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Questioning whether LOVE WINS based on a glimpse

by Jason Hess on February 27, 2011

Next month Rob Bell, pastor and author, will be releasing his latest book, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, and as expected things are already brewing. Certain leaders within the church, as well as random bloggers, are tossing about accusations of Universalism and even heresy.

I may be mistaken but those are bold accusations to brand someone with before the work that incites such charges is even published seems foolish and premature. A quick Google search will reveal blogs gone wild with those already opposing this book; referencing tweets by people like John Piper1 and Mark Driscoll2. On the flip side you have just as many taking it upon themselves to defend the work; citing Eugene Peterson3 and Greg Boyd’s4 endorsements.

I myself love the works of Rob Bell. His understanding of Scripture was and continues to be a vital piece to the evolution of my own thinking. However, I’m not going to just jump on the support bandwagon…and obviously not the critic’s wagon. For myself I’ll wait until the book has been released. Then I’ll read it and form an opinion. So many are getting fired up over a two minute and fifty-eight second promotional video and basing their final judgment on a glimpse, a snippet of the whole.

I’m reminded of the picture game where you take a picture and zoom in really close to one section and then you have to try and discern what the whole is by only seeing a glimpse; often times people get it wrong. This seemingly controversial video is just a zoomed in glimpse of the whole.

Wouldn’t it be wise to withhold judgment, withhold assumptions until after the work has been released?

Personally, I find that the beauty or the disgust is found in the whole…not the part.

For a society that professes with its mouth – Don’t judge a book by its cover – our actions prove opposite.

Most people have an opinion about [my book]. Some love it; others despise it. I’d encourage you not to assume you know what it says without having read it.5

Perhaps the above quote  is the best approach we should take towards all books.

1. John PiperFarewell Rob Bell. Twitter Post
2. Mark DriscollRob Bell: Universalist? Twitter Post
3. Eugene PetersonIn the current religious climate in America, it isn’t easy to develop an imagination, a thoroughly biblical imagination, that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ in all people and all circumstances in love and for salvation. Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination. Love Wins accomplishes this without a trace of soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction in its proclamation of the good news that is most truly for all. HarperOne Link
4. Greg BoydLove Wins is a bold, prophetic and poetic masterpiece. I don’t know any writer who expresses the inexpressible love of God as powerfully and as beautifully as Rob Bell! Many will disagree with some of Rob’s perspectives, but no one who seriously engages this book will put it down unchanged. A ‘must read’ book! HarperOne Link
5. Joshua Harris, author – I Kissed Dating Goodbye

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

George T February 27, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Fantastically written…far too often we think it’s our responsibility to cast judgment on the book cover.


Kurt February 27, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Great post my friend. I hope the ‘accusers’ will repent when this is all said and done. That is a key word in their vernacular, i hope they will act on it. Thanks for checking out my post as well bro!


Jason Hess February 27, 2011 at 10:56 pm

I read your post and Carson’s earlier today…good stuff, well written.


lance linderman February 28, 2011 at 1:48 am

I agree I think everyone is jumping the gun here, lets wait to read it before we form our opinions.


Nick February 28, 2011 at 9:02 am

I’m really glad to be stumbling across some more balanced thoughts after reading some of the more extreme views last night! Thanks for this.


Pastor Fred February 28, 2011 at 10:07 am

Absolutely, how can people who are so prominent in Christian leadership make such statements even before they have read the book entirely. I wonder what their response would have been if Rob Bell had responded similarly to one of their books on a pre-published state? That being said, if Rob Bell has crossed over into Universalism, it will be a sad day for me. I hope his book does not abandon orthodoxy…I will be reading!


Jason Hess March 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Concerning the statements I wonder the same thing. Truth is whether a prominent figure or not we should never assume we know the heart of the message with out hearing it; especially when dealing with such a huge issue.


MasterP February 28, 2011 at 11:16 am

Rob Bell has a fantastic writing style that I enjoy. He’s figured out a way to use 200 pages to present about 50 pages of text and yet you still feel like you read 200 pages because he’s so poignant. On the other hand, his teaching and preaching style makes me crave caffeine. His droning cadence and lack of good humor definitely make him a better writer than speaker in my view (though thousands obviously disagree and have made him one of the most famous names in modern Christianity)

Despite his success, I have to ask who is Rob Bell? Moreover, who is Brian Houston? Billy Graham? Or Spurgeon? Or Wesley? Or Edwards? Or who am I? Did they or I save someone’s soul? These all may be great men of God deserving of honor and respect (self included!) but Jesus is the only bandwagon I want to be on. We shouldn’t be looking for ultimate revelation from the pop-icons of ministry – I’m not saying that God can’t use pop-icons of ministry whether they be Piper, Warren or even John MaCarthur. I just know Jesus can speak just as much revelation through a homeless man on the street or even from the mouth of a baby (for that matter God can speak through an ass if he wants to – hence I have a ministry)

Rob Bell is a well-studied, brilliant thinker with a very persuasive personality – cool yet smart. So is Mark Driscoll, Doug Pagitt, Steven Furtick and a trillion mini-me’s of them all over the world. That said, we are wise to look beyond the delivery of information and into the validity of it based upon scripture and generations of fruitful Christian practice. For instance, anything that calls into question the Apostle’s Creed should immediately draw red flags in the mind of any believer. When we contrast the benefits of being a famous minister today with the sacrifices of the martyrs such as Polycarp who was burned then stabbed to death for teaching a very “unpopular” message – namely the true gospel or, when I consider that William Tyndale’s publishing royalties included being strangled at the stake then having his body burned for translating the New Testament into my language… I’m apt to lean in the direction of the those who paid the higher price to deliver their convictions.

