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93 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is your rhino wearing a suit of armour?*
Back in 1515, German artist Albrecht Durer produced a famous woodcut illustration of a rhino (yes, this is a review of Love Wins!) Having been nowhere near a rhinoceros he based it on a written description of a rhino and an anonymous sketch.

Durer gave his rhino plates of armour and an extra small horn, based on the limited information he had.

As...
Published on 19 May 2011 by Ben Cohen

versus
163 of 174 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could two wrongs make a right?
Rob Bell has done some great work in opening up a bit of space for people who have grown up in conservative Christian circles to exercise their brains a bit. Even those who don't agree with him are working hard to combat him. Putting aside their obvious hatred for someone they seem to see as a turncoat, that can't be such a bad thing.

The irony is that this...
Published on 22 April 2011 by Simon Hall


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93 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is your rhino wearing a suit of armour?*, 19 May 2011
Back in 1515, German artist Albrecht Durer produced a famous woodcut illustration of a rhino (yes, this is a review of Love Wins!) Having been nowhere near a rhinoceros he based it on a written description of a rhino and an anonymous sketch.

Durer gave his rhino plates of armour and an extra small horn, based on the limited information he had.

As centuries passed, artists got a the chance to draw and paint the rhino from first hand. But, in spite of the evidence of their own eyes, many artists persisted in portraying it as wearing a suit of armour. Why? It is argued that Durer's woodcut became so established as the 'definitive rhino' that even real rhinos themselves couldn't compete with what had become the accepted portrayal of rhino-ness.

So... Love Wins...

A plea from the heart: do not dismiss what Rob Bell is saying out of hand because his portrayal of the Gospel looks unfamiliar to you. If you have decided exactly what the Bible says about the life to come before you even open it, you will constrains God's words with your own preconceptions. In other words you will plate it in suits of constricting armour. Scripture is not best served by being squeezed into suits of armour.

Whatever your preconceptions - positive or negative - may I urge you to approach Love Wins with your mind open. Bell has done rather more theological homework than his detractors suggest. And while you read Rob's book, be prepared to pick up your Bible with an open mind too - don't just say 'scripture plainly teaches' - it's the very least that scripture deserves that you don't presume upon it.

* Advance apologies to any art historians or semiologists if there are any inaccuracies in my retelling of the Durer story.
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163 of 174 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could two wrongs make a right?, 22 April 2011
By 
Simon Hall (Leeds, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Rob Bell has done some great work in opening up a bit of space for people who have grown up in conservative Christian circles to exercise their brains a bit. Even those who don't agree with him are working hard to combat him. Putting aside their obvious hatred for someone they seem to see as a turncoat, that can't be such a bad thing.

The irony is that this book uses the evangelical methodology to prove the opposite of what evangelicals normally believe. Instead of God as a cosmic bouncer, joyfully pronouncing, 'Your name's not down, you're not coming in,' Bell suggests that God always leaves the door open, even throughout eternity. Not that everyone is saved; just everyone that wants to be.

In the evangelical style, Bell takes a few verses that he likes (stuff about God 'reconciling all things to himself') and then imposes them on the verses he doesn't (anything about hell). He flips between reading texts poetically, symbolically or literally, without reference to literary or historical context. To all those evangelicals criticisng Bell for this weakness, I say, 'Take the log out of your own eye first; he learnt it from you.'

And his habit of making sweeping assertions without reference to any authority other than himself (there are no footnotes in the book, so we have to trust him on everything) leaves him open to the same kinds of critique one might give of a crazy-looking street evangelist: who gave YOU the right to speak for God?

The writing style.

The style.

Reminds me.

Reminds me of an advert for an expensive car in a Sunday newspaper magazine.

It's short.

Sleek.

Stylish.

Conversational, yet persuasive.

It feels cool.

Maybe too cool.

Because sometimes this level of coolness is a bit too much about surface impression and not about depth.

How much can you say in a paragraph of six words?

It raises all kinds of questions about the relationship between Christianity and consumer culture. I hate to say this (because I want to believe it's not true), but the book gives me the impression that Bell is trying to change the theological picture for the sake of some of his friends who struggle to believe in hell. I hope there's more to it than that, because the consequences of this change are far-reaching.

