Bell's universalism: A different love

Rob Bell's Love Wins has been reviewed by Chris Swann and Mike Allen on The Briefing. I suspect it's a helpful article on the topic of universalism generally for anybody exploring this.

The article finds fault with Bell's 'grasp of the overall shape of the Bible’s story' as well as 'the view of God that Bell seems to be working with'. Here are his main points:

1. Universalism puts forward a different Bible story
"God does promise that blessing will come to all nations, but it will come through Israel, and specifically through ‘the offspring’ of Abraham—Jesus (Gal 3).

So the promised restoration will come to all nations, but only to those who are united by faith with Jesus. Which means that retributive justice isn’t ruled out!"
2. Universalism puts forward a different view of the love of God

The authors support the retribution/restorative question but find fault with Bell’s view of God, rather than with the traditional doctrine.

Universalism misunderstands that God's love does not rule out the possibility of eternal punishment, but actually requires it. Worse still, Universalism suffers a fundamental problem in overlooking 'how decisive Jesus and his cross should be for our view of God and salvation'

On the side, the article illustrates how badly Bell’s poor exegesis affects his outcomes, and makes the point that Universalism fails to grasp the 'valid biblical distinction between what God desires and what he sovereignly achieves'.

Overall the article argues that Universalism actually fails to present the love of God in all its fullness.

3. Universalism creates a different view of the cross

Finally, the authors criticise the apparent affect that Bell's universalism has had on his doctrine of atonement. Bell seems to argue that the biblical metaphors themselves are not the definitive way to understand what happened at the cross.

It's a hard but necessary review. Our understanding of God's love should be shaped by what the Bible says happened at the cross, not the other way round.

* * *

I'd encourage you to read the article if the topic of Universalism is of relevance to you. It's also worth reading it before you form a firm opinion as to what Chris Swann and Mike Allen have said and where they're coming from, because my summary here is a very brief distillation.

I haven't read Bell or Love Wins yet, so I'd be interested to know what Universalists would reply to this article, as well as hear the comments of others generally who have read Bell for themselves.  Of course, you could also comment at The Briefing if you'd like to put your thoughts to Chris Swann and Mike Allen too.

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