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Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins

May 5, 2011

Trevin Wax on Michael E. Wittmer’s Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins:

Christ Alone is divided into ten chapters, each of which corresponds (roughly) to the main ideas of Love Wins.One of the ways that Wittmer makes his case is by asking the kind of questions about Bell’s theology that Bell asks about evangelical thought. The difference between the two books is not just the theology expressed, but also the tone in which the discussion takes place. Bell openly mocks the traditional view, caricaturing evangelicals and making snide comments about those who hold to such belief. Wittmer, however, interacts with Bell’s arguments in an evenhanded, charitable way that is certainly firm, but never mean-spirited.

The result is that Wittmer ably models how to engage in theological debate, even as he distinguishes error from truth in Bell’s work. This book offers sound advice that goes beyond the debate over Love Wins and is applicable to anyone who wants to wisely study the Scriptures. Here are some examples:

  • “If you sense that as you answer your theological question your reach exceeds your grasp, there is a good chance you are talking about God.” (12)
  • “Better to believe that God is all-powerful and all-loving and wrestle with evil than to weaken one aspect of God to make room for evil.” (14)
  • “Our hopes are only as strong as the reasons we have for holding them.” (23)
  • “Speak when the Bible speaks and remain quiet when the Bible is silent.” (30)

Then, there are the moments where Wittmer turns the tables on Bell’s argumentation. Whereas Bell worries that a traditional view of hell leads to a skewed vision of God, Wittmer worries that Bell’s theology leads to cynicism about God’s character. Here are questions to ponder:

  • “Why would a God who ‘loves’ enough to empty hell want to frighten people now with numerous warnings that sound like hell lasts forever?” (22)
  • “If the appalling mutilation of Rwandan children was comparable to hell, then why would Jesus say that it is better for us to mutilate ourselves than to be cast into hell?” (51) Response: ”Jesus’ ‘shocking images of judgment’ make sense only if Jesus was warning about a real and shocking judgment.” (52)
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