So, I think Bell is wrong, but much more in methodology than in his basic point that we should start by assuming God loves all of us and wants to include all of us. His assertion that God wants everyone to be 'saved' is right and biblical, but he then does violence to the Bible by trying to make every verse line up with that assertion. But, you know what, there are so many thousands of books (and now there will be dozens more) that use the same flawed methodology to 'prove' that God hates us and enjoys seeing us burn that I am glad this book has been written. If it tips the scales a tiny bit towards love and away from hate, hallelujah.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Love Wins, but Truth is Better, 29 May 2014
By 
Mr. T. E. Rochester (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I came to this book with very mixed feelings. I'd been told Bell was a universalist, or even a heretic.
I was prepared to be angry at this book and scribble lots of things out and was imagining that I was reading this book simply to be sure of myself how wrong Bell was.

I am sorry to say that I judged this book by the media hype it caused rather than the content. I was pleasantly surprised and found myself agreeing with some of what I read inside. The keyword here is "some". Bell is NOT the big bad wolf I had imagined.

Style:
The trouble lies in his communication. In his videos and talks online, he is a great communicator, and the church can learn a lot from him. However, this style doesn't translate very well to the written word. He writes very short paragraphs, sometimes with only one of two words in them. Like this. On. Every. Other. Page. It can get quite frustrating, but makes it an easy read.
Secondly, the style leaves massive room for misinterpreting what he says. You can't quite pin him down on what he actually believes, rather than what he offers as mere suggestions. Concerning the charge of universalism for example, he never quite says it explicitly, but he suggests its something we should want to be true.
Third, when quoting from the Bible, he only offers book and chapter, not verse, meaning that its easy to decontextualize or forget the rest of the passage he is quoting from. (See below for why this is a problem).
Fourth, there are no footnotes to anything he suggests. I'm sure Bell has done some further reading (this is listed at the back), but you don't exactly know where he's getting his ideas from. As an historian, when he takes quotes from Origen, Augustine or Martin Luther, one wants to know where these occur. I suspect they are omitted because certainly Augustine, with his belief in predestination and original sin, wouldn't have agreed with Bell in the slightest! This is especially apparent in Chapter 4 where Bell suggests "an untold number of serious disciples" have held his views (or ones similar), yet fails to mention them! And just because someone else holds the same opinion, doesn't mean that its true! I wish he'd presented better evidence to back up his assertions.

Content:
Chapter 1 was perhaps the most frustrating, asking a series of open questions teasing the reader with half-answers, possibilities and suggestions. This was probably the most annoying chapter in the whole book. Yes it sets up where he is going, but in quite a provocative way. I wanted to suggest this book be re-named "Emotion Wins" due to this chapter, and that analysis largely stands overall.
Chapter 2 on heaven I actually agreed with. You can clearly see the influence here of NT Wright ("Surprised by Hope" is listed in the Further reading section). Basically, we should stop seeing heaven as somewhere we escape to, but a reality we can enjoy in the present, and that our future hope is not simply cloud 9 but the renewal and recreation of all things. Earthy, as Bell puts it.
Chapter 3 and 4 on "Hell" and "Does God get what he wants?" caused me issues and this is where the controversy mainly lies. Bell rattles through/skips over all the biblical references to hell fairly easily without engaging with any literature defending the doctrine. Yes, hell is a difficult issue for Christians, but that doesn't mean we should jettison it as it has traditionally been understood. Instead, he opts for some form of internal hell now in the present which somehow continue on after death as a result of our sinful actions. Hell as a state, rather than a place. Again, this is an issue of his loose way with words - I'm not 100% sure What he was proposing, but it didn't sound right! Then he gets to the main suggestion that Love will (eventually) Win. He suggests God always leaves the door open, even after death, for us to turn to him. Hell is of our own making, so the ball is in our court to return to God, who always loves us. Bell then delivers a series of passages looking at reconciliation, return from exile, restoration etc. However, many of these, I suspect if you look at them closely are taken out of context, referring to the Israelites, or the Church. What Bell does is distort the text, so that verses referring to some apply to everyone. If you have a strong view of the Bible, this chapter appears Very pick-n-mix!! Its sad to think that in a book 198 pages long he only mentions the word "holy" once (to my notice) - you'd think this concept when referring to God would be central when discussing our sin and eternal destination!!

