There’s a fog that has descended on our small town this morning. It seems this fog might be a good metaphor for the book I just read called Love Wins by Rob Bell. What’s normally seen clearly by many has been enveloped in a fog. There’s uncertainty all around. The big idea of this book is that God may actually give individuals who reject Him on earth a chance in hell to choose Him. God loves us and wants all people to love Him and this book explores the idea or speculation that God may extend His love to those in hell so that in the end love can win.
One of the problems with this book is that its theory of love winning is based on theological speculation about certain passages in God’s word. One thing to keep in mind is that Rob believes in a hell and never really says he holds to the position he presents in this book, but he still presents it and tries really hard to back it up with scripture and reason.
I thought some of the exegesis done in this book was weak and left much to be desired. It seems Rob breaks down a Greek word that is not the correct Greek word in Matthew 25:46. He says this word can mean a period of time or a time of pruning, but the definitions given for the specific adjective used by Matthew clearly carries with it the idea of something that goes on forever or from everlasting to everlasting. This is how every translation translates this word. So, the question is did the many translators translate it wrong or did Rob translate it wrong? There is no direct evidence in scripture to support the idea of those who didn’t believe in Jesus while on earth getting a second chance in the afterlife or hell. Actually, the evidence seems to point in quite the opposite direction. 2 Peter 3:9 actually says God is patient with us so none will perish. Perish? Perish from what? This doesn’t mean none will perish, but that some will perish and God is doing everything possible to prevent that and He is “not wanting” (the word used in the NRSV) and hoping none will perish. What does that mean? Does it mean some will perish? God couldn’t say that if people didn’t really perish could He?
I have several good friends I meet with on occasion and we dream, speculate would be a better word, about certain things in God’s word and what’s to come. It’s fun and makes for great conversation. We ask things like; did angels really have sex with humans and create a superhuman race (see Gen 6)? Will God allow us to rule over planets in the life to come? How will we travel back and forth from those planets? Could Jesus have gone and died for life on other planets? Will we talk to animals in the New Jerusalem? These are things we talk and wonder about amongst ourselves. While it may make for interesting conversation, it’s not something we go out teaching to others. It’s just theory and guessing. What could we base it upon?
I feel as a pastor I have to be careful not to teach speculation, but truth. I felt as if Rob was trying to teach something based upon speculation. While the idea of everyone eventually coming to Christ is appealing, you just can’t find much scriptural evidence to back up such a thing. You get one life to live and amidst that one life you have to make a decision: will you follow Jesus or reject Him? There's no fog about it.
Any thoughts from those of you who have read the book?