the Catholic church is somewhat agnostic on whether you can always be certain a specific person will end up in hell.

        At the same time, both quotes and promotional videos suggest that Rob Bell is deliberately going over the top to be provocative. I think Rob Bell set the tone of this debate, and while I’m ambivalent toward the neo-Calvinist movement I can understand their reaction in light of that.

        • Well, yeah, I guess Bell is certainly trying to be provocative in some respect. Not any more so than the people he’s provoking, though. The thing that always strikes me as hilarious about the neo-Calvinists, as you say, is that they have no problem pointing out the wrongness of people, but they certainly are thin-skinned when it comes to accepting criticism. As far as the tone of the debate, in all the interviews I’ve seen of Bell and at the speaking engagement I was at, he seemed to go out of his way to be gracious to people.

  24. LOL, this thread sure paves the way for chasing rabbits! I could get started off on another trail easily with the tale of my Romanian wife with her permanent green card and the up-in-the-air question of whether our gov’t agents will allow her back in the country to live with her natural born citizen husband as they continue with their Catch 22s since she has unavoidably been out of the country over a year because of illness and her PhD program. The ‘only’ resource we have left is to pray.

    Book stores get a bum rap, here, from some. Though I’ve hardly sold any books trough them, I understand the bottom line as does Brenden who had a rock-solid comment on this topic.

    Robin’s comment followed by Justin’s reply merit some real soul searching.

    Frankly, what irks me most is that many evangelicals have accepted ‘heresies’ about love for years. If they were concerned about discipling Christians in the basics, they would not have to worry about Bell’s teaching, whatever it may be.

  25. A helpful, clarifying quote on the topic:

    In Testaments of Love, Leon Morris asks, “How do we
    harmonize the assurance that ‘God is love’ with the assertion
    that ‘our God is a consuming fire’? Most of us never
    think about such problems, and in the end our idea of love is
    indistinguishable from that of the world around us.”1

    • Kevin Deyoung said basically the same thing, and Any serious exegesis of “God is love” needs to interact with trinitarian theology. The reformed critiques of Rob Bell don’t do this (they practically dismiss it as unimportant). I’m not sure if Rob Bell discusses how it relates to the Trinity, but if he doesn’t then he’s also wrong.

      “God is love” is not just mentioning one of his attributes that’s equally important as his other attributes, and it’s not just a way of saying that he’s nice to everyone. It’s a profound statement on his trinitarian nature. Without the Trinity, God’s love must be either self-centered or dependent on His creation to exist. It is only with the interconnected and loving community of the Trinity that God’s love is not only other-centered, but the foundation of who He is (well, perhaps it’s theoretically possible with a “binity”).

    • Kevin Deyoung said basically the same thing, and I think it’s pretty shallow interpretation of that verse. Any serious exegesis of “God is love” needs to interact with trinitarian theology. The reformed critiques of Rob Bell don’t do this (they practically dismiss the verse as unimportant). I’m not sure if Rob Bell discusses how it relates to the Trinity, but if he doesn’t then he’s also wrong.

      “God is love” is not just mentioning one of his attributes that’s equally important as his other attributes, and it’s not just a way of saying that he’s nice to everyone. It’s a profound statement on his trinitarian nature. Without the Trinity, God’s love must be either self-centered or dependent on His creation to exist. It is only with the interconnected and loving community of the Trinity that God’s love is not only other-centered, but the foundation of who He is (well, perhaps it’s theoretically possible with a “binity”).

      • As far as I remember, I don’t really think Bell interacts a lot with the whole concept of “God is love” in the book. He simply presents the idea that God loves everyone. The idea he operates from is that love is not something that can be coerced or coercive. So while God loves us all, He does it freely, meaning that any of us are free to reject or turn away from this love. His whole theology is planted firmly on the concept of libertarian free will. This is obviously why the link with Lewis is brought up again and again. Now certainly not all Christians believe in libertarian free will, but it definitely within the bounds of orthodox faith.

