Love Wins is a difficult book to read if you take the Bible seriously. In the preface, Rob Bell states; “A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven,while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. …. This is a misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’s message of love, …” Yet, the Bible tells us this is exactly what Jesus taught; “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7:13-15)
Love Wins quotes enough scripture to make people who don’t know their Bible very well think that it is faithful to God’s Word. Sadly, Love Wins leads people away from the Gospel. When we go deep into the heart of the Gospel we have to deal with hard truths and eternal realities. Jesus tells it to us straight up so that we can choose life. What would Rob Bell have us do? If we don’t like the answers ask more and more questions until we get answers we like. Or do we cover up the truth with doubt by perpetual questions that lead nowhere? Why doesn’t Rob Bell check out the Bible to search for his answers? Rob Bell reveals why; “Isn’t that what Christians have always claimed set their religion apart – that it wasn’t, in the end, a religion at all – that you don’t have to do anything, because God has already done it through Jesus? At this point another voice enters the discussion – the reasoned, wise voice of the one who reminds us that it is, after all, a story [emphasis mine].” (p. 11,12) Rob Bell believes that the Gospel is ‘just a story’ and if it is ‘just a story’ we can change it to suit ourselves – make it better and not as demanding.
Love Wins has a theme of works-righteousness running through it that caters to postmodern sensitivities. People like the message that they are basically good and can make the world into a better place. Rob Bell suggests that we can prepare for heaven by working towards making heaven on earth right now; by helping out God; “… working for clean–water access for all is participating now in the life of the age to come.” (p. 45) As the book proceeds Rob Bell teaches that not only can we ‘help out’ God but that our essential nature is basically good; “And that’s what we find in Jesus’s teaching about hell – a volatile mixture of images, pictures, and metaphors that describe the very real experiences of rejecting our God-given goodness and humanity.” (p. 73) The Bible tells us; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Jesus tells us; “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. “(Mark 10:18) Love Wins is based on the idolatry of our world – the worship of humanity. The truth is people go to hell not because they reject their ‘God given goodness’ but because they reject Jesus; “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
To conclude, Rob Bell scaffolds his arguments on how some people have hurt others with their comments and judgemental attitudes; for example, the person who said that ‘Gandhi is in hell’ (p.1) and the young Christian who asks a grieving person if her deceased friend was a Christian (p. 3). The book builds the impression that Christians who take the Bible at face value have taught “millions” that “God would have no choice but to punish them forever in conscious torment in hell.” (p. 173) Who can speak against such alleged abuses. Rob Bell in championing the cause of the victims of religious intolerance sets himself up as the hero of a loving god! “And that is the secret deep in the heart of many people, especially Christians: they don’t love God. They can’t because the God they’ve been presented with and taught about can’t be loved. That God is terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable.” (p. 174, 175) So Love Wins presents a different god. A god that doesn’t require any decision or commitment on the part of people in this life. Oh, good behaviour is nice and makes you a better partner with God in making this world a better place but it isn’t required. In so doing, Rob Bell, empties the cross of its power to transform lives and makes Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross seem like a publicity stunt. Sadly this book will tickle the ears of many.