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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: "God Wins"

TITLE: God Wins - Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News is better than Love Wins
AUTHOR: Mark Galli
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2011.

In the light of the hype surrounding the phenomenal controversy over Rob Bell's "Love Wins," this book simply has to be written. In a point by point, blow by blow rebuttal, Galli musters up his deep theological concerns about the book, and gives a vigorous response to the problems surrounding "Love Wins." In a nutshell, "Love Wins" underestimates hell and misunderstands the love of God. He observes:

"What is assumed in this entire discussion in Love Wins is that the human will is free, autonomous, and able to choose between alternatives. The discussion assumes that the will is not fallen, that it needs no salvation, that it doesn't even need help. It assumes that human beings are unbiased moral agents who stand above the fray and make independent decisions about the most important matters." (71)

Galli is meticulous in dismantling the entire book. Careful not to judge Rob Bell, he focuses on the book itself. This sets the stage for the book, that it is not one to judge a person, but to judge the ideas in the book. Having done that, Galli unleashes everything that he disagrees with in the book in an unapologetic fashion. In other words, he does not mince his words.

In chapter one, Galli questions the kind of questions that Love Wins poses. According to Galli, the questions in "Love Wins" are centered around 'self-justification' rather than God justifying human beings (4). Chapter Two builds upon this, saying that the God behind "Love Wins" is lopsided toward a 'thin and sentimental' kind of God (18). In chapter three, Galli helpfully lists 7 deadly realities of the problem of sin (38).  In chapter four, one of the problems behind "Love Wins" is that it tries to solve 'faith.' Galli writes:

"This is the place where Love Wins speculates about whether everyone will eventually be saved. This is a significant question, and there will be more on it in chapter 7 of this book. But toward the end of that chapter in Love Wins, the question is set aside because, admittedly, it can't really be answered." (67)

In chapter five, Galli criticizes Love Wins for its deficient description of heaven. In chapter six Galli continues his dismantling by questioning the theological credibility of Love Wins's attitude toward hell and judgment. For instance, Love Wins illustrations of hell tends to refer to victims who suffer 'hellish consequences' instead of something more eternal (103). In other words, hell tends to be more existential than eternal. This is another example of a deficient understanding of hell.

Chapter 7 talks about the bad news of Love Wins: Universalism. Calling it an 'argument from desire' Galli contrasts Love Wins presupposition as man getting what man wants rather than God wanting what God wants (115). Love Wins is wrong to have attempted to do 'divine maths' where it assumes it is unthinkable for God to let so many 'billions' of people die. In chapter 8, Galli concludes by declaring God wins based on God's terms, rather than Love wins based on man's terms.

"We trust not simply that love wins or that justice also wins. In fact, we trust not in a that but in a who. And that is the perfectly merciful and just God who wins." (152)

My Comments
I feel that this book hits the mark on many points. Galli is eloquent in his rebuttals, using illustrations to highlight his points of disagreements. In fact, reading this book helps readers to understand the nuances of the theological differences more. I will say that both books, Love Wins and God Wins ought to be read together in a package, as they complement each other more, rather than negate each other. While I have theological disagreements with Rob Bell's book, I feel that Mark Galli has overplayed his disagreements. In other words, Love wins is not as bad as Galli makes it out to be. Bell is earnest and bold enough to deal with the difficult question of eternal hell. Galli may have been a little too harsh on Love Wins.

This brings me to one negative. As I read the book, I get the feeling that Galli is simply looking for problems in the book to criticize, just like a hammer looking for nails to hammer.

In conclusion, do not read "Love Wins" without reading "God Wins." In other words, do not just read one of them. Read both.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book has been made available to me free of charge by NetGalley and Tyndale publishers without any obligation for a positive review. The comments and opinions expressed are freely mind.

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