After completing Rob Bell’s book I have found a three reviews that give some clarity both to Bell’s comments and to the overall fuss surrounding Love Wins. Each is a thoughtful consideration of the book. I enjoyed the book and may share some more of my own thoughts in the future. For now I will limit my observations to two:
1) Bell writes as a pastor. Because of this his book is frustrating to those seeking a systematic treatment of his subject. While critical of the traditional view he suggest alternative perspectives on hell for reasons of pastoral care. He proposes the possibility of post-mortem conversion, hell as a purifying/preparatory/corrective experience, and hell as a real condition that begins on earth. According to the book and comments he’s made publicly he’s not spoiling for a fight but seeking to provide care and direction for people in difficult circumstances.
2) Bell is not a universalist. Neither is he a traditionalist. His views are worth considering and I hope that people will interact with what he actually says. Bell’s views can be found in a variety of traditions within Christianity including Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and some of the earliest, post-New Testament, writers in the church. It has to be said that even evangelicals as diverse as Edward Fudge and John Stott have seriously re-examined the doctrine of hell and have come up with perspectives that are outside the traditional evangelical mainstream. What Bell does here is not new but better publicized.
I find these reviews thoughtful and helpful.
A critique of Bell’s book by Timothy Dalrymple includes a multi-axis approach to understanding the Love Wins. These include a “soteriological” axis, an “extension” axis and the “fate of the rejectors” axis. His three axes make his post worth the read: A Framework for Understanding the Rob Bell Controversy
Scot McKnight has wisely decided to post on Bell’s book after some of the initial impact has passed. This seems wise. In the meantime he offers a round-up of some of the things people are saying about the book: Rob Bell Reviews
Finally, McKnight had guest contributor Jeff Cook make the comparison between Love Wins and some of the writings of C.S. Lewis. If you haven’t read the novels The Last Battle and The Great Divorce I encourage you to. They are not only great, short novels but theologically rich. You can see Jeff’s post here: Rob Bell and C.S. Lewis