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Darcy Cohan

Less than two weeks after the release of Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne; March 15, 2011; Hardcover; $22.99), the book that’s ignited a national controversy debuts this week at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Attention for Love Wins began in late February when the book trailer stirred debate on Twitter. Many bloggers responded to Rob Bell’s claims about Heaven and Hell with outcries of universalism and heresy, propelling Bell into the top 10 trending topics on Twitter, and prompting HarperOne to advance the book’s release by two weeks.

Bell asserts that his message about the existence of Hell, specifically, has been a part of the Christian conversation for thousands of years, and one that the popular evangelist C.S. Lewis, among others, has discussed in many of his books. Why then is there so much controversy swirling around the blogosphere about Love Wins which posits similar theories?

According to Patheos’ Jeff Cook, Bell’s milieu is “urban, postmodern, and discovers the truth more naturally through questions, sarcasm, and intuition.” As a result, many fear that Bell’s approach could undermine longstanding ideologies about Jesus and the Christian faith, and damage or divide the church. The popular pastor has built a congregation of thousands by throwing out the conventional sermon-and-worship service. He’s got 92,000 Facebook fans, and Time Magazine tapped him as “a singular rock star in the church world.”

Bell, for one, is encouraged by the debate. “I’m a pastor, so I deal with real people in a real world asking and wrestling with these very same issues. What I’ve discovered over and over again is these people have questions and hunches and struggles. I want them to know that within the Christian tradition there are scholars and theologians who have the same questions and theories,” he said in a recent interview.

In Love Wins, Bell artfully puts Hell on trial by addressing whether a loving God would send people to a place of eternal suffering. Bell’s message is decidedly hopeful—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now, and ultimately LOVE WINS.

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LOVE WINS: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived
By Rob Bell
HarperOne, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
March 15, 2011 | $22.99 | Hardcover | ISBN: 9780062049643