I know I’m about a year a half late on all the controversy surrounding Love Wins by Rob Bell. I remember the controversy very well. There were negative comments all over Facebook and Twitter. Most of this coming from mostly the conservative evangelical crowd. I heard cries calling Bell a universalist, which is equated with heresy to many. But I didn’t really pay much attention to criticism and rhetoric because I also heard much praise from many people and voices I respect. At the time the book came out, it really wasn’t a priority to read as I busy with other books and projects at the time.
I got around to reading it about six months ago, long after the controversy died down. I have high praise for Love Wins. I think it asks a lot of very important questions and brings the subject of hell and the doctrine of “eternal conscious suffering” to the forefront. The people who were so quick to judge this book, which I would argue that most of them didn’t read to begin with, are the ones who should be discussing the topic. I don’t believe Bell is a universalist. Which by the way, even if he was, still doesn’t take away from the book and I would still highly recommend it.
The fact is that no matter what theological persuasion you have regarding the subject of hell, there is scripture you can find for backing up your belief. You can find proof for eternal conscious suffering, annihilationism, and even universalism. Which is exactly the reason this is a debatable subject, which is always the case when scripture seems ambiguous on a certain topic. Love Wins empowers people to question the old perspective and consider new ones. If you start out reading this book with an preconceived agenda, you will most certainly find quotes in the book in favor of your prejudice.
The topic of hell is one I consider to be on that outside ring of concentric circles under the heading of “theological doctrines.” Read my post Jesus Is At The Center if you don’t know what I’m talking about. What I mean by that is that this topic shouldn’t divide us. Your faith shouldn’t be questioned or doubted based on what theological view you hold on hell. But there are many evangelicals who will do so. Is it because they’ve placed their own theology so high up that it’s reached idol status?
I don’t believe Love Wins is a defense of universalism. It provokes questions and hints at possible answers, but doesn’t defend one definitive conclusion. I plan on exploring some of these other views that exist and offer my own view. It may be met with rejection or condemnation but I hope that it be met with open minds. Just keep in mind that as long as Jesus is at the center, nothing else really matters.
Recent books I’ve read that I recommend on the subject of hell are: Hell: A Final Word by Edward Fudge and Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught About God’s Wrath and Judgment by Sharon Baker.