Maybe it’s because I purchased Rob Bell’s controversial short tome Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Everyone Who Ever Lived this morning and devoured it whole by early this evening, but “A Brief Impression” is all I can yield.
I like Bell’s writing style. I’ve used it for years, not even knowing that he would be born and grow up to use it himself. I like asking questions, especially leading questions, as I find that was a tactic favored not only by some influential Greek philosophers, but also Jesus Himself. It’s good to encourage folks to think for themselves.
But if I’m ever going to write a book “About” something, I hope I will give that something the treatment it deserves, rather than just a quick overview outlining the aspects I like and the reasons why I like them. I hope I’ll give a little fair time and reference to the aspects other people like or prefer and their reasons, and if I disagree, maybe some of the reasons why I disagree.
If that something is a matter of faith, I hope I’ll cite a lot of scripture illustrating many points of view and why I’ve settled on mine.
And if I’ve raised a lot of questions, I’d like to hope that I would try to give my answer to at least more than a token few of them.
Satan, for instance, only makes a cameo (pp. 89-90) in Love Wins, and by reading scripture you’d think he had something more to do with sin, fallen man, temptation, judgment, and final destiny than just the function and perhaps destiny to make people better by having them turned over to him for whatever he does with them. However, there is no mention of his other appearances in scripture.
This is just one example, and I’ll leave it at that because I’m trying to keep this impression brief and I find that example typical of Bell’s treatment of his subjects in Love Wins. (The word “salvation,” for instance, only appears about 10 times – once in the ISBN description of the book, oddly enough.) Fortunately, he doesn’t burden the reader with terms like penal substitutionary atonement or soteriology.
I actually sympathize with Bell’s charge that the story of Jesus has been co-opted for a lot of different and lesser stories, some of them patently false – but to be able to call them false, one would have to refute them. And he doesn’t. Nor does he really, definitively support the propositions that he seems to be suggesting.
I can’t sympathize with the ideas that heaven and hell are merely states of mind in this life (or aeion) enjoyed by or inflicted upon one’s self through the choices one makes, or that because God desires something – the salvation of all – He makes it happen by His irresistible love, even perhaps against the will of one who does not wish to be saved. Those may not even be accurate perceptions of what Bell was trying to say. (And I end up having more questions. Like, “Does justice win, too?”)
You see, conclusions of this nature are rarely stated as such in the text of Love Wins. One is left to draw one’s own conclusions … which is another part of the writing style I share with Rob Bell. Yet, to be able to do so, one needs enough information on all sides of a question to reach a conclusion.
Rather than a brief impression.
To be fair, at the close of the work, Bell suggests other and weightier references from which he has gleaned some of Love Wins. Hopefully, they discuss the questions and issues raised within it more fully. And I fully appreciate the need for a work that addresses them without becoming ponderously heavy.
I’m just not sure that Love Wins really addresses them.