Rob Bell, "Love Wins" & Universalism

James Preston 11 7:00 AM

Rob Bell, made famous by the "Nooma" videos that presented various subjects of faith in a relevant way, has just released a new book entitled "Love Wins: A book about Heaven, Hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived."  Rob has published a number of books that present interesting and alternate views on a number of Christian subjects, and it would seem this book is no different.

Judging by the debate on Christian blogs, as well as the Amazon.com editorial review, it looks as though the basic premise of Rob's new book is that God, who is all loving, doesn't send people to hell.  And at the end of time, it will be God's Love that conquers all, not His wrath or judgment.  (This is of course is a very basic summary from what I have gathered from reviews, as the book has not been released yet.  You can also get a feel of the book's theme and content by watching the promo video here.")

Typically what concerns me is the debate surrounding the book and its insinuations.  The debate is raging among Christians.  Yet the heat and anger it rages with is very un-Christian like.  How typical.  Way to represent the faith guys!

It is just so sad how Christians can get so defensive of their beliefs and convictions that they become grossly intolerant and downright ugly.  I personally have experienced the ugly side of people who defend their convictions, and I can tell you it's not easy to take on the chin and just move on.  It hurts.  I so often find myself puzzled by the fact that it is the Christians, and the most devout at that, who can be so hurtful toward other Christians.

I can only imagine what Jesus must've felt when the very people who expected Him were the ones who rejected Him en masse.  Or how Paul must've felt when the very people who trained him were the ones stoning him for his convictions.  It is downright sad.

Anyway, enough of the side note.  The point of today's blog is to invite whoever may read this to drop any stones you may be holding, and open a channel for people to share their beliefs with you.  Someone sharing their beliefs with you is not going to convert you!  So why shut it down like it were liquid fire that threatens your very life!?  Give people space for what they believe, and I am convinced that the love we exude with such an attitude will eventually make an impact.

Like most bloggers, I haven't read "Love Wins" (it is only released on 15 March 2011) and so I don't have much to comment on.  But let's be honest here...  the premise of the book is actually downright beautiful.  Love wins.  What a stunning concept.  What a Godly concept!  Love wins!  It doesn't matter what the ramifications are of such an argument, if this is the argument, then already we're on the right track!

1 John 4:16 tells us that "God IS Love".  John (who had the most clear revelation that God Loved Him, was the only one at the Cross when Christ died, and was taken into Heaven and given The Revelation) writes that God does not merely have love like another emotion, but He is Love itself.  It is the very nature of who He is.  And the Greek for love here is "agape", which means an unconditional love, a love that relentlessly pursues and loves no matter what the outcome may be.

This is the nature of God!  He is unconditionally loving!  His very being IS Love!  Surely any idea presenting this view of God should be celebrated?  Or at least considered?

And this is the premise of Rob Bell's new book.  It would seem hell and the afterlife are a side issue.  But there is a problem within Christianity today.  It rages like an infectious disease, disabling its carriers to be who God called them to be; it is that there must be punishment for sin.  There must be wrath for disobedience.

This idea is very carnal.  Very religious.  And very unChristian.  The Christian faith is called faith not because it believes in a Man that we have never physically seen.  But because we believe in a Man who paid for our sins on our behalf.  All of them.  That takes faith.  And it is that faith that saves us.  Not that He is Lord (even demons believe that) but that He took away all our sins, and because of that we are 100% righteous.

That is why Christianity is called "the faith".  And this idea that our sins must be atoned for, especially by ourselves, is very carnal indeed.  It stems from the "knowledge of good and evil" embedded in our DNA.  Whereas, the whole idea of Grace is that mankind's sins have already been atoned for by Someone else!

Now, am I proposing a Universalist approach that says "all mankind will be saved?"  Actually, I am not. I do believe that all mankind's sins have been atoned for and dealt with (see 2 Corinthians 5:19).  But just because all men's sins have been dealt with does not necessarily mean that all men will be saved.  Each person still needs to put their faith in the Grace that God has provided for them.*

Does this mean if they don't they will go to hell?  Let me tell you something; it is not my place to judge who will go to hell or not.  Simple as that.  Jesus never condemned anyone to hell.  He said a lot about hell, giving illustration to His parables and teachings, but I cannot recall a time where He actually condemned a person or people to hell.  If Jesus didn't, who are we to?

The point is, Christians need to wake up.  It is as if hell, punishment and wrath are our holy grail.  Since when did they become the focus?  Last time I checked; Jesus, and Him saving and loving the world, was the focus!

So Christians, stop with the fighting.  Who cares if Rob Bell is insinuating Universalism?  Honestly, what does it matter?

