My thoughts on the book ‘Love Wins’ by Rob Bell comes from a different perspective than many of his critics and I feel I need to explain my position in my faith first so you know where I’m coming from. My husband and I minister to very broken people in our community and online, from all walks of life and most flavors of Christianity. Our ministry is independent of any denomination, because of the sensitive nature of our ministry. We knew God wanted us to remain open to providing the kind of ministering He put in our care so we could minister to people ‘where they are’. It’s difficult to minister to a deeply broken person from one denomination when you come at them from the perspective of your own. The apostle Paul said “I became all things to all people that he might save some.” This is precisely how God directed us in our ministry. We serve people broken by addiction, divorce, spiritual abuse, and much more. Some churches don’t tolerate any divorce and end up pushing the broken individuals out with no support to help them. Some churches aren’t equipped in handling the severe disruption of a drug addict’s choices and call upon us for help. We know that each church has different perspectives on the Bible and we do not want those perspectives to hinder us from ministering to the broken people. So we find Christ within their belief system and begin with Jesus.
There aren’t many books or conferences that teach how to minister to people in the way that we do and perhaps it’s time I write more about that. For now, we do the best we can to find books that encourage us to see a person’s heart right where they’re at and I believe ‘Love Wins’ does exactly that. First and foremost I will say, for my more fundamental readers, that Rob’s book is very different from what you are accustomed to reading. After reading the several critical reviews, then reading it for myself I can say with absolute certainty that I believe those critics missed the point. I think his critics have honed in on only those things they disagree with and camped right there instead of actually seeing the beauty within its pages for ministering to broken people. Their reviews remind me of the self righteous son who refuses to enter the party when the broken son comes home. Please do yourself a favor and read the Preface so you know the angle Rob takes as you read the book.
For those who think Rob has forsaken the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed in this book, he has not. Those creeds are blanket statements about some main factors of the Christian religion and he has not violated those creeds. He definitely has a different perspective on how to describe heaven and hell, but his views are still very much in line with scripture. It’s all in how you look at it. Jesus said people will know you by how you love one another. Rob’s words in ‘Love Wins’ provide love and grace, mercy and justice. His views in ‘Love Wins’ remain consistent with judgment and how he believes that plays out in the afterlife.
Putting all that aside, I want to share the most positive things I see in this very controversial book. Rob focuses on bringing heaven to earth. The kingdom life Christ told us we can have here and now, that life in Christ is here for us and has been since he brought the Father’s will to earth. The Father’s will is to love us and for us to love him back, but certainly not under threats, intimidation, or manipulation. The Father is most certainly a great and “terrible” God. I think people see that word “terrible” and become afraid, but even the angels said many times, “Fear not”. God’s presence and love is so amazing that our first initial reaction in our human flesh is to be afraid. Father doesn’t want us to be afraid of him. He also doesn’t want us to introduce him to people in a way that would cause them to be afraid either. He is continually wooing us to him in love. It’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.
This is a very different perspective for many churches and due to the very human nature in us, for many years we have introduced God as a tyrant that stomps his feet if he doesn’t get things his way. Most churches would deny that they present God this way, but for those on the outside, this is what they perceive. There is something incredibly wrong with us if we are trying to punish people into the kingdom. We can’t and shouldn’t bully people into making decisions about Christ with threats of torment. ‘Love Wins’ presents, what I believe, is a fuller view of God’s love to mankind through the lens of the blood. If we view the blood as a tragedy, we will breed hate and anger toward those who don’t drink of it. If we view the blood as the ultimate act of love, we will see it as a life giving thirst quenching fountain to a world that is dying inside.
Rob’s book, in my opinion, takes grace to the radical side of life to reach everyone with the Good News. Over the last year we have seen a substantial amount of teachers bringing grace into view in ways that are opening the hearts of Christians to have some breathing room for themselves and I believe Rob’s book extends that grace to give non-Christians breathing room to come to know this grace for them. For many years, Christianity has only extended grace to those who believe as they do, say a little prayer, or get baptized. Christianity has created an “Us vs. Them” mentality.. you’re in and you’re out. You can get in if you do this, that, and this other thing. Otherwise you stay out of the kingdom. This is not the way of the Christ I read about in the bible. Rob brings out each individual story from the pages of the bible to reveal the depth of evangelism that Christ teaches us. No two people come to Christ the same way.
I don’t believe anyone should take ‘Love Wins’ as a “bible”, it is simply to bring a perspective of God’s love in a way that invites people back to walk by faith. While reading ‘Love Wins’, this is what I see. I envision Rob walking the Orthodox line ..on the edge..but not an edge like hard liners view it..a line that extends by grace..in our faith..to lean over a bit to those walking on the other side of that…to reach out to those who have been brutally hurt by so called Christians… waving the “come back” hand.. “it’s ok… God understands…” and when the edge of that line is too scary for those outside to come back… he walks into the arena of those who are hurt and embraces them right where they are..and cries with them. It’s not about walking the hard lined orthodox ways.. it’s about walking in faith and love and embracing hurting people WHERE THEY ARE.. hard liners will only embrace them if they come ALL the way over to where they are. Rob seems to understand how to reach people that hard liners fail, time and time again, to reach.
I believe Rob’s perspectives on heaven and hell is still very much in line with scripture and the very nature of our Father. He presents accurate interpretations of the Hebrew and Greek words for ‘eternal’ and the ‘grave’. I think it’s very important to get an interlinear Bible so you can see for yourself. You can go to http://biblos.com to use theirs for free. When you understand what the original words are, then you can read the passages in context and get a more accurate description of what the Bible actually reveals to us.
For those critics who are angry and fearful about Rob’s book ‘Love Wins’ and his perspectives on heaven and hell and every person who ever lived, first ask yourself if fear and anger is a part of God’s kingdom life here and now. Is fear and anger a fruit of the Spirit? No, it’s a work of the flesh born out of a lack of faith in God. The bible gives us two very good admonishments on how to handle situations that we might deem as ‘heretical’.
Matthew 13: 24He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weedsc among the wheat and went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27And the servantsd of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Acts 5: 27And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” 33When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice.
May I remind us all that Jesus commissions his disciples to go be fishers of men, not hunters seeking to have their revenge for blood appeased on those you think are wolves. In our ministry of embracing those who have been deeply wounded by manipulative preachers, I assure you I understand the agony of what wolves do to sheep. In my own healing I have come to understand God’s sovereignty in all things. To be truly thankful in the hard times as well as in the abundances he bestows upon us. The hard eucharisteo, that Ann Voskamp writes of. So I challenge you my dear friends to love as Christ commands you to love. We can love in disagreement and trust God to handle all those differences for us. I implore you to read Romans chapter 9 and the book of Job before you rush out to pull up what you think are weeds.