Chapter 5 talks about the cross and the resurrection. The resurrection part I was very happy with, again, building on NT Wright. However, with the cross he appears to set up a false dichotomy between various theories of what the cross actually means, then in the space of a page suggests they are all images and metaphors 4 times!! Does good doctrine not matter to Bell? It appears not - "The point then, as it is now, is Jesus. The divine in flesh and blood". Right! But "Jesus" or "the cross" doesn't explain very much in and of itself - we need to know what he did and why it matters.

Chapter 6 I was again pleasantly surprised with, as it essentially agreed with my understanding of the unevangelized or those unable to respond to the Gospel for various reasons. In one of the most definitive statements Bell makes in the entire book I found myself saying "Finally! Thankyou!" as he pinned himself down on this point: That once you open up the love and power of God to save those who don't even know Jesus properly "many Christians become very uneasy, saying that Jesus doesn't matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant, it doesn't matter what you believe, and so forth", to which he replies "Not true. Absolutely, unequivocally, unalterably not true." For Bell, quoting John 14:6, Jesus is THE Only way to God. But how that happens, and how inclusive that really is, is defined only by the limits of God's love. He says, and I partially agree with him, that we'll be surprised who's in heaven (and who isn't), and its not our place to define people as "In" and "Out".

Chapter 7 is very much based off of Tim Keller's excellent work "The Prodigal God" (also referenced at the back), based on the parable of the lost son(s) in Luke. The title "The good news is better than that" sums up this Chapter - God's love is bigger and the gospel is greater than we can imagine or have limited it to. Its not simply a free ticket to heaven but a relationship we are called to enjoy in the present. Anything less than that impoverishes the message and ultimately makes our God look small. Its a very hopeful chapter. Read Keller's book!

In summary then, did I enjoy the book? In parts, very much so. Was it frustrating at times? Yes, very much so!! I wish he'd been tighter in his argumentation, so that biblical Truth trumps what often felt like an emotions-led book exploring a difficult topic.
But I'm also very glad it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and has left me feeling more in love with a good God.

Would I recommend it to a non-Christian or a new Christian? No. Discernment is needed. "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (2Cor 11:14), so we need to be careful! Rob Bell is not a heretic, but a false teacher? I'm honestly not sure. He certainly has got plenty wrong alongside plenty right, and wise Christians shouldn't be afraid in learning from him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly orthodox, but thought-provoking, 24 Mar 2014
Even before the book came out, it prompted a vicious backlash from some quarters of the christian blogosphere, denouncing Bell as a heretic and declaring the book harmful. Though books that are condemned before anyone has had a chance to read them are amongst those that interest me the most. So I came to the book with a certain understanding of the view espoused. If you're reading this review, then maybe you have a similar understanding. Of course, that understanding may be outright wrong, have an incorrect emphasis or be incomplete. However, the idea that it is about heaven & hell is absolutely correct.

Bell likes to ask questions.

Leading questions.

And spaces.

He likes to leave lots of spaces.

Like that.

If you've not read any of Bell's writing before, he does have a particularly annoying style. In fact, 'style' is a good word to use. There a great focus on the manner of the presentation which does mean the content is sometimes compromised; not necessarily so that it is absurd, but there is a laxity here that one would hope not to find in a theological work. But then Bell's writings aren't those of a systematic theologian; they are the work of a pastor with a great heart.

Throughout the book, as if the title didn't give you a clue, the idea of love shines through. No one could be in doubt as to the passion and compassion of the author both for his readers and the subject matter. On that count, no word of criticism can be levelled at Bell.

Diving into the subject matter, Bell opens with a look at the idea of heaven. It is a fairly well-known fact that Bell has much respect for (as do I) Tom Wright. The exposition given of repainting heaven here has undeniable echoes of Surprised by Hope, which is duly referenced at the end of the book. He portrays heaven not as a place where we go when we die - a view that I wish would die its own death. Instead he outlines the idea of the restoration (or rather, recreation) of a new heavens and new earth much closer to the vision outlined in the bible than one finds in tradition.

There shouldn't be anything particularly controversial here, though for those who have grown up in churches teaching the idea that "[the aim of life is to go to heaven when you die]" and not questioned it, then this may come as something of a shock to you.

So that's heaven done. Onto hell.

