Love Wins (In Review: A Misunderstood Book)

Derek Ouellette —  March 29, 2011

Love Wins
A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived
Author Rob Bell
3 Stars (out of 5)

Let me begin, as Rob is fond of doing, with a story.

The other day a woman came into my Christian bookstore, stood over the new release table and pressed a stern pointed finger against the cover of Love Wins then glared in my direction, “You should NOT be selling this book. It is NOT a Christian book.” “Oh uh, okay” I said politely, “have you read it?” “No!” she said, “But I heard Bob Dutko talking about it on the radio.” (Bob Dutko is a conservative Christian talk show host out of Detroit).

Not fifteen minutes later a young woman rushed into the store and right over to the new release table where she enthusiastically grabbed a copy of Love Wins. I happened to be standing right there and so I asked her, “have you read the book?” Yes I know that was not the most perceptive question considering that she was buying it off the new release table. But to my surprise: “Yes I have. I’m buying this second copy for my aunt.”

Such has been the polarizing effects of the idea of Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins.

I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve read because frankly I don’t know. There are “pint sized” reviews, “Cracker Jack” reviews and “drive-by” reviews all the way to full blown “let me write a book on my blog against Love Wins explaining chapter by chapter, post by post, bit by bit why Love Wins teaches heresy” reviews. And almost all of them ask the same question: does Rob Bell believe in Hell? I mean an actual, physical, eternal and conscious place called Hell?

Now I know I don’t have it all together. I’m not boasting that I know something that everyone else does not know. But I think this Rob Bell frenzy got everybody’s heads shifted into the wrong gear from the start. The subtitle of the book, “A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” didn’t help much either.

So let me state plainly something I believe to be emphatically true about Love Wins: this is not a book about Heaven, Hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived.

Love Wins is not a book that is overly concerned with the fate of people when they die. Bell’s book is more concerned with the here and now and not really concerned with the there and then.

So let me explain something about book subtitles. Authors don’t always have a choice in them. The publisher will often choose a subtitle (often loosely connected to the subject) in order to sell books. And a book about “Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” sells.

A couple of years ago I reviewed Karl Giberson’s book “Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution” and slammed it pretty hard because the book had nothing to do with “how to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution”. As it happened Karl came across my blog and left this comment:

“Hi. Solid review with many relevant comments. The subtitle of the book was chosen, over my objections, by the marketing dept at Harper.” (Here)

So I would not be surprised if the subtitle of Love Wins was also a marketing strategy of HarperOne, and not Bell’s first choice.

Justin Taylor’s gunshot review and John Piper’s “Farewell, Rob Bell” ignited a firestorm of controversy in people’s minds which has not been easily quenched. So when Greg Boyd – one of the few who actually read Love Wins at that time and who, with Eugene Peterson, endorsed the book – wrote a response to Justin Taylor, it was virtually ignored in the blogosphere. When Boyd wrote:

“Rob’s book really isn’t about the population or duration of heaven or hell. It’s mainly about the unfathomably beautiful character of God revealed in Jesus Christ and therefore about the unfathomably good nature of the Good News.” (Here)

No one picked up on it. Here is someone who read the book before anyone else telling the rest of us that the book is not about what everyone thinks it is about, and everyone ignores him. The question persisted: does Rob Bell believe in Hell in the orthodox way, yes or no?

I believe that if Bell was pressed to answer the question, what do you believe about the nature of Hell in the afterlife, Rob would answer, “I don’t know, but let me tell you what hell on earth is”.

In fact, that is pretty much what he does in chapter four. After caricaturing the traditional Western approach to Hell and exploring other Christian interpretations of Hell (to remind us that orthodoxy is wider then Protestants often give due credit), Bell writes:

“Will everybody be saved,
Or will some perish apart from God forever because of their choices?”

It is here, if anywhere, where we might expect that Taylor and Piper’s accusations would bear fruit or not. But Bell pulls back:

“Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact.”

Rob Bell, what do you believe about Hell? “I don’t know.”

But – and here is his orthodoxy shining forth in all its beauty – if the question is asked, “Does God get what he wants?” or “In the end, will love win?” Bell’s answer is as true, as clear, and as unambiguous as they come:

“It’s not ‘Does God get what God wants?’
‘Do we get what we want?’
And the answer to that is a resounding, affirming, sure,
and positive yes.
God is that loving….

if we want hell,
if we want heaven,
they are ours…

God says yes,
we can have what we want,
because love wins.”

