Summary: A Biblical Response to Rob Bell’s New Book "Love Wins."
A Review of Love Wins by Rob Bell:
By Pastor Chris Jordan
An Introduction: Why I’ve Written This Response:
After I graduated from Pacific Life Bible College in May of 1999, I had the privilege of serving in my alma mater as the adjunct professor of Bible Research and Hermeneutics (Bible Interpretation). For eight years, I shared with hundreds of men and women who were called by God to the ministry the principles of how to rightly interpret the Scriptures. One of the credos I shared with them was this statement, credited to Augustine: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, Christian charity (love).” This powerful statement is one that was adopted by my church’s denomination, the Foursquare Gospel Church, and I think that it is an important one. But what does it mean?
In order for us to have fellowship with one another as Christians, we must have unity in the basic, essential doctrines of the Christian faith. That means that in order to be considered an orthodox Christian church, we must agree on certain foundational truths – like the fact that the Bible is the Word of God, the tri-unity of the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and the belief that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. However, once we have found unity in those essentials, we must have liberty in the non-essentials, and agree to disagree on minor doctrines that don’t affect our salvation. Some examples of this include the mode of baptism, whether or not a church believes that healing is for today, what type of instruments a church may use (or not use) in worship, and beliefs about eschatology (the end times).
Because of that foundational belief, I thoroughly enjoy reading Christian books from a radically diverse spectrum of denominational traditions and historical settings.
Some of my favourite historical authors (old dead dudes) include:
Charles Spurgeon (a reformed Baptist pastor from England from the 1800’s)
Matthew Henry (a British Presbyterian minister from the 1600’s)
C. S. Lewis (a layman in the Church of England from the early 1900’s)
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (a Calvinistic and charismatic Welsh pastor from the 1900’s)
Andrew Murray (a South African pastor from the Dutch Reformed Church)
John Owen (an English nonconformist church leader from the 1600’s)
Leonard Ravenhill (a revivalist and evangelist from the 1900’s)
J. C. Ryle (the first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool from the 1800’s)
My taste in contemporary Christian authors varies greatly as well, including:
Heidi Baker (a Christian missionary and founder of Iris Ministries)
John Bevere (a charismatic evangelist and Bible teacher)
Jack Hayford (the fourth president of the Foursquare Church)
Howard Hendricks (professor of Hermeneutics at Dallas Theological Seminary)
Bill Johnson (an American Assemblies of God pastor)
Brennan Manning (a catholic priest and friar)
John Piper (a reformed Calvinistic pastor)
John Stott (an Anglican clergyman)
I share that with you to lay the foundation that I believe in the importance of extending liberty to those who may have differing views on non-essential doctrines. I may not agree with Charles Spurgeon’s stance on the cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but I love His teachings on the doctrines of grace. In other words, we don’t write someone off or discount their teachings just because we don’t believe in everything they have to say.
I heard a Bible teacher say once that listening to Bible teaching is like eating a chicken – you eat the meat and spit out the bones. That being said, it is a sad and unfortunate truth that many people are undiscerning in what they read (in books) or listen to (via podcasts, audio sermons, etc). Too many people will believe everything they hear or read, just because a certain pastor or Bible teacher said it or wrote it. However, God wants us to be like the Bereans. Acts 17:11 tells us that: “These (Bereans) were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” When we read a book or hear a sermon, we have a God-given responsibility to go back to the Bible and make sure what we’re reading lines up with the Word of God. This brings me to the subject of this critical review – the new book Love Wins by mega-church pastor Rob Bell.
Over the past eighteen years that I have been involved in full time pastoral ministry, I have had several occasions to write critical responses to books that have had the potential to negatively affect the faith of those within the Christian community. From Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, to the Harry Potter books and The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, I have written numerous responses to the false ideas presented in these books. I am currently reading through and preparing to write a response to atheist Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion. But when I first heard about Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins, and the fact that it might contain anti-Biblical teachings within it, I felt compelled to read the book and discover what was in it for myself, because of the fact that so many Christians read his writings. If this book actually contained the Universalist ideas that many bloggers were purporting that it did, then I felt it was important for me to add my voice to the dialogue, because here was deadly error that was about to be foisted upon the church from within the church itself.