- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: HarperOne (March 15 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780062049643
- ISBN-13: 978-0062049643
- ASIN: 006204964X
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.1 x 21 cm
- Shipping Weight: 318 g
- Average Customer Review: 39 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #215,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, And The Fate Of Every Person Hardcover – Mar 15 2011
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“In Love Wins, Rob Bell tackles the old heaven-and-hell question and offers a courageous alternative answer. Thousands of readers will find freedom and hope and a new way of understanding the biblical story - from beginning to end.” (Brian D. McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity and Naked Spirituality)
“It isn’t easy to develop a biblical imagination that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ . . . Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination--without a trace of soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.” (Eugene H. Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, and author of The Message and The Pastor)
“A bold, prophetic and poetic masterpiece. I don’t know any writer who expresses the inexpressible love of God as powerfully and as beautifully as Rob Bell! No one who seriously engages this book will put it down unchanged. A ‘must read’ book!” (Greg Boyd, senior pastor at Woodland Hills Church and author of The Myth of a Christian Nation)
“One of the nation’s rock-star-popular young pastors, Rob Bell, has stuck a pitchfork in how Christians talk about damnation.” (USA Today)
“Claiming that some versions of Jesus should be rejected, particularly those used to intimidate and inspire fear or hatred, Bell persuasively interprets the Bible as a message of love and redemption. . . . His style is characteristically concise and oral, his tone passionate and unabashedly positive.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Bell fights every impulse in our culture to domesticate Jesus [and] challenges the reader to be open to surprise, mystery and all of the unanswerables. . . . Bell has given theologically suspicious Christians new courage to bet their life on Jesus Christ.” (Christian Century)
“This attention-getter of a book ignited a heated popular conversation about whether God saves people like Gandhi or sends him and billions of other non-Christians to a fiery and painful place in the afterlife.” (Publishers Weekly, Best Books of the Year)
“Love Wins will make Christians re-examine their faith and will help them reclaim a vital and exciting vision of heaven and God’s love.” (Relevant)
“Bell is at the forefront of a rethinking of Christianity in America.” (Time magazine)
“One of the country’s most influential evangelical pastors.” (New York Times)
“This evangelical celebration of the love of God will open new doors for Jesus seekers fed up with the toxic hellfire and brimstone tirades of fundamentalist Christianity. As that happens, love wins again!” (Spirituality and Practice)
“Love Wins is sure to become a classic.” (Huffington Post)
From the Back Cover
Millions of Christians have struggled with how to reconcile God's love and God's judgment: Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this "good news"?
Troubling questions—so troubling that many have lost their faith because of them. Others only whisper the questions to themselves, fearing or being taught that they might lose their faith and their church if they ask them out loud.
But what if these questions trouble us for good reason? What if the story of heaven and hell we have been taught is not, in fact, what the Bible teaches? What if what Jesus meant by heaven, hell, and salvation are very different from how we have come to understand them?
What if it is God who wants us to face these questions?
Author, pastor, and innovative teacher Rob Bell presents a deeply biblical vision for rediscovering a richer, grander, truer, and more spiritually satisfying way of understanding heaven, hell, God, Jesus, salvation, and repentance. The result is the discovery that the "good news" is much, much better than we ever imagined.
Love wins.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
What Rob confronts more than anything are our biases and traditions about who we believe will make it into heaven and who will not; views that stipulate that only a select few will be chosen for heaven, while the vast majority of people will be co-signed to eternal conscious punishment for the sins committed in the short few years they lived on earth.His response is multifaceted and covers a broad range of other possibilities that have been presented throughout church history.
Some have claimed that Rob is a universalist based on their reading (and in many cases their non-reading) of this book. Universalism is the idea that everyone will eventually find salvation through Jesus Christ at one time or another. Some take this belief to an extreme and say that even Satan will find salvation. However, Bell categorically denies this accusation and has made this abundantly clear throughout the text.
He writes that hell is a topic Jesus discussed time and time again and He used those moments to communicate the 'very real experiences and consequences of rejecting our God-given goodness and humanity' (73). Hell is the word we use to illustrate what happens when we continually decide to reject the good and beautiful life that God has for us. Such ongoing rejections carries with it intense and real consequences, in this life and in the life to come.
