The Bad, Wrong and Ugly in Love Wins
This is the second part of a three-part series in which I will explore Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section below. You can read about the good that I found here.
Yesterday I shared a brief summary of the good that I found in Love Wins. Today I want to take some time to share what does not stand up and should be viewed as bad theology, wrong, or just plain ugly.
Rob spends a bit of time addressing the fact that we all have general revelation (an understanding that God is the Creator revealed to us in the world around us), but he lands a little too heavily upon a claim that since God desires to save all with His grace, there is nothing we can do to change that. He is right, we earn nothing. But he has set up a system in which we do not have to do anything. He is right in claiming that there is not a specific “sinners prayer” found in Scripture, but there are indeed calls to action on our part to receive God’s gift. There are also a handful of passages of Scripture that seem to be proof-texts for his arguments about God’s plan to use punishment as a corrective measure.
Rob speaks of hell as a very real place where humans can go after death. He speaks of hell being a punishment or a consequence for our choosing not to follow Christ. But he seems to miss the boat as to how long hell will last. He paints hell as a temporary place of punishment, citing that God desires for all to be saved (which is true) and that God uses hell to (for lack of better terminology) reform those individuals who did not choose Him in this life. I am not a Greek scholar, but Bell’s interpretation and translation of the Greek in Matthew 25 is the linchpin for all of this. There is no lasting consequence for those who do not choose Christ in this life, and though they will suffer torment, Rob ignores the imagery of being cast out, far away from God’s grace for what it is. Permanent.
One other item of note is that in my reading of the text, I saw a lot of references to God and to Jesus. But the Holy Spirit is noticeably absent. The Spirit’s work could have saved Rob from some of the poor theology he found himself stumbling into at points.
There are two things that can be considered ugly about Love Wins. The first is when Rob uses most of the last chapter to explore the parable of the prodigal son as an example of heaven. While it is a unique view of heaven, it should instead be viewed as a picture of man’s relationship to God. He has tons of great insights into what is in the hearts and minds of the characters in this parable, but casting it as an example of heaven where some people are choosing not to take part in the celebration and therefore are setting themselves into hell in the same space as heaven is ugly theology.
The second is this. Rob is not a universalist. By stating that Jesus is the only way, he makes it pretty impossible to label him as such. But he skirts way too close to the line to be completely innocent. while it is entirely true that we can only come to heaven through Jesus, Rob leaves the door open to God saving those to Himself who will never make any public (or private) profession to Him. They can access Him through other manners. While not universalism (remember, they are accessing God through Christ, just using an extra door), it flies in the face of the need to come directly to Jesus.
There you have it. The Bad, the Wrong and the Ugly. Come back tomorrow as I wrap this up with some final observations to mull over.