As Unitarian Universalists and as religious liberals, we should welcome Rob Bell's book. It's been a while since the theology of Universalism has been such in the public eye. And I want to personally say, as a Michigan colleague, that if Rob Bell would like to sit down and talk with Unitarian Universalist ministers and exchange ideas, we'd be happy to do that with him.
Universalism isn't a new idea, but it's still heretical in conservative Christianity, of course. Universalists were kicked out of the National Council of Churches, deemed not Christian enough because of the heresy of Universalism. So it's no surprise to see attacks on Bell for proclaiming it now.
From what people are saying about the book, it seems that Rob Bell's thinking has followed that Hosea Ballou's when he wrote A Treatise on Atonement; In Which the Finite Nature of Sin Is Argued, Its Cause and Consequences as Such; the Necessity and Nature of Atonement; and its Glorious Consequences. Actually, the titles are even similar in a way (at least in wordiness), although over a century apart.
Ballou essentially argues that a loving God couldn't condemn any person to eternal Hell:
First, I reason from the nature of divine goodness, in which all pretend to believe, and none dare in a direct sense to deny, that God could not, consistently with himself, create a being that would experience more misery than happiness.The marketing for Bell's book says:
Does it really make sense that God is a loving, kind, compassionate God who wants to know people in a personal way, but if they reject this relationship with Jesus, they will be sent to hell where God will eternally punish them forever?Welcome to the heretical faith, Rob Bell. We're glad to have you here.