Tuesday, June 21, 2011

REVIEW: Love Wins

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

I know this review is a bit late to the party, but since this book has attracted so much attention even outside of Christian circles, I thought I'd write my thoughts on it.

I’ll get it out of the way right now instead of beating around the bush and say that I absolutely loved this book. It’s a rare quality when someone can teach about Hell and cause you to love God even more than you already did.

Let me also make two upfront statements regarding this book:

1) I do not 100% fully agree with every single detail that Rob Bell writes in this book.
2) Nowhere in this book does Rob Bell state or imply that ALL people who ever lived will “go to Heaven” and that nobody will “go to Hell”. I fear that anyone who is saying these things in criticism of the book simply has not read it, or has badly, badly misunderstood (perhaps willfully) his entire point.

I don’t say those things out of a need to “defend” or “justify” the fact that I loved this book. I say them because I’m afraid that a lot of people—Christians—immediately shut their ears and stop listening to what you have to say when you say you like Rob Bell, and I really want you to give him a fair shake. Don’t you hate it when someone hears that you are a Christian and immediately makes all kinds of assumptions about you? That sword cuts both ways.

You don’t have to agree with Rob Bell. You are totally free to think he is 100% wrong. Just don’t condemn him as a heretic for discussing the issue. Remember the Pharisees!
One of the things I love most about the book is that he has taken concepts that I have struggled to explain to others many times, and sheds light on them in such a simple way. Reading this book was one of those rare times when I kept saying to myself “This is exactly what I’ve believed and apprehended all along, yet I could never quite find the right words.” C.S. Lewis is one of the only other writers who has ever done that for me—take immensely complex subjects and transform them into ideas so easily understood that you marvel at how you never thought of that before.

Not that Bell provides tidy, bow-tied answers to the questions of Heaven and Hell, and “the fate of every person who ever lived.” In fact, in many ways he raises even more questions. More on that later.

The sad fact is that a staggering number of people who follow Jesus and claim to love the Bible have their theology all messed up when it comes to the afterlife. I really don’t have an idea where it all comes from, but for some reason most everyone’s idea is that Heaven and Hell are spiritual places that our souls go to after death and and that this is how you will spend all eternity.

Did you know that’s not what the Bible teaches?

What we think of as “Heaven” today is only a temporary place, and there is even some biblical evidence that everyone including Jesus-followers will not even be conscious as a spirit until Jesus comes back. I don’t know if that’s true, but there are verses to support that idea.

Let me be clear on what I do know. You are not going to spend all of eternity as a soul with no body.

The Bible is crystal-clear on this fact. The redeemed universe is going to be a PHYSICAL universe. Just like the one we now live in, but more. Better. The way it was intended to be. This isn’t even a “hidden teaching” of the Bible. It’s plain as day. Do you really think God made this universe—which he called good— just to vaporize it once it’s used up?

Where is there any place anywhere in the Bible in which God operates like that?

No, God has never been a God who gives up on what He created just because it becomes used and abused. Including you.

Ever since the very beginning, God has taken dirty rags and made them white as snow. He has taken leaky pens and written majestic poetry. He has taken broken instruments and played glorious music.

God is the master weaver, able to take the black threads of life’s tapestry and weave them into a beautiful, redeemed whole. He takes lives of destruction and turns them into vessels of love.

Our God is not a “throwaway” God.

{Part Two is found here}

Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
likewise Falsehood aptly defended loses not it's falsity.


  1. I turned to this page in anticipation of seeing what you thought about the book in question. I saw that you liked it. You didnt agree with all of it, but thought the teaching was right on. Then I read your view on the subject. Wow, two posts for the price of one....
    "No, God has never been a God who gives up on what He created just because it becomes used and abused. Including you." I would be glad if that were true. other than Sodom, the flood, the tower, the forty wandering years and a few others examples, God has never destroyed what He had created.
    But back to the book. I look at a book written by a Christian in many ways. Who is saying what about it? Is it something that edifies the Body? Sometimes, as much as a writer "makes me think", it might not be edifying and might be more harmful

  2. I wondered how long it would take for someone to mention those stories; I figured they would come up but didn't necessarily expect it to be in the first comment! ;)

    You know, I thought about addressing those issues in my post but to do so would have totally interrrupted the flow of what I wanted to get across, so I decided to wait and see if anyone brought them up.

    Even in light of the flood and Sodom & Gomorrah, I still stand by my belief. In both those cases, God saved some people through them so they could continue the story. The Tower of Babel and years of wandering in the desert don't really count--those aren't stories of destruction.

    I don't believe that God gives up on people, but I do believe that some people give up on God. Sometimes irrevocably.

    Regarding your final point, I must disagree with the inference that anything that "makes you think" is harmful. If God is true, then He can face any questions, any doubts, and any tests. We have the power of critical thinking because God gave it to us, and I believe that any faith which can be shattered by "asking questions" is no faith at all...or at best an immature faith.

  3. My husband and I are reading the book right now. I found comfort in knowing a few friends who love Jesus found the book to have some wisdom as well as to be thought provoking. There are certainly new "Christian" thoughts in the book, and some things I am not so sure I agree with, but I like to question what and why I believe what I do, and for the ability to pray about it and discuss it. Like you, it also has addressed a few things that are hard to address. My main complaint so far (and I am only through ch 4) is that I don't always feel Rob fully addresses or explains some of his ideas. He'll throw out something "big" and move on quickly. Anyhow, look forward to your part 2, and my finishing the book. Cheers!

  4. I'm going to get in to a little bit of trouble with this but i'm not too concerned with the nature of the afterlife. If as you state, and the bible does imply as well, that people arise on judgement day, well then it will be as if they go straight from this life to the next. No one is going to be counting the hours in between :). I like the idea of more love though, that would be a nice change to society.

  5. "Our God is not a throw away GOD". A great line, and one that actually only makes sense in this generation. Probably the most material and "throw away" of societies and generations.

  6. You wrote:

    > "I’m afraid that a lot of Christians
    > immediately shut their ears and stop
    > listening to what you have to say
    > when you say you like Rob Bell...
    > Don’t you hate it when someone hears
    > that you are a Christian and immediately
    > makes all kinds of assumptions about
    > you? That sword cuts both ways."

    Today's christian is the poster child of bigotry, ignorance, fear and hate while amazingly Jesus was none of those things.

    How can someone claim to be a follower of Jesus and then behave opposite of what Jesus taught? Its crazy.

    Yes, the sword does indeed cut both ways. This is such a great example how there is nothing wrong with Christ and everything wrong with today's christians. You seem to be one of the very few voices of christian sanity in a very messed up christian culture today. Keep up the good work.

  7. Thank you for the kind words Anonymous, I appreciate the compliment.

    I can agree with you that there are many "Christians" who exhibit the exact same attitude and mindset that many of the Pharisees of Jesus' day did. However, your comment seems to do the same thing. A sweeping statement such as "today's christian is the poster child of bigotry, ignorance, fear and hate" is itself portraying bigotry and/or ignorance.

    I would encourage you to revisit your choice of words. Or, if this is truly the way you feel, to examine your preconceived notions of "today's christians". Yes there are some very bigoted, ignorant, and hateful people out there who call themselves Christians, but they in no way speak for all Christians everywhere. Additionally, Christians certainly do not have any monopoly on bigotry and ignorance. I know plenty of atheists and agnostics who display just as much of those qualities as any "bad christian".

    Finally, we should actually *expect* to see immaturity, bigotry, ignorance, fear, lust, pride, greed and every other sin in the Body of Christ. For it is impossible to even BE a Christian without admitting you are a sinner who cannot save themselves from their own sin. The "image problem" that Christianity has is that we have tried to portray ourselves as "better than" the world. This is an idiotic mistake in my opinion and completely contrary to the message of Jesus. Christians are as "bad" as everybody else...we simply have come to rely on the power of God to redeem us and save us. Only with God's help can we become more mature, less ignorant, less bigoted, and less hateful.

    In an earlier post (http://www.skbeliever.com/2010/03/can-word-christian-be-saved.html) I dealt with the issue of the bad reputation that the word "Christian" has today.