The other book I had with me on holiday was Rob Bell’s (in some circles – controversial) book “Love Wins”.
Yes, I’m pretty late reading it and passing comment and I’m sure that all possible comments have already been aired on the book, but I wanted to share some thoughts on what ended up being another fairly rapid read.
Interestingly, going back to read Rob’s earlier book ‘Sex God’ since I’ve been back from holiday and remembering a fair amount of ‘Velvet Elvis’, ‘Love Wins’ is really just further development of a thread that runs through a lot of Rob’s work.
Rob came in for a lot of criticism having written this and was called all sorts of things even before its release, even by people that hadn’t actually read the book (a dangerous policy if you ask me).
The first label levelled at Rob was that he is a ‘Universalist’. I didn’t get that impression from reading the book. Rob is definitely not saying “everybody gets saved in the end regardless”, he does however ask the question “what kind of God do we believe in?” Do we believe in an all powerful God that can find a way to redeem everything and everybody in His own way, or do we believe in a God that isn’t powerful enough to find a way to restore all things to himself?”
That’s quite a different thing and its quite a fundamental and important question.
There’s some very good explorations if what we understand by Heaven and Hell also. For example, in summing up the chapter on Hell:
“To summarize, then, we need a loaded, volatile, adequately violent, dramatic, serious word to describe the very real consequences we experience when we reject the good and true and beautiful life that God
has for us.
We need a word that refers to the big, wide, terrible evil that comes from the secrets hidden deep within our hearts all the way to the massive, society-wide collapse and chaos that comes when we fail to live in God’s world God’s way.
And for that,
the word “hell” works quite well.”
Rob writes very gently and graciously and even if you don’t agree with his position, you would need to work hard to take offence, the book is more about asking the questions than specifically finding the ‘right’ answers.
Rob likes the parable of the prodigal sons and he uses it in this book because it highlights both extremes of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’, coexisting in the same place: it’s purely our response to God’s love and grace that defines which place we chose to exist in. Rob rounds up the story by saying:
“Neither son understands that the father’s love was never about any of that (being good enough to deserve the father’s love or bad enough for it to disappear). The father’s love cannot be earned,
and it cannot be taken away.
It just is.
It’s a party.
The final chapter closes with a great passage that encapsulates both the continual restoration of all things into God’s “shalom” and our response to God, His love, forgiveness and grace.
“I believe that the indestructible love of God is an unfolding, dynamic reality and that every single one of us is endlessly being invited to trust, accept, believe, embrace, and experience it. Whatever words you find helpful for describing this act of trust, Jesus invites us to say yes to this love of God,
again and again and again.”
The book is definitely worth a read, I have barely scratched the surface in reviewing it here, it is also the perfect companion to ‘After Magic‘ by Kester Brewin if you want to read two books together!