I’ve finished reading Love Wins by Rob Bell, and gave myself some time to think it over. I wanted to drop my thoughts on here, simply because some people have asked what I think about it.
Rob does a great job of asking questions, and providing some of the possible answers. In “What About the Flat Tire”, he asks several questions about what salvation is, and what it isn’t. It’s a great discussion to have, and continue having. Often our views of what salvation is becomes so narrow, that it no longer is “good news”, and therefore, in my opinion, doesn’t qualify as the Gospel anymore. Since the word Gospel is literally “good news”, we can’t honestly call any version of salvation “the Gospel” if it’s no longer good news. Rob’s questions bring this point to the forefront, which I appreciate.
His discussion on Heaven in chapter 2 is equally poignant. Rob brings in a discussion on the ideas of eternity and how it relates to the concept of eons. Not having done the work on the Greek words, I’m not in a spot to agree or disagree with him. The issue of heaven being the Kingdom of God and starting in the here and now is not a new idea in his writings, and it is one I have found very helpful.
The chapter on Hell leaves me wanting a bit. I agree that Hell is not a literal lake of fire. How can physical flames burn a soul? What good would that do? If the soul could feel the flame, it would become numb to the pain. That version of hell makes no more sense than a place with streets of gold and big mansions being heaven. I do agree that hell begins here on earth as well. We see people choosing that everyday, and we often choose hell for ourselves when we turn away from what God wants us to do.
It’s Rob’s chapter on “Does God Get What He Wants” that I struggle with. His basic idea is that God died for all of us on the cross. Agreed. He wants us all to be saved. Clearly Biblical. So Rob contends that therefore, wouldn’t it make the most sense and be the best story if eventually everyone finds their way to Christ through the cross, even if it takes thousands of years for that to happen? He never openly proclaims this is his belief in the book. He asks the questions, and posits the answer as the best option. But he never owns it as his own. I’m not sure I buy this point. By that rationale, Satan and all of his demons should return to God too. God created them, and loves them. Satan is not God’s equal opposite, he is God’s creation who God wills to exist. Shouldn’t he return to God as well? But the Bible gives absolutely no idea that Satan ever comes back. He speaks of Satan being locked up forever.
Rob also states that people would likely succumb to God’s love given enough time, because it is so powerful. Again, I think that is a weak argument. I don’t believe that is the case. I think that people who want nothing to do with God will continue on that path by their own accord. It tells us that demons confess that Jesus is God and recognize who he is. But they don’t change. Rob brings my argument up, but doesn’t do much to answer it, in my opinion.
Overall, I think the book is pretty good. You don’t have to agree with all of Rob’s views to learn from him. Some of his points about the story of the rich man in hell calling for Lazarus, and how the miracles of John are sequentially ordered, were amazing. The book is worth it for those types of nuggets that I love Rob for. The questions he asks are valid, and his point that they are as ancient as the faith is true as well. These are not new questions. He was not the first, and won’t be the last, to ask them. We all need to wrestle with them, whether we agree with him in the end or not.
While I’m not convinced that he is right, I would love for him to be right. When I arrive home, and see Christ for the first time, if I find out that everyone will eventually be there, you will hear no complaints out of me. But here, today, from what I see in the Bible, I’m not convinced it’s going to go down like that. The facts are that we need Jesus, hell is real, heaven is God’s Kingdom, and Jesus is the only way to be saved. Rob agrees with all of this in the book. We can disagree about the parts we don’t understand. I’m good with that.
I’d recommend reading the book. It’s worth it.