        Bell is Trinitarian, to be sure, but I think he approaches his conception of God in trying to understand the Jewish underpinnings of the understanding of who God is, what His plan for creation is, and what the goal of history is. This is where he borrows heavily from Wright. I have, however, heard Bell interact with Trinitarian thought in various sermons, I believe. I just have a hard time condemning or disagreeing with someone for something they don’t say in a given book.

        • Well said, Phil. I think Bell is doing a service in revealing the underlying faultiness of libertarian beliefs 😉

    • So we need to realize that we do not even know what love means anymore? Is that quote saying that we are “tainted” by the world’s definition of love? I admit that depresses the stew out of me. What I mean is that if the only concept I have of “love” is the deep feeling I have for my husband, my kids, my in laws, my pets….that feeling that makes me want to do stuff for them and just be with them and fight for them, and in terms of the animals…just delight in them……if all those wonderful emotions I tie to Love….are they just a lie?

      Disclaimer: it is entirely possible that I have totally misunderstood your post! I apologize in advance if that is the case!

      • “if all those wonderful emotions I tie to Love….are they just a lie? ”

        Not entirely a lie, but certainly not the whole truth.

        Love is more than emotion. More than feelings. Love is fundamentally giving. Self-sacrifice. It also motivated by the truth (and we must know the truth in order to love properly). Love is doing what is right, even at great cost to ourselves.

        I would go further to say, that the greatest evil is to make others pay the cost for our decisions.

  26. My definition of hell: “Any place God is not.” Does this mean flames, torment, gnashing of teeth, etc.? Not necessarily, but being separated from God is no fun either.

    As far as getting a second chance after this life, and the fact that some will not inherit eternal life is concerned, check out John 3:36. Pretty clear, I think.

    One final thought – if “farewell” is flippant, what would you call “fundegelical” – mean-spirited? I’m just saying…

  27. Good synopsis on your part … still not gonna buy the book as his brand of water downed Christianity is distasteful to me .. Mark Driscoll is more my cup of tea, yea he has his issues too but at least he takes a stand on Jesus! (listen to His sermon on the Emerging Church and you’ll know why he parted ways with Bell, McLaren,etc..) …

    Don’t care for Olsteen either!

    • You are free to like or dislike Bell, but there is nothing “watered down” about Bell’s version of Christianity. Driscoll is simply a blowhard. “Taking a stand” or being sure about your convictions doesn’t make you any more right than anyone else. Actually, though, I don’t know how anyone could listen to Bell speak or read his books and think he’s confused about Christ. Ironically is was reading Driscoll’s screed in the book “Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches” that was one the last straws for me with him. Well, that, and his idiotic statements regarding women in leadership.

  28. The thing is…there is NO place where God is not present. God is everywhere. (See Psalm 139.) We feel separated from God because of sin and are, in some way, separated from God even though God is everywhere present.. Jesus reconciled us to God and all of creation will be reconciled to God. Does that mean I am a universalist? I would say I am a hopeful Christian universalist; I HOPE that all will be saved through Jesus, but I cannot KNOW it. So if all will be reconciled to God like the Bible tells us and if we say that some people will never end up with God, then we leave open the possibility of annihilation. Evil, Satan, demons and people who refused God’s love would be annihilated, no longer exisiting, gone. Otherwise, if they were still around, all were not reconciled to God.

    • A good way to think of it is the presence of God’s wrath or mercy. Here we have a mixture of the two. In Hell, there is only wrath. In Heaven (and the New Earth) there is no wrath.

      • What if God’s love and wrath are actually the same thing with the difference being the way that we experience it? This is pretty much what the Eastern Orthodox tradition says, or at least some variance of it. The fire of God’s love is a consuming fire that will destroy everything that is not of God. If you destroy everything that is not of God of some people, there simply won’t be much left.

        It’s not too hard to imagine this sort of thing. We’ve all been in situation where we were having the time of our lives, but in the same room, maybe even a few feet away, there were people who were being made miserable by the same thing we were enjoying. If people have never learned to enjoy God’s presence being in it for eternity could be utter misery for them.

