Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”: A Discussion
So Rob Bell (Pastor of Mars Hill Church and best known for his video series “Nooma” and his book “Velvet Elvis”) has written a new book that comes out March 19th called “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” It’s stirred up quite the controversy in the Christian community. I first heard about the controversy two weeks ago on Twitter. You know it’s a big deal when “Rob Bell” is a WORLDWIDE trending topic. The question at hand is, “Does Rob Bell believe that ultimately everyone will be saved, even after death if necessary?” So…here’s a list of resources that I’ve pulled from various internet locations that deal with Love Wins.
From Mars Hill Church – An FAQ about “Love Wins” http://marshill.org/pdf/LoveWinsFAQs.pdf
Martin Bashir MSNBC interview
An interview of Rob Bell presented by his publisher, HarperOne: (This one’s an hour and 10 minutes long, so be prepared.)
An Interview with Eugene Peterson (translator of “The Message” version of the Bible and endorser of Rob Bell’s book)
An interesting review of the book on the JR Forasteros blog.
Here’s my take on it. In both the interviews I watched, I experienced a sense of intense frustration because I was waiting for Bell to make a statement, ANY statement, about Jesus as the only way to get to heaven. He doesn’t (in either of the interviews I’ve posted) make that statement. He dances around it, and, to be fair, I think he believes that to be the case, but he never comes out and makes any definitive statement.
In the Martin Bashir interview, Bell just doesn’t really answer any of Bashir’s questions. He dances around the questions and never says much of anything.
In the HarperOne interview, Bell eventually does say some things of value, much of which I agree with. He repeatedly makes statements that God wants a relationship with everyone, and I believe that is undeniable. Where I have an issue, and where I am VERY concerned are with statements such as (In the context of the “exclusive club” of Christians vs everyone else and in reference to John 14:6 vs. John 12:32) “[Jesus is saying…] ‘I’m doing something for everybody. So watch out.” I have an issue with that statement, as I don’t see evidence of that in Scripture.
I also have an issue with his statement that Matt 7:13-14 is “…a passage ultimately about intention.” What I hear him saying is that if you’re really looking for God and don’t find him through Jesus, that ultimately, you’ll be saved anyway. I don’t see that anywhere in Scripture. That concerns me. What also concerns me is that it took him 3 questions to answer the basic question, “Is there a hell?” He talks a lot AROUND the questions and rarely gets right to the answer.
While I have studied Scripture, I am not a theologian nor am I a great thinker (a fact to which MANY of you will attest, I’m sure). However, it makes no sense to me, based on my study of Scripture, for God to go to the lengths He went to in order to secure relationship with man, if ultimately everyone gets in, regardless of whether they chose Jesus or not. If we reduce the Gospel to one of only social importance (I say this because time and time again Bell speaks of “making the choice for good” rather than making a choice for Jesus), then we cheapen the price of our sin that Jesus paid on our behalf.
Ultimately, I believe that Bell’s book serves a good purpose. It forces us in Christendom and elsewhere to take a highly critical look at what we believe versus what Scripture teaches. As Christians, we should NEVER blindly accept the teaching we receive; EVERYTHING should be reconciled against Scripture. I think his book comes at a highly appropriate time. We live in a rapidly unraveling world. Japan and the Middle East dominate the news. It is intensely difficult for Christians to live in the gray area between Love and Suffering. But that, my friends, is where God dwells. He stands in the gap between His intense love for man and the suffering that exists in the world and He provides a way for us to have access to that love. And He is the ONLY way we have that access.
A note of caution: I have NOT read the book. I do NOT know precisely what Bell is trying to communicate. Cynically, I have a feeling that perhaps Bell and his marketing team may be the GREATEST promoters on the planet, and I have an idea that book sales will do quite well. However, regardless of our opinion, we have a RESPONSIBILITY as Christ-followers to, as Eugene Peterson puts it, live in community with our brothers and sisters. So rhetoric and vitriol should have no place here.