Love is a choice. That is Wesleyan-Arminian theology. That is Eastern Orthodoxy theology. That is the theology of virtually all of the early church fathers. Love wins because God is Love and God wins. Love wins because love requires reciprocal choice.  Love wins because if the person chooses “Hell”, they get what they want. “God is that loving” says Bell, “because love wins.”

But there is a Hell on earth too. And Bell wants to remind us conservative North American evangelicals that a part of the gospel (a big part) is to press against the gates of hell in the here and now. This part of the gospel (sadly all too often ignored by conservative Protestants) is a huge part of what it means for God’s Kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. The feeding of the poor, the standing up for the rights of the helpless, that compassion towards the “cutter” or the “addict” or the “abused” as Jesus did, and not just a “say a sinners prayer and go to church and you can escape Hell and go to Heaven and in the mean time everything will be alright” (because we all know how harmless and heaven-like church can be!).

That is the message of Love Wins. It’s not to deny a Heaven or Hell in the hereafter, but to remind us that there is a Heaven and Hell in the here and now too. That is why at each step along the way Bell begins with speculation about the afterlife – to show that there usually are more uncritical speculation then most people recognize – then he draws us back into the reality we can speak of with unambiguous certainty.

There is a Hell on earth.

What are God’s people going to do about it?

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • T. C. Moore

    Great post Derek. I especially like that you highlight the Arminian theology that is really at the heart of Love Wins and place it in its historical, orthodox, Christian context. Keep up the good work!

    • Derek Ouellette

      Thanks T.C.

  • Jeffrey Heimann

    Fantastic review Zeke. So good in fact, I may just buy and read this book.

    • Derek Ouellette

      Hey Jeff, thanks man.

  • Bri

    Hey Derek, thanks for the review. If I may, please allow me to give a different take on the subject. If this uproar over Rob Bell were as simple as you present it, and the matters of theology were only as few as you mention, I think all would be wonderful on the home front of what is mainstream evangelical Christianity. Problem is, it’s deeper and wider then I think many will admit. First, you make an excellent point that the thesis of the book may not be supported well by the title. Well, ok, it’s horribly off. So right there, Bell presents confusion. And rewind a bit to the book’s promo video that started this whole firestorm… Bell questioning whether God could send people to hell and still be “good” and “loving”. Well, any Christian who’s read the Bible for more than a few days realizes that God’s main attribute is not His love, but His holiness, righteousness, and perfection… which means He must judge and destroy sin and those who choose to sin (and He does this rightly, all throughout the Bible). But because God is also love, He makes a way of salvation to those who turn and follows Christ. So Rob Bell comes out and reframes the questions, leaving out something that is glaringly obvious to a serious Bible reader. More confusion. Finally, I think Bell’s postulation of heaven and hell including this present time is great, it’s actually an idea that I think the most non-spiritual person could understand. In fact, I think most people do already live under this premise… life is about making the here and now as heavenly as possible. Problem with that perspective is it de-emphasizes what the Bible emphatically teaches and awakens us to: that eternal heaven and hell exist after death, and our response to Jesus Christ in this life determines who goes where. So to those who know Scripture well, Bell just re-hashes pagan ideas and endorses a modified universalism, while portraying himself Evangelical. And what do we have? More confusion. I think it’s not surprising at all that so many are confused and avoiding this book.

    • FrGregACCA

      This is what comes from reading the Bible in isolation, separated from the rest of the Tradition. “LOVE” is not just another Divine attribute. “God IS LOVE”. We know, apart from the statement because is God is the eternal, archetypal Community that we call the Trinity. We also know this because “God so LOVED the world that He gave his only Son that whosoever believes in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.”

      Everything else in God is secondary to this, in fact every Divine attribute is somehow a manifestation of the LOVE that is God.

      You speak of rehashing pagan ideas. The primary, the worst pagan idea in Western Christianity is that God is somehow constrained by anything. That God MUST do anything at all. The truth is, God IS LOVE, and that means that God is both good and radically free. Or to put it another way: Christ died for us because God loves us, not vice-versa.

      Sorry, Derek. Posting THAT link again:

    • Derek Ouellette


      Your take is not at all much different from most of the other reviews out there. I believe Gods Being (that “God is Love”) and God’s “other attributes” such as his justice are in harmony. People say that Bell presents a judgment-less Gospel, not true (read p. 37ff.).

      Can you back up your charge that Bell “endorses a modified universalism”?

    • Derek Ouellette

      Fr.Greg, here is one of those rare occasions when I agree with you 100%. Thanks for chiming in.

    • Bri

      Fr. Greg, I appreciate your response. I agree that God not only loves, but IS love… He is the embodiment of love and goodness. However, I think where myself and the Rob Bell fans diverge is on the definition of what “love” is, and whether the Bible portrays God’s love as His ultimate, overarching attribute. Biblically, I don’t think one can make that case.

      “Love” is a very generic, overused, and sentimental word in Western culture, and because of that we’ve lost the Biblical idea of what love means. We’ve reduced it to a set of feelings, emotions, tolerance, etc. But Biblical love is much deeper, much more intentional, and purposeful. I think you know what I mean so I won’t get into that here, but suffice it to say a huge factor in this confusion is a poor definition of “love”, and our continuing to view it from our western, trivialized perspective.

      It’s close, but it’s still pretty clear the Bible teaches that God’s overarching attribute is His holiness… His righteousness and perfection. We’re told the angels surround God’s throne and can only say “holy!, holy!, holy!” (not “love, love, love”) because of the infinite holiness He is. No man can see God and live, because He is so holy, etc. And from His perfection flows His other attributes, such as love… but also things like justice, grace, and mercy. God is all of these things, not just one of them. To reduce God to one attribute and ignore or trivialize the others is simply idolatry. It is not the same God that reveals Himself in Scripture. God is love, but love is not God.

      By viewing God only through the lens of “love” is where many go off course, including Rob Bell. For example, Love Wins emphasizes “For God so loved the world”, and “God did not send His son to condemn the world, but to save…” according to John 3:16-17. But Rob Bell conveniently leaves off the very next verse! “But whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” God can love AND condemn? To ignore this is to miss the point of that passage entirely. And this is how we get off course.

      God is love, amen! But He loves holiness and righteousness, which means He hates and judges sin. Thankfully, for those who love Him He provides a way of salvation through Jesus Christ.

    • Bri

      Derek: In every recent interview and many times in the book, while denying the label “universalist”, Rob Bell has continued to endorse universal reconciliation as being part of the orthodox “stream” of evangelical Christianity, and holds to the possibility that most or all will be reconciled to God in harmony in the end. He is clearly trying to play both sides. Pages 106-109 of Love Wins make his case for how Rob thinks this is acceptable thought. So he’s teaching it, yet denying it?

      It’s one thing to be a universalist and make a case for a form of universalism, but totally confusing when you deny being a universalist while trying to convince people of how it’s true and right and orthodox. Universal reconciliation has been deemed heterodox/heresy, along with several other ideas (denying the deity of Christ, denying the trinity, etc.), all throughout Church history. Rob goes to great lengths to convince us otherwise, often distorting quotes from Church fathers to make his point (i.e. misquoting Luther, p.106).

      And I’m sure you’ve seen the MSNBC interview, especially the part at 1:45 where Rob denies being a universalist, but then in the same breath makes a case for it being legit and orthodox. Confusing.

    • Derek Ouellette

      I’m sorry Bri, I misunderstood you. :) I thought you were saying that Rob Bell was a modified universalist. You are right, he does endorse reconciliation universalism as an orthodox Christian option.

      I looked up Luther’s quote and don’t see how Bell has quoted him out of context. Luther is explaining the necessity of faith for salvation then says this:

      “It would be quite a different question whether God can impart faith to some in the hour of death or after death so that these people could be saved through faith. Who would doubt God’s ability to do that? No one, however, can prove that he does do this.”

      Two questions for you:
      1. Can you tell me where the historic Christian Creeds condemn reconciliation universalism as heresy?
      2. How did Bell misquote Luther?