        • Yes, there is certainly some amount of that. People who hate God also hate being around Him. But there is also an element of punishment there, which the elect do not experience.

  29. RyanEdward says

    Oh the problem of teaching your personal lights of scripture with the authoritative backing, “It’s my interpretation”. That is why stores can choose. The bottom-line – Without any real authoritative voice on any given matter – especially the issues that seemingly flirt with compromising the tenets of Christianity – all we have are differing interpretations and view points with no real ‘end-all, say-all’.

    • The problem with wanting or having or claiming to be a “real authoritative voice” on these matters is that it sooner or later becomes an authoritarian voice.

      • RyanEdward says

        That is simply aka “I don’t want to submit to a higher authority. I would rather define my own Christianity.” In following Christ, the believer isn’t left with many choices, in fact, he’s left with none. Christ said “Follow me”. A real authoritative voice could determine the truth of things when something comes up for debate. After all, Christ did say that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth. But, it would seem that many are much more comfortable choosing which interpretation lines up best for themselves.

  30. I am saddened that labels such as “fundegelicals” and similar language, or the broad brush stroke ascribing power hunger and fear of losing power to those one disagrees with seem to be acceptable at iMonk these days. It cheapens the discussion and is hardly better than “Farewell Rob Bell” tweets. It’s not a tone of discussion I want to be engage with.

  31. Charles Fines says

    Adam, thanks for buying the book as a gift. That says as much or more than your fine review. I had to get my copy from Amazon. Christian Book Distributors were offering Love Wins prepublication but it disappeared without comment. You can’t buy The End of Evangelicalism? there either.

    I have made more new friends and discovered more ongoing kindred spirits and resources as a result of the Rob Bell firestorm than in the past twenty years. I DO consider the reaction to Love Wins as a litmus test and a very handy one to have. That may be the most valuable part of the book for me. People either get it or they don’t, and I don’t see much point in arguing about it either way.

    I’m thinking that this may turn out to be biggest turn of events since Martin Luther, not that Rob Bell is in the heavyweight class. But he appears to be a potent catalyst. I would guess this to be an age related divide but that isn’t going to work out in the particulars except as a generality. After all is said and done, I think the book can be summed up in two words which coincidentally make up the title. But as pointed out above, that depends on your definition of love, which may be the real divide.

    Perhaps the rawest nerve the book touched was in suggesting that The Great Commandment trumps the Great Commission as understood by Evangelicals.

    • after exiting the charismatic/Pentecostal/prophetic camp i spent a few years in church detox. took up golf. did all my interaction thru electronic message forums. kept it more anonymous. more guarded. less prone to take offense because i was engaging with other electronic representations wanting to discuss usually taboo subjects that were not easy to do in their regular church environments…

      i began to identify with the ’emerging’ (vs. capital ‘E’ Emergent) trend or dynamic that did elevate the ‘conversation’ to a new level. i thoroughly enjoyed the manner which the consideration of how church was being done (orthopraxy) vs. what could be more appropriate in reaching a young postmodern generation.

      i never had any theological issues. in fact, my decision to engage with others that did not believe like i did or even lived lifestyles i did not agree with opened my eyes to the ‘person’ behind the issue, even though my beliefs were strengthened more than changed…

      i can say i allowed myself to be challenged by people i would not have chosen to engage with in person. it did let interaction take place in a safer environment & i was able to formulate my thoughts/opinions after writing them out repeatedly to make myself understood. it was a blessed exercise. i do like to write so jumping into a comment driven exchange like this something i am very comfortable doing…

      i did mention in an earlier post i read a few of McLaren’s earliest books. the last one was, in fact, the last word. or for me, the last straw. i was enticed by the way Brian attempted to address things at first, but then the evasiveness, or more accurately, the lack of honesty or transparency (“this is what i believe, but my good friend ___ does not”) where he could easily make such a statement became tiresome. and then the whole Emergent ‘organization’ development that really became just what the emerging conversation eschewed in the first place. anyway, it was soon after that McLaren showed his true colors & those that wanted such theological closure finally had it…