Rob doesn't suggest a universalist approach to the Gospel, but one that takes the human capacity for real choices seriously. If love demands freedom, and it does, then included in this freedom is the right not to love in return. God cannot unilaterally overrule the freedom He created and must allow it to take its proper course. In this sense, love wins. God loves us enough to allow us to choose our own path, even if it is diametrically opposed to His best goals for us (116). As Bell puts it, 'love demands freedom. It always has, and it always will. We are free to resist, reject, and rebel against God's ways for us. We can have all the hell we want' (113).
Yet, God's love and desire is that everyone will come to him and embrace the good life He has made for us to participate in through Christ. And, He will stop at nothing to see that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the life He has provided for us. In this life, and maybe in the life to come.
Bell presents us with a hopeful, wide and grand vision surrounding God's beautiful plan and desire to bring everyone into His kingdom. I appreciate his willingness to enter into the conversation, while attempting to plot a way forward that encompasses, and at times surpasses, the traditional views about the fate of everyone who ever lived. Why he does leave a number of important questions unanswered, what book doesn't? However, I see this book as a great starting point for further research and dialogue, not the final word on the subject.
I would recommend that you take the time to further investigate other works as well. Bell lists a number of them at the conclusion of his book. A further recommendation is too read widely. Don't read only those books whose views you already agree with. Read through a plethora of views as you consult the scriptures for guidance and direction. Be open to new possibilities. What may be a difficult pill to swallow at first, could turn into something helpful and uplifting in the end. If, however, you end up back at the same place, that's fine too. But only after you have taken the time to look through the options and not because you arrived there because of a priori arguments.
I highly recommend this book to everyone who would like to better understand the very real and important consequences of our free choices. Hell and heaven are not religious myths. And, God has given us the freedom to choose. In this way, love wins'
So, as much as I have tried to avoid getting too deeply drawn into the conversation before actually reading the book, I have to confess that I've heard a great deal of things and it's perhaps not possible to take things and set them aside completely. To the best of my ability though, here's what I saw as I read the book and then I'll make some comments following about my observations of the controversy surrounding the book.
Often times, when evaluating a review of a book, the views of the reviewer are as important to know as a point of reference. I am a former evangelical pastor and denominational worker who left formal ministry about 6 years ago for honorable reasons. Since that time, I've also left institutional church membership and am a proponent of organic or simple church. I have a degree in Biblical Literature and am fairly broadly read in several different veins of theology. In the past, I've been closely associated with reformed theology or Calvinism and while I do not reject everything in the tradition, I am moving away from several elements of it. Not too surprisingly, the most vehement renouncings of this book and the author tend to come from a reformed theological bent.
So, my initial response to all the hype was and to some extent still is, to come to the defense of Rob Bell and advocate restraint in jumping to unwarranted conclusions. Much of the criticism to me has the whiff of smoke from torch and pitchfork carrying critics and that type of reaction tends to take on a life of its own to where people feel almost obligated to take a position in order to confirm their own identity. So because certain leaders, whether fairly or not, have made some public statements and declared Love Wins to be heretical, that settles the matter and to argue otherwise is to draw your own faith into question.
Setting that aside and now after having read the book I'd make the following general observations. Rob Bell's writing style is highly conversational and employs a Socratic technique of asking questions which are obviously designed to lead people in a particular direction, but it avoids for the most part making declarative statements. Because of that Bell has been criticized for being indirect and that quality maddens several of his critics who would much prefer that he just come out and say something as opposed to teasing. If Bell were writing a formal theology that would be a fair criticism. As it is, Bell book while certainly theological, appears to be directed to an audience for which that sort of book would not appeal. Post-modern unchurched people for the most part are more concerned about the questions and impressions they have about the nature of God and the church that are what they are, and Bell expresses the questions and guides the conversation in a manner that appears designed for them, not academics and theologians. Bell too, has been writing books and pastoring for quite some time and he's obviously well aware that people follow stories much more willingly than they follow lectures. Part of effective story telling is maintaining tension. Bell isn't about to make a clear statement that resolves that tension until the time is right. Anyone going into this book who's looking for a 3 point outline and clearly stated conclusion will be disappointed.
