Mark Galli. God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better than Love Wins. Tyndale House Publishers, 2011. 204 pp. $10.08.
Rob Bell’s Love Wins produced a firestorm in the Christian blogosphere. It is no surprise that a response book, or several response books, would be forthcoming. One of the first, God Wins, comes from the pen of Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today. In his response to Bell’s controversial offering, Galli graciously attempts to correct the errors of the controversial, mega-church pastor.
Galli’s tone in this work is one of its most endearing qualities. Throughout God Wins, readers will encounter arguments that are not personal, not cruel, and not straw men. Galli finds himself thankful for the fact that Christians are thinking deeply about important issues, even though he disagrees with Bell’s conclusions. In a discussion of a topic that has generated a great deal of heat, the tone of Galli’s work is refreshing.
Generally, the theological positions that Galli presents are spot-on. He argues against the universalism present in Bell’s work (though Bell himself denies being a universalist, his conclusions are universalistic). Galli argues for a much higher view of the atonement than Bell, pointing out the importance of substitution and propitiation.
It is simply difficult to read a response book to a book that you have not read. I have not chosen to read Love Wins, and thus cannot say whether Galli present’s Bell’s arguments fairly. My assumption, given Galli’s tone, is that he tries hard to present Bell fairly. Galli also makes it clear that he wants his book to be able to stand alone. However, it simply cannot stand on its own merits. God Wins is a popular-level, critical response, and that very genre of book limits its appeal.
Theologically, I find myself cringing occasionally as I hear Galli’s arguments. This is not to say that I agree with what Bell is credited as putting forth. Rather, I notice that Galli` is very open to views which I find inconsistent. For example, Galli declares that annihilationism is as plausible as an eternal hell; I disagree. Galli also declares at least twice that Scripture is silent on how God will deal with those who never hear the gospel. I would argue that Romans 1:18-20 and 10:13-ff are quite clear regarding this issue. So, though Galli is very solid on many issues, I cannot offer a blanket recommendation of his doctrinal positions.
Mark Galli has, with a very kind and gracious tone, put forth a work that is a fine first response to Rob Bell’s quite notorious book. There is much to recommend God Wins, but there are also weaknesses. Readers who are very interested in the controversy over Bell’s arguments will find Galli’s work helpful. Others who wish merely to study the issues of heaven, hell, and atonement should look elsewhere for more clear and thorough treatments of these important topics.
I listened to the fine recording of this book produced by ChristianAudio.com. As is always the case when dealing with Christian Audio, the quality of this audio book was excellent. I received a free audio copy of this work as part of the reviewers program in exchange for publishing an honest and thoughtful review.