Rob Bell’s new controversial book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived has made unsettling waves in the Christian community since its release on March 29.
“Will only a few select people make it to heaven? … And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell?” Bell said in a sneak peak video released on his website. “Millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. So what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. How could that God ever be good? … And how could that ever be good news?”
Joining in the discussion of Bell’s work, Corban’s former campus pastor, and current theology professor, Kent Kersey, Ph.D. shared his thoughts on Love Wins.
“…It was not a good book,” Kersey stated. “In fact, my main criticism is that it was poorly written and I think his writing style and his methodology are pretty flawed … it’s hard to take his views seriously.”
Despite his harsh review, Kersey is no Bell-hater. While he hasn’t always agreed with the Michigan mega-church pastor’s work, Kersey stated Bell’s past books were always well written and thoroughly supported.
“In the book just before this, Jesus Wants to Save Christians Too,…there are over 320 in-notes. Some of them are very detailed, some of them go really in depth into his arguments … but in Love Wins, there are zero. There is not one in-note, or footnote, or any documentation at all, and to me that’s such a huge problem … All of a sudden, out of the blue, when he’s covering probably the most important subject that he’s ever written about [he does not] have any citations or documentation to back up his views.”
On top of the lack of documentation, Kersey disliked the rambling “overly poetical and lyrical” style of the book.
More importantly, Kersey stated that Bell’s use of scripture was irresponsible.
“It is a little bit unlike Bell,” he said. “He usually likes to take whole big narratives of scripture … but here he was very selective.”
Kersey referenced that in Bell’s attempts to support the loving nature of God he totally ignores difficult-to-swallow passages of judgment in the new and old testaments alike.
In Kersey’s opinion, Bell’s theology of salvation falls under the view of a universalism/inclusivism.
“Inclusivism the view that you can be saved without hearing the gospel, but you are still saved through Jesus Christ,” said Kersey.
One of Bell’s arguments that has created the most unrest is the idea of post-mortem salvation, the belief that people who have already died and gone to hell can change their mind and be sent to heaven.
“He’s really holding out for that,” Kersey said. “And there is no scriptural evidence for that.”
Kersey doesn’t believe that the book will have any lasting effects on the Christian community. Universalism and even post-mortem evangelism are issues that have long ago been deemed heretical by the church.
“The biggest danger is people who won’t take God’s judgment seriously,” said Kersey.
Kersey points out that Bell has created a sad irony. He is trying to make God attractive to people, but in the meanwhile he has completely misconstrued God’s character. More than this, he is throwing away the very attributes that motivate people to come to salvation.
“God is love and that’s supposed to attract people… but you look scripturally and that is never what draws people in,” said Kersey. “It’s always the judgment of God … If you look in the book of Acts the word love never shows up once. When the church was starting they weren’t talking about, ‘this is a God who loves you.’ It was, ‘this is a real God who sent judgment on the world, and if you want to escape it you must come to him in humility.’”
As far as the ramifications such a book will have on campus, Kersey doubts there will be much of an impact. He does plan to make the book available for review in his contemporary theology class next year.
Bell’s Promotional Video:
Bell talks about his book on MSNBC: