The Good News is Better Than That – More Thoughts on Love Wins

The last major section of  Love Wins is entitled “The Good News is Better Than That” and in this chapter Rob Bell explores the nature and character of God. Before you read this rest of this post, take a moment and engage in this brief exercise. Fill in the blank:

God is ________ and ________.

Work to select two words that might seemingly be in tension. For example, Jesus is both the Lamb of God and Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Question: how words did you select to fill in the blanks?

When we consider the nature and character of God, are we willing to hold together attributes that at first glance may seem to be, at  in tension or perhaps even in conflict with each other?

For example, in considering the nature of God and the realities of heaven and hell, Rob raises this point of contention:

“Loving one moment, vicious the next. Kind and compassionate, only to become cruel and relentless in the blink of an eye. Does God become somebody totally different the moment you die? That kind of God is simply devastating. Psychologically crushing. We can’t bear it. No one can” (174).

Is God both loving and vicious? Is God kind and cruel? Is God compassionate and relentless?

Indeed, no one could bear up under that understating and framework of God. But to borrow Rob’s words, I would say, the good news is better than that, because no one need bear up under this conception of God because God’s nature and character is consistent in this life and in the life to come as well – God is love!

Question: Does affirming that “God is love” force us to negate, erase or trump any of God’s other attributes?

Rob focuses on Jesus’ parable about the Father and Two Sons (Luke 15) to help readers wrestle with the nature and character of God. Rob rightly points to the fact that they are a number of stories contained in the larger Story. Both the younger son and the older son have created their own stories about themselves and how they relate to their father. The big question for Rob is this: will they continue to live in their own distorted stories (“I’ve blown it so badly that I’m not worthy to be called a son” or “I’ve slaved for you all these years and yet you never gave me even a goat to celebrate”) or will they trust the father’s story of unconditional love and acceptance?

While Rob brings fresh insight into this parable, he also misses a significant point in his retelling of the stories. While the father loves both sons unconditionally, in only one of the stories do we find remorse, confession, and repentance. Manifest in the younger son, these qualities enable him to experience the love and grace of his father. Apart from this turning, it is impossible to trust in the father’s story.

“Hell is our refusal to trust in God’s retelling of our story…Hell is refusing to trust and refusing to trust is often rooted in a distorted view of God” (170, 175).

Rob once again centers on the role of human choice and the role our choices play in determining whether we experience heaven or hell.  He also writes: we do ourselves great harm when we confuse the very essence of God, which is love, with the very real consequences of rejecting and resisting that love, which creates what we call hell” (177). Once again, Rob disconnects God from hell and posits the idea that humans actually create hell. I think Rob misses the mark on this.

As I conclude this post, let me make mention of one of the strengths of this chapter. Rob writes passionately about the distinction between entrance and enjoyment in the telling and loving of the  gospel story.

“So when the gospel is diminished to a question of whether or not a person will “get into heaven” that reduces the good news to a ticket, a way to get past the bouncer and into the club. The good news is better than that” (178-179).


Question: is your telling of the Gospel themed more around entrance or enjoyment and what are the implications of this?

Look for one more post on Love Wins; in it, I will share my take aways from the book.

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