Does Love Win?

Here I go. Watch me. I’m jumping onto the Love Wins Commentators Bandwagon. I have finished this media-frenzied, supposedly polarizing book and am now slyly inserting my review into a question-shaped post. And after I’ve said my peace, we can all stop talking about this whole Rob Bell/Love Wins thing.

It is what they’ve all been saying: Rob Bell stresses the importance of the love of God for all people while saying but not completely saying it is this love that will win all hearts in the end. Or at least he believes that is a possibility we can’t rule out. He also believes he’ll never know for sure and he’s ok with that (p. 115).

I apologize if I got to the point too quickly. I’ve never actually written a book review before. And I haven’t read all of the other reviews. I did read one by Relevant that I liked. And  I of course read Donald Miller’s that I loved.

I have beef with this book, but I’m also in love with this book.

First, my beef with it: When I was writing my thesis in grad school, my supervisor often marked up my drafts with the word “unpack.” This meant a sentence or paragraph was too convoluted and he didn’t understand fully the point I was trying to make. Ironically, every place he marked with this word was a place in my thesis I myself didn’t understand. I thought I could fool him by making the language very poetic or by using big words. Really, I was too lazy to try and understand what I was needing to say in order to communicate it well. This resulted in my cutting out and rewriting large chunks of my thesis over the course of several months. I was the better for it. Rob Bell would be too. There are just so many sentences in Love Wins that sound lovely and well-written but I need them to be unpacked because I don’t fully understand what he’s trying to say, and I wonder if he doesn’t either. This greatly weakens what could otherwise be a strong argument. Basically, I need this book to be longer.

Now, my love affair with it: Bravo to someone who is asking questions; I’m obviously a fan of that. A faith not questioned is not a faith worth having. Rob Bell is wrestling in this book with scary issues we often don’t feel comfortable talking about, like the coexistence of God’s goodness and hell. Mostly I love this book because it has supplied me with Monday questions for my blog for the rest of the year, like

“How much do we allow our faith to depend on our spiritual leader’s?”

“What kind of Jesus are we teaching others about?”

“Is there a stopping place in the digging, where we have to surrender and confess that we’ll never know, or does God want us to keep kicking up the dirt?”

 

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13 thoughts on “Does Love Win?

  1. Good point on the “unpack” side. I’ve been hoping for Rob to unpack a bit since Velvet Elvis. But man alive I love his preaching!

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  2. Love it Andrea; a great way to articulate your thoughts on the book.

    “Unpack” is a wonderful word that I so need people to DO! Don Miller is one of those that I would like for him to unpack ideas a bit more…but it leaves room for us to mull over our own thoughts on all of it and to ask God His.

    I am all too often too lazy to actually unpack or defend what convoluted idea I am still working on. It’s funny how we can dress it up with fancy words, poetic phrases and stuff 😉 I like to call “fluff”. I could “fluff” my way through all sorts of papers in college…maybe that’s why I barely remember anything. I fluffed my way through it. 😉

    I hope you have a terrific week. Looking forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks…I’m hearing about some fabulous breakfast place that we can get celebratory pancakes at! Bring it!!

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  3. Love won- but not as Rob Bell seems to say. Love won on an old rugged cross that our Savior was nailed to- interestingly it was love, not nails, that kept Him there. Love won when He triumphed ore the grave. Love will win again the day of His return. I don’t quite get the people that don’t want anything to do with Jesus on earth but want to go to heaven to be with Him forever. It is God’s love that gives man a free will. At the judgement day, God will honor our decision- be it heaven or hell

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  4. I like how you said, “A faith not questioned is not a faith worth having.” I think Rob Bell does that a lot, which is why I like him. But you didn’t really say anything about the book. What about what was said in the book? Is what Rob saying, really as controversial as what everyone is saying? Do you agree with what Rob said? You basically said, he used a lot of words and beautifully phased sentences and that he makes you question. I mean you basically did the same thing in your review. I wrote practically what you said with 16 words. Not trying to be negative or anything but I just want to read a review that tells me about the meat of the book.

