Finally my copy of Bell’s Love Wins arrived and I finished it in a couple of hours. I won’t bore you with a longwinded critique. I got this, OK? Couple of comments.
First, by all means get the book. If you can borrow it and save yourself the money, even better. It won’t be a book you read twice. Trust me. But if you get a copy, just read from the middle of page 103 to the middle of page 111. That’s pretty much the core of the core. Trust me. You won’t be missing anything crucial. Read those pages and you’ll know what Bell is trying to say. If you want a bit more, there are other interesting things he says from the middle of page 173 to the bottom of page 177. That’s it. Trust me. And there is NOTHING new in the book. But Bell tells you that up front.
Here’s what Bell essentially wants to say:
On pages 103-111 it’s this: God’s love will never stop pursuing those in hell. They can renew their rejection of God if that’s what they want. We’re THAT free. But God is free to continue to pursue us. As long as it takes, God will pursue us until we are all his. How long? Don’t know. Doesn’t matter. As long as people are not locked in irrevocable torture, it doesn’t matter. There’s always hope, and that is Bell’s point. Bell doesn’t say God draws a line in the sand and eventually says, “Enough is enough, I’m saving you whether you wanna be saved or not.” We can say ‘no’. But we’re also free to say ‘yes’. And that’s what’s important for Bell.
On pages 173-177 it’s this: Jesus doesn’t have to be known by name, race, or other historical particularities (lived in Palestine, was Jewish, died on a Roman cross, etc.) in order to be experienced in a ways that can and do redeem. When people embrace genuine repentance, faith, compassion, etc.—they’re embracing Jesus, for those virtues are the differentiated truth of Jesus. They’ll find out eventually what his name is; and if they’re repentance and sense of trust in ultimate truth is genuine, they won’t be surprised when they meet him.
The book is not that well-written. I’ve read Bell’s stuff before and was very impressed and inspired. This book left me underwhelmed. Greg Boyd called it “a bold, prophetic, and poetic masterpiece.” I’m very careful about disagreeing with Greg, but I gotta get him some new reading material. A masterpiece? I don’t think so. The only masterpiece here is HarperCollins’s marketting campaign!
I’ve read a good bit on universalism and this was the least compelling treatment I’ve read.