The more I read from the famous ones – the more I realize I should be reading and studying my Bible. For generations our adversary was successful in keeping God’s word out of the hands of men. Only trained clergy could interpret and teach the Word to the common man – until the reformation. Now, the Bible can be accessed by anyone with a computer, a smartphone, an iPad or an e-reader. Dozens of translations and libraries of study tools are now at our fingertips. Yet many would still rather have the professionals do the study for them and tell them what to do so they can have more time for movies, video games or golf. I’m reminded of the quote by Seth Godin in his book Linchpin:

“People want to be told what to do because they are afraid (petrified) of figuring it out for themselves”

I might add “slothful” along with petrified.

I’m also reminded of Acts 17:11
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

NOTE: They kept a good attitude and received the Word with eagerness…BUT…..they didn’t just swallow hook, line and sinker – they examined the Scriptures every day!

The Greek word being used for examine here is the word: anakrínō

Which means: completing a process, which intensifies; properly, to distinguish by vigorously judging “down to up,” i.e. closely examining (investigating) through “the process of careful study, evaluation and judgment”; “to examine, investigate often used in its forensic sense in the ancient world. It can even refer to “examination by torture”

Whenever anyone puts out some “new revelation” with regard to a cardinal doctrine we should be assuming the best but “examining” the scriptures and not being swayed by the personality. People are often gullible, lazy and easily persuaded by personality…not to mention we’re easily provoked to rebellion against perceived enemies – i.e. the system, the man, organized religion, tradition, etc.. This is no indictment against Rob Bell or any other famous minister. The point is, we are all made priests to our God and we all have access through Jesus – so our “ultimate revelation of truth” should never come from another man but rather from the Word of God itself. While I realize there are many who agree with that statement, there are multitudes that would rather hear, read or watch a celebrity preacher than seek Jesus for themselves. We all want to be on a winning team, so we pick our favorite star and sign on. This is how false doctrine spreads. It’s called idolatry.

Although I obviously don’t really have an opinion on the book yet, I must, give kudos to Mr. Bell and his team for such a clever and creative marketing scheme. Albeit, there is nothing new about his approach. If you’ve read Don Miller’s Searching for God Knows What, then you know Rob’s method is a pretty classic formula put to cool music, dramatic prose and slick video – presenting a huge dilemma and hinting of a controversial answer to age old questions. Rob always presents his view as if it’s the hidden treasure or the lost ark rediscovered. It’s what makes him exciting to read. Exciting, but I suppose not always entirely accurate hence drawing criticism from some of the most highly respected spiritual sages of our day.

Rob’s new work could end up being absolute rubbish, still thousands from both sides of the Bell camp are already in line to drop the bling in Rob’s pocket as soon as the book hits the shelves (and there’s nothing wrong with making your living from the gospel – so says Paul). No criticism from me yet just heaps of admiration for a fantastic set up to his new release. I actually agree with the title. God is love and God wins! So of course love wins!


Jason Hess March 1, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Sorry I didn’t responded yesterday. Your comment is rather long…novel like. (insert smile)

Nonetheless, you can’t deny that the buzz created by the video has been great marketing. Eternity is a passionate subject, people want to know where their loved ones are and whether or not they will see them again.

One thing is for sure, the negative outcry by “reformers” over this upcoming book amplifies the reality of the changing church…something which most “reformers” struggle or choose not to embrace.


Michelle Vantrease March 24, 2011 at 9:26 am

God-worthy reply, Master P. Had to read this to my kiddos.


MasterP March 2, 2011 at 1:12 am

Yeah…I was on roll with time on my hands.


Jeff V March 2, 2011 at 10:31 am

Thanks for sharing this on

Your posts are interesting.


Jason Hess March 2, 2011 at 11:38 am



Michelle Vantrease March 24, 2011 at 9:28 am

Will read the book when I can. You have a great point, Jason. We should read it before we judge it.
I think Master P has written a God-driven reply.


Thomas Jay Oord April 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Thanks for this note. If you’re interested in my own review of Love Wins, here’s a link:


Jason Hess April 25, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Thanks for the link I’ll check it out.


Dave Brown September 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Jason Hess, now that Bell’s book has been out for many, many months, I assume you’ve read and digested it as well as the withering critique its received. What say you now?


Jason Hess September 23, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Having read the book I still think it should be read by others. Ps. Bell took a risk to challenge us; a worthy risk in my opinion. Personally I didn’t find anything that I would deem heretical. If we don’t ask questions and challenge long held beliefs we get stagnate and eventually die. That said I do wish he would have footnoted the book so that further independent study on the texts he draws from could have been done. Overall, I appreciate what he had to say in the book and the risk he took to say it.

Regardless of our individual opinions of the book in the end love truly does win.


Coronius Vectorius June 2, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Behold! The Earth is flat, Stars are tears, and a good daily bleeding will comfort the soul.


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