In college, at APU, I took an independent study course for a whole semester dedicated completely to the topic of hell in Christian theology. Dr. Dennis Okholm was my professor but, for his sake, I should say that my conclusions at the end of the course are not necessarily a reflection of Dr. Okholm's conclusions on the subject (here is a link to the paper I wrote for the class. You should know that my thoughts have changed and I don't necessarily agree anymore with the conclusions to which I came in that paper... here's a more updated post on my thoughts about hell). Hell has always been a fascinating and distressing topic for me. Fascinating, perhaps because of the complexity of the subject and distressing because of the way it challenges my conviction that God's justice and God's loving mercy define one another.
So for Rob Bell--an author, theologian, and communicator whom I greatly respect and have learned so much from over the years--to add to the discussion is irresistibly enticing. I'm sure that Rob himself will not come out clearly in any one of the traditional soteriological camps, as he has never made himself easy to categorize (which is good), but his contribution to the subject will without a doubt be valuable. Of course, however, there are many who are already making judgments. Folks whose theology is so rigid that things must be either one thing or another and must all be categorized in simplistic and traditional dogmatic terms are already saying that Rob's a heretic and a universalist. The blogs are already a rage with commentaries on why we should all tremble in fear over Love Wins. But I hardly think we should take them seriously until we've had a read of it ourselves. It's important to note that the people who are coming out against Rob Bell are the people who rely on and are comfortable with traditional ideas about heaven, hell, and the atonement. This book, I imagine, isn't for them anyway.
Rob Bell was actually on Good Morning America, talking about his new book. The only video I could find, however, is laced with the qualifying commentaries of a Rob Bell naysayer. I invite you to simply ignore the words which pop up in the corners and just enjoy Rob's words...
"The proclamation of the Church must make allowance for this freedom of grace. Apokatastasis Panton (universal restoration or universalism)? No, for a grace which automatically would ultimately have to embrace each and every one would certainly not be free grace. It surely would not be God's grace. But would it be God's free grace if we could absolutely deny that it could do that? Has Christ been sacrificed only for our sins? Has he not ... been sacrificed for the whole world? ... [Thus] the freedom of grace is preserved on both these sides." _Karl BarthHere's another video, a promo video for Love Wins, that you might also want to watch... Love Wins promo video.