While this may seem like a late review, I did that on purpose. The book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell was released many months ago. It was controversial and I wanted to let things blow over a bit.
Critics claimed, even before the book was released, that the author tosses Hell and other beliefs dear to the Christian faith under the bus so to speak. The book was panned as heresy before its release by people who couldn't even read it. It hadn't been released yet.
After its release critics seemed to crawl through the book looking for statements they could use to support their claims. Bloggers would admit to crashing through the book rather quickly and rush out an "authoritative" review. The primary claims was that the author set out to erase hell and embrace a universalism view. The latter view being we all will be reunited with God, in a good way.
Here's what the deal is. The author talked about a real hell, what the Christian Bible says and what it doesn't say. Frankly, its not much. If you use the New International Version, Hell is mentioned only 15 times in that translation. In the King James Version it uses the word 54 times. Its extra use of it is mainly in Genesis through Malachi (Old Testament) for a realm of the dead, not a fiery inferno.
Bell's view is that a message that is all about avoiding hell and not sinning is missing the main points and could lead to a "toxic" belief system. After reading this book and contemplating, a few groups with toxic belief systems do come to mind.
At the books conclusion I wasn't without questions. While the focus was a God of love, the Christian Bible is very clear that its God is also a god of wrath, judgement, etc. I felt Bell didn't present a complete Biblical God if that makes any sense. What I sometimes find with the two extremes of the Christian faith is, they're selective in their use of Bible passages. For example, one group will view God as a God of love while another may view him as a sovereign Lord and judge. They use the parts of the Bible they want while discarding others.
Any person or written review that claims the author stated that hell doesn't exist in this book...simply hasn't read the book. The truth is Bell just may not have the same view of hell as they do. Another point to clear up is that faith blogs kept fouling up the universalism claims. Bell didn't embrace a universalism view, however he doesn't condemn it. His case is, while the Bible talks about an eternal punishment, it also hints at temporal punishment and everything being renewed at some point. You could tell he really likes the everything renewed view. I'm not saying Bell is right, I'm just trying to be as accurate as possible to what the man believes and the book stated.
Another interesting point was an observation by Bell. Bell stated that Christians who make the afterlife their main goal don't really do much in this life for others. Those who have a lesser focus on the afterlife or rather don't make it the main focus, do more for others in this life. You can make the call whether he is right on this or not.
My final take? An very interesting and challenging read.