Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Love Wins: my review

Having now read through 'Love Wins' four times from cover to cover, I finally feel equipped to offer a few thoughts on it. So here is my review of 'a book about heaven, hell and the fate of every person who ever lived.'

Firstly, it strikes me that many people are reading 'Love Wins' for the purpose of discovering what Rob Bell believes. They need to categorise him. Does he fit? Does he support or oppose them? Should he be accepted? Or discarded?

The trouble with that approach is that 'Love Wins' is a very tricky book to box.
Simply because the book is an exploration of possibilities.

Does Rob Bell think that every person will EVENTUALLY end up choosing paradise?
He raises it, explores it and affirms it as a POSSIBILITY.
Does Rob Bell think that some people will suffer apart from this paradise?
He raises it, explores it and affirms it as a POSSIBILITY.

In his own words,
'Will everybody be saved,
or will some perish from God forever because of their choices?
Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We don't need to resolve them or answer them because we can't, and so we simply respect them, creating space from the freedom that love requires.'
(pg. 115)

'Love Wins' is to be recommended for this very reason: it opens you up to the possibilities. It does not tell you what to believe but instead helps you identify what views you currently hold, and then assists you in weighing up whether these views needs altering. Rob writes in the preface, 'If this book does nothing more than open you up to the ancient, ongoing discussion surrounding the resurrected Jesus in all its vibrant, diverse, messy, multi-voiced complexity - well, I'd be thrilled.' (pg xi)

What Rob Bell does get across, however,
with absolute certainty,
is that views on life after death
should not be held with absolute certainty.
Many, many people in our culture baulk at the very mention of Christianity because the Christian voice that they have heard most of all, spoken with greatest volume, is a negative, scathing, unswerving, judgemental voice. It's a voice unwilling to enter into debate because you are wrong and they are right. It's black and white.

I'm sure there are other fallibilities of the book, but this, for me, is the utmost reason why criticism of the book can be expected: it does attempt to shake walls that do not want to be shaken.

What I think Rob Bell successfully shows in 'Love Wins' is that the topic of life after death is anything but black and white. It is a topic which, for obvious reasons, is rife with speculation and uncertainty.
And we should handle it as such.
But that does not mean that we should ignore the topic.
Or treat it as unimportant.
It is extremely important.
The possibilities need to be explored and considered by all.
Because, to quote Rob, 'how we think about heaven directly affects what we do with our days and energies now.' (pg 44) In other words, our beliefs, hopes, dreams and expectations for the future will all shape our approach to the present.

Because beyond all the questions, tensions and speculations, 'Love Wins' does offer a clear and concrete rallying cry. 'Love Wins' is a call for all of us to love this world more.
It explains why we should be living lives which bring heaven to earth. Here. Now.
Lives which confront hell. Here. Now.
Lives which spread heaven. Here. Now.
All dancing across the earth.

And any book that does that, in my opinion, should be commended.