Love Wins Book Review

So I have just finished Rob Bell’s new book. Let me start out by saying I am a huge Rob Bell fan. I love his pastor’s heart. He’s one of the many people that framed my decision to attend Fuller Seminary. I have watched and read just about everything he has put out. With all of the hubbub surrounding his newest book, I wanted to read it. With any fellow teacher, when we work critically we focus on the teaching documents. We work toward truth discovery not character assassination or in this case evangelical witch hunting, which unfortunately I am seeing happen too often.

Rob does a great job of questioning some of the assertions of the church. In the end Love Wins is not as controversial as the Time Magazine article would lead you to believe. I thought that the first chapter titled “What about the Flat Tire?” raised some great questions and his chapter on heaven was awesome. Still there are some problems you should be aware of.

This is a good guide to begin your development of heaven and hell but it should not end here. Remember that if your serious you’ll go way beyond Rob Bell’s book, which I felt rushed and unfinished in its execution. (I can’t believe I am saying this.)

Rob asks many questions but often leaves us at the door of whatever it is he is concluding. In the end many of these are left unanswered. While we can do that in discussions with pastors, I would not think this is a helpful book for people without theological training whom seeking to understand heaven and hell.

If your looking for tangible answer questions regarding where heaven, hell are and nature of the universe you need to look elsewhere. Near the end of the work, Rob says that Heaven and Hell are here, now, around us, upon us, within us. Again this is true but he leaves the discussion about the nature of what happens after people die with the Greek word olam and the interpretation of eternal or infinite. It is true that the Jewish understanding is more sophisticated than evangelicals have boiled it down. I give credit to Rob for reopening this field of discussion. But there is no talk about the judgment of humanity after they die. Rob what happens when we die?

There is also the theme of Jesus as supracultural in one chapter, which I have to agree with. But there is more to this discussion. Jesus is beyond culture but still have to interpret Jesus in the context of his Judaism. Taking Jesus out of his Jewish context is problematic because you cannot understand the scriptures if you try to separate out Jewish culture. If you do this then you get to decide what to keep in and what you take out. And that’s a problem. I felt like this was unfinished.

At the end of the book the statement is made that “Love is what God is, love is why Jesus came….” The first statement is a false premise. God is love but love is not God. Love is an emotion and a demonstration of commitment but it is not a being or a force. God of course is love but he is also so much more than love. Related to this is the statement that our “badness can separate us from God’s love, that’s clear. But our goodness can separate us from God’s love as well.” This really surprised me. Again unfinished. It’s our pride in our good works separate us from God’s love. Let me remind us. We aren’t saved by good works but unto good works. What we do doesn’t save us but because we are saved we can do good works like no one else can. Obedience to what God is leading us is not going to separate us from Him.

In the end I think Love Wins is my least favorite Rob Bell book. I think that it was probably rushed. So many unanswered questions it felt like an exegetical paper without the conclusions. It may be by design but I don’t think it’s really all that helpful.

Update: Rob Bell, what is happening to you?