Tag Archives: book review

A Review of Rob Bell’s Newest Book (Part 1)


“I just finished reading Rob Bell’s new book, Dr. Dixon.  I don’t there is anything there that you will need to criticize.”  A former student wrote that to me.  I believe my former student was, how shall I say it?, well, w-r-o-n-g.

Rob Bell’s  What We Talk about When We Talk about God KeynoteScreenSnapz098troubles me on several levels. But first I should say what I appreciate about the book.

1.  I really like the colorful cover.  That’s about it.  Seriously, I believe Bell directs our attention to what theologians call “common grace,” the concept that God is active in His world in innumerable ways — and we need to become more aware of His presence in creation.  I believe he reminds us of the massive concept of God’s “immanence,” a $64 theological word meaning God’s nearness and closeness in creation.

The seven one-word chapter titles are “Hum,” “Open,” “Both,” “With,” “For,” “Ahead,” and “So.”  A few quotes from the book illustrate his conviction that God is with us and for us and ahead of us.  And we need to become more aware of His pervasive presence in creation.  He writes,

“I sometimes wonder if it’s as simple as saying yes, over and over and over again, a thousand times a day.  It’s not a complicated prayer, less about the words than about the openness of your heart, your willingness to consider that there may be untold power and strength and spirit right here, right now, as close as your next breath.  This isn’t about the same old message of making something happen; it’s about waking up to that which is already happening, all around you all the time, in and through and over you, trusting that God is with us and for us and ahead of us.” (210-211)

He talks about surfing with a guy who was an alcoholic atheist and he got sober and found God in the process.  He looked around and said to Bell, “And now I see God everywhere.”  Bell writes,  “Now that’s what I’m talking about.” (211)

At the end of the book Bell has some expressions and phrases and sentences that he thoughtOPRAH he just needed to write down and one of them is this: “breathe deeply and unfurl energies” (225)

(I wonder if Bell had a long conversation with Oprah and got, ummm, converted).

[to be continued]


Posted by on April 3, 2013 in theology


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In several days I hope to have my short book entitled

“Farewell, Rob Bell”:  A Biblical Response to Love Wins

available on  As much as I appreciate you Christian publishers out there (I’ve written for about five of you), I’ve decided to make my work available through Amazon’s “Create Space” medium.

This is a print-on-demand work and I’ll do my best to keep the cost low. You will be able to order a paperback copy at a modest price.

Some Christian workers may not have the time to read Love Wins, so my book is intended to provide brief, biblical responses to some of the key issues he raises.

Here’s a sample from the first page:


“Please do not panic — but you must remain in your seats!  We are in control of this aircraft now and no one will get hurt if you do exactly as you are told.  This plane is being hijacked!”

Imagine how you would react if you were a passenger on that airplane.  How much worse would you feel if you realized you were one of the hijackers?  A hijacker puts the lives of others in grave danger, attempting to take control of that which does not belong to him.

According to Rob Bell in Love Wins:  A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne, 2011), if you are an Evangelical Christian, you are a theological hijacker of the Jesus story.  And all Evangelicals are guilty of replacing that story with one that consigns the majority of the human race to hell.  Bell believes that the very idea that billions will suffer eternally isn’t a very good story, minimizes the greatness of God, and is, well, to use his word, toxic.  So, Mr. or Mrs. Toxic Evangelical Hijacker, how do you feel?


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Questions Evangelicals Need to Work on in Light of “Love Wins”


This vimeo is of the luncheon we had at Columbia International University after my talk (April 7, 2011) in chapel on Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins.”  By my count — but I’m a preacher so numbers tend to be exaggerated — there were about 90-100 students who attended and there was some lively discussion on the questions I (and others) raised.

I will post two vimeos here.  The first is of our luncheon talk; the second (which was posted on this blog earlier) is of the chapel message.  The luncheon vimeo was recorded with my Shih Tzu Scrabble by my side.  His picture is here and you can hear him grunt approval of what I am saying.  If some of you want to record your grunts of approval — or disapproval — please feel free to do so!

Discussion Questions:  What issues are raised in this vimeo that you would put at the top of the list for Evangelicals to work on?  What makes those issues so important?

