**One of my friends, Josh Chambers, posted a brief Facebook status on "Love Wins," a book he had recently finished reading. I, Publius, asked about his opinion of the book, and he responded with a number of comments that looked for all the world like a standard-length book review. I asked and received permission to post here. Enjoy!**
I just finished reading "Love Wins" by Rob Bell. I see why it caused a controversy, but I thoroughly enjoyed the perspective Bell brought to the whole 'heaven and hell' scene.
When the book was first publicized, "Love Wins" was portrayed by many evangelicals as a universalist tract. Indeed, Rob Bell makes some claims that are universalist-esque, mainly that all punishment is for the purpose of redemption and thus hell cannot be forever. His reasoning is chiefly based on attempting to ascertain the nature of God as loving and using that to argue that such a god would not change his nature toward an individual after death in exacting justice upon them when He has given him/her nothing but mercy and grace for the duration of his/her life. Bell argues that this trend would invariably continue, and that hell would only last as long as the individual therein continued to reject the grace God was continually offering him/her even at that point.
One of the things Rob Bell writes is that God wants everyone to come to Him, and poses the question "doesn't God always get what He wants"? I found numerous flaws with this logic, first and foremost because it is not our place to attempt to ascertain the nature of God, especially in our dealings with us. Secondly, God's justice is as perfect and as complete as his mercy, and the New Testament makes it very clear that eternal death is the just punishment for the things we do that separate us from God. I do not believe that anyone will experience that spiritual death as it were, unless they were shown the full extent of God's grace toward them, but there will be those who choose to invariably reject that grace and in thus doing accept the full brunt of condemnation by the One to whom they have turned their back.
His conjecture about the nature of hell suggests that the "eternal" aspect thereof refers not to an indefinite duration of time, but rather to an "intensity of experience" which he pulls out of a hat after some fancy Greek kung-fu, and that this intensity of experience coupled with the continued dispersion of God's grace toward the deceased in this "hell" constitute a fulfillment of God's justice, and allows them to then enter the kingdom of God.
All that said, a great deal of the book shifted the focus toward what's going on here on the earth right now. Jesus DID say that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and Bell argues that "heaven" or the "age to come" actually occurs when God fuses the spiritual realm with this one, and creates a perfect society. As such, strides we make toward a more fulfilled world without hate, dissension, hunger, disease and other such calamities is actually us letting God use us as instruments of His kingdom, bringing it closer and closer to right here, right now. I appreciated the focus on eternal life not being something that begins in the distant future and is comprised of angels in white robes with perfect voices and streets of pure gold, but as a reality that is being brought more and more into focus as His people make strides toward God's will for their lives, and for the world. It doesn't happen in the twinkling of an eye, its a process that is completed on the day of the LORD, when he returns.
The book was intriguing and thought provoking, but also fairly radical in its claims. I liked the questions it asked, not necessary the answers it attempted to supply. That said, I'd recommend that you read it for yourself and see what you think. It's well worth the time to read.
To purchase this book, check out Amazon.com:
Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever LivedReligion & Spirituality Books)
This was originally posted at Worthy of Note.