Monday, April 1, 2013

What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell

The first 2/3 of this book are Rob Bell-excellence. The last 3rd is a big pile of "meh".

After tackling concepts of hell, Bell decides to ask questions about the Creator: have we been asking the wrong questions? Have we been doing God a disservice by using antiquated words and descriptions for Him?

This book, while it may unnerve some evangelicals, is not as controversial as the previous Love Wins. He spends the first third of the book explaining quantum physics and the kind of science that makes most people's eyes spin in their sockets. Bell has the perfect ability to explain science in an engaging, down-to-earth way. This is not the boring part of the book.

The second third of the book tackles the God we read about in the Old Testament. Bell reveals himself to be a believer of progressive revelation: God enters into humanity's time and pulls them forward (to evolve as it were). He reveals more as humans progress. This part was not as played out as the first, but it is always enjoyable to read Bell explore scripture and unpack it. He uses the example of God's instructions to the people after they conquer their enemies. While it may sound brutal and extremely inhumane, Bell explains that - for that time period - God is actually pulling His people forward to treat the "spoils of war" better than before. This is the rallying cry of Progressive Revelationism. 

The last third of the book is where Bell attempts to answer the "so what now" question. This is typically the part of his sermons when he would wrap everything up in a fantastic verbal bow with the audience sighing the proverbial "Ah!!!" as their lightbulbs click on. However, it doesn't quite happen this time in this book.

This is when the book grows dull. 

There was only one major point where I found myself scratching my head. During his science part, Bell explains that the atoms in our cells could once have been stars or other matter from the universe. And he makes it sound like the atoms are simply floating around being a chair at one point and then split-seconds later becoming part of my body. I'll need to explore that thought a while longer...

If you've seen Bell's first couple DVD lectures: Everything is Spiritual and The Gods Aren't Angry, you will find the first two parts of this book very familiar.

I enjoy reading Bell's work as they stretch me and get me to think in fresh ways. The last part didn't come across as fresh.

1 comment:

JamminJerome said...

If you want to read more about science from a Christian perspective, I would highly recommend reading Francis Collins's "The Language of God." He spends a little time on the topics that Bell mentions and also covers evolution, genetics, and more. He describes his journey from atheism to Christianity as well. He's a fantastic writer, a significant scientist (head of Human Genome project, current head of the NIH), and a devout Christian. He's also friends with NT Wright: