Love Wins by Rob Bell (Conclusion)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."] 

I've finished the book and my chapter-by-chapter review of Rob Bell's newest book, Love Wins.  It feels like it has been a long journey, one that I now wish I had not set out on.  It started when I watched a video of Bell promoting his book.  Here's the video again:

I was intrigued, but then I stared thinking about how many people in my past would regularly bring up one of Bell's other books, especially Velvet Elvis.  I remember watching as words Bell said in Velvet Elvis would be repeated, often with the echoing voice not even aware from where the information came.  (I think I may have even done this a time or two.)  But the challenge was that those of us repeating Bell never took the time to research the information, we just repeated it as fact.  We thought Rob Bell was cool and therefore must be right.  And looking back, I can see how what was often reverberated could have been a subtle twist on good information, skewing it to the point that it skipped beyond correct into the realm of just another twisted idea.  And this is not just information on the latest music or directions to the subway station; this is information about God.  This is information we must pray to get right!  So with that in mind, I decided to read Bell's newest book, Love Wins and chronicle my journey. And as I have been on this journey, I have already heard multiple people echo ideas from Love Wins.  I have received encouraging e-mails and positive comments, and I have also received the opposite.  I've seen people both stand to support and attack to tear down Rob Bell--not his book or ideas, but the man himself.  (And that's not really too productive, and yet that's the direction part of this conclusion must go.)  I have no doubt that Bell will have an impact upon the American Church, for good and bad, for a long time to come.

What I found in Love Wins was more than 280 question marks.  The book is only 198 pages and much of each page is consumed by blank space and large margins.  I also found claims and counter claims.  And I discovered an angry Rob Bell.  From his book, he is clearly mad at the Church.  He's critical of the Bride of Christ, but he makes his criticisms in such a way that he appeals to others who are also mad at the Church.   From what he as written, he can't seem to understand or see why Jesus loves the Church.  So it seems to me that Love Wins is not looking for God's way, but his own, so Bell can define what the Bible says and shape God into a god that he's comfortable with.  

In the promotional video Bell asks if Gandhi is in hell.  He asks if we can know for sure and if it is a person's duty to tell others.  I find this interesting because Bell apparently feels that it is his duty (through the publication of his book) to tell his readers that we can't know where Gandhi is at the moment, but eventually he, like all people, will ultimately end up redeemed and in heaven.  This appears an awful lot like universalism with Christ being the mechanism through which this happens.

Another idea I found rather pervasive throughout the book is the sugar-coating of hell.  It's a state of mind or an attitude or even the way a victim feels, but it's not an everlasting punishment according to Bell.  It can't be according to his argument or nobody would like God.  But in my opinion, that's really not how we should approach something so serious as God or hell.

Bell often seems to offer only partial information.  There were places where he neglected a Greek word in his argument and it seems he often neglected the entire body and context of Scripture.  If anything, it seems that Bell appeals to emotion and anecdotal examples.  He builds a great argument through his very artistic writing style, but his argument usually starts on the wrong foundation.  I found this rather problematic.

I kept waiting for Bell to answer some of his own questions.  I was expecting him to act as an expert on "heaven and hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived," but in the end I didn't see it.  I saw lots of questions and much criticism directed toward other Christians and what they are doing.  I saw a man thinking out loud, and that is fine except his thoughts are finding their way in to places they aught not go until the thoughts have been fully developed.

All-in-all, I feel Bell failed to deliver on the claims he made about this book.  And for that reason (among others addressed through out this chapter-by-chapter review), I would not recommend his book, Love Wins to anyone. My recommendation for anybody wanting to understand more about heaven and hell is the Bible.  Pick it up and starting reading.  It is THE SOURCE, not Rob Bell, not Bryan Catherman, not  Go to the source.  Spend lots of time there.  Read, study, learn, enjoy, and know God better.  Love God more!  That is the journey worth a lifetime. 

If you're still with me though this lengthy review, thanks.  May God bless you abundantly.

* I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book, Love Wins.

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 8)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."] 

"And so we arrive at the last chapter," writes Bell, "The end is here" (193).  He continues: "We've explored a fairly vast expanse of topics, from heaven to hell to God, Jesus, joy, violence, and the good news that is better than that, among other things" (193).

Here, at the very end of a book so full of questions, so full of stinging criticism of how most people understand Christianity, we find a chapter that does not fit.  Rob Bell offers his story, that is, his testimony.  He also shares the Good News of Jesus, but it seems to run counter to many claims he has made or implied.  Was this chapter written by one author while the previous chapters were written by another?  (This chapter is even assembled into paragraphs more so than any other chapter.)

First, Bell shares the story of the night as a young boy, he knelt beside his bed and said a prayer. "With my parents on either side of me," writes Bell," I invited Jesus into my heart. I told God that I believe that I was a sinner and that Jesus came to save me and I wanted to be a Christian" (193).  He knows that something happened in him.  He argues that this was real, not something to please his parents or a desire for a religious experience.  I applaud the opening of the chapter.  It seems honest and real.  But I can't help but wonder if this event is not unlike the prayers and events Bell seems critical of in earlier chapters.

I wish Bell would have explained his thoughts of his prayer.  Saved?  From what or who?  Repent?  And what does (or did) Bell understand of what it is to be a sinner?  What specifically happened in him?  And how did this change his life? 

Next, Bell writes of Jesus in such a way that one might think of it as a the opening of good ol' fashioned alter call.  He writes,
Jesus invites us to trust that the love we fear is too good to be true is actually good enough to be true.  It's written in one of John's letters in the scriptures that 'what we will be has not yet been made know.'  Jesus invites us to become, to be drawn into his love as it shapes us and forms us and takes over every square inch of our lives.  Jesus calls us to repent, to have our minds and hearts transformed so that we see everything differently.  It will require a death, a humbling, a leaving behind of the old mind, and at that same time it will require opening up, loosening our hold, and letting go, so that we can receive, expand, find, hear, see, and enjoy" (196). 
Then comes something that seems so counter to the rest of the book.  Through multiple chapters Bell worked to demonstrate that heaven and hell were in the same place, a state of mind, and that people could one day leave the state of hell and enter the state of heaven. Remember his take on the parable of the Prodigal Son?  Bell has argued against the idea of and in and out of heaven.  Yet, now Bell is saying it is important to trust Jesus, right now.  He reminds his readers of the the five foolish wedding attendants who are unprepared.  He talks about the guy who buries his treasure instead of doing something with it.  He shows that the Bible uses ideas such as "thrown outside into darkness," and the idea that the goats are sent away, to a different place than the sheep (196).  Bell also shares the parable of the weeds and wheat that grew along side each other until the harvest and at the harvest, the weeds were "tied up in bundles to be burned" (196-197).   Now it seems that there is an in and an out.  There is something more significant than enjoying the party or choosing to be miserable.  This doesn't sound like the universalism Bell seems to promote. This seems contradictory until one hits the next paragraph.

The reason it is important to accept Jesus invitation now, according to Bell, is that we don't want to miss out on the "rewards and celebrations and opportunities" of now (197).  Bell never indicates that there will be a time (even in the afterlife) when it will be too late to accept Jesus, just that we'll miss out longer than we have to.  It's strange however, Bell draws a contrast of future time when he looks at God's judgement, but he doesn't want to admit that there is judgement.  He doesn't think it's fair of an infinite God to punish a person for eternity for the sins of just a speck of a lifetime (and therefore does not believe that God would do this), but he is concerned that in the scope of infinity, one might miss out on a few days of reward and celebration?  If one can accept Jesus at anytime, what's a few days?  Bell is trying to say this is urgent, but his idea doesn't seem to match his words.

And then the book ends.  That's it.  That's what Rob Bell has to say about "heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived."

The thing that hit me as I read this last chapter is that Rob Bell is a product of everything he seems so critical of.  He shares his story in the last chapter. He said a prayer, with specific words.  He felt he had to repent.  He asked to be saved by Jesus.  And he believed that this changed something deep inside him.  He has grown up in in the community of believers, of which most of them he does not care for.  He says God is love and that is why Jesus came.  He says Jesus is longing to redeem all people, even thought he seems to neglect the cross and many aspects of who Jesus is.

Through this last chapter, it is clear the Rob Bell has a passion for others.  He is calling them to enjoy the reward and celebration offered through Jesus.  But I'm still left wondering if he has completed the objective he claims to have set out with this book.  Has he really explained heaven and hell as the Bible does?  Has he really addressed the fate of every person who has ever lived?  I'm still left unsure.  The final chapter did not provide answers to the many, many questions Bell offered in the book. For a conclusion, it didn't seem to conclude anything.

Up next, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Conclusion)."

* I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book, Love Wins.

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 7)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."] 

The book is wrapping up.  All those questions, it seems, will either be answered in the last two chapters or they will be left unanswered.  The funnel is getting narrow and at some point everything needs to flow through.

