I would strongly recommend Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, to anyone teaching a course on Christian worldview and philosophy. It would provide the class with three things. First, it is a book rich in worldview language such as story and imagination and dualismand the issue of a closed or open system of the cosmos. Second, it reveals how people who hold an orthodox view of doctrine are judged by those who do not and, on occasion, reveals things we do which exacerbate that judgment. Third, it reveals the convolution of thought which results from faulty presuppositions.
With regard to presuppositions, students would uncover and evaluate at least four which compete for primary-presupposition status. There would be the proposition that the Scriptures are a trove of mystery messages with a preferred theme around which all those messages revolve. In this case, the theme is itself a proposition: namely that love is the overarching character of God and all other character qualities are malleable subsets. A companion proposition to these two would be the unspoken allegation that the author and his readers are capable of applying the proposition of love to the Scriptures and, thus, making an art form of adjusting defiant scriptures to fit the theme or else ignoring them altogether. Beyond that students would wrestle with the question of whether the human problem is rational misinformation, circumstantial confusion or treacherous rebellion and whether the answer to that problem has any bearing on the character of repentance.
Besides examining the consequences of faulty presuppositions, students would be exposed to twenty-first century expressions of Platonism, Gnosticism, Universalism and allegorical interpretation. They would also confront rhetorical reasoning fallacies such as circular reasoning seen in disparagement of people who think of themselves as being part of a self-righteous “in” group, a disparagement which puts them “outside” the author’s approved circle thus implying his own “in” group.
Other fallacies include but are not limited to:
- Guilt by association (if you believe in the existence of hell you are one of those guys who berate people);
- Straw men (if you believe separation from God is eternal you must believe if someone in hell begged for mercy God would say, ‘Sorry, too late’);
- The excluded middle (the assertion that Paul’s reference to the rock in the wilderness in Israel’s story as “Christ,” means other people may be worshiping Christ and not know it);
- The appeal to antiquity (the statement that Origen held to this view and implies the student should accept the assertion that Origen is a great light in the church);
- The appeal to sympathy (presenting anecdotes which call on the student to make a judgment based on insufficient information about the person or persons involved);
- Appeal to the crowd (the fact that a lot of people are offended by those who believe in a literal and eternal hell or in the exclusivity of Jesus as one’s direct object of faith);
- Faulty cause (people who believe in hell cause people to reject Christ);
- Bifurcation (you cannot believe in an eternal hell and believe in a loving God); and,
- False dilemma (seen in the rapid-fire sequence of questions at the beginning of the book – questions designed to break down resistance by implying dilemmas which cannot be explained).
Added to all of these learning opportunities, of special interest would be the author’s ability to dance a hermeneutical salsa with passages of Scripture until, as in the case of John 14:6, they say something completely different than the clear meaning the words convey based on simple laws of language.
In short, other than as a teaching tool, Love Wins translates to mean the Gospel, as set forth in Scripture, loses – not, in this case, because of the self-righteous demagoguery of those who misuse it, but because of the self-congratulatory twists and turns of someone who finds it easier to conform God to human specifications of love governed by human reasoning than to submit to God’s specifications of love governed by his revelation of holiness.