The good, the bad, and the ugly – a review of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins – part IV

Chapter 4

In this chapter Bell seems to imply that if people choose to go to hell, God does not get what he wants, namely to take everyone to heaven. He asks, “Will all people be saved, or will God not get what God wants? Does this magnificent, mighty, marvelous God fail in the end?” (p. 98) He does not answer the question. The implications of these questions, are both false dichotomies and a logical fallacies. Because not all people will be saved, does not mean that God does not get what he wants. By giving Adam and Eve the freedom to choose, God did not fail. But God cannot go against his nature. He cannot create square circles. To say that God fails because not everyone is saved is like saying that God is not omnipotent because he cannot create square circles.

His next question is surreal. “What makes us think that after a lifetime, let alone hundreds or even thousands of years, somebody who has consciously chosen a particular path away from God suddenly wakes up one day and decides to head in the completely opposite direction?” (p. 105) The Bible is clear on this issue. The author of Hebrews (which is not a woman as Bell suggests on page 10) is clear that “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

One can see how Bell is labeled as an universalist when he makes assertions like these: “…given enough time, everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God’s presence. The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God…Could God say to someone truly humbled, broken, and desperate for reconciliation, ‘Sorry, too late?’” (p. 107-108). Again, the variable, but non-negotiable entity called “death” gets in the way. Nowhere in the Bible does someone turn to God after they died. Bell wants to support his claims by appealing to Genesis 18 “as Abraham asked in Genesis 18, ‘Will not the Judge of the earth do right?” (p. 109) The passage that follows in Genesis 19 shows how the Judge of the earth did right by judging Sodom and Gomorrah by destroying them. “Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground” (Genesis 19:24-25).

Rob Bell asks, “Will everybody be saved, or will some perish apart from God forever because of their choices? 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 is correct that there are some tensions in the Bible that we should leave intact. But the fact that someone chooses to reject God and thus “perish apart from god forever because of their choices” is not one of those tensions. That is a Bible-based reality.

And yet, Bell correctly concludes the chapter by affirming one’s freedom to choose. He states, “If we want hell, if we want heaven, they are ours. That’s how love works. It can’t be forced, manipulated, or coerced. It always leave room for the other to decide. God says yes, we can have what we want, because love wins” (p. 118-119).

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One Response to The good, the bad, and the ugly – a review of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins – part IV

  1. Athena Deck says:

    Thanks so much for tackling the book bit by bit!
    How interesting that Bell uses that verse in Gen 18– it really seems like he’s counting on people to avoid actually reading the Bible for themselves. Sad.
    There was a spot where he did use some verses that tripped me up on pages 99-101 about ALL PEOPLE doing this, that, or the other thing… but I need to go back and look at what the scripture really says about all of those people.

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