Rob Bell's seventh chapter is titled, "The Good News is Better Than That."  Going into the chapter, I was unsure if the Good News is better than the previous six chapters or better something new this chapter would present to its readers. 

As I started the chapter, I found it thought provoking and enjoyable.  Bell starts with a story of a woman who cuts herself (this idea is not enjoyable, but the point Bell is making is good).  She dates men that hit her.  Her life is hard and her understanding of love is a twisted mess.  She's not really sure what love is so it is very difficult for her to understand the unconditional love God offers to her.  She is faced with a choice between two realities--two stories.  Her's or God's.

To understand how we see ourselves juxtaposed against how God sees us, Bell shifts to the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.  Most of us know the story, but Bell presents it in a way that I have never seen before.  He demonstrates that both the brothers have a story to tell.  The story is their perspective of reality.  They each tell their own story through warped lenses.

The younger son feels worthless as he comes home with his tail between his legs.  He sees himself no more worthy than a hired hand on his father's property, if he's lucky.  But the father has another story to tell about this son.  It's a much different story.  And the same is true of the older brother.  Bell, seeing the contrast between what the boys believe about themselves and what the father has to say about them, says they have a choice to make.  Which story will they believe? Bell writes,
"The younger son has to decide whose version of his story he's going to trust: his or his father's.  One in which he is no longer worthy to be called a son or one in which he's a robe-, ring-, and sandal-wearing son who was dead but is alive again, who was lost but has now been found.  There are two versions of his story.  His. And his father's" (165-166). 
What insight!  As many times as I have read and studied this parable, I had never compared the two stories presented in each son. I've always seen only two stories when really there are four.

But then things start to get squirrely. Bell uses this story to make his point about hell.

A parable is often Jesus' method of explaining something in a way that is memorable and easy to relate to.  It is safe because people will either see a story about a farmer or virgins or brothers; or, if they are given sight, they will see a story about something so much more significant.  But trouble comes when a student of the Bible tries to make the parable say more than Jesus intended for it to say.  At times, we push parables too far.  This seems like one of those times.

Following this discussion of how we see our selves in these two stories, Bell says, "The difference between the two stories is, after all, the difference between heaven . . . and hell" (169).  For the next few pages, the question marks are put away and some serious statements about hell come out using this parable as a launching pad.

Bell writes, "Now most images and understandings people have of heaven and hell are conceived in terms of separation" (169).  He goes on to provide some examples of these distinctions.  Up and down. Two places far apart from each other.  Here and over there.  Interestingly, Bell fails to include the biblical parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke Chapter 16, where there is a great chasm fixed between one man and the other (Luke 16:26).  Lazarus is at Abraham's side (or Abraham's bosom) and the rich man is in Hades. Separation.

In arguing against the idea of a separation (to include the image Jesus provides in his parable about Lazarus and the rich man), Bell writes,
"This makes what Jesus does in his story about the man with two sons particularly compelling. Jesus puts the older brother right there at the party, but refusing to trust the father's version of his story.  Refusing to join in the celebration.  Hell is being at the party. That's what make is so hellish.  It's not an image of separation, but one of integration.  In this story, heaven and hell are within each other, intertwined, interwoven, bumping up against each other" (169-170). 
As I read Bell's argument, I have to wonder if this specific teaching was the purpose of Jesus' parable.  I also wonder how this understanding of the parable fits within the rest of Jesus' teaching.  I highly recommend reading the parable of the prodigal son again, but read in in light of the entire chapter.  Could it be that this parable--coming right after two other parables about being lost and found--has something to do with the father's love more so than having to do with heaven and hell?  And how does Bell's reading of the prodigal son parable line up with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man found in the very next chapter of Luke?  I leave this for you to examine.

Bell argues that "we create hell whenever we fail to trust God's retelling of our story" (173).  "Hell," he writes, "is our refusal to trust God's retelling of our story" (170).

Are we really so powerful as to create hell?  Do we really have that much control over God?  The problem here, is that there are many people who feel that they understand God's love and God's justice better than God does. Maybe this is why the book has such an appeal with people--it allows them to feel justified in remaining in the driver's seat.

Bell then shifts to God's justice, or better put, to our understanding of God's justice.  An example is given that if one has not accepted God in his lifetime and then dies in a car crash, God would have no choice but to send this person to an eternal conscious state of torment in hell.  Bells says this god would instantly be different, like flipping a switch, and Bell can't accept that God might be like this.  He argues that this would be unacceptable behavior for an earthly father implying that it is unaccetable for our Heavenly Father (174).  Bell questions how a loving God who goes to extraordinary lengths to have a relationship with his creation could become so different and so mean in an instant (170-177).  Does Rob Bell refuse to believe that this could be God.  Is that option off the table?  Or might it be that the understand of God before the car crash is not correct?  Could Bell be unwilling to realize that God is who God is regardless of how Bell wants to create him?  Maybe it could be that God's understanding of his story is so much better than our understanding, that we have a choice to accept God's story or our own.  Bell continues, "Because if something is wrong with your God, if your God is loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all eternity for sins committed in a few short years, no amount of clever marketing or compelling language or good music or great coffee will be able to disguise what one, true glaring, untenable unacceptable, awful reality" (175).

Standing on this foundation, the chapter moves through a series of statements.  Still, no questions.  Bell argues that God is about love, God is love.  Interestingly, throughout most of this argument, God is made out to be void of justice.  (Which if we argue away justice, there can be no grace.)  Here is no balance.

He continually says "We shape our God, and then our God shapes us" (182, 183, and 184).  I'm not sure I understand this statement.  Bell seems to be implying that we actually can shape our God, but this only leaves me thinking about idol making and I'm not comfortable with that.

In addition, Bell spends a few pages attacking the Church again, or at least those among the Church who operate and believe differently than does Bell.  He swings at those who present the gospel as a  way "just to get into heaven" (179).  Of these people he says, "An entrance understanding of the gospel rarely creates good art.  Or innovation.  Or a number of other things.  It's a cheap view of the world, because it's a cheap view of God.  It's a shriveled imagination.  It's the gospel of goats" (179-180).  He also attacks the understanding that "you're not doing enough" and he harps on ministry that leads to exhaustion and burnout.  Yes, most of these statements are true in many ways; the gospel is more and better.  Many would agree with Bell about some of his criticism of the Church today and some of these misunderstandings about the gospel; but the interesting thing is this:  Bell fails to realize that he too is taking a stand, making a claim, and presenting a gospel.  His position has its flaws and problems just as much as any other that he has problems with, maybe even more.  But he doesn't seem to see this.  Directed at them, he writes, "For some, the highest from of allegiance to their God is to attack, defame, and slander others who don't articulate matters of faith as they do" (183).  Is this not a fair statement for Bell as well? 
Throughout this chapter Bell makes some "very clear" statements, as he puts it (182).  Good statements.  "We do not need to be rescued from God.  God is the one who rescues us from death, sin, and destruction.  God is the rescuer" (182).   Bell says the God forgives us "Before we could be good enough or right enough, before we could even believe in the right things" (189).  On another page we find the statement, "It's only when you lose your life that you find it, Jesus says" (190).  And, "Jesus meets and redeems us in all the ways we have it together and in all the ways we don't, in all the times we proudly display for the world our goodness, greatness, and rightness, and in all of the ways we fall flat on our faces" (190).  The challenge however, is that through this chapter and most of the previous chapters, these statements are mixed with some rather problematic claims, assumptions, and passive allusions.  There's a twist.  We hear things that sound good, right, biblical, and we almost miss the twist.  The next thing we know, we miss that there is a father running to his son, happy he has come home.  Instead, we see a story of heaven and hell hanging out at a party together.

Up next, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 8)," the final chapter.

* I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book, Love Wins.
** Photo of son running to his father is by Sherif Salama and is registered under a creative commons license.

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 6)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."] 

Bell opens his chapter, "There are Rocks Everywhere," with some seemingly strange stories of people encountering Jesus in supernatural ways.  Rooms filled with peaceful feelings and white light kind of stuff.  He admits that these sound bizarre, but while he often hears accounts the that seem so unexplainable, he recognizes that many are very real.  In an effort to understand what these strange stories have to do with Jesus, Bells shifts gears and discusses a rock that Moses strikes to get water for his people.  In the provisions of that rock, Paul claims we can see Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4, although Bell only gives the chapter).

In this discussion, an interesting thing has happened in Bells' presentation.  It seems he is shifting away from the radical and shocking approach and slipping into a soft teaching style about Jesus.  It starts on page 144, just past the line that marks the coming of a new section.  There are almost no question marks for four pages!  Bell is starting to make a claim, a proclamation.  He's telling, not asking.  And it is not far from what most Christian preachers and teachers would preach and teach on any given Sunday.  And then on page 150 there's another line, a clear indicator of the end of the section.  What could possibly follow what Bell calls the "Jesus story" (150)?

