The most controversial of Pastor Rob Bell’s books to date has been ‘Love Wins’. Actually, to be fair, it was his introductory video of the book that created all the controversy. The video created all kinds of commentary by many people who had never read the book and were basing their whole opinion on what was said and not said in that short clip. Of course, when you open up the book to read it, the first few pages read very similar to what you hear in the video; lots of questions. This is typical Bell style.
If you’ve read any of Bell’s previous books (The Velvet Elvis, Sex God, Jesus Can Save Christians, etc.), you will recognize his honest identification with the questions that he recites. Questions that have been asked my many who have traversed the aisles of the church and many others who have been peeking in from the outside.
Bell’s congregation at Mars Hill Church has always been a place where questions were not only welcomed, but encouraged. Bell’s approach to communication, both from the pulpit and the written page, validate the questions and confusion that many have regarding what the Bible has to say and what the Christian church teaches. Bell agrees that the Bible does seem to contradict itself at times, and that Christian statements and beliefs don’t always agree within the church itself.
But after a few chapters of making the skeptic and the disenfranchised feel like they have been heard and recognized, Bell begins to talk about what is foundational to Christian beliefs, and particularly about Christian beliefs regarding Heaven and Hell.
Bell strongly emphasizes that he does believe in the concept of judgment and punishment by a righteous and just God. To look at the evil that takes place in the world and the suffering of innocents and say there shall be no recompense, no calling to account is something he can’t fathom from a God who’s very nature is that of perfect Love.
Bell has no problem with the concepts of punishment for evil and the promises of eternal life and resurrection for believers in Jesus. He reaffirms his commitment to Jesus as the only way to eternal life, a life of the spirit that begins now, in this life, not after we die. However, he does qualify those affirmations.
Just as he affirms his belief in the foundational Christian doctrines, he also openly admits that he is unwilling to limit God’s means of fulfilling those doctrines. He is unwilling to say, for instance, that because a person has never heard ‘the name of Jesus’ that the person cannot possibly ‘know Jesus’ as Savior and God. He also emphasizes the fact that the understanding of exactly how ‘Hell’ and ‘Heaven’ and the process of ‘Salvation’ are defined, varies within the Christian community itself.
Bell ends the book by telling of his own personal commitment to Christ, which followed a very traditional Evangelical pattern. A story of a young boy kneeling and praying a prayer with his parents in their home.; a story of transformation. “Something happen in me,” Bell says.
In this conclusion, he encourages those within the church, and those peeking in from outside, to widen their views and seek to accept that the ‘One Way’ of Jesus may be narrow, but its travelers find it in many different ways.
“Jesus invites us to trust that the love we fear is too good to be true is actually good enough to be true,” Bell says.
Some might think that all this talk about love is ‘sugar-coating’ the Christian message. Bell reminds us that the Christian message, the ‘Gospel’ is supposed to be ‘good news’. But Bell does not ignore the ‘costs’ involved with choosing to trust Jesus. “It will require a death, a humbling, a leaving behind of the old mind,…letting go, so that we can receive, expand, find, hear, see and enjoy.”
This “…vast, expansive, infinite, indestructible love…” is worth the cost, Bell contends. And this Great Love is the champion that you’ve been looking for. Love Wins!