Thursday, April 07, 2011

Not-quite-a Book Review: Love Wins

Yeah.  I jumped on this bandwagon.  Here's the deal:  I kinda like Rob Bell.  I have several of his other books and catch the occasional sermon or two from him.  So before all the controversy about him being a universalist heretic started up, I already had this book on pre-order with plans to read it and probably review it on my blog.

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell

Here's the problem. . . I just can't bring myself to finish it.  I got to page 56. It has nothing to do with the theology or anything.  I just don't like his writing style.  For some reason, I had a much harder time getting past his style in this book.  My husband actually likes Bell's writing style and disagrees greatly with me on this.  Maybe I can get him to write a review on this book for the blog.  Rob Bell writes EXACTLY how he speaks.  I don't think there's an entire proper paragraph in the entire book. I like his speaking style, but it translates into a disjointed, jumpy writing style.

I feel the same way about Bell's books as I do about Andrew Lloyd Weber's musicals.  Weber is the bubblegum pop of musical theater.  His work is competent and inoffensive, but it's not a shining example of the art form.  People love it because it's accessible to the masses, not because he writes the best or most intricate musical theater out there. I do like the Phantom, I just don't think it's the best theater has to offer.  If you are offended by my thoughts on Weber, please don't ever ask me to give you my honest opinion of the Sound of Music.  If you want really deep, really good musical theater, go see something by Sondheim.  

Bell's books are kind of like the bubblegum pop of modern Christian writing.  They are competent and inoffensive (yes, even this controversial new one. . .), but if you want really deep, well written Christian writings, pick up something by Nouwen or one of the like.  Bell's style is accessible to the masses though, and there is a place for that. (Sorry if this paragraph makes me out to be some sort of book snob. . . actually- I'm not that sorry.  I am a bit of a book snob.)

As for all the theological controversy surrounding this book: You don't have to agree with every word in a book to think it's a good book or a worthwhile book or a smart author.  There can be gray area.  Not everything is either all evil or all good.  In fact, very few things are entirely void of good or evil. We can agree to disagree without tearing someone to bits and calling them a heretic.  I'm just saying.  Last I checked, the Jesus I believe in thinks getting along with each other and treating each other with love and respect is a pretty solid idea.  Sometimes, it's ok to not all come to the same conclusion. 

Perhaps instead of spending all our time and effort arguing about Bell's status as a heretic, we should pour that into our own study and learning about the topics at hand.  You can't just read a book, say the author is wrong and then refuse to research and reevaluate your own beliefs on the subject.  We are all wrong sometimes and you never know when it's your turn to be wrong again.  Something about a speck and a plank comes to mind here (Luke 6:41-42).  The best reviews and responses I've read to this book are the ones by those who have a solid theological background and have been loving and intelligent in their responses, while admitting that this stuff is fuzzy and difficult.

I'd also like to suggest that if your views on heaven and hell are shaken and that changes the way you live your life on this Earth, it may be time to take a good, hard look at your faith and why you're in it. I've said this before on this blog and I'll preach it again:  it is GOOD to question your faith, to wrestle with it and get tangled up in it.  You can't just take everything you've been told at face value and assume you'll never be wrong.  Be in the word.  Read what all the current and classic writers and preachers are saying.  Faith isn't easy.  There's no magic formula that makes you a good Christian.  This is why we are instructed to be in the Bible at least daily, to be in constant prayer and to fellowship with other followers.  

So. . . did I like the new book?  Nope!  But it wasn't because I think Bell is a heretic.  Note that I don't think he has all the answers either.  I think he's asking the right questions.  But noone has all the right answers.  I just can't stand the way he writes.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:35 AM

    Thank you so much! I have been trying to explain exactly why I couldn't get much out of this book. I thought maybe it was just weird formatting on the Kindle. This is the first, and last, Rob Bell book I will attempt to read. I'll stick to him in audio/video form!

    Nathan Lamb
    Hartford, IA