I recently acquired my own copy of Rob Bell‘s book, Love Wins, which made quite a splash when it came out. I read it a few years ago, and it may be a while before I read it again, so this is not a book review. Consider it a few observations about the reaction to the book from certain (mostly-right-wing) circles.
It should be obvious to everyone that a religion that is based on following what Jesus said would have no objection to love winning. As the gospels tell us, “God is Love.” So, why the uproar over this book? I have a few theories.
First, Christianity claims to be based on Jesus, but is actually based on Paul and the letters attributed to him, as well as selected portions of the Hebrew Scriptures as filtered through a variety of theological claims that are (mostly) not found anywhere in the Bible. So, while Jesus is supposed to be the Great Teacher, far too many Christians fail to understand what He said or they discount it in favor of what Paul or their preacher said. “God is Love” and the 2 Great Commandments (love God and love your neighbor, which is everyone including your enemies) get pushed aside for the pursuit of self-righteousness and money. This is nothing new, as it has been going on for centuries, but the awareness of it is why there are always books such as Bell’s that ask questions that make many Christians uncomfortable.
Second, perhaps the people who object to Bell’s book, which is mostly a series of questions, do so because they don’t have any good answers to the questions he raises. While their responses make many declarative statements, they appear to rarely directly answer the questions he poses and, from what I’ve seen, when they do, their answers are often traditional apologetics, which are much more about tradition and doctrine than they are any sort of actual answer, let alone an answer based on the words of Jesus. What I mean by this is that those who attempt to answer the questions he raises do so with statements that, while they may comfort those who already agree with them, are not going to cut it in terms of winning converts to their positions. Of course, this is true of most Christian apologetics, which is why the Emerging Church (of which Bell’s ministry is seen as one example) and other movements continue to be seen.
Third, it occurs to me that what the right wing commentators (and it is overwhelmingly the right wing that objects to Love Wins) are really offended by is that Bell reveals two of their Big Tricks in his book, namely Selection Bias and Leading Questions. It’s obvious from the questions that Bell selects to include that he has a point of view he wants to make sound reasonable and rational. It’s also obvious that the questions he asks are often phrased so as to lead the reader where he wants them to go. The right wing doesn’t like Love Wins because those are their own tricks and they think only their “side” is allowed to use them. Of course, one point made in the book is that sides are irrelevant.
I won’t even get into the issue of those who object to Bell’s book because they find it contains the “heresy” of unitarianism. Being a UU myself, I don’t consider that a heresy at all.
So, what do you think? Have you read Love Wins? Have you read the criticisms of it? If so, chime in with your thoughts in the comments below. Just please remember to be respectful when you do so.