Let me just start by saying that I am a fan of Rob Bell; I have read every one of his books and have at one point owned each book except the coffee table book.
I have been an adamant defender of Rob Bell’s method of questioning and his more mystical approach to matters of faith. I have not always been a big fan of some of Bell’s iffy theology, but I have always considered his conclusions about church, community, and following Jesus right on the money.
That being said, I turn for my meaningless critique of Rob Bell’s latest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. This book came off the press surrounded by controversy; I video was released by Bell’s publisher Harper-Collins in anticipation of the books supposed release at the end of the month. However, the video was attacked by Justin Taylor, part of the Gospel Coalition, a group of the self-proclaimed “orthodoxy police.” Having read only a few chapters of the book Taylor went as far as comparing Bell to a messenger of Satan. Not long after the post John Piper tweeted sarcastically, “Farewell Rob Bell.” All of this ignited a theological firestorm that arrested the internet and caused normally clear thinking people to sound like Medieval inquisition agents on a heresy raid. There were few cries of patience or pleas for humility; there was a lot of blood chilling cries for Bell’s excommunication and for Bell to recant.
To this I am ashamed, because even if Bell were a heretic, we should have been deeply troubled and heartbroken…not vengeful and militant.
I will not get into a lot of the book itself yet; there is a lot to cover. I will say that I picked up this book and felt as if I were reading just another one of Bell’s books, just with a greater understanding of what Bell actually believes. Whether I agree with Bell or not, I am glad that I finally seem to understand the direction he is going and the lens through which he sees the Christian faith.
Not everything about Love Wins is bad, in fact I was filled with a strange longing while reading many of the sections of the book. There are a lot of things that I think Bell is absolutely right about and I wish that more people would acknowledge that. There were parts of the book that were kind of foggy and you were left wondering how on earth Bell reached that conclusion. There were many times that I just stared at the words, unable to comprehend Bell’s thought process. Then, there were what I would consider clear falsehoods; these were outright lies. There were also times where Bell says something that sabotages the very spirit he is trying to invoke, the very Jesus he is trying to get the reader to imagine.
Rob Bell is not a heretic. However, he has embraced some heretical ideas. Rob Bell got on the right train, but somehow ended up at the wrong destination. It is almost as if while he was sleeping, someone moved him to the other train and he awoke not even noticing where he ended up. I believe we all have something to learn about the Christian faith from Bell, but he is also a huge reminder that we cannot follow any man blindly. We must be willing to examine the evidence for ourselves.