Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, has drawn as much controversy as you’d expect from a title like that. And it did so before the book even hit bookshelves, before a single review was written. Bell and his publisher released a “trailer” for the book where he pretty much asked all the questions you’ve ever wanted to ask about heaven and hell and why that really great person you loved—but who didn’t believe in Jesus—is now in hell. Except he didn’t answer any of them. And so the firestorm began. The central question amidst the controversy seemed to be: Is Rob Bell a universalist? The debate is still raging and it’s sparking renewed interest in the afterlife and what the Bible actually teaches. We talked to Bell to find out why he wrote the book, why he asked those questions and, yes, if he’s a universalist.
Last time we talked, you were a Christian. Then we went online and the Internet said something different.
[Laughing] I think I may be even more of a Christian. I think Jesus is more compelling and interesting than when we were last together. I think I’m going in the other direction than apparently what you’ve heard.
Why do you think so many people have found it entertaining to question whether or not you’re a Christian?
That is something I don’t understand. The Christian tradition is a vibrant, dynamic conversation about the resurrected Jesus that has gone on hundreds and hundreds of years. It is a wide, diverse, fascinating, cacophonous conversation we’re all taking part in because we’re serious about following Jesus. We believe Him, we trust Him, we think He’s where it’s at, we think He is who He says He is. That discussion shouldn’t be threatening, it should be joyous, it should be life-giving, it should be challenging. I thoroughly enjoy it. So the idea that within this conversation, there are a group of people who have decided they are the chosen, they are the elect, they are the arbiters of who belongs and who doesn’t—it’s not something I understand.