    • brad d

      God is love. it is not an attribute, it is a.synonym. all attributes of God fall under the love filter.if someone tells you an attribute, and it isn’t expressing that love, it is false.

      the church today, since john tetzel, at least, is focused on fire and brimstone, or sin. you can run from sin 359 wrong ways and not find god. the only way to find him, is learning to love as he does. mat 5:48 deals with this. and 1j 4…

    • Bri

      Derek: I indeed was saying Rob Bell was a modified universalist, which is just a polite way of saying he’s a universalist. :) Whatever fancy ways one wants to dice it up, universal reconciliation, Christian reconciliation universalism, and plain vanilla universalism are synonymous with the idea that most or all people will be united with God in harmony after death, regardless of how they live or relate to God (specifically, Christ) in this life. It’s a distinction that most admitted universalists would agree with, but one that the evangelical Christian tradition has rejected (hence, obviously, Rob’s reluctance to take the label, since he does identify himself as evangelical).

      To answer your questions:

      1.I was not appealing to any historic Christian creeds or counsels in my assertion that universalism is heresy/heterodox, but simply stating that it’s been clearly opposed to evangelical Christianity and the majority of mainline denominations for centuries. As well, I think we’d all agree that many of the historic church creeds and counsels believed and taught in an eternal hell (as punishment), so how then would that be compatible with any kind of universal reconciliation? It would have been unheard of. I did find this statement by Richard Bauckham, who did the most recent academic survey on the history of universal salvation, which may be helpful:

      “The history of the doctrine of universal salvation (or apokatastasis) is a remarkable one. Until the nineteenth century almost all Christian theologians taught the reality of eternal torment in hell. Here and there, outside the theological mainstream, were some who believed that the wicked would be finally annihilated (in its commonest form. this is the doctrine of ‘conditional immortality’). Even fewer were the advocates of universal salvation, though these few included same major theologians of the early church. Eternal punishment was firmly asserted in official creeds and confessions of the churches. It must have seemed as indispensable a part of universal Christian belief as the doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation. Since 1800 this situation has entirely changed, and no traditional Christian doctrine has been so widely abandoned as that of eternal punishment. Its advocates among theologians today must be fewer than ever before. The alternative interpretation of hell as annihilation seems to have prevailed even among many of the more conservative theologians. Among the less…

    • Bri

      …conservative, universal salvation, either as hope or as dogma, is now so widely accepted that many theologians assume it virtually without argument.” So while I disagree with him that universal salvation is widely accepted today, I think most agree that the teaching of hell as eternal punishment and Jesus as the only way of salvation has been a mainstream tenet of the Christian faith.

      2. Bell misquotes Luther simply by taking a portion of what Luther said out of context, and using that portion to support the thesis of his work. The quote from Luther that you brought up was not the quote Bell used in His book. In fact, the only words of Luther that Bell used were “Who would doubt God’s ability to do that?”, after he positioned the idea that many Church leaders of history “gave space” for the teaching that people could be saved apart from Christ in the afterlife. But that’s not at all what Luther was suggesting. If you go on to quote the rest of Luther, it’s obvious he was actually teaching the opposite. Luther ends that thought with this declaration: “No one, however, can prove that he does do this. For all that we read is that he has already raised people from the dead and thus granted them faith. But whether he gives faith or not, it is impossible for anyone to be saved without faith. Otherwise every sermon, the gospel, and faith would be vain, false, and deceptive, since the entire gospel makes faith necessary.” So again, it’s selective proof texting on the part of Bell, similar to his use of John 3:17 to say that God wouldn’t judge the world, but conveniently leaving out John 3:18 where God says that without Christ we are already condemned. It is extremely poor research skills if not altogether disingenuous.

      For a more thorough explanation of Bell’s mishandling of the Luther quote, you can read articles like this (which are all over now):

    • Derek Ouellette

      Bri (short for Brianne?),

      No one in church history believed in dispensationalism until 1830, and no one’s calling dispensationalism heresy. Heresy is a teaching which the church ecumenical rejects as dangerous. The Eastern Orthodox Church has always made room at least for the possibility of reconciliation universalism.

      I should point out at this point that I personally do not believe in universalism of any sort. Defending reconciliation universalism’s right as a Christian option is not the same thing as embracing it. Using myself as a case in point, as I just did, your claim that Rob Bell is a universalism has yet to be shown. The section you cite (106-109) is a part of a larger discussion on the various views, none of which Rob Bell tells us he holds to.

