I want to first start this post by saying I have never been a Rob Bell hater. I have used some of his first Nooma videos for a few study lessons, but at the same time I have never been a real follower of him as well. I have been to his church a few times, as I live in Grand Rapids, and have known wonderful friends who have also attended Mars Hill for a length of time. I say this first because I know the natural reaction from many people when they first see a critique of a book they naturally assume they have no idea who the person is or they have some grudge.
So, onto the book itself. I was very disheartened to not see any citations in the entire book, other than scripture. Mr. Bell speak of particular people saying certain things, but we are always left with simply trusting him and hoping he is not either making these quotes up or that he isn’t quoting out of context. This concerns me greatly as a Christian as we are commended to test the spirit in which something is said (1 Thessalonians 5:21), but how can one test the truthfulness of this book if Rob Bell gives no references to any person or book he quotes? I feel like this is a major mistake on the authors part and does not fair well, in my opinion, on his creditability. It seems very disrespectful to his Christian audience as he is not allowing anybody to easily engage his statements he is trying to pass off as fact.
I first noticed the tone Rob Bell begins with in this book. It quickly became evident to me the author was writing this book out of the anger and bitterness he has from his past, which should throw up major red flags to all Christians. I say this because it shows Rob Bell has not been able to remove himself emotionally from the issues and look at them away from their traditions. As James White has often said on his Podcasts, “Traditions – everyone has them and those most enslaved by them are those who don’t think they have any.”
With that being said I am only going to grab a few comments from the book and hopefully a better Biblical explanation in this review.
On page 10 Rob Bell makes an error many cults, such as Muslims, make when approaching the scripture and that is if the Bible doesn’t say something the exact way we are used to, then it isn’t Biblical. Let me be more clear. On page 10 Mr. Bell says, “The problem, however, is that the phrase ‘personal relationship’ is found nowhere in the Bible.” So his point here is if this exact phrase can’t be found in the Bible, then it must be some tradition which must have been made up. So, if we follow this logic on other points then Jesus is not God and there is no Trinity. That’s right, Jesus never uses the phrase “I am God” nor does the Bible simply say Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit make up the Trinity Yet, on Mars Hill’s own Statement of Faith they say they believe in these things. Obviously this is simply poor argumentation and as I’ve heard many times before, “inconsistency is a sign of failed argument”.
Another issue with “Love Wins” is Rob Bell’s book completely throws out any sense of a Holy and just God. When we see Rob Bell’s hell is in only the tough things in life which happen to us, we quickly lose the importance of God’s wrath against sin and the power and need of the cross. So, while Rob Bell is trying present a gospel which will make those who are hurting feel better, the ultimate conclusion these people are left is that the pain, suffering, and loss is for no purpose what so ever. For everything which happens in this life has no reflection on our life in eternity. In fact it is the one inflicting the pain to which Rob Bells gospel would most come as good news. Think about it…if a rapist were to hear hell is only the bad things that happen on earth and our dislike of heaven, then what would ever posses that person to stop raping? In the end he can be as evil as he wants, die in his sin and then after a few years of eternity finally decide to go to heaven and stand right next to those he raped and smile. What a mockery this makes of God.
I also notice Rob Bell never truly interacts with the Bible in this section. The closest he comes is when he talks about the rich young ruler of Matthew 19. Of course it is easy to pull one liners from the Bible and present them out of their context to make his position sound better, but Mr. Bell doesn’t not provide any context to the scripture he uses, but simply puts them out there and gives commentary to what he thinks they mean. I would have loved to have seen Mr. Bell take time and review some of the verses which would refute his argument. For instance 2 Thess. 1:8&9 say, “8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”. I would like to know where this verse falls in Rob Bell’s theology.
Overall, “Love Wins” is not a book which can be classified as within the realm of Orthodoxy. It is a book which preaches universalism. It denies the Holiness of God and in the end extracts any meaning for this life.