Book Review (aka my 2 cents): Love Wins by Rob Bell

The Marketing Campaign
The viral marketing campaign for Love Wins was simply brilliant. It should be studied by any marketing student looking to market a product. I don’t know how intentional everything was, but it worked, and I hate the fact that it did. I saw the Rob Bell “trailer” video on a friend’s Facebook page, watched it, and then re-posted it. It generated a really interesting discussion on my page, and I knew that I “had” to read the book to have an informed opinion. It wasn’t a choice for me, I had to read it. Some of my friends re-posted that video on their pages. Other friends Tweeted about it. I read blogs about the book from people that actually had never read it, based on heresy about the book. I knew I had to read it, so I bought it.

The Book
Much of recent postmodern deconstructive writing is like an employee who constantly criticizes everything management does, but when given a management opportunity, declines it, because he doesn’t want to be the guy being criticized. It is much easier to point fingers than to come up with solutions. This book falls into this trap at times. It points fingers at Christians and the church, but fails to propose an alternative solution, other than well, love wins.

Love Wins is a book of questions. If my beliefs are solid, they should be able to weather a barrage of questions. But Bell mostly lets his questions drop off into thin air. He grazes issues like eternal damnation, judgment, heaven etc., and avoids voicing an interpretation by asking questions. Why doesn’t Bell take a stab at answering some of his questions?

On the other hand, do we avoid many of these questions because we’re scared we don’t know the answers? Do I really 100% know what heaven will be like? Or hell? Or who will be where for all of eternity? Is it better to live in sheltered naivety that never asks the questions everyone is thinking anyways, or should we as Christians challenge each other by pondering age-old questions, in a challenging and introspective manner that acknowledges we actually don’t have every answer? Job and his friends questioned many topics such as justice, fairness, and judgment, but God answered them with questions. Jesus answered many questions with questions. Questions are a reality for Christians, and our quest to answer those will take our entire life, and the life after that.

God is infinitely complex, and if I think I can summarize God in a few sentences, confine him to my own mind, and mold Him to whatever I want Him to be, then I am turning myself into a God. I might as well just build a golden calf to worship. If God is God, then there should be an infinite number of questions about Him. We’re finite humans; He is an infinite God.

Bell is a brilliant writer. He has a unique rhetoric style that is easy to understand and flows like a stream through the woods of complexity. But he is more poet than theologian. More David than Paul in his writings. If you are looking for a simple “3 keys to avoiding hell and going to heaven” type of book, this isn’t it. Read it if you want to be challenged, angered, humbled, and awestruck at how much we don’t know about God. Bell’s questions can scare us, or they can help us go back to the Bible and study deeper to try to understand them. If that was Bell’s intention, then it worked on me.

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About Tim Vanderpyl
I am a student of leadership and human resources, and I'm blogging to share some of my thoughts and ideas with readers. I'm a CHRP (Certified Human Resource Professional) at a large healthcare organization, a graduate of Regent University's Doctor of Strategic Leadership program, and lover of the life that God has gifted me with.

7 Responses to Book Review (aka my 2 cents): Love Wins by Rob Bell

  1. Scott Tucker says:

    Decent review bro.

  2. Steve Prosser says:

    Thank you for a well thought out review of “Love Wins”. Preceding that it seems that the underlying message from what we read is that God wins and we loose unless we agree that we are lost.

    • Steve, thanks for the comment. God does win in the end and we are lost without Him!

      Bell does raise a lot of questions about what happens between now and “the end”, and what that ongoing story means for us.

  3. Karen Loney says:

    Hey Tim….saw your blog on the LinkIN and found this. I saw Bell’s interview and actually thought I had best read it myself and decide…but have not. When I read your post I thought I might as well forget about reading Bell’s book, I should just be where the real answers are -in the bible. I think to many times we have forgotten to have a childlike faith to many unknowns. I often wonder if books like these really bring glory to God or distrack. Have you read Heaven is for Real? Would be interested to hear your thoughts on that. I have passed it on to some collegues at work and it certainly has prompted some opportunties for discussion.

    Hope all is well with you!

    Blessings.

    • Karen, it has been a long time. Hope you are doing well.

      Your are totally correct that we would be better off reading the Bible. But books like Love Wins give me a little solace in knowing I am not the only one with lots of questions. One of my 2011 resolutions is to read the Bible cover to cover again. I’m in Psalms right now, and I feel like the more I read the Bible, the more questions I have.

      The interest in Bell’s book does make me think that he has touched a chord in our society, or else no one would care. Maybe a lot more people wonder about these topics than we sometimes think they do.

      I haven’t read Heaven is for Real. I’ll maybe look into it at some point.

      Great hearing from you Karen!

  4. Will Rochow says:

    Hi Tim,

    I came to your review through a link on my Facebook page. No, I haven’t read the book in question, and to be honest, it’s not on my “Must Read” list. However, I can relate to a couple points you raise.

    Criticizing, or judging, often leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. Scripturally speaking, we Christians often like to quote Matthew 7:1, “do not judge.” But is all judgment wrong? In the Bible I see two main types of judging; one we are called not to do, whereas the other we are called to do.

    Judging others in a condemnation sort of way is forbidden for us by the Bible. No one can condemn but God alone. On the other hand, to judge in a discernment way, we are repeatedly called to do. To discern right from wrong, truth from untruth, true prophet from false prophet; you get the point. One type of judging is right and the other type is wrong.

    There is an interesting verse in 1 Corinthians 5:12 that says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” Likewise the Apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:16, “Watch your life and doctrine closely.” I believe the essence of these verses, and others like it, is to guard the purity of the Gospel and to guard against falling away from Biblical truths. Heresy can, and often has, slipped into the church throughout its history. This seems to me to be why many believers are so dogmatic in their defence of their understanding of the Gospel message. Still, is that the right approach?

    What too many of us forget, though (and I’ve sometimes been guilty of it myself), is that all of this must be done in love and with reconciliation in mind. Remove the love from the equation, and all you have is a noise maker (1 Corinthians 13:1). If we could only learn to love the way the Bible commands us to, I suspect we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.”

    A friend of mine has often said something similar to one of your comments. He said, “I haven’t gone to heaven and back, and you haven’t gone to hell and back, so how do we know exactly what it’s like?” The fact of the matter is, we don’t know. All we have is God’s Word in the Bible, and that is enough. Could it be that the reason He didn’t include more details on the subject is to teach us to live by faith? I wonder.

    I always keep coming back to the greatest commandment. I’m sure we all know it. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). Notice that last part again: “All the Law and Prophets,” in other words, everything that has and ever could be said about God and His nature and workings in the world, hangs on LOVE. First our love for God, and then our love for each other. If we’ve missed the LOVE part, then we’ve missed everything else too.

    One more verse and then I will quit preaching. Paul says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). The best any of us can do right now this side of glory is to see “a poor reflection” of the bigger picture that God has for us. The only constant that really matters is LOVE. Have we learned this? Are we at least striving to learn this? I wonder sometimes.

    Thanks, and God bless.
    Will

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