Within only a two sentences, Bell moves back to what many may see as universalism.  Bell writes, "Within this proper, larger understanding of just what the Jesus story even is, we see that Jesus himself, again and again, demonstrates how seriously he takes his role in saving and rescuing and redeeming not just everything, but everybody" (150-151).  He uses a verse from John 12 that states that all people will be drawn to Jesus and then makes a point to say, "All people, to himself" (151).

But there is, mixed in, some good in this first part of the chapter.  Jesus is for everybody, every culture, every people, as Bell argues.  Clearly Bell wants people to see that they need Jesus.  He has a strong desire for all to find him, now.  But there's also some mixed indications that Rob Bell is not pleased with some of the Church's behavior.  He writes,
"When people use the word 'Jesus,' then, it's important for us to ask who they're talking about.  Are they referring to a token of tribal membership, a tamed, domesticated Jesus who waves the flag and promotes whatever values they have decided their nation needs to return to?  Are they referring to the supposed source of the imperial impulse of their group, which wants to conquer other groups 'in the name of Jesus'? Are they referring to the logo or slogan of their political, economic, or military system through which they sanctify their greed and lust for power?" (156).  
He challenges the 'them' Christians about which he passive-aggressively writes.  And the challenge is not off based, it's just that there are strong hints that Bell is angry at any within Christianity that don't look like him and his flavor.  In this chapter (and others) we can see that Bell loves the lost and wants to see people turn to Jesus, but for those tribes, cultures, families, and individuals that have turned to Christ but still maintain was might be considered an immature understanding of the gospel, Bell offers very little love or compassion.  Instead, throughout the book, these people seem to be on his hit list. He appears unwilling to extent any grace to this group of Christians.  So he draws a contrast, showing this reader how he defines what a church that follows Jesus looks like.  He continues,
"Jesus is both near and intimate and personal, and big and wide and transcendent.  One of the many things people in a church do, then, is name, honor, and orient themselves round this mystery.  A church is a community of people who enact specific rituals and create specific experiences to keep this word alive in their own hearts, a gathering of believers who help provide language and symbols and experiences for this mystery" (156).
With the argument he is presenting, Bell discusses these rituals and continually states that nobody is excluded from the need of Jesus.  The extent of that need however, is unclear considering his chapter on hell (Chapter 3).  Does everybody need Jesus to avoid a longer time in a purgatory-style hell, or is there some other reason?  The question about why everybody needs Jesus goes unanswered in favor of the idea that Jesus is for everybody and he will eventually get them all. 

And then, on page 158, there's another section dividing line.  Following the line, 158 pages into the book, is a question that most the readers are likely asking.  After a 157 pages, Bell has asked how the premise that's printed on the cover of his book relates to Jesus.  He asks, "So how does any of this explanation of who Jesus is and what he's doing connect with heaven, hell, and the fate of every single person who has ever lived?" (158).  But before I continue, I have to wonder what Bell means by "this explanation"? Is he referring to the previous page, section, chapter, or even the previous 157 pages?  And about "what he is doing"? Does this refer to saving everybody or something else?

With the exception of Bell's hint that worship in names other than Jesus could still be worshiping Jesus, Bell provides a pretty explanation of Jesus.  Unfortunately, he doesn't answer the question.  He says nothing about how 'who Jesus is' and 'what he is doing' relates to heaven or hell.  He only focuses on the idea that Jesus is for everybody.   And that's where the chapter ends.

I had very little notes written in the margins and between the sentences. This chapter is one that a Christian can read and say, "Ah, that's nice," without really seeing any glaring differences about what they know and love about Jesus.  Bell seems to be cooling off after the previous few chapters. However, for those who only spend 2 hours a week in Church and nothing more (that's only 4 and a half days communing with God), and maybe for those that spend no time in church, no time reading the Bible, and no time praying but claim to be 'spiritual,' one might feel differently.  And maybe it is this person that Bell had in mind while writing Chapter 6.   

Up next, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 7)."

* I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book, Love Wins.

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 5)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."] 

If you've ever seen old video footage from a bomber squadron just after the the payload has dropped and the bombardier doors are closing, you get a gimps of a unique feeling in the brief moment before the bombs explode.  The planes are now turning back and the bombs are out of their control.  The crew is probably hoping the bombs find their target; but in reality, they are more likely hoping to get safely home and put another bombing run behind them.  Still, in that moment, the bombs haven't yet unleashed their intended destruction.  Chapter 5 of Rob Bell's book Love Wins feels like that moment.

Bell has made his theological bombing run for over half the book now.  The target--his understanding of Christianity and the Church's understanding of heaven and hell.  The Church is looking skyward as Bell's bombs are coming right for them.  The payload doors are closing now.  Bell is arcing his plane around and heading back to the safety of home.  Another bombing run is almost complete.  This is Chapter 5.  I can imagine that if Bell and I were discussing this over a cup of coffee, he might argue that he wasn't dropping bombs, only asking questions.  However, the way his questions come across, he's really only painting flowers and "Love Wins" on the nosecones of his deadly payload.  The truth however, is that there is no amount of paint that can change the purpose of his explosives.

Chapter 5, titled "Dying to Live," is fairly flat after the previous three chapters.  It seems as if Bell is letting his readers take a few minutes to rest.  He knows he has been unloading his theology and now needs to turn a corner and head for safety.

The focus of this chapter is the gospel of Jesus and the reconciliation God with his creation.  He asks, "When Jesus died on the cross, was it the end of the sacrificial system or was it the reconciling of all things?" (126).  While this is not an either or proposition, Bell takes his argument in the direction of reconciliation (which is fine).  He points out that reconciliation required Jesus' death AND the resurrection.  And this is the model Bell uses to demonstrate that new life comes through death.  God is "rescuing all of creation" (134).  Very few Christians would read this chapter and feel like bombs were falling.  In fact, it's a fairly safe chapter.  It's not likely one to be discussed in reviews or on the promotion circuit.  There are far fewer questions (although still enough to keep the question mark well employed).

Bell seems to shift away from his early arguments and starts to come back to sharing the gospel as most preachers would.  For example, he writes,
Jesus talks about death and rebirth constantly, his and ours.  He calls us to let go, turn away, renounce, confess, repent, and leave behind the old ways.  He talks of the life that will come from his own death, and he promises that life will flow to use in thousands of small ways as we die to our egos, our pride, our need to be right, our self-sufficiency, our rebellion, and our stubborn insistence that we deserve to get our way.  When we cling with white knuckles to our sins and our hostility, we're like a tree that won't let it's leaves go.  There can't be a spring if we're still stuck in the fall" (136). 
What Christian would disagree with this statement?  This is the gospel.  Chapter 5 is fairly easy to read and enjoyable.  But wait a minute. . . .  Between this chapter and the last there are falling bombs.  Unanswered questions are still suspended in the air.  Is this chapter Bell's way of moving away from those questions?  Is this his way of saying he's not going to answer any of the questions he has presented?  Is he now headed home, not looking to see which bombs hit the mark?

I'm looking for some answers.  Can we let go of our metaphorical leaves at some point after we've been found fruitless, hacked down, and cast into the fire? (Matthew 3:10; Luke 3:9, 13:6-9; John 15:2-6.)  Can spring come somewhere in the eternal punishment of hell?   If at some post-life point, we decide to turn to God, from hell, can we go to the great new city and be with our creator as his child?  At some point will God force those clinging dead leaves to drop them so they can finally see spring?  Will everybody eventually let go of leaves, all people, because that's what God wants?  These are only a few unanswered question bombs from previous chapters.  Are we moving on?  Is this presentation of the gospel, although very important, actually being employed to move away from the explosives?  Is Bell using the gospel as a smoke screen? (See, a question can be a bomb.)

Not long ago I attended a clinical presentation about family dynamics.  A question and answer time was reserved for the end.  The first question was a practical, real, applicable question about a specific aspect of dealing with extreme verbal child abuse.  The speaker, an expert in the field, seemed to squirm and then froze as the question was being presented. He looked stumped and slightly afraid, but after an a moment it was obvious that his mind was going into overdrive as he was formulating an answer. After an awkward amount of time he spoke.  We were all on the edge of our seats waiting to hear what this expert would say.  His answer:  "What to you think?"

The crowd quickly turned on the expert. One man raised his hand and asked, "So, is this really just a question and question time?"  We were there to find some answers, from an expert, not just witness him asking more questions.  And if this man's position was to say that we can't know or that there are no answers (like Bell's defense), why offer the presentation in the first place? Why waste everybody's time? Or was it a ploy for the ability to stand as a star in front of a crowd or maybe make a few bucks?  (See, more bombs hidden as questions.) 

On Ash Wednesday I watched a man ask a question of a conflicted Catholic Priest (who is employed as a Catholic Chaplain/Priest but lives counter to his employment and doesn't seem to want to offer Catholic rites to Catholics).  The inquiring man, clearly not a Catholic, asked, "What does the ash on the forehead represent; what's it for?"  A fair question.  The priest looked confused or unwilling to answer.  The man, really wanting to learn something about Catholicism and Ash Wednesday dug some more:  "What does it mean?"  Then the priest answered, "What does it mean to you?" 

