a friend of mine recently reflected on Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. it made me rethink and revisit the book, hell, and the conversations that we Christians have had since even before Love Wins was published. the timeline is interesting. it was being slammed before it came out because of its subtitle.
below are two links. they’re reflections that were posted on theRubicon. below the two links is a piece i wrote that hasn’t been posted anywhere. it’s copied and pasted from a Word document so the format is different from my usual blog posts.
check it out. tell me what you think.
What The Hell? (Part Three: The Good, The Not Bad, and The Ugly)
Rob Bell’s latest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, And The Fate Of Every Person Who Ever Lived, started incendiary debate and conversation before the book was even published. After it was published, the heat of debate only intensified. People across the Christian world were asking and wondering about Rob Bell’s theology; is he advocating universalism? Is he a heretic? What the hell is wrong with Rob Bell?
There have been three books published since the release of Love Wins. Two of them are explicitly response books to Bell’s work and one is a book on the topic of hell in general that seems to also be in response to Bell’s work, although it does not engage Love Wins to the extent of the other two. One of the books is good; one is not bad; and one is just plain ugly.
God Wins: Heaven, Hell, And Why The Good News Is Better Than “Love Wins” is by Mark Gali, senior managing editor for Christianity Today. God Wins sets the gold standard for a response book. Gali engages Love Wins in a respectful and healthy manner. While he disagrees with portions of Bell’s work and thinks Bell does not go deep enough at other points, he never attacks Bell personally or professionally. In fact, Gali rarely refers to Bell. He refers to Love Wins. In his introduction he writes: “I need to be clear up front about one thing. This is not a book about Rob Bell or Rob Bell’s theology. (That is why in referring to ideas in the book, I do so in terms of what Love Wins says, not what Rob Bell believes.) This is a book that uses Love Wins as a starting point to talk about key theological issues…”
God Wins helped me understand a few things better and actually helped me appreciate Love Wins more. Reading these two books together is a great exercise and a wonderful way to engage the topic of hell and eternity.
THE NOT BAD
Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, And The Things We’ve Made Up is from Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle. I am a big fan of Chan’s work. Crazy Love and Forgotten God are two wonderful books. I had high hopes and expectations for this book; especially with the title. The title seems to set up a very engaging and deep discussion of hell. The end product is less than that. The book is not bad, though. I just expected more. The body of the book does not live up to the title.
Here are a few points/things that came to mind while reading Erasing Hell…
– On page 50 the authors say “…the Old Testament doesn’t say much about hell.” The Old Testament says absolutely nothing about hell. The OT talks about eternity and punishment and an afterlife; nothing about “hell,” though.
– In chapter two, the authors want to highlight Biblical notions of hell and they want people to think Biblically. They quote a lot of non-Biblical texts in this chapter though to help make their points about hell. Why?
– The authors are actually quite petty on page 56. Check it out for yourself. Christ clearly did not use the words “garbage dump.” On the other hand, he clearly did not use the English word “hell” either.
The best part of the book is the appendix “Frequently Asked Questions.” It’s great for study and group discussion; excellent stuff.
Erasing Hell is worth reading. It does not engage with Love Wins as much as God Wins, but that may not have been the goal. It is a worthy read on the topic of hell.
Michael E. Wittmer wrote the book Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response To Rob Bell’s “Love Wins.” If God Wins sets the gold standard of response books, Christ Alone shows how-not to write a response book. Sadly, this is what one would expect from a capital E Evangelical. Wittmer misquotes and takes Bell out of context. His tone takes on a more arrogant and attacking mode as his book goes on. He simply promotes a conservative-evangelical framework of hell and tries to discredit Rob Bell.
With that being said, however, there are snippets of useful material in this book. On the whole, though, it’s not as good as the other two, especially God Wins.
If only read one of these books make it God Wins; it’s the best of the three.
Hell, if you want to use that word, is an important topic. Eternity, punishment, the afterlife; these are all important topics. Let’s remember, though, that we are finite creatures trying to understand and articulate the greatest mysteries of life and death. Let’s be humble, open-minded, and respectful. Let’s be honest: we do not know for sure the particulars of these topics. We do know for sure, though, that God is love. God wins. Love wins.