“Love Wins” By Rob Bell: A Biblical And Theological Critique -- By: David Mappes

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 16:1 (Spring 2012)
Article: “Love Wins” By Rob Bell: A Biblical And Theological Critique
Author: David Mappes

“Love Wins” By Rob Bell:
A Biblical And Theological Critique

David Mappes

Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
and Bible Exposition
Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania


Rob Bell is a well-known pastor, popular conference speaker, and author who until recently served as the founding and lead pastor of the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan. In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Bell announced that he is leaving this megachurch of over 10,000 to follow a “calling to share God’s love” in new ways. He attended both Wheaton College and Fuller Seminary and has published numerous popular articles and books (e.g., Velvet Elvis, Sex God, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and Drops Like Stars), and he is part of the larger postconservative project to post-modernize the Christian faith.

Rarely has a book created such a response so quickly. Even before Love Wins was published1, Bell’s vimeo introductory video was widely viewed. A number of high-profile bloggers and scholars criticized Bell’s vimeo video and upcoming book as promoting a kind of universalism. Bell’s supporters alleged that his antagonists were shortsighted, mean spirited and violated the sense of Matthew 18:15–17 for not personally discussing their concerns with Bell. A number of very good reviews have

been published2 along with thousands upon thousands of blogging comments as well as a number of books (e.g., God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News is Better than Love Wins, by Mark Galli; Christ Alone by Mike Wittmer; Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle)—all directly addressing Bell’s book, Love Wins.

This paper will primarily focus on Bell’s postconservative theological method along with a brief survey of the book.

Bell’s Thesis And Conclusion

Bell states that he wrote the book for “those everywhere, who have heard some version of the Jesus story that caused their pulse rate to rise, their stomach to churn, and their heart to utter those resolute words, ‘I would never be a part of that’” (viii). He explains that this stomach-churning view entails that a “select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better” (viii) and that this version of hell i...

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