Thinking Out Loud

March 4, 2011

More on Rob Bell: Love Wins Chapter by Chapter

HarperCollins has a hit on its hands. To read some accounts, people will be buying the books just so they can burn them. But the hot topic trending on Twitter is still very much based on hearsay and speculation. Never have so many blogged so much material from so little.

And I’ll be the first to admit great curiosity as to how the item I mysteriously have had in my hands since January 19th actually resembles the finished product.

Let me just say a few things.  First of all, I have a very rough copy, but you’ll be glad to know that Bell isn’t one of these writers who types “their” when he means to type “they’re” and just lets the editors catch it.  I noticed some stylistic things that I expect will be changed in print, but for the most this was a straight-forward enough manuscript that could almost have been published as I saw it.

Here’s what the innards look like:

Table of Contents

Preface                Millions of Us

Chapter 1             What About the Flat Tire?

Chapter 2             Here Is the New There

Chapter 3             Hell

Chapter 4             Does God Get What God Wants?

Chapter 5             Dying to Live

Chapter 6             There Are Rocks Everywhere

Chapter 7             The Good News Is Better Than That

Chapter 8             All at the Same Time (Repent of course)

Chapter 9             28 Years

I list these chapters here only to point out that much of the current excitement centers on the material in chapter one — which appears on the video — and material from chapter three which is the object of greater speculation.

So what about the rest of the book?

Chapter two isn’t all that shocking if you’ve had your dreams about a heaven that’s “up there somewhere” already affected by reading Heaven or 50 Days of Heaven by Randy Alcorn.  I heard someone say it this way, “God has too much invested in this real estate to just walk away from it.” Bell also states that the Kingdom of Heaven is not a “when” or a “then” but a “now.”

Chapter four is the one the critics may actually find more disturbing that the one about the nature of hell, which precedes it.  It’s about the idea of ‘eternity’ and what happens over a long period of what we call time to those who initially rejected Christ. What happens if and when they finally wake up and smell the coffee, so to speak. Reviewers will not obvious parallels to othere religions. I’ll leave that for now.

Chapter five is — to avoid spoilers — a chapter that starts to bring us back into more familiar theological territory, except that now Bell is building on the foundation established in the first four chapters. In other words, he’s already lost some people, perplexed a few others, and he’s about to make amends to those who gracious enough to hang in there thus far by giving them a chapter they can more easily connect with. And just in time for Easter.

Chapter six is an appeal to the idea that people are entering the Kingdom of God who don’t necessarily look like us or talk like us or even find their way to the Kingdom the way we did.  In a way, this chapter is a microcosm of all the talk that’s going on this week over Rob’s book.  Nicely played.

Chapter seven is rather interesting. What would the full implications of universalism be to those of us who have believed that “straight is the gate and narrow is the way” only to find that everyone is getting in? (My words, not Bell’s.) Hmmm.  And what better metaphor for that than “younger brother” juxtaposed with “elder brother” in the story we know as “The Lost Son.”

Chapter eight is partly autobiographical and talks of the need — Bell’s need and in his view, our need — to deconstruct the mystery, the paradoxical nature of Jesus; the nature of God. In many ways it could have served as an introduction to the book, as it invites us to break down our defenses.

Chapter nine is quite short. Enough spoilers already. Though you could say that, in the end…

…This is a really quick tour of some of the rest of the book in the form that I was blessed to receive it.  I’ve tried to remain somewhat neutral here, a perspective that is somewhat lacking online where the subject of this book is concerned.  The original title of this post, “More On Rob Bell” was left there so the critics had something to work with (!) but no matter what you’re starting place, you’ll have to agree that all the attention has made this necessary reading.

It’s possible that the copy I have will differ enough from the finished product that in such a way that also adds to the pre-release anticipation surrounding its publication. I’m open to that possibility, but I thought it was worth sharing what I’ve been reading while everyone else is dealing in speculation. I probably won’t get a chance like this again!!

Here is a link to my “review” of the book a few days ago.

