Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Review: Love Wins

I usually have anywhere from 6 to 10 books that I’m working on during any particular day. I’ve had a few books that I’ve been working on now for nearly 3 months. I read books ranging from Bible Commentaries, to practical Christian living books, theological books, to just plain interesting books. One book that I’ve been working on for some time is “Love Wins” by Rob Bell. It’s not a particularly long book, or a hard book to read. In fact, I finished reading 130 pages in a little less than two hours today. I bought the book in the heat of the controversy surrounding it back in March. I was intrigued by the controversy, and read many, many articles surrounding the book from both ends of the doctrinal spectrum. I have a folder in my desk more than an inch thick of articles I read about this book. So I started reading it, but lost interest quickly because there were more important things to do. I managed to find a little time this afternoon to finish it up and write a quick review.

To start out, I don’t have much to add to what has already been said about Rob Bell and his book. Albert Mohler has written a good article about this book, as have Kevin DeYoung and Tim Challies. They are much better communicators of truth than I, and have probably thought through the issue more than I have. But I do feel that I have something to offer in this. Please understand that the following review is merely my opinions and observations of “Love Wins.” I’m not looking to be a ‘Bell-basher’ or to spread hate in any way. What I am trying to do is make you aware of the dangers of this book and the unbiblical teachings that it does contain.

“Love Wins” subverts the message of the gospel in all areas. First of all, I find that Rob Bell writes of God in a flippant, disrespectful way. He asks pointed questions about the nature of God and then quickly makes assertions denying valid truths about God. In my experience, there are some books written that leave you in utter awe of who God is and leave you craving for more—book like “The Knowledge of the Holy” A. W. Tozer (I’ll have a review for that one very soon by the way). Then there are books like “Love Wins” that leave with a sick feeling in my stomach and cause me to think, “I wonder what God thinks of this book, and how long it will be until lightning strikes Rob Bell.” Obviously, not everyone who reads this book will think that, but it was my impression, due to the overt heresy and unbiblical claims.

Secondly, Bell undermines justification by faith. Repeatedly throughout this book he makes claims that people are or can be saved through other means than through faith in Christ. He also refers to (though never out-right states) post-mortem salvation. He writes as if salvation is based merely upon man’s choice, not upon faith in God. Also Bell writes of Hindu religion and Muslim religion and Buddhist religion as if they are another way of getting to God. This comes in the midst of a chapter that tries to link the rock that Moses struck (which represents Christ) to anybody’s personal experience story of coming to God, claiming that there are ‘rocks’ everywhere. In fact, he starts the chapter by telling a story of a man who smoked weed, drew some pictures, and then felt an overwhelming feeling that he described as God letting me know I was loved and everything was going to be ok. According to the Bible, a man is justified solely upon faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross (Romans 5:1). I don’t see any room for any other way of salvation (John 14:6) than through Jesus. You can’t follow Hinduism, for example, and then claim that Hinduism is really just another way of being saved through Jesus. (In other words, why don’t we just worship God and try to get to Him however we want? Ask Cain how that worked out for him.)

Third, Bell undermines progressive sanctification of believers. In his chapter on heaven, Bell makes it clear that he believes heaven will be a time of cleansing and purging away of those things that are not “pure and right and beautiful.” I understand that Bell’s view of heaven is not so much an ‘after-death’ as it is a ‘here and now’ type heaven. In fact, throughout the book Bell redefines many Bible terms without citing sources or proving that anyone even remotely orthodox believes the same as he does. This is especially clear in his redefining the term aeion. Sanctification is the process in which God conforms a believer to the likeness of His Son (Hebrews 10:14; Philippians 2:12-13; Romans 8:28-29). This is a process that goes on until a believer dies and goes to a literal place called heaven. Which leads me to the next point:

Fourth, Bell undermines the future glorification of believers. If post-mortem salvation and ‘pruning’ is really possible, then what is the point of God glorifying the believer after they die? Why not just wait until they have been ‘pruned’ of all those things that are not nice and good and beautiful? Philippians 1:6 tells us that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Sanctification is happening for believers right now and glorification will happen for believers one day soon—the day of Jesus Christ.

In closing, I found this to be a terrible book. Rob Bell is acclaimed as a very intelligent man. Admittedly, he is a very good communicator. But I consider his book to be very flippant in how he talks about God. Men like A. W. Tozer that have written books about God's character often express their inability to put what they are trying to communicate into words and how they fear that they may be wrong in what they write. Not so with Bell. He seems bold and brazen in his speech about God and his arrogant rhetoric. I pray that Bell realizes his error and recants. I would not recommend “Love Wins” to anyone as a resource for sound, biblical teaching. In fact, this book reminded me of a cross between liberal Christianity and the New Age movement. If you do happen to read this book, I pray the Lord will give you discernment to see the error in it.

Update: Anyone notice and similarities between Rob Bell's views of judgment/hell/redemption and the Muslim views of the same? I have noticed some striking similarities.

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