2.0 out of 5 stars a mixed bag: the good, great, bad, and ugly, March 20, 2011
Mark A. Almlie “mark almlie” (petaluma, CA) –
This review is from: Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (Hardcover)
First of all I want to say that I have greatly admired the preaching and books that Rob Bell has put out before “Love Wins”. I will continue to recommend “Velvet Elvis” and “Sex God”. He is a brilliant communicator of God’s Word. I listen to his podcasts more than any other preacher.
He clearly sets the gospel in its cosmic framework, not just its human salvation framework. Jesus came not only to save sinners, but to redeem the world–every atom. He articulates a gospel that transforms trees as well as people. This is a good thing and should stretch Evangelicals to understand what Colossians is getting at when it says, “This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven” (Colossians 1.23). “A gospel that leaves out its cosmic scope will always feel small.” (p. 135) Agreed.
“The goats are sent, in the Greek language, to an aion of kolazo. Aion, we know, has several meanings. One is “age” or “period of time”; another refers to “intensity of experience”. An aion of kolazo. Depending on how you translate aion and kolazo, then, the phrase can mean “a period of pruning” or “a time of trimming”, or an intense experience of correction. In a good number of English translations of the Bible, the phrase “aion of kolazo” gets translated as “eternal punishment,” which many read to mean “punishment forever,” as in never going to end. But “forever” is not really a category the biblical writers used.” (p. 91-92)
First of all, he doesn’t even quote the Greek text correctly! He says the phrase is “Aion of kolazo”. That’s not how the Greek text reads! It reads, “Eis kolasin aionion.” The Greek word “aionion” is a different word than “aion”! This is so misleading! It’s inexcusable! It is intellectually dishonest, and I can barely believe that he wrote so erroneously. It’s as if he wished so hard that there is no reference to eternal punishment in the Bible that he found a way for it to go away.
The actual word used in Matt 25.41, 46 is “aionion”. Now, it is true that the root word of “aionion” is “aion”. But, they are two separate words, with two different meanings. For Bell to go on and on about “aion” meaning “age” and not “eternity” is completely irrelevant since he is talking about the wrong word!
“In a good number of English translations of the Bible, the phrase gets translated as ‘eternal punishment'”. Understatement of the aion! NIV, NRSV, NASB, KJV, New Living Translation. How about Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” since Peterson endorsed Bell’s book? The Message reads “eternal doom”. Bell is off his theological and exegetical rocker when trying to get this verse not to mean what it actually means: “eternal punishment”.
But imagine for a moment that he’s right. Let’s imagine that this verse isn’t about eternal punishment, but just an “age” of time. So, theoretically, after an “age” or two of time, the goats will be set free. However, the sheep are sent to “eternal life” in the same verse. It is the same word used for the sheep as it is for the goats: “aionion”. If Bell is right then “eternal life” is temporary. It’s the same word used in John 3.16 “everlasting life”. So whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have temporary life? I don’t think so.
Rob Bell is not a biblical scholar or a theologian. He has no credentials to write his own translation of the Bible. I pray that there is not a Rob Bell Study Bible complete with a “fresh” translation of the scriptures coming our way in the near future.
I am also surprised that he keeps saying that he is not a universalist when that is what this book is about. “Love Wins” is a declaration that God’s love will reconcile all hearts eventually, and all will be saved (maybe not right away but given enough time). If you go to the mars hill website they defend that Bell is not a universalist as well, but under their “download a resources list” they list “The Inescapable Love of God” as a good resource to help the reader understand “Love Wins” better. But the book “The Inescapable Love of God” is a book arguing for universalism. So, which is it? Is Bell a universalist or not? He clearly is, but both Bell and the FAQ on the church’s website say he isn’t. It’s a strange mixed message.