      I also fail to see how Bell quoted Luther out of context. Bell cited one line (“who would doubt God’s ability to do that”), but that line was in keeping with Luther’s thought which is clear: Can God impart faith after death? That is Luther’s question. His answer: Yes God can (or “who would doubt that God can do that?”). But no one can prove that he does. Luther’s saying 1) God can reconcile after death, 2) but it can’t be proved that he does. Of course. No matter how hard we try, we can’t get around the fact that Luther allows for post-mortem reconciliation. Which happens to be Bell’s point. Luther’s point is that faith is required, even if salvation post-mortem were possible. Bell too says Jesus is the only way to salvation (even if salvation post-mortem were possible).

      Finally, and perhaps I should have started with this, the text is question is not advocating universal reconciliation, but only post-mortem reconciliation. That’s crystal. So your use of this incident to claim that Bell is a “modified universalist” is simply mistaken (unless you have different evidence to point to?)

    • Bri

      Nope, just Bri short for Bri. :)

      I guess I’m a bit confused at how one can equate dispensationalism with universalism on the heresy scale. If the definition of heresy is a “dangerous” teaching, then you’re right, universalism probably isn’t all that dangerous. Unless, of course, it’s wrong… and what the Bible teaches really is true, and the church fathers were correct (hell is literal and eternal, those apart from Christ will be judged, etc.). Then, obviously, it would be dangerous of the worst, most horrific kind. Not to mention giving people false hope, reducing the urgency to repent and follow Christ, to do missions, minimizing the atonement, etc. I’d say people have a valid reason to be concerned, and I think Bible teachers should have a clear position of where they land on this as they lead their flocks.

      I suppose as well that you could make a case that Bell and Luther line up on the issue of post-mortem reconciliation, assuming of course that you take an extra generous liberty with what Luther really meant by what he said. And I’m talking super extra generous. Like if I said there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of aliens, and that anything is possible but there would be about a 1 in a billion chance of them existing at all… and then you take that and write a book on the definite existence of aliens, and quote me as one who agrees with you on the possibility of their existence. I think you would have missed my point entirely, and misued my words for your own agenda. It’s just a very shady way to cite a source.

      Well anyway, I think we’re all aware of each other’s positions on this subject now, and I appreciate you letting me share. May God lead us into greater truth, through His word and by His spirit, for His glory and the good of all mankind. Seriously, it’s been a pleasure. :)

    • Derek

      Bri, you don’t have to preach to me about the error’s of universalism… I agree and made that clear. But note that your definition of heresy is extremely narrow, “It’s heresy because I believe it’s wrong” (the essence of your argument). By that definition everyone is heresy by everyone else’s opinion.

      To restate my earlier truth: Heresy is that which the Church universal has officially rejected. Heresy is not that which evangelicalism rejects, or what Protestants reject or even what Bri rejects.

      Secondly your witty comment about Bell and Luther lining up on the issue of post-mortem reconciliation still operates on the unproven accusation that Rob Bell himself holds to post-mortem reconciliation just because you don’t like that he leaves room for it as an option.

      And closely connected with that, I appreciate your sarcasm with the Luther quote (I fail to see your connection between universal reconciliation and aliens, but oh well :) ) still you have to deal with the actual passage and what Luther actually said and what his comment implies!

  • James

    I don’t think it’s just the title of the book that leads people to think the book is about “Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Perons Who Ever Lived.” At the end of the first chapter, Bell states that the book is about responses to the questions in that chapter, which are all about that subtitle.

    Also, I think Bell’s chapter on Hell is very confusing and poorly argued, and he presents a viewpoint so different from the traditional one, that it’s going to trip people up. People aren’t going to be able to get past his radical (to the readers, at least) ideas to get at the many valid points he has.

    I agree that people are misunderstanding Bell’s book, but I think I’d have to lay a great deal of the blame for that on Bell.

    • Derek Ouellette

      James, there are a great deal of reviews out there that pick apart Bell’s arguments. No question his chapter on Hell is a terribly argued one. All the way through the book Bell constructs bad arguments. No question his ambiguous answers to tough questions leads many into confusion and so on.

      But as I understand it, that was Bell’s way of saying “I don’t have answers to these questions, but let me tell you about things I do have answers to, hell on earth”. He invites his readers to a life of mystery and tension when it comes to life after death because, after all, “heaven is full of surprises”.

      I don’t agree with Bell on numerous accounts, but I do see the point or message of the book and might very well say, “point taken”.

