GRTS professor, Michael Wittmer, writes first book-response to Rob Bell’s book, ‘Love Wins’
by Erica Stone
When the blogs started exploding with the controversy over Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins,” Grand Rapids Theological Seminary professor Michael Wittmer was on sabbatical in Florida.
Wittmer, professor of systematic theology, said he got a phone call from Quentin Schultze, a communications professor at Calvin College, asking him to write a response to Bell’s book.
“It was before the book even came out. I told him I would look at it when I got back and then decide,” Wittmer said.
He said he was not sure at first if a book length critique was necessary, since many blogs were already addressing the issue. Schultze told Wittmer he thought there was still a need for a full-length book. A book would allow for a more in-depth response than a blog.
“I read it and thought that since it was redefining the Gospel, it needed a response,” Wittmer said.
In the month since then, Wittmer wrote his 172-page response, titled “Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s ‘Love Wins.’” He said the book interacts with the arguments and theology of “Love Wins.”
He said it was important that the book not be a critique of any person, especially Bell.
“I began by saying that I respect Bell and wrote the book as a sign of respect,” Wittmer said. “I’m just dealing with and interacting with the ideas in the book.”
He said he wrote the book to defend, protect and promote the Gospel. He hopes the book will prompt people to dive into the Scriptures to find the answers for themselves.
“People shouldn’t just believe whatever they read or hear, whether Rob Bell wrote it or me, or anyone else,” he said.
Wittmer said he thought people who read “Love Wins” quickly might miss the theological problems he found in it, including theology and the interpretation of Scripture.
“The problem isn’t that it promotes universalism, like people have been saying,” he said. “That is just a symptom of a much deeper issue.”
The deeper problem Wittmer found is Christian existentialism. He explained this philosophy asks good questions but does not go deep enough to really address the problems faced by humanity.
“The only problem ‘Love Wins’ wrestles with is ‘How do I know there is life after death?’” he said. “That question is really just the tip of the iceberg.”
Wittmer said “Love Wins” does not deal with sin or the holiness of God in a deep enough sense. Those views also mean the view of salvation is too small as well.
“In the book, the resurrection is not a new idea or even necessary,” he said. “It suggests that life after death is a truth embedded in nature. But the cross is not merely a religious symbol.”
The book, published by Schultze’s publishing company, Edenridge Press, hit shelves April 22.
Wittmer said he would not have been able to write the book as fast as he did if he had not been on sabbatical.
“It was scary, and a lot to write in a month, but I think it is important,” he said.
Wittmer said he thought the fast response was a wake-up call to publishers. The only other book response he is aware of will not be available until September.
“A response this fast has never been done before as far as I know,” he said.
Wittmer said he and Schultze are also putting together a website people can use to find more information and ask questions. He said the website www. christalonebook.com is active for public use.