Several people asked if I would put out a review of this book by Rob Bell. Because of the scope of the book, I cannot do it justice in just one review. This will be a general review of the entire work.
Bell asserts several things in this book, unfortunately, he is also vague enough to leave you wondering where he stands on several points. Here are some things (in my understanding) he is trying to assert...
God loves everyone, no matter there background or baggage.
There are many "Jesus-es" in the world. He is different, depending on who you talk to.
Heaven is not some hazy, far off realm for all good people. God will re-make the earth and live with His people.
There is no hell. Jesus paid the price of death for all men, all sins, all at once. Everyone will live with God in heaven-on-earth one day. Not one person will be lost.
Hell is reaping the natural consequences of your sins. (For example, if you commit adultery, you may be estranged from your family.)
Every heart, no matter how hard, will one day be melted, and will love God.
God loves everyone, no matter their race, gender or religion.
Things I liked about the book...
The fact that God's love always wins. Even the worst person can be changed by seeing God's love in action.
The assertion that we will be surprised to see some people in heaven. (God's grace is bigger than my grace!)
Bell's attempt to utilize a LOT of scripture references in his book.
The attempt to open a conversation with non-believers who are "turned off" by the concept of a loving God who would send people to hell.
Things I didn't like...
Pick-a-scripture methodology. The author picks a BUNCH of scriptures when he is trying to make a point, instead of examining the scriptures in their context. Some Old Testament verses that are clearly allegorical, he says are real references to heaven. Some New Testament verses that are real descriptions of heaven, he says are allegorical. (Wish I could go into more detail here, but I won't for now. For a good article on the topic of proof-texting, go to http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/14435.htm)
Lack of bibliography - There is one section in which Bell asserts that MANY church fathers believed that EVERYONE would be saved. He proceeds to name the church fathers who supposedly said this, but then fails to provide the sources. (To be fair, perhaps I didn't see this because I read it on a Kindle.)
Leaves too many open ends - The author asks many questions (and many of them are good questions!) However, I can immediately fire some questions back that need answering. For example, if everyone is going to be saved...
Couldn't God have figured out some other way to save people? I mean, is He is so loving, why in the world would He sacrifice His son? (We get angry that God would send people to hell, but not that He had His son murdered?)
Where is the motivation to live a God-honoring life? (If I'm going to be saved, why in the world should I be a youth minister? I might as well make tons of money, cheat on my wife, and have lots of fun!!)
Why does God make reference to those who are "set apart" or "chosen people?" How can you be set apart if we are all headed for the same destination?
Will Satan get to return to heaven?
What about justice? (His idea of "everybody sitting at the same table" in heaven sounds good, but tell that to someone who has been grievously wronged or attacked!)
Overall, there are many questions left after reading the book. The author makes some compelling arguments, and some that fall absolutely flat. He is a thinker...I'm not sure he is a scholar. Read the book if you want to start a study (or an argument) but beware. Be willing to open up God's word and check it out for yourself!