      i have no issues with Bell’s venture into theological reconsiderations. i do take issue with the manner which his book was promoted. it’s as if he were gathering stones beforehand for his desired martyrdom at the hands of the religious establishment he obviously set out to challenge. i do tend to have a much more generous orthodoxy (ala McLaren) than my Reformed/Calvinist brethren. i have inhabited both sides of the Tiber which helps me understand the peculiarities of RCC & Evangelical faith expressions. i have only engaged in electronic interaction with EO adherents although i have visited an Antiochian Patriarchate Orthodox church locally. it was during my effort at reconnecting to a faith community. i also discovered that nope, i could not go back to a highly liturgical setting. visited an Anglican church also.

      anyway, just my own faith journey the past 10+ years has me thinking the impact of Bell will not result in a major shakeup in the way we view theological issues. i do think we should be open to discussion with less acrimony. but i think the next major shift if there is to be one is how we do church in the quickly changing times we live in now. that for me has been the focus of my faith: how do i live it out?

  32. I M Concerned says

    Ooooooo!! A book that’s banned by the Christian bookstores? Gotta read that one and find out what they’re saving me from…

  33. I tried to read it. I really did.

    But his writing style was just tiresome. I don’t mind being challenged to the point of discomfort by a writer, but I don’t want to fidget – waiting for someone to take a “chapter” to make a point he could have made in a single paragraph.

  34. Kelby Carlson says

    I will preface this comment by saying that I have not read this book. I’ve read several extensive, multi-part reviews (I’m fairly sure somebody at the White Horse Inn did one, which is the primary one i’m thinking of). I come from, apparently, a different position than many here. I don’t consider myself a post-evangelical–i was close for awhile, but I’m fairly sure there’s enough that’s right in evangelicalism that I can stay. (I’ve been burned a lot more by pragmatism and shallow theology than I have by legalism, which is probably the reason for that, and the reason for what I’m going to say.) I’ve read a smattering of the emergent literature, as well as quite a bit coming out of the Neo-Calvinist movement. Maybe I’m just too young and not good at gleaning emotions from a theological text, but I can’t muster the kind of dismissive contempt many here seem to evince for people like DeYoung, Piper and Driscoll. Do I disagrree with them? Most certainly (particularly on complementarianism and creation.) However, there’s something I like about the Reformed camp that I don’t like about the emerging folks, and it’s something people have pointed out. I’m all for questions–I read a lot, and I’ve got what I think is a decently open mind. But the emergents ask questions, and then just answer them with more questions or don’t really give answers at all. Look, I’m all for creating conversation, but it’s my personal belief that a socratic dialogue a) works best on a face-to-face basis and b) should actually lead to an answer. From the stuff by Bell and McLaren I’ve read, that doesn’t typically happen. More than that, though, it’s just shallow theology and stuff I’ve heard before. I can’t say I completely disagree with his doctrine of Hell, and I only assume the best intentions on his part. But at the same time I wish those here and elsewhere with a more Reformed view of Hell were engaged a little more seriously. Like Bell, I assume prima faci the best intentions on their parts. (And before anyone asks, I don’t really think Piper’s “farewell” tweet was appropriate–the man has the habit of saying things in a bad way at a worse time sometimes.)

    • First of all, I’d say if you want to know what’s in the book, read it for yourself. It’s a quick read. It could easily be read in one or two evening even by a slow reader.

      As far as “dismissive contempt”, I can’t say I feel contempt for any of those people you mention, but I do largely dismiss them. First the answer to every question in a neo-Calvinistic frame tends to be pretty much the same thing – some variant of “it’s all for God’s glory” or “humans are worms”. As far as answering questions, I’m all for it as long as they are questions that can actually be answered. I don’t believe someone pointing to a few verses of Scripture, slapping their hands together, and saying, “well, that settles that…” is actually an answer. Some of these texts are things people have been arguing over for hundreds if not thousands of years, so why should I expect that in the year 2011 one particular subset of Christians has it all right?

