One of the most perplexing traits of Love Wins is its cavalier attitude toward texts. Whether it was contradicting Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins, mistranslating the Greek term for eternal, omitting Revelation 20:11-15 from its chapter on hell, or wrenching one line from Martin Luther until it meant the opposite of what Luther clearly intended, Love Wins repeatedly misrepresents the viewpoints of others.
The recent New Yorker essay noticed this and asked Rob Bell about it. The article mentioned the Luther letter and Bell’s quote from Philippians 2, which omitted “under the earth” from Paul’s declaration that “every knee should bow.” The New Yorker alleged that Bell omitted this phrase because “under the earth” would probably mean hell, and then it observed that “Bell’s book is full of carefully chosen and sometimes carefully truncated quotations.”
When The New Yorker asked Bell whether he is misleading readers, he replied, “You’re just picking the verses you like? I think everybody is.”
As every parent knows, “Everyone is doing it” is not a defense. It’s an admission of guilt. And it’s more evidence that Bell does not think the Bible is God’s Word in the same way that you and I do. He would probably say that the Bible is God’s inspired word, but if he really thought it was would he go Thomas Jefferson on the quotes he doesn’t like?
Someone who believes he has God’s Word does not speak with ellipses. Jeremiah did not say, “God wants you to know that…you will return to this land.” Moses did not edit the Ten Commandments down to eight on his way down the mountain, and preachers who believe they are speaking for God will say everything God has told them, or face the consequences.
Bell is not alone in his treatment of God’s Word. If recent book reviews are accurate, there are other rising stars who want to be considered evangelical (I’m aware that Bell shrugs off labels) and yet glibly misrepresent what the Bible is saying. I suspect this is where the new battles will erupt—and is why Scripture is the theme of next year’s ETS.
Don’t be overly impressed by the glorious adjectives people use to describe the Bible, but pay attention to how they use it. What they do with Scripture—not what they say about it—will tell you if they really believe it’s the Word of God.