Rob Bell, the founder of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, has written a book entitled, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. This book stands to be one of the most talked about books written by a Christian author in a very long time. Judging by the amount of press Rob Bell has garnered since its release in March of 2011, and the amount of debate the book stirred, even prior to its release date, it is safe to say that like it or not, this book is becoming an influential book in the Christian world. I have recently completed my read of Love Wins and would like to toss my two cents worth into the review arena.
Before I get started with this review, I want to lay some groundwork. My purpose here is not to tear down the man, Rob Bell. To the contrary, there are many things about Rob Bell to be admired. He is one of the most gifted communicators in our culture today. His intellect is formidable and his gift for artistic expression lends him a powerful medium for the delivery of his messages. I have a great respect for him for those reasons. I am quite sure that were I to meet him, we could have some stimulating conversation and I might even like the guy.
With that said, it goes without saying that I have fundamental differences with Rob Bell. At some point it is going to become difficult to separate the man from the message. What I mean is that Rob Bell has so intertwined his persona with his message that a critique of his message will invariably be a critique of the man. Why? It is simple: We are what we believe. Our beliefs are inseparable from our person. Beliefs define and shape who we are at every level of our being. All of that to say this: no matter how I say it, no matter how gentle I try to be, this will be a swing at the man, Rob Bell.
Also, before getting started, I should mention a few things about myself. I am a regular guy. I do not have a seminary degree. I have never had a Greek or a Hebrew or a hermeneutics class. I do not have a degree in Bible. I am just a worship pastor in a small town in south central Missouri that loves the Lord and has a passion for his Word and his Church.
In preparing for this review, I want you to understand what I’ve done to make myself ready. First, I have intentionally refrained from reading every review of Love Wins that people have sent to me. When I announced on Facebook that I intended to review the book, I began receiving some well-intentioned emails with links to articles about the book. I still have those and I have every intention of reading them. However, in the interest of remaining as objective and unaffected by other people’s reviews as possible, I have not indulged in reading those articles. Of course, I am very interested in what these men and women have to say about Bell’s book, so I look forward to reading them. To date, I have seen only one interview with Bell about his book, which was with Martin Bashir from MSNBC, and was posted to YouTube on March 15, 2011. That is my only exposure to a critique of the book other than the conversations that have gone on in our church office between pastoral staff persons during the course of the last seven weeks.
Over the next week or so, I will be reviewing a chapter at a time and publishing that chapter here on my website. When I’ve reviewed all eight chapters, I’ll make the entire review available for download as one document. I wish I could tell you this will come out one chapter per day, but I won’t make those kinds of promises. Instead I’ll say that I’m committed to finishing the entire review by May 6, 2011. I will say this, though: Chapter one will be done by Monday evening. Check back then.