______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

What We Talk About When We Talk About God April 10, 2013

what we talk about

“There’s something in the air, we’re in the midst of a massive rethink. A moment in history is in the making. An entire mode of understanding and talking about God [is] dying as something new is being birthed.”
– Rob Bell

This is a book by Rob Bell.”
That’s probably all I really need to say.  (But I’ll go on.)

By now, everyone who actually reads books about Christianity and/or Spirituality has heard of Rob Bell.
Many who don’t read such books have still heard of Rob Bell.
For the most part, people either really, really like his work, or they think he’s a heretic.
They think of him as a prophet, or a demon.

In case you don’t already know,
I really,

This particular book is my favorite of Rob’s since the potentially life-changing “Velvet Elvis.”  Mr. Bell is one of the handful of authors that have forever changed my life.

In this new work, Rob incorporates bits and pieces from some of his other works (both written and video).  That makes this book a great read for those who have not read his previous writings.  It can be a quick read, or a very slow one.  As someone else has said, Rob’s writings are as simple or as deep as you want them to be.
“With,” “Ahead,” “Open,” and “For” are just some of the chapter titles.

Mr. Bell has us look at our language.  At how it both helps and hinders us.  We see very easily that, even within Christianity, people can be using the same word, “God,” and be talking about radically different things.  (We also saw this on Jeff Chu’s cross-country journeys in “Does Jesus Really Love Me“.).  Of course, how we think about our God directly affects everything else in our lives, not the least of which is the way we deal with and treat others and our environment.

The chapter “Open” is filled with scientific musings.  There’s talk of the universe, the big-bang, neutron stars, the elasticity of time, matter, energy, atoms, sub-atomic particles, bosons, leptons, quarks and quantum theory (which “is responsible for everything from X-rays and MRI machines, to fiber optics and transistors).   We consider that “the line between matter and spirit may not be a line at all.”

As is often the case, talking about what it is we talk about when we talk about God leads to looking at “the church,” and the Bible.  Here we get more of a Rob Bell standard I so much enjoy:  Looking at scripture in the cultural and historical context in which it was written.  We examine “the arc, the story” of this wonderful library of holy writ.  We begin to understand how “radically progressive” the books of the Bible were; that they were “ahead of their time.”  Unfortunately, “it’s possible to take something that was a step forward at one point and still be clinging to it later on in the story, to the point where it becomes a step backward.”

“What We Talk About When We Talk About God” moves us, drawing us to (and into) the very Divine that we’re talking about.
We look at a God that is with us, for us, and calling us ahead.
What are the consequences of our talk of God?
What does it mean in the real flesh-and-blood world we live in?
How does my “faith” interact with others and with all of creation?

These and other issues are wonderfully explored within the pages of this very thought-provoking book.

At the end, after the “Acknowledgements” and the rest of the “End Notes,” Rob Bell does something that is just so,
so Rob Bell that when I told my wife, we both laughed out loud.
When you’re reading a Bell book, never stop at “The End.”

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


– First, I’m a Christian, and so Jesus is how I understand God.

How you believe and what you believe are two different things.

– What I experienced, over a long period of time, was a gradual awakening to new perspectives on God — specifically, the God Jesus talked about.  [Yeah.  Me, too. – df]

– We are waking up in new ways to the God who’s been here the whole time.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Words and images point us to God; they help us understand the divine, but they are not God.

– Imagine that — religious people quoting the Bible to defend actions that were the exact opposite of the intent and purpose of those very same scriptures. [e.g. “an eye for an eye.”]

– Fundamentalism shouldn’t surprise us.  Certainty is easier, faster, [and] awesome for fundraising.

– Choosing to trust that this life matters and we’re all connected and this is all headed somewhere has made my life way, way better.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Science does an excellent job of telling me why I don’t have a tail, but it can’t explain why I find that interesting.

– When we talk about God, we often find ourselves in the middle of one paradox after another.

– What we say about God always rests within the larger reality of what we can’t say.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Like a mirror, God appears to be more and more a reflection of whoever it is that happens to be talking about God at the moment.

– Love and care and compassion shown to others is love for [God].

– It’s one thing to stand there in a lab coat with a clipboard, recording data about lips.  It’s another thing to be kissed.

– the ruach of God.

– the reverence humming in us.

– the entire ball of God wax

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Here’s the video promo.



