Rob Bell’s Book “Love Wins” and NT Wright on Universalism

Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” was released on March 15, 2011.

Some people think he might be flirting with universalism. Some think he may deny hell. If the latter is true, he’d be going against a New Testament scholar he seems to admire more than any other: NT Wright. In this Youtube video Wright affirms and explains his view on hell. He ends with this:

“The choices you make here really do matter. There’s part of me that would love to be a Universalist and say, ‘It’ll be all right, everyone will get there [heaven] in the end.’ I actually think the choices you make in the present are more important than that.”

If Bell’s view in “Love Wins” is far from Wright’s he may lose a number of supporters who heretofore have largely considered him to be Evangelical.




  1. N.T. needs to say a little bit more in order to be absolutely clear.

    For example, does he believe that the moment of death is a cut-off point, beyond which the loving mercy of God is no longer available …

    and does he believe that judgement and punishment signal the end of God’s love and mercy for anyone who died not a Christian ???

  2. Nicolas, I’m not sure what Wright would say about the cut-off point. He might answer it in one of his books. His “Surprised by Hope” deals mainly with the question of heaven.

    My own response would have to do with not necessarily needing to know exactly at what point certain things happen. Perhaps Jesus’ own answer might look something like the one he gave to a questioner in his own day: “What is that to you? You follow me.”

    1. Yes, good point.

      Just read that Bell’s book is on the “Christian Universalism” side rather than the “pluralist” side (to use McKnight’s vocabulary).
      This makes me very happy!
      Here’s the quote:

      “I’ve just finished reading an advance copy of the book and I’m not sure where exactly this is going to end up. Just as you suggest that some people vacillate between Driscoll and Bell, I think there may be some confusion between Universalism and Christian Universalism. In other media, Bell has affirmed that salvation is only through the finished work of Christ on the cross; and Love Wins has to be read with that in mind.

      On heaven, he is definitely in line with Randy Alcorn’s writing, both in terms of “New Earth” and in terms of what we will actually do in the next life.

      The big issue here will be the “hell” issue, and I’m sure that more than one reviewer will draw comparisons between what the book presents and the Catholic concept of Purgatory.

      I gotta admit, I’m still processing this because the arguments are quite persuasive, and on a personal level, I’m wondering how much ground — if any — I’m prepared to give to his view on hell. I do expect reviews to be quite polarized, with a majority not all that pleased, but not in a way that will impede sales.”

  3. Seriously? You are basically condemning him before reading the book? I’ve never read your blog before and have only read this post, but I can’t help but scratch my head when people want to shoot Bell before hearing him out.

    1. I instantly regretted my post as soon as I hit “post comment.” I honestly have no idea what your opinion on Bell or his beliefs are and I obviously made an assumption. I apologize. I’m just seeing so many people talk about this book and propose ideas of what it is “really” about and I just wish people would wait and read it.

      1. ThirtyThousandPeople, after reading some of your other posts, I see that we are probably have had similar paths. I’m enjoying your blog!

  4. Universalism is overused terminology. N.T. Wright by no means wants to deny Gods willingness to save all. Rob Bell is by no means attempting to deny people’s own responsibility. The difference is that Wright operates on the highest echelons of theology, and he has a phenomenal insight and knowledge about history, including the history of theology – so his voice will have a huge impact worldwide. Rob Bell is more like an artist, knowing how to bring the message. I do not really see any fundamental difference between the two.

    Wright is, together with Alister McGrath, certainly among my favorite theologians. Both are also very literate, have a profound insight in history and philosophy, and understand the philosophy behind science as well. This makes them great. Bell has learned from them – or at least from Wright. All of these follow, more or less, an openness of mind that already started with C.S. Lewis.

    Good blogs here. Thanks for that.

  5. I think NTW will say probably comment on how we (after enlightenment) ask questions that would be irrelevant for the 1st century Jew. There are things that was not included in 1st century theology that we now try to extract from the Bible. Methinks…

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