      Anyway, Bell does far more in the book than simply ask questions, at least from perspective. I actually found the book quite inspiring. The closest thing I can relate to is reading something by Brennan Manning or perhaps Henri Houwen. There are authors who have the ability to speak at a heart level and share something beyond just information. That was what I felt while reading the book. It might sound cheesy or like I’m gushing, but I’m just being honest.

      • Phil said, “There are authors who have the ability to speak at a heart level and share something beyond just information. That was what I felt while reading the book.”

        Good point, Phil. I agree. And I read the book in an afternoon.

  35. “Bell asks questions that he doesn’t answer, hems and haws, plays a bit of a shell game with Greek translations”

    Apart from that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?

  36. Jesus is a republican…OBVIOUSLY! That is why Sarah Palin is on the shelves…and not Rob Bell.

    (massive amounts of sarcasm implied.)

  37. Nathan Carpenter says

    “But the truth is that God has not told us what his arrangements about other people are.” Mere Christianity.
    Is it not possible to believe the doctrine of hell as eternal separation from God while firmly rejecting the temptation to “know” (assume) that ANY particular person will or has gone there?
    Also, it would seem that if Lewis is guilty as charged with indulging universalism then The Screwtape Letters was a monumental misuse of his ample creative powers.

  38. I loved this. First off I have to say that I have not yet read Love Wins. I’ve been absolutely itching to, but I’m still in Israel. And despite some subtle and not-so-subtle hints to friends and family about the possibility of shipping it to me, nobody has risen to the occasion – so I am stuck trying my very hardest not to read too many reviews so I can just assess it for myself.

    Also I haven’t read any of the above comments so I may just be adding to the noise. :/

    But from what I do know about this book – which is actually turning out to be quite a bit because my sister is reading it and sharing it with me over Skype – I have to agree that Rob Bell isn’t saying anything new.

    Also I wanted to add something regarding the church history thing. I’ve been reading a lot about Orthodox Christianity (since most Palestinian Christians are Orthodox), and I’ve been discovering that, from what I know, Rob Bell pretty much falls in line with the Orthodox view of heaven and hell. (Here’s a little something that I shamelessly got off Wikipedia. I recommend reading the whole section on “Eschatology,” but here it is in a nutshell.)

    The Orthodox believe that after the Final Judgment:

    -all souls will be reunited with their resurrected bodies
    -all souls will fully experience their spiritual state
    -having been perfected, the human race will forever progress towards a deeper and fuller love of God, which equates with eternal happiness
    -hell, though often described in metaphor as punishment inflicted by God, is in reality the soul’s rejection of God’s infinite love which is offered freely and abundantly to everyone.

    I’ve come across so many blogs by Orthodox Christians who have read Love Wins, and they’re all like, “Why doesn’t Rob Bell just convert to Orthodoxy?” I think a lot of his problems would be solved – at least there would be 300 million Christians around the globe to renounce all these ignorant and hateful accusations of heresy.

    So what’s funny is that people love to call Rob Bell “unorthodox” – when in reality, in regards to his perspective on heaven and hell, sola scriptura, the purpose of Christianity, etc. – he is very much capital O Orthodox.

    I also have to say that a friend of mine who was previously non-religious (or non-believing or whatever you want to call it), and she recently had a really personal experience with Jesus, and she decided to follow Him. Since then she’s been reading a million books including Love Wins, which really helped calm her down about God and the afterlife. It really didn’t make sense to her that the God she experienced would send people to an eternal inferno. Oh for the day when Christians everywhere discover that you can follow Christ without believing that most of the world is going to burn in hell for all eternity. Orthodox Christians have apparently believed this for about two thousand years now. Maybe it’s time we started listening to some of that ancient wisdom.

    And one final thing. I’ve seen a book called “The Audacity of Deceit” being sold next to a book called “The Faith of Barack Obama.” I was oddly proud of this Christian bookstore for laying it all out on the table. I am disappointed at the censorship that is taking place in these stores with Love Wins. Badly done, Christian bookstores, badly done.

