I remember when the book Love Wins, came out. It created quite a stir
in the evangelical community as a whole, and also right here on
campus. The book was written by a popular pastor by the name of Rob
Bell. To many, this name is now synonymous with apostasy and
Godlessness. Now that the dust has settled a bit, I am respectfully
arguing that this is not the case.
The main issue of controversy is post-mortem salvation, or the ability
to attain salvation even after death. Bell does not conclude that all
will be saved, but merely that all will have the ability to be saved,
even after death. The main problem with Bell is that he posits the
possibility that God’s grace could extend after death. Bell has a big
view of God’s grace, and an even bigger view of man’s free will.
Bell has wrestled with the idea of hell, an idea that is often abused
in evangelical circles. An idea that haunts me constantly—That some
will be saved and others damned to eternal torment. Think about the
psychological baggage that comes with that doctrine. Does it not seem
strange in the least bit that a child can worship a God that has
damned his relatives to eternal punishment with no hope of escape, or
that parents can worship a God who condemns their children to the same
Doesn’t it seem more congruent with God’s character that there will
always be hope? This is the theme of Love Wins. There is always hope.
Is that so terrible? Bell has made an inference about the afterlife
based on God’s character.
Let’s be perfectly honest here—a hell of eternal conscious torment is
not an easy doctrine, and it is not a nice doctrine. It doesn’t even
seem like a good doctrine. Are we going to call someone an apostate
for trying to wrestle honestly with it? Perhaps if we were more honest
with ourselves, we could see where Bell is coming from, and have
compassion and understanding—even if we don’t agree with the
conclusions that he reaches.
Personally, I have issues with Love Wins, but none that would call
Bell’s salvation into question. As far as the doctrine of hell, I have
no idea what hell is like. I’ve never seen it. I trust that God is
good, and he always does what is right.