One of the dangers of generalizing something is that you remove most, if not all, of its power. It becomes so generic that it is no longer effective. And when people come in contact with it, it’s as if they’re anesthetized by its vagueness and broadness. In my opinion, this is largest danger lurking in Rob Bell’s newest book, Love Wins. It is dangerously nonspecific and subtly all-inclusive.
Frankly, the Gospel is generalized into “love,” hell into “mistrust,” heaven into “everything in its right place,”, and salvation into a “story.” Not that these words don’t have a place in God’s revelation language, but undoubtedly there is more. Much more! Specific words and concepts like regeneration, adoption, justification, judgment, eternal torment, the New Jerusalem, Lake of Fire, Great White Throne, and the eternal state seem conspicuously absent. Little wonder – it’s hard to be all-inclusive if you get too specific.
It is this unsaid-but-clearly-implied inclusiveness that has a number of trusted evangelical theologians squinting. And for good reason. If, in the end, “love” conquers all, doesn’t that mean you’re a universalist? Sure, he never comes right out and states his position as the universalist one, but the implication is rather strong: “In the end, you’ll finally give in. Then you’ll get in.”
Which begs the questions: Can people repent in hell? Or disbelieve in Heaven? Is it ever too late? Based on the interview with Adrian Warnock, Rob Bell believes it is never too late for someone to repent. Whether in the hell they have created for themselves now or the hell that may be waiting for them later, it is just a place of mistrust until they finally feel the pull of divine love and succumb to all its restorative, healing power.
Final judgment. Eternal punishment. Forever blessedness. These are specific ideas Rob doesn’t want to embrace, but he never comes right out and denies them. He just stays general enough that you can’t really determine what he does or doesn’t believe. Granted – after eight chapters, you’d think you’d know what he believes. But oddly, you don’t. And I’m not sure he knows yet either. In interview after interview, he consistently adds phrases like “It’s all we know right now” and “It’s the best we have so far,” indicating there may be information from God still on the way. This is why he is so general – he is afraid if more revelation shows up, he may be wrong. So keep it general; this way your chances of being right increase.
Expectedly, if you try to pin him down for an answer, as Adrian Warnock did in the interview on Premiere Radio, he becomes noticeably general. Falsely unassuming. Jabbingly questioning. He seems afraid to stand on revealed truth. We shouldn’t be surprised, though. Revealed truth is specific. Clear. Concrete. Absolute. And Rob is anything but that when it comes to his book, Love Wins.
Perhaps his fuzziness is actually the greatest evidence against him, the clearest demonstration that his stand is actually quite clear: You can’t trust the written Word or the risen Savior. No doubt that’s where you’re left dangling when all the wordiness is over. For in Rob’s world, it’s almost as if, in spite of the Scriptures or the Savior, God winks, disregarding everything he has said and done through his Son, and at the last minute pulls the proverbial curtain over the eyes of his followers and lets everybody in after all.
Come to think of it, maybe that’s a better title for his book: Love WinKs.