There may have been a recent time in Christianity when it was vogue or hip to ask questions without actually seeking answers; but it's time for answers.  People are looking for answers; and if they're not, they are just asking endless questions in an attempt to be cool. Even worse, they keep asking questions because they are unwilling to accept the Truth.

When I think about about both of these examples, I can't help but think that Bell is doing the same thing.  The dust jacket of Love Wins presents Bell as an expert.  Publishing a book about a specific topic generally shouts, "I'm an expert on this topic. I know something and want to tell you about it. I have some answers."  But I keep finding myself wondering if Bell is going to provide any tangible information or continue to hide behind the question mark, followed by an easy, agreeable chapter?  Is he going to get back to the payload this book came to deliver or is he flying away without looking back?

Up next, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 6)."

* I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book, Love Wins.
**Photo of dead leaves taken by user Antaean (Ricky) and is registered under a Creative Commons License.

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 4)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."]

At this point, I have two confessions.  First, I put the book down after Chapter Three for a while.  I was feeling frustrated that I set out on this journey through Bell's book.  Second, I have now completed the book, having read the remaining chapters during a flight across the country.  This is not to say that the review from this point forward will not capture my thoughts and impressions as I was reading each chapter.  I've been taking notes and recording my thoughts in the margins and in the bizarre spaces between each paragraph that make the book seem as if were intended to be one long blog post rather than a bound book.  I guess now I'm thankful for the abnormal formatting.

The title of Chapter Four asks, "Does God Get What God Wants?"

But first, Bell opens the chapter with jabs at doctrinal statements found on other church websites.  It is clear that he is in disagreement with their approach of sharing their beliefs on what he feels should be a welcoming, seeker-friendly website.  (Interestingly, while Bell defends his own ideas saying, "[Christian faith] is a deep, wide, diverse, stream that's been flowing for thousands of years, carrying a staggering variety of voices, perspectives, and experiences" (x-xi), he seems for forget to leave room for these other churches.  Is the stream only so wide and so diverse that other churches are only accepted if their ideas are flowing the way Rob Bell wants? It does seem so.

Chapter Four is about universalism, and thus far, if any chapter has demonstrated that Bell has beliefs in the universalism camp, it's this one.  (I realize that outside of the book, Bell has been declaring that he is not a universalist, but there are aspects of this chapter that would argue otherwise.)   Here, Bell discusses universalism--that is, his views of universalism, specifically two views.  The first is that heaven is "a universal hugfest where everybody eventually ends up around the heavenly campfire singing 'Kumbaya,' with Jesus playing guitar" (105).  Through jabbing questions, he implies that this is incorrect and nobody would want this anyway.  The second view is that a person has rejected God so much so that he or she is no longer human; thus all humans go to heaven but all non-humans do not. But this implies that there are people that are not human and that kind of implies an us verses them. Then he argues that these are long standing and traditional views starting with the early Christian church (107).  But while Bell argues against these views (or I should say, he asks loaded questions of them), he conveniently never takes a position for himself.  He doesn't ever seem to suggest a correct answer; he only questions the ideas for which which he doesn't care for or agree.  And in the way he questions, he seems to takes a stand against these views, much like his approach to the other Christian's websites.   

Back to the question of the chapter title:  "Does God Get What God Wants?"  The bulk of this chapter--and I might argue much of the books thus far--hinges on a verse in First Timothy 2.  Bell quotes it as, "God wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth" (97).  The passage itself comes from First Timothy 2:3-4 and this translation looks very similar to the NIV version.  The ESV translates the verses as, "This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3-4, ESV).  Bell's argument goes like this: If God wants something and doesn't get it, he's not powerful and therefore not a good God.  However, Bell argues, God does indeed get everything he wants and therefore everybody WILL be saved and have a knowledge of the truth. . . eventually.  And if Bell's way of thinking about this is not correct, according to his own argument, then God must be a failure.

To support his understanding of this specific Scripture, Bell looks at some other verses (citing only the chapters from where they come).  First he looks at Isaiah 45, Malachi 2, Acts 17, and Romans 11, to argue "What we have in common--regardless of our tribe, language, customs, beliefs, or religion--outweighs our differences.  This is why God wants 'all people to be saved'" (99).   Then using other Scripture, Bell works to show his readers that the Bible says everybody will be saved.  Many of the Scriptures are interpreted with questionable methods.  Here's the list of Scriptures Bell uses to support his unrealistic view that everybody will be saved.  I highly recommend you turn to each of these chapters and read them yourself, in their entirety. 

Psalm 65 -- "all people will come" to God (99)
Ezekiel 36 -- "The nations will know that I am the Lord" (99)
Isaiah 52 -- "All the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God" (99)
Zephaniah 3 -- "Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder"
Philippians 2 -- "Every knee should bow . . . and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (99)
Psalm 22 -- "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him." (100)
Psalm 22 -- "All the rich of the earth will beast and worship; all who do down to the dust will kneel before him--" (100)

Shifting to the idea that God does not fail, Rob uses Psalm 22 to say, "So everybody who dies will kneel before God, and 'future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!'" (100).  Following this passage, Bell again says that God does not fail and it is this idea that the prophets were affirming.  They turned to this theme again and again (100).  To support this claim, Bell turns to more chapters. Again, I suggest these chapters be read in their entirety.

Job 23 -- "Who can oppose God?  He does whatever he pleases" (100)
Job 42 -- "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted" (100)
Isaiah 46 and 25 -- "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save nor his ear too dull to hear?" (101)
Jeremiah 32 -- "Nothing is too hard for you" (101)

Then Bell shifts to God's purpose and love by looking at these chapters.

Psalm 145 -- "is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made" (101)
Psalm 30 -- "lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime" (101)
Psalm 145 -- "is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love" (101)
Philippians 2 -- "it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose" (101)
Luke 15 -- God never ever gives up until everything is found (101-102)

After sharing his understanding of these passages, Bell rhetorically asks,
"Will 'all the ends of the earth' come, as God has decided, or will only some? Will all feast as it's promised in Psalm 22, or only a few?  Will everybody be given a new heart, or only a limited number of people? Will God, in the end, settle, saying: 'Well, I tried, I gave it my best shot, and sometimes you just have to be okay with failure'?  Will God shrug God-sized shoulders and say, 'You can't always get what you want?'" (103).
These questions seem to lead to a specific answer, and that answer looks a lot like universalism.  But before we come to a definitive answer for any of these questions, it might be helpful to look at some other Scriptures. While there is intense debate on both sides of this argument (as well as the one regarding how much free will man may have) it may be valuable to at at least look at these chapters and verses and ask how they compare to the presentation Bell has provided.  I realize that different interpretations will lead to different answers (a strong reason for good exegesis and hermeneutical  practices).  If all are saved in the end, why are these Scriptures in the Bible?  Look at Daniel 12:2; Matthew 18:8, 25:42-46; John 5:29; Romans 14:12; Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Jude 7; and Revelation 14:11.  Also, I realize that a universalist may argue that even though everybody ends up in heaven in the end, the reason for accepting Jesus now is to receive the blessing that he provides now.  But still, is that the only reason then for Matthew 28:18-20?

Another thing one should do before forming conclusions from this chapter is look at the passage that drives it-- First Timothy 2:3-4.  The critical aspect of this argument depends on the words "wants" or "desires" (from the NIV or ESV translation.) and 'all people.'  'Want' or 'desire' is translated from the Greek word thelō, which means, to choose or prefer, wish, will, desire, intend, to have, to be inclined to, to be disposed to, to purpose, to resolve to, to love, and Thayer even says it could be "to seize with the mind" or to "have in mind." Obviously in the English language, when we have a word with such a wide range of meaning, context is very important.  This is true in the Greek too.  (To get a good idea of this word, here are all the places thelō, or its negation appear in the New Testament: Matt 1:19; 2:18; 5:40, 42; 7:12; 8:2–3; 9:13; 11:14; 12:7, 38; 13:28; 14:5; 15:28, 32; 16:24–25; 17:4, 12; 18:23, 30; 19:17, 21; 20:14–15, 21, 26–27, 32; 21:29; 22:3; 23:4, 37; 26:15, 17, 39; 27:15, 17, 21, 34, 43; Mark 1:40–41; 3:13; 6:19, 22, 25–26, 48; 7:24; 8:34–35; 9:13, 30, 35; 10:35–36, 43–44, 51; 12:38; 14:7, 12, 36; 15:9, 12; Luke 1:62; 4:6; 5:12–13, 39; 6:31; 8:20; 9:23–24, 54; 10:24, 29; 12:49; 13:31, 34; 14:28; 15:28; 16:26; 18:4, 13, 41; 19:14, 27; 20:46; 22:9; 23:8, 20; John 1:43; 3:8; 5:6, 21, 35; 6:11, 21, 67; 7:1, 17, 44; 8:44; 9:27; 12:21; 15:7; 16:19; 17:24; 21:18, 22–23; Acts 2:12; 7:28, 39; 10:10; 14:13; 16:3; 17:18; 18:21; 19:33; 24:27; 25:9; 26:5; Rom 1:13; 7:15–16, 18–21; 9:16, 18, 22; 11:25; 13:3; 16:19; 1 Cor 4:19, 21; 7:7, 32, 36, 39; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:3; 12:1, 18; 14:5, 19, 35; 15:38; 16:7; 2 Cor 1:8; 5:4; 8:10–11; 11:12; 12:6, 20; Gal 1:7; 4:9, 17, 20–21; 5:17; 6:12–13; Phil 2:13; Col 1:27; 2:1, 18; 1 Th 2:18; 4:13; 2 Th 3:10; 1 Tim 1:7; 2:4; 5:11; 2 Tim 3:12; Philem 1:14; Heb 10:5, 8; 12:17; 13:18; James 2:20; 4:15; 1 Pet 3:10, 17; 2 Pet 3:5; 3 John 1:13; Rev 2:21; 11:5–6; 22:17.)