Before coming to this, the book's reputation was for a particular idea that Bell had regarding hell. The accusation (for that is what it was) was that Bell was a universalist, advocating a view that after death everyone would have an opportunity to repent. The impression is that it was sort of half way between two heresies: universalism on the one hand, but with elements of purgatory on the other.

However, after I finished the book, I was left wondering "where was it?" It just didn't seem to be there. I thought that half a dozen pages or so must have been stuck together. I had to go back and skim read two-thirds of the book in order to find what it was that got so many people in a tizz.

Because the fact is, that's not what the second half of the book is all about. To portray it as such is to misrepresent Bell and the point he is driving at. When you read Bell, one must keep in mind that he writes for different groups of people at a time. With Velvet Elvis, for example, there was a distinct feeling that he was writing for those who had grown up with a particularly conservative viewpoint, showing them that christianity was more freeing than religious conformism, that there is scope for disagreement without condemnation. With Love Wins, he is writing to those who have been hurt. This is brought out in a Q&A at the back of the book, written after the initial publication, where Bell recounts the testimony of one his readers who had previously faced a very condemning attitude in church and had come to think of themselves as doomed and unloveable.

I don't agree with Bell's outlook, as he seems to portray a view of christianity that best suits his pre-existing ideas, rather than changing his ideas to best fit scripture. If you think of it as a message about love, rather than a detailed theology of hell, then it becomes more palatable. If someone only read Bell and took him as authoritative, then one would get a skewed idea; so in this respect I agree with his critics. But I would not go so far as to denounce the book as heretical. There are some very good questions posed here, and all Bell asks is that we try to answer those questions ourselves. Some of these are very leading, but many more are worthy of deep consideration. The other thing that slightly rubbed me up the wrong way was Bell's opening defence; he claims at the start that all that he discusses has been considered by orthodox (small o) christians for centuries, but he fails to mention that some of these views have been rejected, denounced or otherwise declared as heresies by a good number of those same people who have considered the issues. In so doing, he tries to present his view as mainstream. Though it is interesting, I really don't think it is mainstream, nor should it be.

In conclusion, it's not for everyone and I wouldn't recommend it as a first port of call on studying hell. However, as a way of gaining and understanding Bell's view, it is better to read him than only those who reject him. For those who have been hurt by those in church and are seeking assurance, this is a resource, but it is not a complete set of answers. It may be an interesting exercise to go through the book, noting all the questions and coming up with your own answers.
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123 of 145 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is Bell Crazy?, 28 Mar 2011
By 
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Not since Bishop Robinson's Honest To God has a book from within our own ranks got so much of the Christian church talking. It is easy to see why. One doesn't need to be a theologian to see that Pastor Bell is positing a form of apocatastasis as the only way to reconcile God's essentially loving nature with the idea of eternal punishment in Hell (whether with a capital `h' or not). And since the generally accepted theologically reformed position at the time of writing is that not all will be saved - Pastor Bell has upset a lot of very serious (and seemingly loud) people within our Church. Is their upset warranted? Is Pastor Bell really saying that what we do here doesn't matter because each and every person, even the most horrid and unrepentant sinner, will go to Heaven? Will all Muslims go to Heaven? Will suicide-bombers go to Heaven? It appears they all will if Pastoral Bell gets his way - but, as I am sure Pastor Bell would say were he here (which, sadly, he is not - indeed I have only a cat for company today) - it is not his will but God's will that all of the aforementioned cretins end up parading through the streets of Heaven.

When one takes a serious look at the theology of the book, the first thing that it is perhaps helpful to bear in mind is that Bell is not introducing any new ideas here. Indeed, in his introduction, he says so himself. Neither is he resurrecting some erstwhile forgotten fringe theology that would be better left in the dust of time-gone-by. Indeed, CS Lewis, from whom Bell quotes, appears to have held very similar views to the ones Bell puts forth. Not many of us would tolerate CS Lewis being called anything other than a hero of orthodoxy and yet in his book The Great Divorce Lewis uses a story to set forth exactly the views that Bell is being so heavily criticised for here. Having born all of this in mind, what exactly is Bell saying?