    • James

      I completely agree with you, Derek. I’m just saying I think Bell’s good points in the book could have been communicated better, and that his “new” take on Hell perhaps distracted people from his points rather than helped communicate them.

  • Craig L. Adams

    I linked to you and this review. I also read James review, liked it, and linked to it as well. Thanks for the thought you have put into this.

  • Pingback: Elsewhere (03.30.11) | Near Emmaus()

  • Rid

    “Love is a choice. That is Wesleyan-Arminian theology. That is Eastern Orthodoxy theology. That is the theology of virtually all of the early church fathers. Love wins because God is Love and God wins. Love wins because love requires reciprocal choice.”

    Amen to that Derek, and nice review.

  • FrGregACCA


    Please read the link I posted above. I agree that the word “love” is misused in our culture. So how to define it? Well, by I Corinthians 13, of course. Everything that God is, from being Holy to being Trinity, flows from this.

    Now, in the Divine Holiness, why does God “hate” sin? If God had not become human, would sin have affected God directly in any way? No. God, as God, is “impassible”. God hates sin because sin destroys God’s creation, which God loves, and causes us, created by God for communion with God the Most Blessed Trinity, to be out of communion with God and therefore, out of a proper relationship with ourselves, each other, and with the rest of creation.

    Because of this, Jesus, God-become-human, destroys sin and Satan by his death and resurrection. If we die with him, we too will rise with him and even now, having been baptized into His death, we already live in newness of life. But note well: this new life is extremely existential. It is not simply about imputation of righteous. It is, as Wesley says, “imparted” or, in Roman Catholic terms, “infused”. God loves us so much that in Christ, God transforms us into the very image and likeness of Christ. In the words of II Peter, we are “partakers of the Divine Nature”.

    I am not defending Rob Bell. I have not read the book. But the point that I would make is this: hell, in the end, is the experience of the Love that is God by those who reject this Love. In the end, as St. Paul writes, God “will be all-in-all”, or “everything to everyone”. IOW, in the age to come, all will unavoidably experience the directed, unmediated presence of God. For those who have “endured to the end” in Christ, what could be more wonderful? For us, this is the very essence of eternal happiness. But what of someone who rejects love? What of someone for whom the most important thing is “justice” or “power” or or whatever?

  • brad d

    1cor 13 doesn’t define the word Agapao. It shows some of the results of Agapao in a Christian context. The word Agapao has been used for rape, in the septuagint, and things acted in hate as well. The word Agapao means ; ‘an emotion that requires a demonstration’
    . It is not defined as God’s love. Unless you add the.genocide in there

    Once people get their arms around that particular word, whole.sections.of the Bible take on a new meaning. I’d be glad to answer for my.comments.

    • FrGregACCA

      Brad, “Agapaeo” is used in the Septuagint to translate “aheb”, the generic Hebrew word for love/affection, including sexual/romantic love, and it is used in the statements, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) and, in Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart….”

      In the New Testament, it takes on a more focused meaning, one that does not exclude the love of husband and wife (cf. Ephesians 5:25 and Ephesians 5:28), but puts it in a more specific context, that of specifically Divine Love.

      You may be correct that I Corinthians 13 does not DEFINE agapay, but it certainly describes it, and the statement of I John 4:8, “God is love,” where “agapay” is used, pins down the fact that I Corinthians 13 is, indeed, speaking of what God is intrinsically, the Divine Nature or Essence.

    • brad d

      I never said god wasn’t love. That is the heart of my Heterodoxical beliefs.

      1 cor 13 show the results of love.

      Agapao was used for rape in the septuagint because it was the erotic act with an action.

      It is not an adequate definition to say it is defined as ‘gods’ love. Because it can be applied to rape and other hateful acts as well. Now u start to confuse what god is, if you go that route. So, I still contend, its better to fake the time to explain the word to folks, as it meant to the Greeks using it, rather than in cliches. That way they don’t do a word. Search and see it is used negatively as well.

  • Aaron


    you asked: “Can you tell me where the historic Christian Creeds condemn reconciliation universalism as heresy?”

    It is not in the creeds but it was condemed in the 5th council – Which, If Im not mistaken, most christians think is pretty authoritative! Heres the quote:

    If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration (ἀποκατάστασις) will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema.
    Anathema to Origen and to that Adamantius, who set forth these opinions together with his nefarious and execrable and wicked doctrine
    and to whomsoever there is who thinks thus, or defends these opinions, or in any way hereafter at any time shall presume to protect them.