I know why it matters to a lot of you, because it proposes that a person who has rebelled against God could get to Heaven along with you who have lived such a good life for all your years.  And that's unfair.  Welcome to the Gospel my friend.  It's unfair!  The closer you are to realising that, the closer you are to understanding God's Grace.

Again, I am not siding with Universalists, I am merely pointing out that our religious mindsets have very little space for salvation of the ungodly.  Which is the whole premise of the Gospel!

Rob Bell, if you ever read this (and I hope you do) thank you for stirring up debate among Christians, and getting them to consider their faith.  Hopefully at least a few of them after reading your book would be a lot more open to a God who loves unconditionally.  Because I know for me personally, it was That Love that transformed my entire life.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

* Having said this, I believe we as Christians should be open to differing perspectives.  Even universalism.  Why get our knickers in a knot?  What difference does it make to us personally?  Very little if any!  I believe it is faith in Christ's sacrifice that saves us, but I am not going to burn a universalist at the stake!  If they too believe Christ's sacrifice atoned for the sins of the whole world and God is a God of unconditional Love, then I am happy to share a table with them, and listen.  

For if they are not against us, they are for us.  Mark 9:40.

11 comments

WOW!! this is awesome!! I met an atheist artist recently, who says he's anti-Christ and I may be offended...And i responded, No..just fascinated to know why you have such a strong view...He responded that his bro had joined the evangelical church, and this had torn his family apart, and his bro is so judgemental. I responded that, "People may judge, but God doesn't..He just loves him." Its a holy discomfort...but I would like to trust in the finished works of Christ.

Hi there.

"Who cares if Rob Bell is insinuating Universalism? Honestly, what does it matter?"

mmmm, it matters quite a bit...especially if it is not sound doctrine...

Paul himself said in 1 timothy 4:16 "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers."NIV

By advocating Universalism he could be doing damage to the very gospel you are preaching...


PS..."The point is, Christians need to wake up".

Gee, do you ever speak to your wife like that?

Rather than say "love wins" I prefer to say that "love has already won" - on the cross, Jesus has already won the victory over sin and death!

However, if it's true that "mankind's sins have already been atoned for by Someone else" why does the scripture warn us that some will not inherit the kingdom and instead be thrown into a lake of sulfur as a consequence of SPECIFIC SINS? I used to think that people would send themselves to hell solely because they did not believe on Christ's atonement (because the punishment for their sins (law breaking) was already paid) but if that is true then why does the scripture teach that people are punished for specific sins? See:

Revelation 21:8
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Galatians 5:19-21

I guess that's where the idea of limited atonement comes in but how does that square with the teaching that God is reconcilling ALL things to himself??! (Colossians 1:20)

Anyway, here's a well balanced review of Bell's book by someone who's read it:

http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/love-wins-a-review-of-rob-bells-new-book?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+challies%2FXhEt+%28Challies+Dot+Com%29

Awesome stuff!

@ Anon - all your talk of doctrine reminds me of what I read the other day from Bill Johnson 'some christians use a view of an angry God to support their hatred towards sinners' well something like that.

The whole turn or burn doctrine has been used and abused in church for centries and now we are seeing a day where we are realising that a God of love really is LOVE!

My view of what Rob is saying is that, instead of portraying the fearful view of how scary hell is to get people saved, why not show how awesome our God of love is?

At the end of the day it is not a doctrine which determines your salvation but your faith in Jesus.

Hi there..

@Anon -

I quote 1 timothy 4:16 "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." NIV and now i am a Christian who uses a view of an angry God to support my hatred towards sinners. My friend, you are misinformed and sorely mistaken.

Matthew 4:17 (NIV) From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

Why do people continue to focus on only love and not the full message of Jesus? Gos is love and love will win, but Jesus said you need to repent of your sins. Those that do not will go to hell. Going to hell is of their own choosing, because they refuse to acknowledge their sin and repent. Rob Bell and the rest of the universalists want to erase that part of God's teaching. You can't take people 95% of way and leave them there. Gos is love and your faith in him will save you, but you need to repent and acknowledge your sins as sin.

the repententence they are referring to is to turn from your old way of thinking(observing the law) and turn to the new covenant...the gospel of JESUS CHRIST!

Nearly everyone thinks that it is God who casts people into hell, but that is not what the Bible says.

Jesus said in Matthew 25:46, "And these shall GO AWAY into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal."

Jesus never said that God casts people into hell.

Jesus makes it clear that it is the devil who has the power and authority to cast people into hell when they die without a connection with God.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

The one to fear is the one who will cast you into hell when you die.

Jesus died on the cross to save you from the power and authority that devil has to cast you into hell when you die.

PRAISE THE LORD for a rational response to a god glorifying book. It made me love the lord more so surely that's a positive thing. Love your bit about the un Christ like responses. I appreciate your blogs.

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