Bell opens his book with a preface that makes clear what he is attempting to do. He notes that Jesus has a story. Further Jesus' story is often very different than the stories told about him by others who knowingly or not, are hijacking it for some other story the source of which is decidedly not Jesus, not necessarily Biblical. In fact Bell goes further than that and states that the purpose of his book is to reclaim that story and that includes revealing some of those other stories. Many of those criticizing Bell and this book I think are completely justified in believing that Bell is rejecting many things that they believe to be important. Bell is clearly taking a stand here and that stand is to refute and dispense with several popular representations of the nature and character of God. Not surprisingly many of these are part of the reformed tradition and they're not misreading his intent, even if they're frustrated that he's not being completely direct about some of his premises.
Bell intends for his book to initiate some dialog about God, Jesus, Heaven, Hell and what a relationship with God looks like. He intends to be controversial and he clearly wants to call into question some things that are tightly held by Evangelical, Fundamentalist and Reformed traditions (to name a few.) Bell clearly intends to widen the definition of what is "Christian" and to draw to the attention of people outside of Christianity or on the fringes that the popular representations of many of these issues are not all there is to Christianity.
Bell asks provocative questions. He opens with asking if Ghandi is really in hell, as a note he examined suggests is irrefutably true. He moves things from theory to where the rubber hits the road for many people, speaking of tragedy, accidents and the death, not just of theoretical people, but real people; people we know and love and with whom we can identify. He then speaks about how people come to Christ. The sinners prayer, a relatively recent development in Christian history and it's vitality is questioned, not to exclude but to put in the context of 2000 years most of which never heard or thought of such a formula in its precise form. Bell looks at some Scripture passages and questions why some are elevated above others and some are seemingly unaddressed or ignored.
A dominant theme of Love Wins is to remove the separation of "Now" and "Then". He clearly questions the value of what is sometimes called "pie in the sky by and by" meaning the disconnection of the present from the future. He doesn't discount the future state of heaven. He questions the current view and shows from scripture and culture that this isn't the only view that has characterized the church in the past. Moving on he goes to the more controversial issue of Hell and addresses it in similar terms in essence stating that Hell is more than just a future state; we can and do create hell for ourselves by the choices we make. He doesn't deny evil and he doesn't deny hell as a future state. He does however bring questions and makes observations that are not new, and are indeed fair and must be addressed by anyone seeking to understand what the scripture has to say and the impact of those beliefs upon us today.
To answer the more direct questions that come about the book, it appears to me that Bell does believe in heaven and hell. Bell is not a universalist in the manner that he is being accused of, and he clearly affirms the uniqueness of Christ. What is evident as well is that Bell is not afraid to question traditional definitions and redefine what familiar words and concepts can mean apart from their standard issues.
More at the heart of this work I do identify something that comes through clearly and I'm frankly a little surprised that it doesn't take center stage in the discussion swirling around the book. Bell clearly rejects the "traditional" view of penal substitutionary atonement as the exclusive means of understanding the nature of God and the analogous understanding of Christ's death on the cross. He appears to pretty clearly accept a broader understanding that is usually referred to as Christus Victor. This is in keeping with the broader questions that he is asking and if anything, this should in my opinion be the target of focus of discussion by those seeking to call his views into question. Here there's clear indications in the book than the spurious charge of universalism. That said, Bell's work falls into the category of other equally controversial books and authors of recent years such as The Shack, and Greg Boyd. That said, personally I find Bell's thinking and positions appealing and I agree with him, that many of the traditional positions within the church don't really have a great appreciation of what the history of the penal substitution theory of the atonement is, when it appeared and how the church viewed things before it came along. Some study in that regard reveals a lot. Frankly what it reveals makes a lot of people angry who either don't want to face the implications of the answers or who prefer to deny them.
Love Wins is indeed a provocative book that asks hard questions and it's clear it demands careful consideration. Those who are most angry about it are those who appear to prefer that the questions not be asked in the first place.
4 stars. I'm not completely on board with everything Bell states or implies. I think the questions are worth asking and Bell asks them well.
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