Comment moderation:  My system will be offline for about 36 hours on the weekend, but I’ll try to get your comments on Saturday night; so you don’t need to post twice. Be patient!!

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9 Comments »

  1. C.S. Lewis’, “The Great Divorce” was a mind stretcher for me when I read it years ago. His take on hell and heaven was so different from any way that I had heard it before BUT it remained relatively true to what was revealed in scripture (with some fanciful speculation).The fact that Lewis says that those in hell actually would not want to meet the requirements of heaven even after death, even after being given a chance, actually comforted me. Rob Bell however, seems to be writing his own gospel. Who among us wouldn’t want to wave away the words of Christ , those damning and disturbing words of hell and what awaits those who were not covered by the blood of the Lamb? But I am not willing to do so. And neither am I willing to so.

    Jesus said that in the last days there would be those who misrepresented and twisted the truth because the truth did not calm and satisfy their itching ears. I think this book may be a case in point.

    Comment by Cynthia — March 4, 2011 @ 9:07 am

  2. After re-reading my comment I realized that Lewis added to make the parable suit his view(extra biblical)and so I cannot say he stayed true to scripture can I? What I could say is that, in the end, those who went to hell continued to choose it because they remained unrepentant and unwilling to bow their knee, preferring the same gray sameness that seeped into their souls, to the brilliance of truth and submission to a king. This could not explain torment spoken of in scripture. Maybe that is the part that bothers most (Rob Bell included). To live in regret? Yes I can see that those who missed the boat would regret. But torment? That is the part Lewis also removed.

    Sorry to post twice but it took me a few minutes to see I was being unclear :)

    Comment by Cynthia — March 4, 2011 @ 9:14 am

  3. Paul:Heb 12:1—“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,let us lay aside every weight,and the sin which doth so easily beset us,and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”& Vs.2 Looking unto Jesus——–” When my Canadian family incidently, migrated VIA, Grand Rapids, Mich.,in the 19th cent., I’m so thankful they brought the pure message of Calvary, and the Gospel of good news.——— Is our MR. “Bell”* drifting from the INCHCAPE ROCK?????——JL *worldbook.

    Comment by Joe Lambert — March 4, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

    • Joe, I guess we won’t know until we read the book, right?

      Comment by Jon Rising — March 4, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

      • Yes J/R , but I will wait YOUR review of R/B’s book JL

        Comment by Joe Lambert — March 7, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

  4. Cynthia wrote, “The fact that Lewis says that those in hell actually would not want to meet the requirements of heaven even after death, even after being given a chance, actually comforted me. Rob Bell however…”

    Just finished reading chapter two of Love wins and Bell pretty much makes the same conclusion…why do you think he is preaching “his own gospel”. Read the book before you accuse him of such nonsence.

    Oh an by the way Bell shows how he comes to his conclusion with scripture- so it is not “extrabiblical”

    Comment by James — March 15, 2011 @ 10:42 am

  5. Find out the vital answer to the question http://www.isrobbellauniversalist.tumblr.com ??

    Comment by John Lussier — March 18, 2011 @ 2:15 am

    • …All those Amazon referrers knocking each other over trying to get their minuscule piece of the pie…

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — March 18, 2011 @ 8:57 am

  6. I’d actually say that Love Wins is somewhat of a Rorschach Test: If you can’t stand Bell, or have always questioned what he had to say, you will read the book through that lens and find what you’re looking for. If you’ve been on the fence about him, you’ll still be there. If you’ve read him charitably in the past and found that, even when you disagree, he is still within the stream of orthodox Christianity, you will still find that he’s there. One of his stated purposes in the book is to get folks to study what is actually in Scripture, and to ask the tough questions – and accept fuzzy answers and to be charitable to others who do, as well. For example, here is an examination of what the Scriptures actually say about hell, and it is possible to take them seriously, yet come up with a different answer than eternal, conscious torture.

    Comment by Chris — March 27, 2011 @ 10:18 pm


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