Love Wins: Too Bad I Don’t Know What Love Is

Q. What do you think about the hype of Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins, specifically the suspicion that the book (yet unreleased) will advocate universalism?  (video) see also

A.  What the hell do we as Christians do with Rob Bell? After reading a review from Kevin DeYoung (who has read the book which became available March 15th, the review is a 20 page PDF form and can be found here) I’m afraid to say there is no question about  it’s pro-universalism content anymore. His review is extremely thorough and eloquent while making his case against universalism and Rob Bell’s new book well. Even a few days after the  launch it sits at the #3 bestseller list on Amazon due to the controversy surrounding it. His marketing team has done a fabulous job insuring it sell out quickly. Just watch the video you posted in your question, or watch the video he posted directly. The brilliant part of this is how he has opened the market up for all sorts of people to buy it just so they can disagree with it and others who just want to read what all the hubbub is about. If there is one thing people love its controversy, the drama. Universalism will be dragged into the spotlight with Bell as the poster-child and every conservative will be up in arms for it.

As for the universalism he preaches to the masses, I can not agree with it. Lately I have been reading a blog by Richard Beck in a series he’s writing titled Musings on Universalism and his opening blog resonated with me in a way many other religious blogs have not. He builds his case for universalism on the problem of pain, not the problem of hell, but of pain. His ending statement is a summary of a universalism that appeals to my emotions deeper than many of my well-meaning Bible professors did.

Innocent suffering is the open wound of life and the real task of faith and theology is “to make it possible for us to survive, to go on living, with this open wound.”
Now here’s the deal.
You either get that, or you don’t.
And if you don’t, well, I’m sure you’re a very nice and devout person. But you’ll never understand why I believe in universalism.

Essentially when we understand the pain people suffer, we understand where universalists are coming from. We may not agree with them, but we comprehend the need to come up with a solution that involves a happy ending. Well, Richard Beck, I get that. The reason I ultimately can not accept it as my own theology is found in Job 42. After Job has lost everything, after being rebuked by his wife, his friends, and a young man who is standing by listening, he finally hears from God in a whirlwind. God reminds Job just who He is, and who Job is, and after hearing this Job replies:

“I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job was a good man and in the end he doesn’t get an answer to his questions like “why do bad things happen to good people?” and “do people really go to hell?” What he got was a reality check from his Maker. The same Maker who is the ultimate Judge of every man, woman, and child (Rev. 20:11-15) while still being at the same time the ultimate essence of  love (1 John 4). This is a concept I have heard of but have yet to see. I will however take my cue from Job and respond in humility. If seeing God is all the answer we need to these questions, then I will be, “patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” and with others I will “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:12 & 15). I will not demand answers, I will not deny the Word of God, and I will not take an easy out.

So, how does love win?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)

We all need saving. All of us. We can’t do it by ourselves, so He did it for us. We’re all terrible people, yet the perfect illustrator of love made a way for us to be with Him. That is a love I do not understand. I don’t know what love is, but I do know it saved me. I do know, it can save you. Rob Bell did get one thing right: Love Wins.

Please help keep this blog going and send me your questions!

For next Thursday: Much ado About Fate- The Adjustment Bureau movie review



Filed under Uncategorized

4 responses to “Love Wins: Too Bad I Don’t Know What Love Is

  1. Emily

    Great post, Jill! I thought DeYoung’s article was extremely thoughtful, and I appreciated the way he put the scriptures Bell cites into context to show that they aren’t pointing to universalism. The concept of universalism is really attractive, and I found some of the quotes from Bell’s book tugging on my emotions on more than one occasion. It was in those moments I was thankful for DeYoung’s rebuttal to put things back in perspective. I don’t want palatable theology, I want sound theology.

  2. Very well-articulated thoughts on Bell’s book. I certainly understand the allure of universalism, but I think that ultimately it stems from the human desire for a reasonable, happy ending. Your reflection on Job was spot-on.

  3. Greg

    While I disagree with a lot of the haranguing of Rob Bell coming from the reformed camp, people are entitled to their opinions. However, I have to ask you–have you actually read the book? If so, great.

    If not, I think it would be wise to read it before blogging about it…

    • Hey Greg, thank you for reading and asking. I’ll be honest I have not read the book in its entirety but I have read various sections and multiple responses from trusted sources. For that reason I did my best to keep this blog more of an editorial on my belief’s regarding universalism. Haranguing was never my intention. The first sentence is really more of a pun on the books content than my feelings about him. I respect many universalists and appreciate some of their tougher questions (an example of my favorite universalist theologians is C.S. Lewis, Richard Beck, and now I hope to add Rob Bell to that list). While I respect them I do not agree with them, but you are more than welcome to. Also, love your boldness to call me out on it, you should think up a tough question for the blog, I’d appreciate it a lot. Gutsy questions are what this blog is all about.