That's how Rob Bell understands the Scriptures. What he writes in Love Wins comes from his interpreting the Scriptures as "Jesus's story." And what is the heart of Jesus' story? In the preface he centers on John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Love Wins challenges your traditional understanding of this oft-quoted verse. It takes a firm stand against some interpretations - particularly those that promote belief in hell as a place of eternal concious torment for most of the people who have ever lived. Rob tells a story about God's love as revealed through Jesus that has in mind those who have walked away from the Christian faith that emphasizes this story of hell.
Love Wins asks really focused questions that are designed to make you squirm, to make you really think about what you believe about hell. Rob is comfortable with asking big questions, looking at a particular idea from different angles. There's no answer he's not willing to question. Discussing ideas - and allowing all view points to be considered and sifted and challenged - this is how we get clarity. Dousing controversial questions is not acceptable.
I think that Rob was fully aware of how the evangelical Christian community will generally receive his book. He knows he'll get accused of heresy, that debates will descend quickly to slander and misrepresentation, and that there will be "a massive exercise in missing the point." But it would seem that he also wants to share what he's learned from Scripture - as a pastor, as a student, as one immersed in the writings and research of many Christians who have come before him. And he senses that there are those within the evangelical community and many outside of it who are interested in learning from him.
Here's how Pastor Bell attempts to frame his telling of the Jesus-story in the preface to Love Wins:
...please understand that nothing in this book hasn't been taught, suggested, or celebrated by many before me. I haven't come up with a radical new teaching that's any kind of departure from what's been said an untold number of times. That's the beauty of the historic, orthodox, Christian faith. It's a deep, wide, diverse stream that's been flowing for thousands of years, carrying a staggering variety of voices, perspectives, and experiences.
Some Evangelicals are suspicious of non-evangelicals who are also part of the historic, orthodox, Christian faith. Rob isn't. Love Wins draws on plenty of non-evangelical yet historic, orthodox, Christian thinkers and theologians. Thus there will be plenty for some evangelicals to resist. But maybe more evangelical Christians should be reading from a wider stream. Love Wins, for many, may be their first dip.
I like asking big questions. I like digging around, pushing back against accepted tradition. And I like that others challenge me in what I say I believe. But I'm not interested in being novel or quirky in my beliefs. I want to know the truth. I seek to follow where the truth leads in Scripture. I try to read widely, to look at issues from a multi-faceted point of view. Thus my interest in exploring Scriptures and its idea of hell and the fate of every person who ever lived.