Luncheon discussion after chapel talk:

Chapel message on “Love Wins”:


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My Review of Rob Bell’s “LOVE WINS”


Please click on the link below for my review.  Always glad to get your comments.



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I’ve called for Rob Bell to publicly repent of his universalism.  That call was not done prematurely.  I’ve listened to his full book (twice) on audio and am now reading the physical book itself.

I will be posting serial blogs as I work my way through the book.  I welcome comments because the issue of Evangelical Christianity versus universalism could not be greater!

My Comments on the jacket blurbs and Bell’s Preface:

Eugene  Peterson, a respected scholar and author of The Message, wrote a blurb for the book that says, “It isn’t easy to develop a biblical imagination that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ…Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination — without a trace of the soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.”  We will devote a future blog on that last statement: “. . . and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.”

One jacket blurb asks:  “What if the story of heaven and hell we have been taught is not, in fact, what the Bible teaches?”  Let me remind us that the crux of the issue is not personalities, but biblical teaching.

Several comments on his Preface:

Bell begins his book with the statement: “Jesus’s story is first and foremost about the love of God for every single one of us.” (vii)  (It’s quite an interesting study to look at verses in which Jesus says why He came, such as Mt. 5:17; 10:34-35; Mk. 1:38; Lk. 12:49; Jn. 5:43; 6:38; 8:42; 9:39; 10:10; 12:46.   These certainly teach much more than the idea that “Jesus’s story is first and foremost about the love of God for every single one of us.”)  Of course God’s love for us was a paramount topic for Jesus, but was it “first and foremost”?  How about coming to do the Father’s will? . . .  Was His purpose primarily about US?

Please don’t miss Bell’s clear statements that “Jesus’s story has been hijacked by a number of other stories, stories [that] . . . have nothing to do with what he came to do.  The plot has been lost, and it’s time to reclaim it.” (vii-viii).  If I understand Bell up to this point, I’m being told that I have missed the whole point of Jesus’s coming, I’ve lost the plot of His story, and, worse than that, I’ve hijacked His story with my own.  Hmmm.  Could a mere human like you or me do something worse than that?

He says he’s written his book “for all those, everywhere, who have heard some version of the Jesus story that caused their pulse rate to rise, their stomach to churn, and their heart to utter those resolute words, ‘I would never be a part of that.’” (viii).  [I think for many of us, when by God’s grace we begin to understand our sin and the price Jesus paid to redeem us, our response would be:  “I could never have a part in that!”]

Ummm.  I think I’m a part of that. Because the “that” that’s he referring to is the viewpoint known as eternal conscious punishment.

Bell says, “You are not alone.  There are millions of us.” (viii).   This argument has sometimes been called an argumentum ad populum (an argument from the perspective of “if many believe so, it is so”).  This argument has also been called, appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to the people, argument by consensus, authority of the many, and the  bandwagon fallacy.  It’s nice to be able to say that one is not alone in what one feels, but the popularity of a position has no bearing on the truthfulness of that position.

Bell lays his cards on the table and says that “A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better.” (viii).  The emotive words “a staggering number” and “a select few Christians” and “no chance for anything better” leads one to respond:  “Yeah!  And they’ve been duped! And what kind of God would be that stingy and preferential and . . . and . . . stubborn and unmerciful?!”

He then points out that this belief is so central for many Christians that to reject it is to reject Jesus.  How ought we to respond to that?  Bell says, “This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.” (viii).

Okay.  So I’ve hijacked the Jesus story and the story I give as His story is misguided and toxic and subversive.  I just want to understand where I stand.

Bell concludes his Preface by saying “My hope is that this [discussion] frees you.”  Jesus said, “The truth shall make you free.”  Only truth frees.  If Bell is wrong in his attack on what Evangelicals have been preaching, then the result will not be freedom, but slavery to something other than truth.

One last comment on Bell’s Preface:  He states clearly that “nothing in this book hasn’t been taught, suggested, or celebrated by many before me. . . . That’s the beauty of the historic, orthodox Christian faith.” (x).  He is identifying his teaching with the historic, orthodox Christian faith.  As we continue interacting with his subsequent chapters, we must ask, “Is he right?”


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