Love Wins: A God of grace for all

Love Wins: A God of grace for all

by Christian Piatt

I was psyched when Jarrod McKenna, one of the contributors to the forthcoming BANNED QUESTIONS book series, told me her had an interview of Rob Bell appearing on ABC Australia’s news site about Rob’s new book, LOVE WINS: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person who Ever Lived.

My initial excitement had to do with Jarrod’s citation of a passage from BANNED QUESTIONS toward the end of the piece, but the central message of the interview, and apparently of the book, is far more significant than I expected.

Rather than paraphrase what Jarrod and Rob have already said so well, I’ll just quote Rob from his book:

Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith – the afterlife – arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic – eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.”

Did you hear that? It’s the sound of thousands of conservative evangelicals closing their mental doors on Rob Bell in unison.

For some within mainline Christian circles, the prospect of “universal salvation,” or the idea that God ultimately reconciles all of us into God’s presence, regardless of our worthiness of such grace, may not be a real shock. But even the suggestion of what I consider “Christian Universalism” within evangelical circles is sure to send seismic ripples throughout the church.

And his claim has done just that.

Neo-Calvinist John Piper led the charge, bidding farewell en masse to Bell and his message of non-exclusive salvation. What, after all, do many Christians have to offer the world if not the key to unlock the gates of hell from the inside?

While Jonathan Edwards showed us, with his “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon, that fear can galvanize a congregation, Bell’s message is that love – and more specifically God’s love – is bigger than the sum total of our fears, sins, and other shortcomings is a call in a growing chorus. This, in the truest sense of the word, is Gospel: Good News!

Chalice Press is offering a special promotion through ABC Australia of 40% off pre-orders of BANNED QUESTIONS books. Order in March through the Chalice Press site and enter the code “BANNEDQ1” at checkout.


2 thoughts on “Love Wins: A God of grace for all

  1. In his new book “Love Wins” Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from “the greatest achievement in life,” my ebook on comparative mysticism:

    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

    (59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote “In God we all meet.”

  2. <>

    I don’t see Jesus’ Good News as including the ‘good news’ that we have the discernment to determine whether any one particular person is currently or will be living in hell. The Good News is that God loves us and we can live in Him now.

    I thought that what Christians have to offer is love and service and that it is God who has the keys to his Kingdom. And I thought that we as Christians are supposed to remember that it’s God’s decision who gets to live in Him and we’re not to second guess that (otherwise what is the Book of Job about? what is “revenge is mine saith the Lord” about?). Put another way, I thought that one of the consequences of living in God is a deepening humility and an increasing appreciation of the depth of individuals and communities.

    On another note, and arguing from a human perspective (admittedly, not always the best approach), I want my kids to grow up and be adults and collaborate on this creation with me and others. So I want them to take the good and bad consequences of their actions: if they murder someone, I’ll visit them on visiting day, but I won’t spring them, unrepentant and unchanged, by paying for tricky lawyer (or theologian).

    If my kids persistently choose destructive actions throughout their lives, and create and expand their own hell on earth, and die during that process, I don’t really see why they shouldn’t just stop being when they die- the only afterlife they would have is that of providing nutrients to the earth. The end of their hellish actions and being may be seen as a kindness to them. Hitler comes to mind. If my kids are that deeply rotten, what would be left, what “person” would there be for God to save? But again, it’s God’s to decide who is living that way and God’s to decide who gets to live with Him.

    In the last Harry Potter movie (yes I know some evangelicals haven’t unlocked the doors to seeing heaven in those movies), Harry is at the point of death and has a vision that he and Dumbledore are walking in a train station. A dying newly born or perhaps even unborn infant lies naked under a subway bench: alone. It looks malformed. Dumbledore moves Harry along without comment. The infant is the evil one, the boy who embraced evil and pursued it all of his life, HE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED. The evil part of him has lost the battle with good. Separated from goodness, from Harry and other humans, and from the evil he chose and created during his life, this infant is all that is left of HWMNBN. We as readers don’t know what becomes of the malformed infant – all the good that is left. We can infer that the infant will die – that’s the probable result. But, it’s up to God (the Author) to decide and the Author isn’t sharing that with us. Not part of our purpose.

    If people are profoundly searching for the good, they can be seen as creating heaven on earth, or at least expanding God’s heaven inside and among themselves. Heaven begins now maybe but on a continuum. Presented with the living God, such people will see that their good, their heaven, is a part of God’s and that Jesus is Lord in that heaven, and it makes sense to me that God would have them live with Him. But again, “revenge is mine says the Lord” – it’s for God to know and for God to decide.

    my thoughts,


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