I read the whole thing today, cover to cover.
Stopped in the middle to wash the dishes that I didn't wash the other night.
I read it with more than the usual measure of criticism too.
Looked up the Scriptures he quoted to see if they said what he said they said.
Scribbled notes and questions in the margins. Highlighted things in yellow.
Here's what I thought. Every now and then I thought he pulled a little Scripture out of context. But not nearly as much as another popular author whose work I strongly dislike. And not in hugely important ways.
Chapter 4 - the most controversial one - I wish he had included some references or sources to back up his statements about Martin Luther, Origen, Clement of Alexandria and the rest of the boys. But because he didn't, and because my own really quick search online of the Luther stuff seemed to suggest that Bell was maybe stretching the meaning a bit, I got irritated. I wasn't as irritated at what he was saying. I was more irritated that he wasn't backing it up. I wanted to know why he was saying what he was saying. But really, that was only a couple of pages' worth. By the end of the chapter, I was mostly OK with him again.
Did I agree with every single thing he said? Of course not. I probably wouldn't agree with everything you say either. Some days I disagree with myself!
But by the end of the book, I was cheering inside. Because at the end, he was telling the story in the Bible commonly known as the Prodigal Son, and here's what he wrote:
Our badness can separate us from God's love, that's clear.
But our goodness can separate us from God's love as well.
Neither son understands that the father's love was never about any of that. The father's love cannot be earned, and it cannot be taken away.
It just is.
And if you know me at all ... you know that's the kind of statement I can get on board with.
Verdict: Rob Bell. Not the devil. Even with the hipster specs.