In the book Love Wins, Bell does ask a lot of questions (that is all that is in the first chapter!), but he does answer some of them too, so I don’t think he is totally ambiguous.
First, a few things I really liked about the book. His chapter on heaven (ch 2) was great (great ≠ perfect). He rightly emphasizes that Jesus spoke of heaven coming to earth now (sometimes) through how we act and respond to God in this life. I also appreciated his emphasis on the future age of heaven (after the day of judgment) and how it will be an earthly place (vs. the land of the care bears) where heaven meets earth (Rev 21:2).
I also very much appreciated chapter five where he emphasizes the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death, the many biblical metaphors for the results of Christ’s death (a freed defendant, a relationship reconciled, a battle won, etc.), as well as the vast cosmic significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Well done Rob Bell.
At the same time, I can see why many people are concerned about some of the theology in his book. I’ll discuss just two prominent issues and a practical question.
1/ Hell- Yes, Bell believes in hell. Although he wants to emphasize the ‘hells’ of this life, he explicitly states, “There is hell now, and there is hell later, and Jesus teaches us to take both seriously” (p. 79). Ironically, while Bell is trying to make us more concerned about the hells of this life, most of the responses to his chapter on hell have focused on the afterlife.
Bell toys with the idea that hell (I am speaking of the afterlife here) is a temporal place of punishment and correction (p. 91-92); a place where people can eventually get out. It seems to me (and most of the Christian faith) that if hell is real, people don’t get out. Contrary to Bell’s reading of Luke chapter 16 (the story of Lazarus and the rich man), it seems that one of the key points of this story is that our eternal fate is irreversible; the rich man couldn’t get out because his decisions of how he lived in this life determined his fate in eternity.
I will finish my post tomorrow with the second issue and the practical question….