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    1. Totally fair. I did not get to the meat of the book, partly because I try to keep my posts between 300 and 400 words and this one was pushing 500 so I just stopped. I did think “This is incomplete” after I wrote it, so I appreciate you for calling me out and challenging it. I do have a LOT more thoughts on the book and here are a few specific ones:

      1. Bell turned scripture in a direction I’ve never gone before. i.e. his interpretation of the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16, p. 74 in Love Wins) and the rich man’s asking Lazarus for water because the rich man is burning in hell and Lazarus is in heaven. Bell claims this is to prove the rich man still has his earthly issues: he expects others to serve him, he is prideful, etc. I don’t agree. I think hell is hot and there’s no water and that’s why he asked Lazarus for some; you have to reach the bottom of humility to ask for favors from the lowliest. I think Jesus tells the story to prove the last shall indeed be first and it will be painful for some. I think when the Bible says our souls and bodies can be destroyed (Matt. 10:28), it means it. But I also, like Bell says on p. 160, don’t think we can ever judge anyone’s fate ever. We can’t know; only God can.

      2. Some of his thoughts do lean toward Universalist thinking, whether he claims to be one or not, and for me Universalist thinking defeats the entire purpose of the cross and sacrifice. If we all eventually succumb to God, there is not need for the redemption the cross created, right?

      3. On the other hand, I absolutely loved what Bell had to say about the existence of sacrifice in all things and how it is the essence of this earth and that proves the truth of Christ (the Dying to Live chapter). I also particularly liked a chunk of the There Are Rocks Everywhere chapter because it presented the gospel in a wonderful way to the non-Christian, which was strange because the rest of the book is written to the conservative evangelical…

      4. Though in his interviews he has not taken a clear stance on the controversial bits (I do think the book is controversial), his rhetoric in the book gives him away at times. When he writes rhythmically and eloquently, he is writing what he believes to be true. When he writes with a sarcastic tone and choppier phrasing, he is critiquing–negatively– the traditional evangelical perspective. That bugs me.

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      1. Those ARE some interesting thoughts; but I’m not so sure your post was incomplete. Rather, you just approached the review from a fresh angle.

        Your review isn’t written from a perspective of “Is he right or wrong?” You approached it more as a blog post (seeing as this is, well, a blog). I.e. writing your reflections upon reading it, what thoughts it prompted, how your thinking has been influenced going forward.

        I think there’s a lot more room in the overall discussion for posts such as these. So many people are falling over one another to jump on the “let’s dissect his theology” bandwagon, that for someone to share their personal reflections on what they’ve read was a refreshing change.

        A post such as yours will probably encourage more people to read the book to decide for themselves, rather than seeing someone endorse or denounce someone else’s theology.

        For what it’s worth, I hadn’t even heard of Rob Bell before this whole thing.; he’s not that big a name in Australia…

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  5. Hell was never intended for human beings, but for the angels who chose to leave Him in favor of another god. God offered up His Son for everyone, but many will reject Him. Like the angels, it is their choice to reject Him and to be separated from Him. There is no where in scripture that indicates any second chances for salvation are given after death, but there are those that speak to the contrary. I believe it’s irresponsible (at least) for someone to give people that false hope.

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  6. I didn’t write a review precisely because I didn’t quite know how I feel about the “convoluted” part and love the poking at the truth part. I think I’ll write a review of my own now. Thanks!

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  7. “How much do we allow our faith to depend on our spiritual leader’s?” – Hopefully not at all, they will all eventually fail us.

    “What kind of Jesus are we teaching others about?” – Jesus that loved you enough to die for you so his Father doesn’t have to condemn you.

    “Is there a stopping place in the digging, where we have to surrender and confess that we’ll never know, or does God want us to keep kicking up the dirt?” – We continue to work out our faith until the end there are questions that Christians will wrestle with until the end, do babies that die go to Heaven? What happens to people that never hear the Gospel and die? Is there really an age of accountability or is it metaphorical to an age of awareness? and although Bell raises an intriguing question there is really no biblical support. A loving God provides a clear way so that you know you can spend eternity with Him, and unloving God would leave it up to works where we continue to question if we’ve done enough as imperfect humans. Love does win, but unless the Bible is not the flawless word of God we all say it is as true Disciples, it isn’t the love that Rob Bell speaks of, it is the love that God extended to man by sending His son to die. There is no defense to the person who hears the gospel and rejects the love of God.

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  8. Hey Andrea! I love your premise of the review – from the “English Lessons” standpoint, there. Actually, I found your blog via Dylan Malloch’s site, which led me to your paragraph on “unpacking” the sentences.

    I also love your post on asking questions! I have something of a thing for questions, myself. So – in the interest of encouragement, I had to write a comment sharing my enthusiasm at seeing posts like this popping up all over!

    For what it’s worth, reading this book had a profound impact on me as well – and has led to more than a few questions, haha! I did write about that experience at my site – if interested, you can check out Of Justice & Mercy here, http://justinpheap.posterous.com/of-justice-and-mercy-five-no-seven-tough-ques

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