Rob Bell “Love Wins”: Does God Get What He Wants?

Ok, I must say that this chapter frustrated me at first.

It frustrated me because seems to operate on an unspoken premise that many, rather than a few, will be saved and then goes about wildly proof-texting the Bible in a way that ignores context and genre of scripture to suggest the premise without ever conclusively affirming it.  That is frustrating because one could reverse the premise – that a few will be saved and many will be lost – and use a different selection of proof-texts, flattening out scripture to make the reverse premise plausible.  I know because I grew up in a church tradition that became well known for doing this.  Bad methodology is bad methodology.

I’m not saying Bell or anyone else (myself included) cannot reference scripture.  Just don’t do so in an ad hoc fashion.

The chapter itself seems to create a tension and leave it hanging.  So I have some thoughts/questions.  The se are not so much a push back as they are just a continued critical dialogue.

The tension is in the question of whether all will be saved, which God wants (1 Tim 2.4), or will some perish.  Again, we can line up proof-texts to answer each question in the affirmative and still resolve nothing.  Bell’s suggestion on the other hand:

Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact.  We don’t need to resolve them or answer them because we can’t, and so we simply respect them, creating space for the freedom that love requires (p. 115).

Bell leaves this tension hanging and I can understand that somewhat.  At the end of the day, neither I nor anyone else except God gets to be judge.  For me, I simply am called to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which means proclaiming his death and resurrections as the means of God’s redemptive work.

Yet in the pictures at the end of Revelation, the new heaven and new earth are clearly portrayed as a reality where wickedness is no longer.  After reading Bell’s chapter on heaven, Bell would seem to agree.  But then in this chapter, Bell seems to paint a picture where two or more people are living in proximity with the choice to choose between God’s heavenly way of life or a hellishly destructive way of life.  Ok.  So what happens to the one who choose the hellish way of life?

The more I read this book the more I realize that Bell is raising more questions than answers.  That can be a good thing.  As I’ve read along in the book I have also be stopping at places and picking up my Bible and reading it.  For instance, I read the last four chapters of Revelation tonight.  That is always a good thing.  Also, as much as I want to hear his definite answers, I also like his ambiguity because it forces us (the readers) not just to settle for his answer but to try and answer the question ourselves (if we can).

I’m also realizing that just as each chapter is an inductive dialogue, so the entire book seems to be.  That means that some of the answers to the questions being raised will have to wait until we read further on.

What are your thoughts?

See also:


4 responses to “Rob Bell “Love Wins”: Does God Get What He Wants?

  1. Hello, just curious.

    “Bad methodology is bad methodology.”

    You describe some of the bad methodology: “wildly proof-texting the Bible in a way that ignores context and genre of scripture.”

    What are some other forms of bad methodology in his book thus far? What are some common errors you’ve seen in general?

    • First, thanks for stopping by the blog.

      As for you question… Real briefly, I’d say that Bell sometimes creates a straw-man out of the worst case scenario of bad Christianity to begin his deconstruction. I really don’t think that’s helpful way to begin doing theology. Secondly, although I have not finished reading the book, from what I gather so far and what I know from other reviews (from generous and objective people) Bell is really not going to deal much with the glaring problem of human sin and how that sin is atoned for. I also know that some of his use of church history is raising questions by church historians. For instance, Bell cites Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, among others, as two Early Church Fathers who advocated universalism. Well the reader might also appreciate knowing that Origen did advocate universalism and was regarded as a heretic for it and that historians are far from in agreement as to whether Gregory of Nyssa actually advocated universalism.

      I hope that helps.

      Grace and Peace,


  2. How we parse this. Orthodox don’t have anyone who may change the Tradition; we don’t have a Magisterium that can ‘develop doctrine’ and we have no one who can go to the Bible and put upon us a ‘better’ interpretation of Scripture. So, we pass on the Tradition of the Church, and the Tradition is that at the Judgment that some will respond to the River of Fire, which is the love of God, with joy, because they have been prepared in life to live with love and it will be everlasting bliss; and those who have not been prepared in life to live with love will find Divine Love unveiled an agony.
    That is what the Tradition says. On the other hand we are allowed ‘personal pious opinions’, that come concerning the future as hopes, and on the matter of the possibility of God’s love winning out and all being saved, there are some notables who have weighed in with personal opinions on that subject. St. Basil the Great comes to mind, and I remember reading him saying one time, that when we see those who are not ‘of us’, yet behaving as a Christian would want to behave, then on the Last Day, it will be discovered that they were ‘of us’ though they did not know it. Bishop Kallistos Ware expresses a similar hope in his book the Orthodox Church, and Origen, though he was condemned for his view of the pre-existence of souls, was not, for his view that all would be eventually redeemed.
    So, while we don’t try to ‘improve’ the Tradition by coming up with a new and ‘better’ interpretation of Scripture, we do have many, myself included, that have the hope that many will be in the Kingdom, and that, in some way, the All Powerful God will shown himself to have been able, not only to make creatures with free will, but also to work out a salvation history, in which, all, including the devil, chose Him and Love, and so come into eternal salvation.

  3. Pingback: Rob Bell “Love Wins”: Dying to Live « Kingdom Seeking

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