What does Paul mean in his letter to Timothy when he says God 'desires' or 'wants'? And what is meant by 'all people'? It seems this passage may have been written in the same light as John 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.  How should we understand God's desires in light of John 6:40 which reads, "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (ESV)?  As the Timothy passage is examined, one must ask if 'wants' is the same as 'wills' or 'decrees.'  Can God have a desire for his people that does not come to pass?  Did God have a desire for Adam and Eve to avoid the forbidden fruit?  I believe the answer is yes.  And when man does not do what God wants or desires, who has failed, man or God?  Does God desire that little Rwandan kids get their limbs cut off by their parents' enemies?  Does God desire that women be raped?  The answer is no!  But according to Bell's argument, if God doesn't get what he desires, God has failed.  The Bible teaches that man has failed and has acted against God's desires.  The definition for this is sin.

Also, 'all people' might be in reference to every person throughout all of time, or it could be in reference to all kinds of people, every tribe, tongue, age, sex, and nation.  Either way, it is reasonable that God would like to see everybody turn back to him and profess their submission and love for their Creator even though the sin nature, depravity, or even free will could keep some from doing so.  In light of what the meta-narrative of the Bible teaches, it seems that  salvation is universal in its availability, but this availability does not necessarily suggest that it is automatic or guaranteed that all will be saved. 

Towards the end of the chapter, Bell sets up his safety net, first asking,
 "[W]e read in these last chapters of Revelation that the gates of that city in the new world will 'never shut.' That's a small detail, and it's important we don't get too hung up on the details and specific images because it's possible to treat something so literally that it becomes less true in the process.  But gates, gates are for keeping people in and keeping people out.  If the gates are never shut, then people are free to come and go. 

Can God bring proper, lasting justice, banishing certain actions--and the people who do them--from the new creation while at the same time allowing and waiting and hoping for the possibility of the reconciliation of those very same people?  Keeping the gates, in essence, open?  Will everyone eventually be reconciled to God or will there be those who cling to their version of their story, insisting on their right to be their own little god ruling their own little miserable kingdom?" (115).
Immediately following this he asks, "Will everybody be saved or will some perish apart from God forever because of their choices?" (115).  Then in a rare moment that exists hardly anywhere else in the Love Wins, Rob Bell tires to answer his own questions.  He writes, "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 love requires" (115).  Um, Mr. Bell, didn't you just argue that God does in fact get what God wants?  And according to the way you understand First Timothy 2:3-4, doesn't God want everybody to be saved?  So based on the argument you've constructed, won't everybody be saved in the end, eventually?  Everybody will be in the new creation as God wills; isn't that what you argued?  Doesn't it seem more like your universalist answer is, 'Yes, everybody will be saved, nobody will perish apart from God forever because of their choices'?  The answer Bell provides for his own question seems to run counter to the entire chapter.    

Personally, for a book "About heaven and hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived" I find Bell's attempt to provide answers a bit lacking.  This answer says nothing about the fate of anybody and therefore suggests that Bell has failed to deal with the basic premise that his books claims to address. According to Bell, the fate of every person who ever lived is, 'I don't know. We can't know. Don't worry about it, but leave room for love,'

Can I have my money back?

Up next, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 5)."

* I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book, Love Wins.

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 3)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."] 

Rob Bell explores his thoughts about hell in the third chapter of his book, Love Wins.  With a part of this chapter he challenges the traditional Christian view of a place of punishment, sorrow, and anguish, and it also seems that he is laying the ground work for a future argument about the everlasting aspects of the biblical hell.  But Bell also uses this chapter to present an idea of hell on earth, maybe something like his ideas of heaven on earth. However, this twisted idea of hell that Bell shares speaks against the Gospel of Christ and against the biblical idea of hell; it is a heretical argument and a tragic concept with the potential for epic devastation, a message which no Christian preacher should ever suggest, preach, or teach.

Bell argues that hell on earth is for victims. 

How can this be good news?

(At this point, I realize that readers who love and support Bell and his book will be tempted to stop reading this review, and that's okay.  But it is my hope that those readers remember arguments that they themselves might have made.  "Don't pass judgment," they might have argued, "and don't form an opinion until you've read the book."  Some also argued that I would have to get to the end of the book to see the entire picture.  So if this is you, I hope you continue reading this review.  I hope you are willing to see it through to the end. I invite comments and questions via e-mail or in person.  Please feel free to contact me. And I realize I have just leveled some serious claims about Bell's ideas; so Mr. Bell, I invite you to contact me to discuss your ideas so I can better understand. Come out to Salt Lake so we can discuss this over a cup of coffee.)

In this chapter, Bell shares some of his observations and experiences he has had as a pastor--a trip to Rwanda, a time sitting with a rape victim, a question from a boy about his father who had just committed suicide, the look of a cocaine addict, the ripples of a marital affair, and a cruel dead man.

When Bell was in Rwanda, he witnessed many teenagers missing hands and legs.  They were victims of brutal treatment, forced upon them by no fault of their own. Bell says this was a tactic of a person's enemy.  Cutting off your enemy's hand or leg leaves a brutal reminder of what you did to him.  He is reminded of you every time he looks at his child.  To this, Bells says, "Do I believe in a literal hell?  Of course. Those aren't metaphorical missing arms and legs" (71).

Bell also asks if his readers have ever sat with a woman as she described what it was like when she was raped.  In another question he asks, "How does a person describe what it's like to hear a five-year-old boy whose father has just committed suicide ask, 'When is daddy coming home?'" (71).   

But here's the problem with these examples.  In the common vernacular, one might suggest that a hot stone massage is "heavenly" or maybe it's a piece of chocolate cake the warrants such a high description.  I even remember once buying a honey-baked ham from a company called Heavenly Ham, but I really don't think I bought a ham from heaven, not even heaven on earth.  This is metaphorical hyperbole.  Heaven is the greatest thing one can think of so we use it to describe great things, as if to say there is nothing better.  But in reality, the biblical heaven is not a hot stone massage or a piece of cake or a ham or even the commercial building where I bought the ham.  That's not what these kinds of statements are attempting to say.  We use the word and idea of hell in much the same way.  Hell is the worst thing we can think of so we make statements like, "War is hell."  We want to dramatically declare that it just doesn't get any worse than this.  So in that usage, armless, legless boys and rape victims and mothers who hear very difficult questions could easily say, "This is hell;" but that would not be the hell described in the bible.

What these horrific examples demonstrate is sin, or rather, the effects of sin.  See, the teens in Rwanda and the raped woman are the victims of sinful acts thrust upon them.  These are examples of sin in motion, the sin of humans; it's sin in the fallen world in which we live.  However, in the model Bell gives us, Abel would have been in hell during the few moments while Cain was murdering him (Genesis 4).  Stephen would have been in hell as he was being stoned to death, despite that the Bible says that he saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man was standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7).  In this model, it seems that the early Saints were passing into a hell on earth while Saul was ravishing the Church (Acts 8).

And let us take a look at a parable Jesus shared about a rich man who died and was in Hades. (Bell also examines this parable, but for a much different reason.)  Luke 16:19-31 tells us a parable of this unnamed rich man and a poor begger named Lazarus.  Lazarus sat out side the rich man's gates starving.  Dogs licked Lazurus' sores, while the rich man did nothing for him.  In the parable, Lazarus ends up in heaven while the rich man ends up in hell.  There is a chasm between the two that does not allow anyone to pass from one place to the other (Luke 16:26).  But looking through the paradigm Rob Bell is giving us, it seems that before the two died, Lazarus was in hell, not the rich man.

In this parable, the dead rich man calls out to Abraham (who is with Lazarus) for mercy, but Abraham reminds the suffering man, "Child, remember that you in your lifetime received the good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish" (Luke 16:25, ESV).  And even later, the rich man begs that his brothers be warned so that they may repent (Luke 16:30) and avoid this . . . this what?  The rich man says "agony." Agony for what?  Could it be punishment?  But punishment for what?  His sin.  Maybe for neglecting the poor; maybe neglecting Jesus as Jesus discussed in Matthew 25 (another passage Bell examines for entirely different purposes in the previous chapter about heaven).  Doesn't this make sense in light of Romans 6:23 which states that the wages of sin is death?  Doesn't this make the gospel, that is, that Christ created a bridge across this chasm, seem like amazing news!  The painting that was so frightful to Bell is the bridge, and the reason it is a cross is because that is how Jesus made the bridge.

As I thought about those Rwandan teens, I couldn't help but think about the people inflicting "hell" upon these children.  They may have actually lived rather well, like the rich man.  And what about the rapist? And what about the religious people who stoned Stephen to death?  What about Saul?  It doesn't seem that there was a punishment or agonizing hell on earth for them.  Bell's hell on earth seems only to be agony and suffering for the victims.  Does the Bible really teach that the victims suffer hell on earth, a biblical hell, for the sins committed against them?  Or as with the rich man, does it seem that this judgment and punishment comes in the afterlife?

And what about the feelings and experiences of a cocaine addict or how the suffering a man might feel after he has sinned by having a marital affair?  Has God cast any of these living people in to hell, or at least a hell on earth? (And again, we can't say Mahatma Gandhi is in hell but it's okay to declare that these living people could be in hell?)  The answer is no, God has not cast these living people into hell on earth.  For the victims, we might think of this suffering in light of 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 and Romans 8:28.  These victims are not cast away from God.  And for the perpetrators who are suffering as a result of their own sin, we might call this conviction in some cases, or it may be that the law is acting like a schoolmaster (Galatians 3), all for the benefit of their salvation.  God may feel distant to them, but only because they have pushed him away, done as an act of their own self punishment.  But God has not cast them to the burning trash heap of hell, not yet anyway.  God is not neglecting them; he loves them and desires good things for them.

It may seem that the Bible only talks of hell as a garbage dump as Bell tries to present it.  (He says that the only mention of hell is the Greek word gehenna. But even staying on the surface of semantics, this argument neglects 2 Peter 2:4's use of the word tartaroō.)  And of course it would seem that there are very little mentions of hell or any kind of punishment if we only look for the word gehenna.  And if we neglect Jesus' parables and much of the symbolic hints of punishment and reward, and even much of the direct statements about a punishment for sin after death, we might think that hell is not that big of a deal.  We could falsely draw the conclusion that Jesus wasn't that concerned about hell.  But that would be a mistake.  Before you incorrectly draw that conclusion, read some passages in the Bible again, without anybody's commentary.  Here are just a few examples; there are many more: Genesis 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31; Numbers 16:30, 33; Deuteronomy 32:22; 1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Samuel 22:6; 1 Kings 2:6, 9; Job 7:9; 11:8; 14:13; 17:13, 16; 21:13; 24:19; 26:6; Psalms 6:5; 9:17; Matthew 3:12; 5:22, 29–30; 7:23; 10:28; 11:23; 13:24-30, 42-43, 47-50; 16:18; 18:9; 23:15, 33; 25:32-33; Mark 9:43–47; Luke 3:17; 10:15; 12:5; 16:23; John 15:6; Acts 2:27, 31; James 3:6; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 9:2; 14:9-11; 18:8; 19:20; and 20:13–15

And I propose that if we are to look for any example of hell on earth we must look to the specific moment while Christ was on the cross as a propitiation for our sins; that is, taking on the sins of the world which were laid upon him (Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).  In that moment, when it appeared that Jesus was isolated from the Father, he cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34).  In that moment, Jesus was making a way for us.  And if anything were going to make an argument for hell on earth, it must be this moment.

Next up, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 4)."

* I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book, Love Wins.
** Photo of "The Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man's Door" by James Joseph Jacques Tissot is used with permission from the Brooklyn Museum.

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 2)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."] 

Rob Bell opens Chapter Two, his chapter on heaven, with a discussion of some artwork that hung (or still hangs) in his grandmother's home for as long as Bell can remember.  There is a picture of the painting in the book on page 20.  (HarperOne has made every effort to obtain permission to use the creepy picture, but seems to be unable to find its creator).  On the right side of the picture is a smoky, dirty, polluted world.  Running through the picture is a huge chasm and spanning that chasm like a bridge is an enormous cross.  People are walking on the cross to the other side where a very sunny, large, clean city is located.  It gave Bell and his sister the creeps, although it's difficult to know what exactly caused the feeling in Ruth.  She doesn't say (22).   Bell however, seems to be disturbed that the picture suggests that people leave one place to go to another.  Somewhere else.  He writes, "From what we can see, the people in the painting are going somewhere, somewhere they've chosen to go, and they're leaving something behind so that they can go there" (23).  This idea is Bell's launching point into his discussion about heaven. 

Before reading Chapter Two, I got the sense that the picture is symbolic of the cross making a way for one world to be bridged to another, so people can go from a life destined for hell to a life in and among the Kingdom of Heaven.  A chasm between a world of death and yuckiness was now bridged by Jesus' work on the cross to a world of life and beauty, free from such yuckiness.  It would seem that people (who were originally on the yucky side) are able to go to the other side but the things of death's side will remain where they are, separated from the amazing city.  These things might be "war, rape, greed, injustice, violence, pride, division, exploitation, and disgrace"-- things Bells says, "will not be able to survive in the world to come" (36).  But I quickly learned that Bell did not see the same symbolism that I observed.  He saw people escaping to someplace else. And he didn't like what he saw.

On the one hand, Bell attacks an immature, non-biblical view of heaven, one of winged people playing harps and bouncing from cloud to cloud.  He takes some time to demonstrate that the new heaven and earth will be much like the physical world in which we live, only without rape, corporate greed, and oil spills. (It might be worth noting that he doesn't express his thoughts with words and idea such as sin or the temptation of sin.)  It will be an earth like the one prior to Genesis 3.  It's here, on earth, not somewhere else.  (Regarding the new heaven and earth, I agree with Bell on this topic.)  But for Bell, when we die, we don't go anywhere else, not at all, because heaven is right here--this seems to be the argument, at least the idea he's promoting.  But I think he takes this a little too far.  He seems to neglect passages of the Bible that suggest that Jesus was going somewhere to prepare a place for his people.  (Bell discussed this somewhat in Chapter One so I discussed it and some Scriptures related to this idea in the post that looked at that chapter.)  Even Bell himself can't get away from the idea of people going somewhere (maybe before they come back here).  In making a later argument about the physical, earthy idea of heaven, Bell writes,
"Paul writes to the Corinthians about two kinds of bodies.  The first is the kind we each inhabit now, the kind that gets old and weary and eventually gives out on us.  The second kind is one he calls "imperishable" (1 Cor. 15), one immune to the ravages of time, one we'll receive when heaven and earth are one.  Prior to that, then, after death we are without a body.  In heaven, but without a body. A body is of the earth. Made of dust. Part of this creation, not that one.  Those currently 'in heaven' are not, obviously, here.  And so they are with God, but without a body" (56, italics added for emphases). 
But while he is making an argument about the present incompleteness of heaven and earth, Bell alludes to somewhere else.   So is it possible that when people die, they go to this temporary place--where they have no body--to wait for a time when the yucky side of the world will be remade as it was before the fall in Genesis 3?  Intentionally or not, Bell himself makes a good argument for this; and, this idea does seem to suggest that people do in fact go somewhere that's not here with all the bad things Bell lists, at least for a time.  I think he's being too hard on that picture at his grandmother's house.  And he's being hard on other Christians.

Bell also points out that some people think of heaven like a mansion, but he says that the word "mansion" appears nowhere in the Bible's descriptions of heaven (43).  I found this statement rather interesting because I've always thought a mansion was a big house with lots of rooms.  John 14:2 doesn't say the specific word, "mansion"; but Jesus says, "In my father's house there are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (ESV).  It seems that place, someplace, where Jesus is going, has lots of rooms.  Maybe like a mansion?

From here, Bell shifts to an attack on matters of when one enters the Kingdom of Heaven, and what one must do in order to be granted admittance.   He looks at passages that deal with the Kingdom of Heaven now and argues against Christians that primarily see the Kingdom of Heaven as a future event. He also attacks the various ideas of how one is accepted or inaugurated into the Kingdom of Heaven.  He's rather critical of a sinner's prayer, and he discusses the sinner on the cross.  Although to me, the non-verbal story being told in that narrative seems to suggest a recognition of sin and a submission to King Jesus.  Is scriptural approach seems selective.  For a discussion of what the Bible has to say about the Kingdom of God, please visit this post

Bell also paints a picture of a hardworking single mom trying her best to do good.  He says she's faithful with what she as been given.  "She's a woman of character and substance" (53). Then Bell asks, "Is she the last who Jesus says will be first?" (53).  In contrast to this, Bell discusses the people on magazine covers who are "often beautiful, rich famous, talented people embroiled in endless variations of scandal and controversy" (54).  Of these people, Bell asks, "Are we seeing the first who will be last that Jesus spoke of?" (54).  But never is there a conversation about what these people think of Jesus.  No discussion of the necessity of Christ or his atonement.  (I'm not sure the words "atonement" or "resurrection" have appeared anywhere in the book thus far, and "repentance" and "surrender" appear nowhere in a positive light if they appear at all.)  And I wonder, how is it okay to speculate about the status of these people but not the status of Mahatma Gandhi (1).  Does this seem like a double-standard?

I feel that Bell's picture of a physical heaven is a biblical representation of the heaven in which believers will live out eternity, with dirt and plants and work, free of sin and temptation and the effects of the fall.  But I also feel that Bell doesn't represent the Kingdom of God well.  It has aspects of now and future but those aspects are not the same.  It's complex.  However, there is an indication in the Bible that not everybody is automatically a citizen of this Kingdom.  And it's citizens are among the Kingdom now and after death.  (For more on the Kingdom of Heaven, with lots of Scripture references worth further study, please look over this post on the topic.) Bell, however, seems to be on the far side, arguing the now against people on the far other side arguing the future. He really wants to make the Kingdom of God simple, so he can then take that simple thing that he's created, call it the standard Christian believe and then argue that it's actually more complex than we think.

And there is one glaring problem found on pages 57 and 58. Bell writes, "Let me be clear: heaven is not forever in the way that we think of forever, as a uniform measurement of time like days and years, marching endlessly in to the future.  That's not a category or concept we find in the Bible" (58, emphasis added for effect).  To make his point Bell shares a word study that seems almost like an intentional misrepresentation.  He examines the Greek word aion, which generally means age, a period of time, forever, or a world without end.  It also appears as a form of negation which is often translated "never." But Bell says it's better to think of it only as a time, or rather as an "intense experience" (58).  He then states, "This is why a lot of translators choose to translate aion as 'eternal.' By this they don't mean the literal passing of time; they mean transcending time, belong to another realm altogether" (58).  There are some serious problems here.  First, there is no concept of an eternal time in the Bible?  And the translators don't think this has anything to do with time?  Really?  And what about the Greek word aionios? This different word has the same root but it is an altogether different word.  In its simplest form it means past, present, and future, eternal, everlasting, without end.  Has Bell forgot this word in his word study?  It's rather important as we examine this topic.

Here are the New Testament passages where the word aion appears (some are in the negated form often translated as 'never'): Matthew 12:32; 13:22, 39–40, 49; 24:3; 28:20; Mark 3:29; 4:19; 10:30; Luke 1:33, 55, 70; 16:8; 18:30; 20:34–35; John 4:14; 6:51, 58; 8:35, 51–52; 9:32; 10:28; 11:26; 12:34; 13:8; 14:16; Acts 3:21; 15:18; Rom 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 12:2; 16:27; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 2:6–8; 3:18; 8:13; 10:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 9:9; 11:31; Gal 1:4–5; Ephesians 1:21; 2:2, 7; 3:9, 11, 21; Philippians 4:20; Colossians 1:26; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:17; 2 Timothy 4:10, 18; Titus 2:12; Hebrews 1:2, 8; 5:6; 6:5, 20; 7:17, 21, 24, 28; 9:26; 11:3; 13:8, 21; 1 Peter 1:25; 4:11; 5:11; 2 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:17; 2 John 1:2; Jude 1:13, 25; Revelation 1:6, 18; 4:9–10; 5:13; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 14:11; 15:7; 19:3; 20:10; and 22:5.  Look at these passages and note the context and translational use.

But wait, there's that other word that Bell completely neglects--aionios that has the eternal, forever, time marching on without end aspect.  Look at where this word appears in the New Testament, and notice its context, usage, and English translation: Matthew 18:8; 19:16, 29; 25:41, 46; Mark 3:29; 10:17, 30; Luke 10:25; 16:9; 18:18, 30; John 3:15–16, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 39; 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68; 10:28; 12:25, 50; 17:2–3; Acts 13:46, 48; Romans 2:7; 5:21; 6:22–23; 16:25–26; 2 Corinthians 4:17–5:1; Galatians 6:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 2:16; 1 Timothy 1:16; 6:12, 16; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2:10; Titus 1:2; 3:7; Philemon 1:15; Hebrews 5:9; 6:2; 9:12, 14–15; 13:20; 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 1:11; 1 John 1:2; 2:25; 3:15; 5:11, 13, 20; Jude 1:7, 21; and Revelation 14:6.  These are not the same word and they each carry their own meaning.  Notice that these two different words appear in the same books by the same authors.  Sometimes they appear in the same paragraphs, and in a couple cases, even in the same sentence! (See Mark 10:30 and Luke 18:30 for example).  Has Rob Bell intentionally neglected the word aionios in order to try to make his point?  

Despite the word study problem, at the conclusion of the second chapter, I feel better about the book than I did at the conclusion of Chapter One.  Bell is at least making an attempt to answer some (although not many) of his proposed questions.  He is trying to describe what happens when we die and he's punching holes in a misguided, non-Christian view of heaven.  However, an occasional swing is aimed at the wrong target.  And sometimes, it's a little below the belt or misses the mark completely.  There are discussions of Scripture that seem a little twisted in order to serve his purpose, especially in some of his word studies.  I still get the feeling Bell is angry at some fringe Christian ideas that were popular in the 1980s; and rather than trying to tell a story of Christ's Good News as he suggested he was going to do, he's still reacting to ideas and practices of Christianity that he doesn't care much for.

Next up, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 3)."

*I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book.  
** The photo of Rob Bell is the copyright of Mars Hill Bible Church and a color version appears on the back cover of Love Wins. 

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 1)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."] 

Bell ends Chapter One by stating, "But this isn't just a book of questions.  It's a book of responses to these questions" (19).  I wish I would have read this statement before reading the first chapter because Chapter One is loaded with question marks--those printed on the page and many of my own.  Maybe the biggest question is how Bell is going to address all of these claims, questions, and puzzles in the remaining 177 pages.  That, in-and-of-itself, may take a divine miracle.  I'm somewhat concerned that Bell won't actually address many of these questions, leaving them hanging in the poor light in which he has presented them.  And if this turns out to be the case, the most fitting genre for Love Wins will be tragedy.  However, if Bell can manage to address each of the question marks that he's blasted into this first chapter, this book may be the greatest thing written in the past ten years.  But he's laid out a tough road ahead, and he has left an after taste with the manner in which he has asked the questions.

The chapter opens with a discussion about an art show that included a piece that quoted Mahatma Gandhi.  Evidently, someone had posted a handwritten note on the art piece that said Gandhi's in hell.  For whatever reason, Bell didn't feel the need to include what the Gandhi quote said and I wonder if it would have shed any different light on this story?  (If anybody knows what the quote was, please contact me and share.)  Following this brief narrative comes the first question marks.  Bell calls into question if Gandhi is really in hell and how anybody can possibly know this.  And again, Bell asks subtly attacking questions against the traditional Christian view of some going to hell and some spending an eternity in anguish (2).  He doesn't come out and make any claims here; he only asks questions.  But these questions were worded in a way that many of them could appear rather comfortably in a work by Christopher Hitchens.

Bell asks, "Does God punish people for thousands of yeas with infinite, eternal torment for things they did in their few finite years of life?" (2).  To this, I as the reader ask, "What does the Bible say about that?" Expecting some kind of support or biblical answer for any of the questions presented in Chapter One will only leave the reader wanting.  Bell doesn't get into the Bible for answers here, not yet anyway.  Instead he states, "This doesn't just raise disturbing questions about God, it raises questions about the beliefs themselves" (2).  Then comes many, many more questions.  Sixteen, in fact, before a sentence is written without a question mark.  And another five after that.

The questions sound like those coming from someone who really doesn't care for Christianity or God.  They are serious and legitimate questions, but I wonder if Bell has presented them in a way that is building the arguments for his book?  Maybe.  But through the specific questions, it becomes clear that Bell is using these questions to attack Christian ideas such is the biblical teaching that God chooses his creation, or the judgment aspects that the Bible teaches about God, and the reality of hell.  "What kind of God is that?" he asks (3).  Yes.  Indeed.  Bell seems to be asking just the right questions to pitch his argument upon.  And as he is asking, I keep thinking, what does the Bible say?  It doesn't matter what we want the answers to be if the answers about God do not line up with what God has told us about himself in his revelation to us, the Bible. That is, unless God is an evil liar, but Bell hasn't yet asked that question yet.

I realize that the Bellites, Bellinists, and Bell supporters will likely say, "He's just asking questions!" but it is the way Bell is doing so that I find so concerning.  It's the tone.  And it's how he's stacked the questions together.  There is an implication behind the way he's posed these questions.  Would the same defense apply if I asked, "Does Bell ever read his Bible?  Does Bell hate Christianity, and if so, is he wanting to create a new theological faith system?  What kind of pastor is this? And how could this possibly be biblical teaching that anyone would want to sit under?"  Just a few questions, but they come loaded with magnum charges.  Many of Bell's questions in Chapter One have the same tone, as if at any moment Bell is going to pull the trigger and sent a fiery volley at traditional Christianity.   

As the chapter advances, Bell begins to attack the Christian Church (although at times he's actually attacking his created caricature of the Church.)  Occasionally he draws from specific examples that are sad and unfortunate, but picking one or two cases like these is as unfair as treating Mars Hill Bible Church and the Westboro Baptist Church as one in the same.  At other times, he questions the general practices of the typical local church body, causing me to wonder why he is so troubled by the way his brothers and sisters teach and preach the Gospel.  I might be okay if he'd open up more rather than just asking the questions and moving on.  For example, Bell seems disturbed by the practice of an alter call, or at least a pastor (or anyone or that matter) leading someone in a specific prayer.  Why? What about it is troubling?  Maybe I'd agree if Bell expanded a little.  He's also seems troubled with any communication with God about the matter of salvation. Again, why?  And he also questions how God could elect some and not others.  Details might help me understand the problem.  So at this point, I'm left thinking it doesn't seem going to heaven has anything to do with God (at least the God Bell has presented) or the individual.  Is this where the book is headed or will this be an unresolved question?  But realize that he's only asking questions and it is my mind that is attempting to determine where he's trying to take me and how he's trying to get me there.

I'm not yet convinced I want to hop in the Bell-wagon.  From his questions thus far, I'm disturbed with Rob Bell as much as he seems to be with Christianity.

One area I found rather troubling is Bell's concern that Christians would teach people that when they die they will go somewhere.  I'm not yet sure why he's disturbed by this considering that on more than one occasion Jesus discussed going somewhere. (Luke 23:43, 24:51, John 8:14, 8:21-22, 13:33, 13:36, 14:2-4, for example).  He also asks about all of those people that don't claim to be Christian but live more Christlike than some Christians.  I hope if he answers this question, he will look at biblical passages like Romans 10:9, 1Corinthians 12:3, 1John 1:9, and 1John 4:3. Of course Bell masks this attack by ending every statement with question mark.

Then Bell takes a break, and when the roulette ball of questions has finally landed, it's on the topic of a personal relationship with our Lord and Creator.  He argues (not questions) that someone might interrupt his line of questioning to say that no matter how it happens, salvation comes through a personal relationship with Jesus (10).   "The problem, however," writes Bell, "is that the phrase 'personal relationship' is found nowhere in the Bible" (10).  Bell then goes back to asking his questions again.  But under this Bellonian logic/theology, neither is the Holy Trinity mentioned by name in the Bible--does this mean it doesn't exist?  As for personal relationship, I wonder how Bell reads John 15:12-15?  Or what about the passages that call believers brothers and sisters, or the comparison of a wedding feast? And what about Psalm 139? These all sound rather personal, even if they exclude the exact phrase, "personal relationship."

By the end of Chapter One, I found myself wondering if Rob Bell considers himself Christian.  Would he fellowship with the believers at my church?  He seems rather upset by Christianity, or at least how he understands Christianity.  Now, as I continue to read, maybe I'll start to see a different Rob Bell, maybe his answers will leave me feeling differently; I fully admit that.  But after the prologue and this chapter, I can see why some have had trouble with this book.  I'm having trouble with this book.  I sincerely hope that Bell starts to address these questions, specifically with biblical support, otherwise, he's merely on the bandwagon with the vocal critics of Christianity, and those that reject the teachings of the Bible.

If you haven't figured it out by now, Chapter One has left a foul taste in my mouth.

Next up, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 2)."

*I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book. 

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Preface)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."]

I remember a time in my own life when I was younger and trying to understand my critique of what I thought Christians were compared to what I thought they should be.  I would often see something I didn't care for within the social aspects of the American Christian church and then suggest that what I saw as not biblical or was somehow not at all in-line with what Jesus might have taught.  I say "might" because honestly, I wasn't reading God's Word much and I certainly wasn't submitting my life to its authority.  Instead, I was trying to make Christianity what I wanted it to be so I could call myself a Christian.  Looking back, it's clear to me now that I wanted to stand in God's place, and I believed that the people I was critiquing, the Church--the very Bride of Christ (John 3:29, Ephesians 5:23, Revelation 21:2, 9)--had "hijacked" real Christianity.  They had mutated the real story of the Bible, or so I thought when I looked in from where I was at that point in my life.  So you can imagine what ran through my mind when on the very first page of the preface I read that Jesus' story has been "hijacked" (vi).

Following the claim that there has been a hijacking, Bell seems to suggest that the traditionally taught idea that, "a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better," is misguided and toxic to Jesus' message of love, peace, and forgiveness (vii).  If I could send this book back through history to the me I just described above, that Bryan would hit these very first pages and instantly fall in love with the book.  Being in such agreement, the Bryan of the past would then likely find himself continually nodding with every paragraph, eating up every word.

What's strange however, is that there is no suggestion, no hint (at least in the prologue) as to when or why this serious hijacking happened.  But there is no reason to think this particular response to the alleged hijacking is new.  Instead, Bell implies that this teaching has always been around as part of the historic, orthodox Christian faith.  It's an "ancient, ongoing discussion surrounding the resurrected Jesus" (x-xi).  It's a "deep, wide, and diverse" conversation according to Bell (x-xi). It is my hope that subsequent chapters will address this hijacking because this is a serious claim to place upon people that are part of Jesus' Church.  Or I guess it could be directed at those Bell believes do not stand with Jesus; it's tough to tell because this hijacking was just sort of slipped in without much explanation. 

At this point, Bell seems to suggest that the idea that only a few will enter heaven is deplorable (viii).  This is not to say that Bell will hold this position throughout the remainder of his book, but that's the impression I'm left with at this point.  This statement however, leaves me very curious about how Bell will approach this idea in light of Luke 13:23-24, where someone asks of Jesus if only a few will be saved.  Jesus replies, "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24, ESV).  It could be that the issue Rob is having is not the idea of only a few entering heaven, but maybe something else.  I suppose I'll find out as I move further into the book. 

But Bell does make some good points in his preface.  He is quick to point out that some communities do not allow for healthy discussion of tough questions.  In this, he is right.  He goes on to say, "There is no question that Jesus cannot handle, no discussion too volatile, no issue too dangerous.  [...] Jesus frees us to call things what they are" (x).  Again, Bell is right.  Therefore, I feel that Bell is giving me permission to examine what follows in this book by the same standard. And I also agree with Bell in that it will be thrilling if this book brings people into open discussion about this important topic, no matter how vibrant, diverse, or messy (xi).

It should also be noted that this discussion of the preface looks to be almost as long, if not longer than the preface itself.

Next up, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 1)."

*I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book. 

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)

For the moment at least, it is hard to miss the controversy of Rob Bell's newest book, Love Wins: A book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived (HarperOne 2011).  Not only has Bell's book caused an explosive discussion among evangelical Christians, thousands of words have been written about Rob Bell and his book, posted in many corners of the World Wide Web.  (Here comes more.)  Some are drawing lines in the sand while others are merely curious.  Some have wished Bell farewell while others have staunchly defended the author. More than one Christian commentator has even suggested that this could cause a tear between Christians on one side and Christians on the other.

Discussing his book, Bell has made the rounds on the various morning talk-news programs.  And it seems to be having an impact upon sales because the book--which released earlier than anticipated due to the firestorm--has hovered around the top sales spots on right from the start.
I can't seem to find it now, but some years ago, a friend of mine who attends Mars Hill Bible Church where Rob Bell is the teaching pastor sent me a CD recording of a sermon series by Rob Bell titled, "Love Wins."  Also in the package with the CD was a bumper sticker simply reading, "Love Wins."  Talking with this friend recently, I've learned that Love Wins the book was spawned by that sermon series.

To get a feel for the book, here's an advertisement video from Rob Bell and HarperOne:

After watching this video the first time, I could see why some Christians could be concerned, theologically.   But when I made this very statement with some fellow Christians, I was told that I shouldn't form any kind of opinion (not even about the video) until I've read the book.  (This from people who also hadn't read the book.)  I'm not in complete agreement with that idea, but that's a conversation for another time. That being said, I've decided to read the book and discuss it here, one chapter at a time.

The book will stand completely on its own merits for the purpose of this multi-part review, meaning I'm going to do my best to ignore Bell's previous books or his recent media clips.  As I read I will post my thoughts, questions, and concerns.  And I realize that some of the conclusions I draw at the beginning of this process may not be my final conclusions of the book.  Only time, 201 pages, and nine or ten posts will tell.  

I hope you'll choose to join me on this journey through the new book, Love Wins.

Next up, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Preface)."

*I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book.