  39. Well, upon reading some of Phil’s comments, it appears that I am just adding to the noise. Woops.

  40. Since it seems likes the comments may be winding down on this topic, I hope it is OK to include some of my favorite part of Bell’s book. Here they are:

    What Jesus taught,
    what the prophets taught,
    what all of Jewish tradition pointed to
    and what Jesus lived in anticipation of,
    was the day when earth and heaven would be one.
    The day when God’s will would be done on earth
    as it is now done in heaven.
    The day when earth and heaven will be the same place. (page 42)

    The point then, as it is now, is Jesus. The divine in flesh
    and blood. He’s where the life is. (page 129)

    When Jesus is presented only as the answer that saves individuals from their sin and death, we run the risk of shrinking the Gospel down to something just for humans, when God has inaugurated a movement in Jesus’s resurrection to renew, restore, and reconcile everything “on earth or in heaven” (Col. 1) just as God originally intended it. (page 134)

    Forgiveness is unilateral.
    God isn’t waiting for us to get it together,
    to clean up, shape up, get up–
    God has already done it. (page 189)

    Jesus invites us to trust that the love we fear is too good to be true is actually good enough to be true. (page 195)

  41. First off, Adam, thanks for trying! I’m an ex-Christian-bookseller who was essentially pushed out of my job by my customers treating my shop as a showroom for amazon, so anyone like you who makes the effort to use a Christian bookstore gets a massive thumbs-up from me 🙂

    The good news here in the UK is that whilst there are a few fundies trying to warn people off the book, most of the bookshops I’ve come across recently have it available. I was at the Christian Resources Exhibition (it’s our biggest Christian exhibition thing, though pitifully small compared to the shows you guys put on) on Thursday and was pleasantly surprised at the number of Christian bookshops that had stands there, all replete with copies of Love Wins: excellent! But as long as ZonderCollins or their agents continue to supply it to the likes of amazon at prices that allow them to sell it cheaper than wholesale, then I fear for our bookshops here…

  42. First off, Adam, thanks for trying! I’m an ex-Christian-bookseller who was essentially pushed out of my job by my customers treating my shop as a showroom for amazon, so anyone like you who makes the effort to use a Christian bookstore gets a massive thumbs-up from me 🙂

    The good news here in the UK is that whilst there are a few fundies trying to warn people off the book, most of the bookshops I’ve come across recently have it available. I was at the Christian Resources Exhibition (it’s our biggest Christian exhibition thing, though pitifully small compared to the shows you guys put on) on Thursday and was pleasantly surprised at the number of Christian bookshops that had stands there, all replete with copies of Love Wins: excellent! But as long as ZonderCollins or their agents continue to supply it to the likes of amazon at prices that allow them to sell it cheaper than wholesale, then I fear for our bookshops here…

  43. Kalomiros’ speech “The River of Fire” explicates, at great length, an Eastern Orthodox perspective on hell. There’s some rheteric against Western Christianity in it, but the speech is actually very intelligent, powerful, Scriptural, and worth reading. I would put the link here but I don’t think we’re allowed to. So if you’re interested, just google ” Kalomiros” and “River of Fire.” Here’s part of the beginning:

    “But why do men hate God? They hate Him not only because their deeds are dark while God is light, but also because they consider Him as a menace, as an imminent and eternal danger, as an adversary in court, as an opponent at law, as a public prosecutor and an eternal persecutor. To them, God is no more the almighty physician who came to save them from illness and death, but rather a cruel judge and a vengeful inquisitor.

    You see, the devil managed to make men believe that God does not really love us, that He really only loves Himself, and that He accepts us only if we behave as He wants us to behave; that He hates us if we do not behave as He ordered us to behave, and is offended by our insubordination to such a degree that we must pay for it by eternal tortures, created by Him for that purpose.

    Who can love a torturer? Even those who try hard to save themselves from the wrath of God cannot really love Him. They love only themselves, trying to escape God’s vengeance and to achieve eternal bliss by managing to please this fearsome and extremely dangerous Creator.

    Do you perceive the devil’s slander of our all loving, all kind, and absolutely good God? That is why in Greek the devil was given the name DIABOLOS, ‘the slanderer’.”