Home Pastors Articles for Pastors 8 Reasons Why Love Wins Is a Loser – Part 2

8 Reasons Why Love Wins Is a Loser – Part 2

(This post is Part 2 of a 2 Part series. Read Part 1 here.

1. Ingredients Inside = Trajectory Hermeneutics:  In case you don’t know, trajectory hermeneutics is a way of reading and understanding the Bible. We all have a lens (a hermeneutical approach) when we read the Bible. Some are better than others. Here’s an example using other literature. You don’t pick up a prescription bottle that says take two pills per day (one in the evening and one in the morning) and say, “Hmmm…I wonder if the doctor didn’t mean what he literally said. Perhaps I should really take 2 pills each hour, each day. Or maybe, the doctor left out something. Maybe I should take two bottles per day.” The result would be toxic.

Similarly, if we pick up the Bible and read it in a way that wasn’t intended, we will come up with toxic interpretations and applications. A Trajectory Hermeneutic (a method that Rob Bell is often ascribed with) sees the contemporary reader of Scripture as the interpreter of what the original authors meant to say and what they couldn’t say, but wanted to. Translation? The Apostle Paul didn’t mean what he said. Translation? We need to fill in the blanks with what he meant to say. Translation? The Canon of Scripture is not closed and we are adding to it. Translation? We are the Word of God. Love Wins contains many examples of this, here’s one early example:

The ancient sages said the words of the sacred text were black letters on a white page – there’s all that white space, waiting to be filled with our responses and discussions and debates and opinions and longings and desires and wisdom and insights. We read the words, and then enter into a discussion that has been going on for thousands of years across cultures and continents. My hope is that this frees you.”

Run with this example for a moment. The Bible says in black ink, “Do not commit murder.” Yet since there is white space in the margin, if I get angry and DESIRE to kill someone, then I am allowed to? Ridiculous example? Sure. But, shouldn’t we try his example on? And if I don’t desire the idea of hell (which I don’t), then since I don’t desire it, the idea is simply changed and it doesn’t exist?

2. No one Dances with a loved one on their Deathbed: I find Rob’s ideas fascinating, the way he dances around a literal and eternal hell, the way he integrates Scripture and bobs and weaves and blends and extracts, I highly doubt that Rob would utilize his own message with a family member on her deathbed. If Rob only had 20 minutes, I can’t imagine that he would talk about love winning and given enough time, this woman’s heart would be melted for God in the afterlife somehow. Instead, I believe Rob would utilize a strategy that’s been used since the very beginning. I believe Rob would share the Gospel. I believe Rob would ask her if she was a sinner, if she knew that she couldn’t impress a perfect God with her imperfect works, if she would like to stop trying to save herself, if she believed that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for her sins, and did she, in faith, desire to ask Jesus to come into her life and fill her heart. I believe Rob would pray with her (just like his parents prayed with him in a similar way on pages 193-194). Why do I believe this? Because I believe that Rob knows the truth. Love Wins might be a great book to chat about over coffee in some cafe with twenty years left under our belts. But no one dances with a loved one on their deathbed…even Rob.        

3. Rob’s Secret Target Audience (himself): He even admitted it in his interview with Martin Bashir. Martin asked, “How much is this book you working out your own childhood experience of being brought up in a fairly cramped evangelical family and really finding that difficult as you became an adult?” Rob said, “Oh, I would totally own up to that in a heartbeat.” Rob is not writing for others as much as he is writing for himself. A famous quote by a famous author (Anaïs Nin) reads, “I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live.” Rob is not writing for the unbeliever. He’s writing for himself first and then disillusioned believers second. We see this on page 152 when he describes the high-school student who is insulated and isolated from the world. Rob beautifully describes this student’s inability to see God because, “Her ‘nearness’ can actually produce distance.” Later on page 186 when describing the older brother in the Prodigal Son story Rob again beautifully writes, “The second truth, one that is much more subtle and much more toxic as well, is that the older brother is separated from his father as well, even though he’s stayed home.”  

Love Wins is not for the younger brother (in the story) as much as it is for the older brother. I know, because I am/was one of them. Unfortunately when seeking unbelievers and sincere believers read Love Wins, I think they will become confused and perhaps even disillusioned. Is this price worth it to perhaps coax a few disillusioned believers back?

4. Hell is a Welcomed Guest in Heaven: When discussing his own views, several times Rob brings up examples of other people who have shared similar views. “At the center of the Christian tradition since the first church have been a number who insist that history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God.” (109) If that is an odd view of hell, things get stranger. “Hell is being at the party. That’s what makes it so hellish. It’s not an image of separation, but one of integration. Hell is our refusal to trust God’s retelling of our story.”  

Bottom line? Rob, has a very different view of hell as stated in his church’s FAQ sheet regarding Love Wins: ”There are many who accept the invitation of the life of heaven and many who reject the invitation. Those who reject the invitation experience a purifying “fire” of judgment in hell, yet there is hope. We live in the hope that the redemptive work of Christ is beyond what we can ask or imagine. Love Wins helps us have a biblical imagination that leaves room for the hope of the redemption of all while recognizing humanities free will to continue to reject God.”