Firstly, Bell tackles the subject of Heaven. He is correct to challenge our views of what Heaven is. Too many Christians have a totally un-biblical and irrational concept of Heaven as a place in the sky to where we shall be promptly evacuated upon our death. There is very little in the Bible to support this view. It is the fault of bad teaching from our pulpits that more Christians do not understand that the term Heaven in the Bible is used, most frequently, to refer to the here-and-now rule of God in this world - not in some other. Bell, as many before him, draws us back to the truth that when Jesus taught us to pray `Our Father, who art in Heaven' - He was not teaching us to pray to someone who wasn't here but was there - but rather He taught us to pray `Daddy, who is here with me'. This is a very important difference. Bell elucidates the idea that Heaven can be understood as what God is doing right here, right now. Heaven is the woman who leaves her abusive husband and finds refuge and love in the home of a family from her local church. Heaven is the workers who have flown to Japan to feed and cloth those who have lost everything. Bell, over and over again, draws us back to the simple fact that God is at work restoring the world to Himself now - not letting us all get on with it to be dealt with at some point in the future. Heaven, according to Bell, is when God's will is done here and now, and one day God will shout `ENOUGH' to all of the places where His will is not done. On that day the suffering will cease, oppression will be halted and all tears will vanish and God's will will be fully done in all places, and Heaven will be complete.
Next, Bell tackles Hell. Just as Heaven is those places where God's will is done - so Hell, by corollary, is those places where humans choose to act against the will of God. Bell posits that each of our actions either take us closer to God and His will, or take us further away from God. The closer to God we get, the more able our hearts are to deal with the sheer goodness and holiness of His person. The further away we go, the harder our hearts become and the more difficult it is for us to let love break through. We have all met evil people - people who are twisted and bitter and sinful - and thought `They will never know love or peace or joy', and been sad. Bell asks us to imagine on the great day of judgement when God returns to shout `Enough!' how each of these two groups will fair. Those who have been working with God in brining about His kingdom here-and-now will rejoice and continue on their work in the direct presence of their Lord. Those who have rejected God will find the torment of being exposed to a world where sin is impossible like being in the hottest fires and darkest night. Hell, according to Bell, is being in the new world, with God, and having a heart that is unable to respond to Him.

Bell goes on to talk about the means of salvation and redemption and I think it not unfair to say that his central view is that salvation is dependant upon responding to God. Bell states that because it is God's purpose to redeem all of creation to Himself - that there is no `cut off' point for salvation. That even after the Judgement Day God will, through grace, accept any who wish to turn their hearts to Him. For Bell, a God who would do otherwise just wouldn't make sense.

So - is Bell's theology wrong? I don't think so. While I may not agree with everything that Bell says, and I certainly don't agree with his rather loose and free use of scripture to support his points, he is on to something. Time and time again Bell brings us back to the person of Jesus and asks - What would Jesus do? Bell comes to the conclusion that seems to many of us to make sense - Jesus would keep on going until every last one of us was with Him forever. It's hard to argue that this is not what God wills - and even harder to argue that if God wills it, He will ultimately be defeated. Yes, Bell does over-use emotive language at the expense of well-reasoned argument and yes his logic is a little crazy in places - but my feeling is that Bell didn't set out to write a theological text - he set us to make us think; to poke enough holes in the accepted view - and more than that to offer a strikingly beautiful alternative. It has certainly got people thinking.

The Bible tells us `and ye shall know them by their fruits'. If people took what Bell says in Love Wins as true - what would the fruit be? Well, more Christians would pay a lot more attention to this world and the good that still remains to be done. Our evangelism would look a lot different - rather than a man standing in the middle of the city-centre shouting `Turn or burn' we would have armies of Christians working for God's redemptive purpose in the world and changing the hearts and minds of all whom they encountered - just as Jesus did (interestingly Jesus only gave the turn and burn sermons to those who were already religious). Christians would be a lot more concerned with how they acted, what they said and how they treated the world - for they would realise that they are in Heaven now and will not simply be `made perfect' in that last day. In short - if Bell is right, and we all acted on it, the church would look a lot more, well, Christ-like. That is very difficult to argue against, don't you think.

I do not believe that Rob Bell has got it all right - there are errors in his thinking. Moreso, I do not believe that Rob Bell has got it mostly wrong. There is a lot of truth in what Pastor Bell has written, truth to which the Church is duty bound to take notice. I just hope we can hear that truth over the noise of all of those who choose to exhibit the love of Christ by shouting abuse at a fellow Christian for disagreeing with them.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenge laid down, 24 Mar 2011
This book is about heaven and hell yes, but it is about more than that... its about the future direction of evangelicalism in the west. What sort of church are we creating in the 21st century? A open one where diversity and difference are valued and accepted? Or a closed one where doctrinal clones are re-produced based on a very narrow stream of reformed theology?

Bell is clear where he sees it heading. Although this book lacks the personal touch and creativity of some of Bells previous work, it is undoubtedly his most important.
Challenging, provocative and at its heart honest. The question, 'What is God like?' is so fundamental to the future of Church and Bell provides a compelling response. With the belief that we have strayed of course somewhere in history, Bell is relentless in calling us back to discover a thoroughly Judeo-Christian God. Without doubt a difficult book for many, some will agree and some wont. But all will leave challenged.

There is a challenge then for the reformed like de young and others who have taken such offence to this book. The challenge is not to endlessly blog about who is write and who is wrong. The challenge is to respond with creativity and produce tasteful content (much like this book) in line with your reading of scripture and tradition and present it to the masses. You do not have the right to claim the higher ground, you must present your case...
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84 of 101 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sincerely Wrong, 20 Mar 2011
By 
Mr. Stephen Redman (York England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
`Love Wins' is the most controversial popular Christian book for a while.

The hype suggests that Bell is a universalist - that is he believe that all people get to `heaven' eventually. Is He?

Rob Bell is a great communicator - more than that a brilliant story-teller.

Good preachers are usually good story-tellers.

I got a lot out of reading Velvet Elvis and Sex God. Even Drops Like Stars was an interesting experience, even if the words to page ratio often seemed very low. I like books that make me think - except ones that make my thinking cross a line.

`Love Wins' is a great title too isn't it? After love does win!

So.....

What happens when we become so absorbed in the love of God that we lose the fear of God? Lots of worrying things. We begin to apply our own values and understanding to God and can end up with a God that fits our theories but has morphed His identity to fit our philosophy.

We may think that we know what justice is, so we know when it is served. We can come out with loaded statements like "masses of people suffering forever doesn't bring God glory" and use it to bolster our point, but we are depending on the love of God covering our lack of understanding and are forgetting the fear of God. God is bigger.

Bell makes us think, his writing is stimulating at first, although it tales-off about two-thirds of the way through the book. I want to like Bell. But Bell is so focussed on the love he forgot the fear.

So....

He is arguing that maybe everyone will get into heaven, but if that is so, you have to ask what the point of Calvary was. Why the cross? Why is our response to Jesus so important if we can go out and orgy our way through life and ultimately get chance after chance to make peace with God?

I think he has lost the plot.

It is still important that we get books like this. Look at Steve Chalke's book about the atonement - I may think that Steve is wrong but it really helped us all understand what is right.
Rob Bells book will be like that. A flurry of books `in response to Love Wins' will appear over the next year or so and we will all be even more sure what we believe.

But Bell has helpfully reminded us of the power of some Christian figures who speak dogmatically about their beliefs in such a way that you are not allowed to question them. Not everyone is right about everything all the time. I am still discovering that about myself - I wish I had been clearer about some things ten years ago.
Reading this book has helped me remember not to listen to those whose mouths are full of bile and dogma and stifle discussion. We must allow Bell to speak - it is the people who say that we must silence him who worry me the most.

Do I recommend you this book? Probably not - I certainly don't agree with Bell's ideas. Love Wins will become a marker post for us - a line not to cross - a fence at one extreme of Christian thinking, and at least we can recognise it for that.
God bless you Rob..and Steve too!
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Commendable but unsuccessful, 3 July 2011
By 
Rev. M. Bonser (Dunfermline, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Rob Bell is to be commended for his desire to make clear the strength of God's goodness and love. Unfortunately he fails to do so in a coherent manner. 'Love Wins' appears to promote four basic theses: God is all love and goodness and desires no one to be excluded from his kingdom; Heaven is completely free from misery and can be experienced here and now as well as then and there; Hell is the misery of our own making by refusing to join the party celebrating God's love, and is within and intertwined with heaven; We are genuinely free to reject God's love, but God will have his own way and we won't reject his love. These four theses clearly cannot be reconciled with one another.

