*Note- the red text contains hyperlinks to videos or other pages.
Now for the second issue and the practical question….
2/ Universalism- I can understand why some people have concluded that he is a universalist (especially based on the pre-publication video that was released). He asks many questions that seem to lead in the direction of universalism. However, questions are not answers. It seems to me (and many others) that he is not a universalist (he has denied this in person). On p. 115 of the book he asks, “Will everybody be saved?” He then responds “we can’t” answer this question. Then he goes on to suggest that people can (and it seems people will) ultimately choose to reject God (p. 116-119, also here).
Now for the practical issue: Bell does believe that many people who haven’t necessarily heard the gospel will be saved (p. 154-155). Would such a belief lead one to neglect evangelism or missions? Simple answer: not necessarily, but maybe. Billy Graham was one of the greatest evangelists of the last century and Billy Graham thinks it is possible (not always, but possible) to to have not heard the gospel and still be saved (as far as the afterlife is concerned). This is also true of John Stott, who, with Billy Graham, was a founding member of the Lausanne Movement, which continues today to encourage the evangelization of the world. So it is possible to believe some things that Rob Bell believes and still be very evangelically and missions minded. On the other side of the coin, it is just as possible to believe more conservatively than Rob Bell (by thinking that you must have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and responded positively to it in order to be saved) and not care about missions or evangelism at all. Regardless, Jesus told us to preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). Plus, there are many other reasons for sharing the gospel (see here). That’s why Billy Graham, John Stott, and even Rob Bell keep preaching (or have preached) that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is the only way to salvation (p. 154).
So, do I have problems with Bell’s theology? Yes. But I also have a problem with yours (ha ha).
People will read this book whether or not I comment on it (it is currently #15 in sales on amazon.com), so I thought it best to offer some cautions here to guide people as they read it. If you read the book, I hope you will do so with a critical eye (that is, analytically, not judgmentally), as have many other people I have talked to.
P.S. I have not read any of Bell’s other books, so I can’t comment on them. However, this book is not “liberal Christianity” given that he affirms miracles, affirms the deity of Jesus, affirms the resurrection, affirms exclusive salvation through Jesus Christ (all of these things liberals have historically denied) and he also seems to find the Scripture authoritative (though he interprets it differently than I do). Nevertheless, Bell’s book does have theological problems and I hope that you will judge any book that contains theology by the Scripture.
[Update: Mars Hill Church, which Rob Bell pastors, has issued a “frequently asked questions” document which seeks to clarify the positions Bell takes in his book: http://marshill.org/pdf/LoveWinsFAQs.pdf]