I adapted this from an online conversation I had concerning Rob Bell, his new book Love Wins, and his theology on salvation and hell.
Love wins? It depends on what you mean by that. God wins, and God is love, but that is not all God is. So yes, God wins, and in the goodness of God's love, He also wins. But I think the tacit assumption is that God's overarching, highest attribute is His love, and that His love obligates Him to save all of mankind (at least for Rob Bell, and if you like Bell I would think your leanings would at least be in that direction).
But, Scripture is quite clear, that God extends love to whomever He wills, because it is His sovereign choice to extend it however He sees fit. We, as fallen, sinful, God hating humans, deserve nothing less than eternal torment in hell, however, Rob Bell seems to disagree with that, perhaps you do too. So when you have our sinfulness and wickedness to where God calls us sons of the devil and not sons of God, and you have God's holiness, justice, righteousness, and goodness, it is clear that we deserve nothing less but God's eternal wrath against our sinfulness and our sins.
If you are anthropocentric (which, because we are so wicked and dead in trespasses and sins we all are by nature) then you will think that God is obligated to save everyone, or at least the MOST loving God would save every single person from their sins. But, the truth is God does not exist for us, we exist for God. The Bible gives a strong theocentric view of the God of Scriptures (and would we really want it any other way?) where God does everything to glorify Himself, and for Him to display His glory in all His attributes is the best thing for us.
God was no more obligated to offer up His son on the cross for sinners who hate God and love self than you would be obligated to offer up yourself for the person who (hypothetically speaking) murdered your wife. And let's say that you did do that, that you took the death penalty in the place of the person who killed someone you loved, someone who was very dear to you. Do you call that highest form of love, or even love at all? I certainly do not.
So why would God offer up His Son for sinners? It’s not because of us, for we are completely unworthy, estranged from God and the children of the devil rather than the children of God. Further, it would seem that God did offer up His Son in the name of love, but it was certainly not out of the obligation of a man-centered view of "love," nor was it out of a direct love for us, the sinner.
God offered up His Son for us because He loved His Son and was purchasing a holy bride for His Son. Also, God was demonstrating His goodness in all His attributes, by damning some to hell which is good righteous, just, and holy, and by redeeming and sanctifying some to demonstrate His love, grace, mercy, and goodness. Both salvation and damnation is good and should give us reason to praise God. The problem is, it would seem that Bell disagrees and says that damnation of wicked, God hating sinners is not good, and that a loving God would never send God-hating sinners to hell to bear the punishment that they deserve for their God-hatefulness and sins. Scripture and logic however seems to say that a good, loving, holy, just God WOULD give God hating sinners what they deserve, which is His holy wrath for their sinfulness. The real question that is hard to answer is why God would save anyone at all? On what grounds? What makes the atonement of Jesus Christ for sinners good and loving? That's the difficult question.
Only when we have a theocentric understanding of God and all things will we understand why God saving sinners is actually good and loving. To say that God is obligated or to take the logic that:
-love demands that God saves all sinners from what they deserve-
-God is love-
-God saved all sinners from their sins-
-therefore, love wins-
that kind of thinking is simply unbiblical and illogical. Say I am married and have a son, and a man murders my wife. They arrest the man who murdered my wife, he goes to court, and the judge declares him guilty and gives him the death penalty. I intervene and say that I will have my son, and my son agrees, to pay the death penalty for the murderer who killed my wife. Quite frankly, the judge and the local community would consider me and my son’s actions an outrage, and the judge would probably never allow it. Nobody considers this an act of love, nobody gets angry or says "oh, it’s so unloving that they arrested that criminal. True love lets criminals go scotch free and instead punishes an innocent person for their crime." NOBODY thinks that.
So what I am saying in all of this is that, if God's love obligates Him to save sinners and punish an innocent person (Jesus) instead, I will gladly spend an eternity in hell. I will never bow the knee to a god like that. But when I see what Scripture says, that God sent His Son to die for sinners NOT because sinners deserved it but because God was demonstrating His grace and purchasing a bride for His Son (and as we now see, Jesus Christ is willingly dying in order to both obey and please His Father and to purchase His bride, He is dying for His bride) I can now understand why this act is truly loving- it is God loving His Son, and from the outflowing, or overflowing of the love for His Son His love extends to us BUT ONLY BECAUSE WE ARE BECOMING THE BRIDE OF CHRIST.
God loves us in Christ, and He sets His love on His chosen people ONLY because He is purchasing them to be a holy, sanctified bride for His Son Jesus Christ and to show that He is capable of taking children of the devil and making them holy, righteous, children of God by His own power. In other words, God’s love for us emanates solely from Himself, there is nothing within us that is lovable. It is in fact God’s love itself that cleans us up from our sins and makes us holy, righteous, and lovable in His sight. He saves us based on a love that cleanses us from all sin and unrighteousness, makes us the bride of His Son, adopts us into His family so that we become His children, and as the bride of His Son and child of God, pure and holy, we are now lovable and God loves us for who we are in Christ.
And the key point is, it is through the very shedding of the blood of Christ for our sins that we become united with Christ, the bride of Christ, and children of God. Without Christ dying for us, without God shedding His blood and taking the wrath of God we deserve for us, we have no part in Christ. But the Bible says that the atonement of Christ for us is what unites us together with Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10, Romans 6). So we see that God sent His Son Jesus to shed His blood for sinners NOT because "love" demands it, but because God's love for His Son has overflowed to us (God wanted to purchase a bride for His Son because He loved him, and He demonstrates His own glory by cleaning us up and making us the pure and holy bride of Christ).
So the truth is, unless there is an ulterior motive for God pouring out His wrath on His innocent Son Jesus for guilty, God hating, children of the devil (humans), then the atonement is actually evil and therefore God is evil, because God would be unjust and unloving to offer up His innocent Son for guilty God hating sinners. But, there is an ulterior motive, for the very act of offering up His Son Jesus for sinners was to turn sinners from their sins, make them holy through the power of the Holy Spirit, and purchase this holy bride for His Son Jesus. And, as I have already said repeatedly, it shows God's grace and mercy by extending what is not deserved (salvation from sin) to sinners, and it also shows His power in the fact that He not only gets them out of punishment but actually regenerates them, turns them from their sin and makes them holy.
I don't think Bell gets this at all because He can't seem to understand why a good and loving God wouldn't save everyone (including himself) from what they deserve, yet what I can't see is why a good and loving God WOULD save ANY God-hating sinner (including myself) from what they, and I, deserve. Thankfully, God has a good and loving ulterior motive that makes Him loving us good, righteous, just, gracious, merciful, and loving.