Rob Bell draws heavily on C.S. Lewis for his understanding of heaven but goes beyond Lewis's imagery. I believe he is also dependant on George MacDonald for his understanding of hell as a final withdrawal of God to encourage acceptance of his love. He makes extensive use of the story of the Prodigal Father (Lk 15) and The Rich Young Man (Matt 19). In each of these the central actor is allowed to walk away from the love of God, the son from the father, the young man from Christ himself. Rob Bell concludes his book with three parables that speak about being left outside, even though he has argued strongly that there is no inside and outside, trying to substitute engagement and refusal in their place as if this solves the problem.

Rob Bell's motivation is completely laudable but in attempting to avoid the real possibility of any kind of inhabited hell, he has removed the reality of human freedom which gives us our god-like character.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Only Love can win, 28 April 2011
By 
Master S. R. Willis (London) - See all my reviews
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To respond to this book I feel I need separate categories of critique;

Firstly, as a piece of writing. I have really enjoyed and got alot out of Rob's last few books and so, especially with the controversy surrounding this one, I expected the same. However, unlike both Velvet Elvis and SexGod, this had no references (excpet bracketed chapter references for bible verses). The preface god helling, however, the two chapters on heaven and hell I found to be slightly disappointing. In fact, the first half of the book especially seemed to be written using fragments of verses to back up other verses. It is not thorough, scholarly or in an academic way 100% reliable. However, that said, expect the usual flare and one-liner questions or statements. The second half of the book seemed to be written from a real excitement of the topics and that came across. This was inherently less scholarly written (less references, more enthusiasm!) and it worked better. It's what he's best at.

Secondly, the content. This has obviously been hugely controversial in certain christian circles. However, to alot of the world it has been unheard of (certainly this side of the pond). I struggle to see the problem of someone expressing his views. Perhaps authors like Brennan Manning, Richard Rohr, Henri Nouwen, Paul Tillich, and nameless others have already been voted against by the "evangelical" border control and this one sneaked in before being caught out as a virus of some sort. What he is saying is Good News. What he is saying is that God is real. Heaven is real. Hell is real. Our choices matter. However, what he is not saying is that your worth is not down to you, you have to be a 'christian' to meet with Jesus, to be saved by Jesus. He is not saying that the god of cliquey religion, fear, guilt and not saying or realising how you REALLY feel, what you REALLY think about God, is worth paying any attention. He's saying God's bigger, and better than we get. For this reason, and I think its flawed sholaricism only goes further to show that we do not win, Rob Bell does not win, his books do not win, it is in fact Love that wins, and that is bigger than any of us.

Although some bits are poorly written I understand his decision to write them such as they are, it is after all, more accessible to those of us who sometimes want only to hear Good News and not to critique the crap out of something 'til it lies in the abstract ether of our minds without power to transform. However, for the message, the honesty, the truth, the invitation and the enthusiasm, I highly recommend it. Perhaps not his most well written book but I would say his most raw and honest, and I would add exciting!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Preaching to the Choir, but thats Just Fine, 11 Sep 2011
Lets not get carried away, this was never going to rock the foundations of Evangelical Christianity. Those who believe in eternal conscious torment believe because it feels good that God has chosen them and is going to punish the rest. Those who have a problem with Hell probably do have issues with submission, I know I do. No one looks for truth totally objectively. I found myself lifted as I read through this short book. There were a few gems that made me look a scripture differently. I am thinking particularly of the context around the rich man in Hell. Yes Rob is selective of his scriptures, but isn't everyone? Much of what has been said in Love Wins was said by Brian Mclaren in The Last Word and the Word After That. Both books make appeals to emotion and to rationality and also question how some doctrines on hell have been formed, and how the foundations may be shakey.

I hold my hands up. I was convinced for a long time before 'Love Wins,' that preaching hell and damnation will never bring anyone into a loving relationship with God. So if hell exists or not will make no difference to the way I speak of the kingdom of heaven being at hand. The existence of hell did make a difference to how I viewed God and prompted me to run away from faith for a number of years. So I have immense respect for people like Rob Bell and Brian Mclaren who are prepared to be castigated for asking important questions.

I would love to see Rob or someone else really grapple with some of the more 'difficult' texts refering to eternal damnation, I am thinking of the revelation passage about the white throne, the passage that state that 'we are under judgement already because we have not believed on the Lord Jesus. But hey, I am also grateful for a little mystery, God is good and cannot be boxed in by systematic theology.
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