Book 12 — Love Wins

In Love Wins, Rob Bell explores common beliefs about Heaven and Hell and how much they are based on church tradition versus what the Bible actually says. What I love about everything Bell writes is the way he returns to the original Greek and Hebrew — not just the languages, but the thinking and culture. He is not twisting Scripture to make it say what he wants it to say — and he is certainly not a heretic. He makes it clear throughout the book that he believes Jesus is the only way to Heaven and that Heaven and Hell are very real. He is just questioning how much our own thinking and culture have played into what we consider Truth. His exegesis and hermeneutics are rock-solid, although I do believe it’s possible to come to different conclusions. His main point isn’t even about what Heaven and Hell are or who is going there, but that we focus too much on that. We use threats of eternal punishment to try and coerce people to come to Jesus. Jesus is SO much bigger than that! There is so much more to him. I’ve actually heard people comment, in talking about this book, that without the threat of Hell, why would anyone want to become a Christian? Do we really think so little of our faith?

Rob Bell also talks about how we are living in Heaven and Hell right here and now. God is timeless. He is not linear in the way we are, and our eternity is just a continuum. Heaven and Hell are ultimately about whether or not we are in relationship with him. This life is all about preparing ourselves for whatever Heaven is. If there isn’t going to be any racism in Heaven, it’s a good idea to get a head start now on stripping ourselves of our racist tendencies. If there isn’t going to be any death in Heaven, let’s start valuing life right now in every possible way.

I believe this is of vital importance, because it changes our whole message and the way we interact with unbelievers or those who are apathetic. It becomes a message of changing the world for the better, right here, right now. I believe that’s a message to get excited about!

I would like to go back and do some more study of his Greek translations for myself. I’ve heard some people say that he’s fudging it a little bit — but I didn’t do any in-depth study for myself and definitely plan to.

I don’t know if I did that synopsis justice at all. The best bet is to read the book for yourself. I definitely believe that there are surprises in store for all of us, and no one can say with certainty what Heaven or Hell will be like or who will be there. I am glad that I can trust God with those things that are completely beyond my understanding!

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6 responses to “Book 12 — Love Wins

  1. Cynthia

    Thank you! To be honest, because of what you wrote, I want to read this book more than I did before.

  2. Troy

    As I spend more time processing Love Wins – I think it’s my least favorite of Bell’s. While there were some parts that I really liked – there were plenty where I think his reasoning and use of Scripture was pretty thin. I’m used to him having some real breadth and depth in his arguments. I didn’t feel that way on this one. I appreciated that it made me think about some things on the topic of Hell I hadn’t considered – in the end I like his earlier stuff better. At least we read it!

    • Troy, I agree with you that there were some things I was disappointed with, and some things I was downright uncomfortable with. This was particularly in the beginning when he was talking about “which Jesus we want to believe in.” He was proof-texting all over the place. And while I’m sure he was making the point that proof-texting isn’t a very reliable way of studying the Bible, I had problems with it. You can believe in all of those characteristics of Jesus because his nature is too complex to be explained in a verse or two. This is why it’s important to look at the Bible as a whole. But I think most of us are guilty of proof-texting to some extent, and I don’t think that makes him a heretic or a universalist. I said above that his exegesis is rock-solid. That’s what I get for posting too quickly to play catch-up. After writing this, it generated some other thoughts, so I went back to a few passages that I had questions about. I will edit that comment to say I think he does a good job of pointing out that there are a variety of ways the original languages can be translated and that we have to take context and the cultural mindset into consideration. I also appreciate that for the most part he doesn’t take a myopic view of the Bible but reads everything through the overall message of redemption and the love of God for his people. Again, I’m pretty sure his proof-texting was trying to make a point, but I think it falls short.

      I don’t know how I feel about the idea of people getting second chances after death. He makes a good point that this life is so brief and eternity is an awfully long time, and it seems like the punishment isn’t exactly reasonable. At the same time, I think it’s dangerous to start second-guessing God. If God really means eternal, I am not going to say he’s unreasonable for it. He is God, and I’m not. But the point is interesting, and I think there is room for the possibility. I am not willing to say I can’t love God or that God fails if he doesn’t do things my way, and Bell comes awfully close to doing that in a few places.

      Right now I’m trying to wrap my brain around “aion” and “aionios.” Bell says they can refer to an unspecified period of time and not necessarily mean “without end,” as we usually understand it. My key word study Bible defines aionios as eternal and everlasting. It seems to be more flexible with aion, which can just refer to an “age.” Rob Bell chose aion to explain it rather than aionios, but the original Greek does indeed say aionios. That’s where he seems to be playing fast and loose with the translation. Either way, it seems to be a very nuanced word. Did the translators choose the wrong nuance? Every translation I am looking at says “everlasting” or “eternal.” Would all of the translators chosen incorrectly? Or has it just become so ingrained in our collective doctrine by this point that any translator is going to assume “eternal” from the context? This is something I think we can’t know for sure.

      I believe the strong points of the book have more to do with how we should live in the here and now rather than in his guesses about what Heaven and Hell really are. I agree that things break down or at least become questionable when he tries to disprove orthodox doctrine.

      I do think his questions are good, but some of his answers have holes in them. I think too often we believe what we are spoon-fed, particularly people like me who have grown up in the church, and I believe God wants us to wrestle with his word and truly study it. I appreciate Rob Bell giving us the opportunity to do that.

  3. Hey Erin — I have not yet read Love Wins but have been wanting to. I’ve heard nothing but the “evangelical Christian” point of view which argues that Bell is basically a heretic trying to corrupt the Christian system. And I typically don’t trust that view. Thank you so much for this post. Hopefully I can read the book soon. Anyway, good post, and it does sound like a very good synopsis!

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