Love Wins or the Great Divorce?

C. S. Lewis's Great Divorce

Yesterday I finished Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins.  I understand how evangelical can be upset with him, but as a Lutheran I don’t feel such judgement.   If I could use one word to describe God it would be Gracious.   God’s grace is infinite and total and I see it extending beyond this life.   Like Bell, I don’t understand how God can condemn someone to eternal, infinite punishment if they never had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I remember conversations I had with fellow students at Fuller Seminary where some thought that the church had the obligation to proclaim the Gospel to keep people from going to hell.  They believed that we HAD to preach it or else unbelievers would burn, even those in distant lands.

I do believe in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, but not as some cosmic obligation to keep people from hell.   I preach the good news because I am in love with Jesus, the creator of the universe and I am excited to have others experience that liberating love as well.  I am a participant in the new creation with Jesus and I am humbled that God can use someone like me to accomplish God’s will.  

Rob Bell does a great job of describing the incredible, awesome, overwhelming love of God for us.  However I do have qualms with him, such as how he misquotes Martin Luther as if Luther was a closet universalist.  Carl Trueman, Departmental Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, has written a length blog post on this very subject. See  Then again I disagree with Carl Trueman’s comparison of Love Wins with Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.  But disagreements are part of  a healthy theological conversation.

In an earlier post, I wrote that I have been rereading parts of C. S. Lewis.  When I finished Bell’s book, I discovered that he had a section for further reading.  His second reference is this: “On hell, see C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.”  Later in the acknowledgments he thanks his parents for suggesting that while in high school he read C. S. Lewis.   I must agree.  I appreciate both writers, but the better IMHO is C. S. Lewis.  Next week I will move on to other topics.

What writer or artists has best help you see the magnificent love of God?

5 thoughts on “Love Wins or the Great Divorce?

  1. Ron Krumpos

    Which Afterlife?

    In his new book “Love Wins” Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from “the greatest achievement in life,” my ebook on comparative mysticism:

    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

    (59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote “In God we all meet.”

    1. Pastor John Keller Post author

      I have a great respect for mysticism, for the desire to love and understand the sacred. But the problem I often have with mysticism is it seems to deny that God created us as creatures, embodied, and that Jesus himself took on flesh, the incarnation. I believe in the resurrection of the body, but it will be a wholly new body, such as Pauls attempts to describe in I Cor. 15. I agree that various religions have various vision of afterlife, but I am a Christian and will stayed “grounded” in my trust in Jesus and his resurrection.

      1. Ron Krumpos

        Pastor Keller,

        My initial comment was primarily about alternate views of an afterlife. Rob Bell has never claimed to be a mystic, but is open to contemplative prayer and meditation. While not a Universalist, he does respect people of other religions.

        Even within Christianity there are differing views of afterlife between Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, etc. In any discussion between people, there will be varying personal opinions and interpretations of scriptures. Most mystics, of any faith, would agree with Jesus: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within.” If you want to find Hell just read, watch or listen to the daily news or study the unkind history of humankind.

  2. Leslee Donovan

    I do love C.S. Lewis. When I was in 7th grade, I started to reading the Chronicles of Narnia. I loved Aslan the Lion. My sister and I would pretend he was walking with us whenever we felt scared. Aslan was strong and brave and sacrificed his life to save the lives of others. He took the punishment of death, by the hand of the cruel White Witch for Edmund . When I was older I learned that C.S Lewis based Aslan the Lion after Jesus. Edmund was the sinner in us all.C.S Lewis is the one who got me curious but who Jesus was.
    Now the book that best helps me to see the magnificent love of God is the bible. I love bible study. I call bible study my therapy! It’s what helps me to see God’s character the clearest and helps me to hold steadfast through good times and bad. I love that God uses broken people in the bible to do his work. He can make music from a broken reed!! God of second changes who can use the ordinary to do the extra ordinary! He is such a patient,strong and loving teacher who meets us just where we are in Life! He strengthens and fills his people with love. He disciplines his chosen people with love and does not divorce them despite their disobedience! He is creator of all and knows every detail of his creation.In the book of Isaiah, it talks about how with Gods big strong hand he placed each star in the sky, named each star and does not lose sight of one star. Think how many stars there are!!! If he can do that just for the stars think of what he could do for a people he Loves with an everlasting love. So grateful to be able to study his word!

    1. Pastor John Keller Post author

      Leslee, thank you for giving such a great descripton of your passionate love for God’s Word. I think of Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” May God’s Word shine brightly for all to follow and find vibrant life.


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