I love books. I love reading, and I love writing book reviews. Lately, though, I’ve found that I’m hesitant to review theological books because of the intense emotional responses they tend to generate. In truth, I have two written that I have yet to publish because of the popularity of the authors.
Yesterday I quite inadvertently started a FB debate over a link that I posted that showed an interview with Rob Bell in which he claims he’s being misunderstood and slandered in reviews of his book Love Wins. My point in posting the link was only to show that though he claims to be misunderstood and slandered, he says nothing to clear up the misunderstanding.
The main problem that conservative theologians and discernment bloggers are having with Love Wins is that in it he teaches an errant doctrine of hell known as Universal Reconciliation – the view that everyone eventually ends up in heaven. For theologians to claim that that is not a biblical view is not slander, and if that’s not what Bell taught in his book he could clear up the misunderstanding by stating, publicly, his true belief about the eternality of hell. It’s that simple.
But here’s my point:
Evaluating a book in light of Scripture to see if it is true is something that we all must do. We must practice discernment (be Bereans). Disagreeing with an author’s position is not a personal attack against the author, nor does it imply that the author had impure motives. I don’t question that Rob Bell truly loves people and wants to help them. I don’t think he sat down to write his book, let out a sinister laugh and said “Let’s see how many people I can deceive with this one.” Of course not. I believe he sincerely wants everyone to be saved and wants to demonstrate God’s love to the world. But being sincere doesn’t automatically make someone right.
In short, calling Rob Bell a universalist is only slander if he isn’t one. Writing a negative review of a book isn’t a personal attack against an author, nor does it in any way reflect the character or motives of an author, it’s simply an evaluation of the book they wrote. A negative review also does not imply that everything the author ever taught is false, nor does it imply that there are no elements of truth contained in the book. And, most importantly, pointing out false teaching that could lead people astray is not unloving, but shows genuine concern for the spiritual well-being of our brother and sisters in Christ.