5. God is bigger than his Britches: I sense a contradiction. Rob accurately writes on pg. 103-104 about God, “God has to play by the same rules we do. God has to respect our freedom to choose to the very end, even at the risk of the relationship itself. If at any point God overrides, co-opts, or hijacks the human heart, robbing us of freedom to choose, then God has violated the fundamental essence of what love even is.” I couldn’t agree more. Translation? God can’t do whatever he wants. His character limits himself. God can’t lie. God can’t change. God can’t sin. God can’t ignore one of his attributes for the sake of another. He is fully just, fully holy, fully love, fully grace. Yet Rob devotes an entire chapter (Does God get what God wants?)  to convince us that because God is willing that none should perish, that none actually do (2 Peter 3:9). {As a parent I am willing that my kids don’t do self-destructive things, but at times I intervene and at times I let them suffer the natural consequences). Rob fails to employ the BOTH/AND he so often talks about and instead settles for the EITHER/OR. Love Wins fails to understand that God can’t always get what God wants because God has self-imposed limitations. 

6. The Shack + Love Wins = Fiction: The Shack admits it. Love Wins denies it. When an author writes a book using speculation it’s called fiction.  On the inside flap of Love Wins Professor Eugene Peterson (the author of The Message – a Bible many of us read) says: “In the current religious climate in America, it isn’t easy to develop a thoroughly biblical imagination that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ in all people and all circumstances in love for salvation. Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire such an imagination. Love wins accomplishes this without a trace of soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction…” His endorsement classifies Rob’s literature as biblical imagination. A more technical term?…fiction. And as a book of fiction I think Love Wins is intriguing. Who wouldn’t want it to be true? One example of this is in chapter 6, There are rocks everywhere. Rob uses the example of the Israelites drinking from the rock in the desert (Exodus 17). This rock is simply a rock with no reference to a person. Rob continues, “But the rock-we don’t hear any more about the rock. Until more than a thousand years later. In a letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul refers to this story about this rock saying that those who traveled out of Egypt ‘drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.’ According to Paul, Jesus was there. Without anybody using his name. Without anybody saying that it was him. Without anybody acknowledging just what – or, more precisely, who-it was. Paul’s interpretation that Christ was present in the Exodus raises the question: Where else has Christ been present? When else? With who else? How else? Paul finds Jesus there, in that rock, because Paul finds Jesus everywhere.”(144)  

Do you see the danger? Now we are left up to our own interpretation as to who is Christ throughout history (trajectory hermeneutics again). Paul can say that Jesus was the rock because he is writing Scripture under the influence of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Timothy 3:16). Rob uses an example from the Bible – Paul referring to Jesus as the rock. But we aren’t “allowed” to do this in our day and age. We aren’t allowed to make our own claims about who Jesus is and where He is? Let me ask a few of my own questions? According to Rob’s example since Jesus was a rock in Exodus 18 can we assume that he was also a rock in Joshua 7, the rock used to stone Achan to death? Was Jesus the rock that killed Goliath or the rock used to stone Stephen in the book of Acts? Maybe we should move on from rocks. Maybe we can assume that Jesus appeared in history through other men and women. Was Jesus embodied in Gandhi or Mohammad, or Joseph Smith or Mary Baker Eddy? Maybe all 4! The moment we are left to decide who or what Jesus is, the moment we have erred from the Word of God.

7. Salvation by Osmosis: At first glance Rob seems to be against verbs…at least related to salvation. “If the message of Jesus is that God is offering the free gift of eternal life through him-a gift we cannot earn by our own efforts, works, or good deeds-and that all we have to do is accept and confess and believe, aren’t those verbs? And aren’t verbs actions? Does that mean, then, that going to Heaven is dependent on something I do? How is any of that grace?” I love that point I really do. But most evangelical students of the Bible would say that belief and confession are responses to what God has already done within our hearts. Even our belief is a gift from God, an act of grace, because left to our own devices and efforts, no one would respond to God (John 6:44).  Rob agress with action verbs too. Maybe not on page 11 but on page 136, 159, and 190 (not to mention many more). “When we say YES to God, when we OPEN ourselves to Jesus’ living, giving act on the cross, we enter in to a way of life….He calls us to LET GO, TURN AWAY, RENOUNCE, CONFESS, REPENT, and LEAVE behind the old ways.”  ”The only thing left to do is TRUST.” It turns out that following Jesus is just that, an action. An action that doesn’t save us, but an action that proves that we are saved.

8. Love AND Truth Wins – A Match Made in Heaven: At the end of the book it’s clear that in order for Love to truly win, it also must be married to something else…Truth. I believe that LOVE and TRUTH win and when they come to the party together, then they stay at the party forever. And this party, in the words of Rob Bell, is heaven. Reading Rob’s book has strengthened me. But more than that it’s compelled me to do a few things: living like I believe in a literal hell by living out the Kingdom in what I say and do, by viewing God as the dynamic person that He is and not just one attribute, and by preaching a summer series called Truth in Love. I believe that our generation needs to know the Truth and then how to embody that Truth in a Loving way. We’ve all seen Love without Truth and Truth without Love…it’s toxic.  I enter this series with humility realizing it’s a daunting task, but a necessary one. Love Wins proves this.

Read Part 1 here: 8 Reasons Why Love Wins Both Wins and Loses.      

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kary@churchleaders.com'
Kary Oberbrunner serves the business and non-profit community as a speaker and coach. The author of several books, Kary also serves as a founding partner on the John Maxwell Team. He and his wife Kelly are blessed with 3 amazing children