Even though I finished Love Wins about a month ago, I’ve not been all that anxious to weigh in with a review. Below, I will explain further. But as the publisher sent me a copy to review, I feel as though I should. And to be honest the more toxic the debate got, the more I wanted to at least wait if not just forget it altogether. I’m pretty convinced waiting is always good idea. It is my chief concern in the whole affair – the desire for the heavyweights to weigh in as-soon-as-possible. And even before then.
The following are ten thoughts I have about Love Wins one month later. Please do not read into the order of these. For those who do, your condemnation is just.
1. The storytelling and the stories themselves were compelling. Bell certainly has a gift for telling a story. Most people have no idea how hard it is to do what he does and do it well.
2. On the whole, I did not like the way Bell’s book is written. The starkness felt shallow, not artsy. Choppy not profound. I think if you are going to challenge the traditional view of Hell, you may wanna play by the rules of the traditional book. You know, a footnote or two would have been nice.
3. Speaking of footnotes, it felt sloppy. I mean, if you are going to challenge a truth almost universally accepted throughout Church History, when you use Church History to defend your questions and assertions, you better damn well get your quotes right in context and let people know where you got such assertions from. (All puns intended.)
4. Just so you know, I do not agree with Rob Bell’s view of Hell. He does great violence to common sense and instead of doing what he sought to do – make the gospel more gracious – he actually strips it of its immediate meaningfulness. It becomes tangential whether one believes now if we know everyone will believe it eventually in a salvific way.
5. However, I do not dislike him for it. I get it. Like most in the Anabaptist tradition, their trajectory is off a smidgen to start with but every golfer knows it only takes a smidgen. But I understand his desire for an orthodoxy which is gracious and loving. I sympathize with his questions. And I am not unhappy he asked them. The church should be able to handle it.
6. I think Justin Taylor and John Piper should have waited till the book was read completely and released. By not doing so, they made the book far more a threat to orthodoxy (their fear) than it would have been if they had waited. Instead of striking the tone of conviction, the din of prejudice.
7. More than anyone, I would have liked to hear an apology from John Piper. In a debate/discussion/argument, the way you do it is important, even if you are right. I find it hard to believe – and saddening that so few, who agree with his theology have not publicly asked him to apologize for his flippant tweet and his doing so, without reading the book first. Or is reading a book first only for others?
8. I think we need a robust discussion that takes into account John Stott’s annihilationsim and the Calvinist’s love of him. Some argue that Stott is simply unsure and is floating a what-if? scenario. Really? Because that is precisely the criticism leveled at Bell. If this cannot be done in a dignified manner then we need to reckon with the fact that we are respecters of people.
9. I think the parodies of Rob Bell and his book are disgusting. Funny? Sure.
But to make fun of Bell on facebook will only give geeky sophomoric neo-Calvinists something to puff up their insecure egos between listening to Lecrae albums. It will convince no one. And will win only the respect of those who already had it.
10. I cannot prove it, but a few people have seemed fairly cold towards me because of my criticism of the criticism. One criticism that some have of the neo-Calvinists is their tribalism. I always denied it till now. But it’s true. It’s not enough to think Rob Bell is wrong, you must defend his critics at all costs. If this is the case, God help us.