    • Derek Ouellette

      Thanks Aaron,

      Origen’s condemnation. I’m not very familiar with that whole ordeal. Much appreciated.

    • FrGregACCA

      See, there are advantages to accepting only three Councils as being truly and fully ecumenical!

      In Byzantine circles, the Orthodoxy of Seven Councils, this is usually interpreted to mean that one may not hold that such reconciliation is inevitable, but that it is acceptable, even virtuous, to hope and pray at least for the salvation of all people. I think most of us, St. Isaac of Nineveh and St. Gregory of Nyssa excepted, are pretty skeptical of the idea that the demons might repent.

      Bishop Kallistos Ware writes in “The Orthodox Church”:

      “Hell exists as a final possibility, but several of the Fathers have none the less believed that in the end all will be reconciled to God. It is heretical to say that all must be saved, for this is to deny free will; but it is legitimate to hope that all may be saved. Until the Last Day comes, we must not despair of anyone’s salvation, but must long and pray for the reconciliation of all without exception. No one must be excluded from our loving intercession. ‘What is a merciful heart?’ asked Isaac the Syrian. ‘It is a heart that burns with love for the whole of creation, for men, for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons, for all creatures’ (Mystic Treatises, edited by A. J. Wensinck, Amsterdam, 1923, p. 341). Gregory of Nyssa said that Christians may legitimately hope even for the redemption of the Devil.”

  • FrGregACCA

    Brad, regarding rape and agapay, that may well be, but in terms of how agapay is used in the NT, its meaning would not include rape (although it obviously has an EROTIC component with regard to God’s desire to be in communion with us and vice-versa [“our hearts are restless until they rest in You”] as well as our desire to be in communion with others which, I suppose, could be distorted, vis-a-vis power, enough to result in rape).

    I’m glad you take “God is love” seriously.

  • John T III

    My apologies for joining the discussion late. So if my comments seem out of place or redundant again I apologize.

    One of the problems here is that people try to justify the fact of God’s love with the fact of his wrath. They will emphasize one or the other or exclude one or the other.

    Anyone who holds to the idea that everyone will go to heaven because God will forgive all are sadly far off the mark. Infact, to hold that position distorts the true gospel. It also contradicts the scriptures in several places, Luke 16:19ff for one example.

    The other concept running through “Love Wins” is the idea that the “hell on earth” we go through is a purifying process smakcs of the ROman Catholic error of purgatory.

  • Brian MacArevey


    Great review…Thanks :)

  • Jonathan Ammon

    I just linked to this review. It is the only positive review of Love Wins that I’ve seen and very competent. Thanks.

    • Derek Ouellette

      Thanks Jonathan!

  • http://none Angie

    Derek, I was surprised at your statement that no one is calling dispensationalism, heresy. Where have you been? There are a lot of contemporary Bible students and theologians that disagree vigorously with that late-view teaching. Concerning Bell’s book, your review leaves me with the impression that YOU should have written the book. It was truly poorly written!

    • Derek Ouellette

      Angie, I agree and would go further to say that MOST Christian traditions and leaders “disagree vigorously with that late-view teaching”. But that’s not at all the same thing as calling something “heresy”.
      And I’m sorry that you feel the way you do about me and my blog. But I agree with your assessment of Bell’s book. Terribly written and terribly argued.

  • http://none Angie

    Well, Derek, maybe “heresy” wasn’t the right word to use. And, maybe dispensationalism wasn’t the best anaolgy. Anyway, just to clarify……I like you…..and your website. Lot’s of good discussion!

  • Jimmy

    I have come to realise the idea of Ultimate Reconciliation is flawed – it may be an attempt to reconcile God’s love and goodness with the traditional concepts of a literal heaven and hell. I think it brings confusion because it is still based on a separation mindset that stems from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thinking God is “separate” from man, and man must somehow some day return to God. But salvation is not about going to a physical place; salvation is about being saved from a wrong mindset about God and about ourselves, to know God and us are already one and united. Maybe Rob Bell is still coming out of the evangelical mindset and hasn’t fully delved much into esoteric christianity yet. That being said, I give credit to him for attempting to challenge traditional teachings of evangelical christianity.