A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity June 22, 2010



“At this point in my life, I am happy to live with uncertainty and in precarious freedom, rather than hunker down in the false security of institutions…”

So says Spence Burke in the intro to “A Heretic’s Guide To Eternity.”
This book makes it clear that being called a heretic by organized religion is not a bad thing. Most reformers, many scientists, and pretty much anyone who doesn’t let the “church” do their thinking for them, have been given that moniker.

Bono, of U2, said “I don’t see Jesus Christ as being in any religion. Religion is the Temple after God has left it.”
Chapter one elaborates on this theme that no religion, including Christianity, has dibs on Jesus. I know in the institutions I’ve been a part of, we would never of said we “owned” Jesus, but that was pretty much the mind set. We then proceeded to isolate ourselves with “christian” TV, music, magazines, schools, businesses, and any other way we could find to keep away from “them.”  (Except, of course, when we were engaged in the business of “converting” them.)

One of the many subjects in Chapter two, “Grace Beyond Religion,” is the “age of accountability.” This is another of those widely believed church doctrines that is nowhere to be found in the scripture. But “Somehow the idea of a baby going to hell just doesn’t sit well with most people.” Fortunately, “Spirituality has been separated from religion in profound ways today, and frankly, I’m not sure there is any going back to religion anymore…”

“AHGTE” also includes a brief history of religion, and a section on the inquisitions.
It’s a good thing we don’t torture so-called heretics anymore, but honestly, I know many who I believe would if they could. The self-righteousness, hatred, and fear of ideas outside of their narrow world-view is certainly present. Of course, many who call themselves Christian do, actually, advocate for the death of their enemies. This requires a great perversion of the scripture, and willful ignorance of Jesus’ teachings, but that’s never stopped anyone.

There’s some discussion in Chapter 4 of how the church has gotten in such a mess. More church history, with dates and events. There’s some talk of how “indulgences” were big business for the church in the Middle Ages.  Of course, money has always been a big part of organized religion. Personally, I’m all for removing the tax exempt status from churches. If people no longer have their giving government subsidized, it will be interesting to see how they continue to give. One of the great quotes from this chapter is
“People are not leaving churches because they’ve ended their spiritual journey or have abandoned their commitment to the teachings of Jesus. Nor are they trying to escape life or responsibility. On the contrary, people are leaving the church because they want to embrace something more than abstract ideas and religious dogma.” [Emphasis mine]

Chapter five is about how religion actually inhibits the flow of God’s grace into the world. “Time and time again, institutions seem to use their religious views as a pretext for an aggressive and adversarial posture against the wider culture.” “Christians” are known for their anger, protests, boycotts, and screaming. Jesus said they would know us by our love. We really do need a “separation of church and hate.” The kind of people who see Constantine as a hero are likely to still want to force the christian religion on others by legal means.  Of all the things people take litterally, “Love your enemies” doesn’t seem to be one of them.

Later, the book gets into the focus on the end of the world, that many Christians seem to have, rather than focus on the life God has for us here and now. Like other authors, Burke touches on how the book of Revelation is the “revelation of Jesus Christ,” and not a “literal ‘revelation’ of the end of the world.
“To make salvation simply about what happens when we die is to make it less than it is meant to be.” “A hell-obsessed theology of salvation makes for self-centered humans who actually negate the role and function of grace by striving to corral people into heaven.”
Also, like a number of others, Mr. Burke suggests the possibility that grace may be an “opt-out” situation, rather than an “opt-in.”

There are ideas about “love not the world” vs “God so loved the world.” Thoughts on evangelism, discipleship, salvation, heresy as a way of life, and the journey as the destination. There’s also a good amount on what Spencer calls “mystical responsibility.”

You’ll find much to “chew on” in these pages. If you’re on that ever-important journey out of religion, this should be another companion along the way. There are probably books I consider more important to start with (Velvet Elvis, He Loves Me, A New Kind of Christianity, Jesus Unplugged). If you’ve already read those, then definitely read this. Or, start with this, and then read those. I’ve found each to be life-changing in some way. Hopefully, you will, too.

— df
Buy The Book HERE

Here are a couple of other very short reviews:
“Yes, yes, YES! Buy this book! Breath of fresh air doesn’t even begin to say it…”
(, November 2006)
“Newsflash! Luther’s church at Wittenberg has a back door! Spencer Burke has found it and removed it from its’ hinges. The old church has now been flooded with sorely needed illumination and a refreshing, life-giving breeze. Yet, there’s more. The door Burke has blown through is a passageway that leads us outside, beyond the building, to the bountiverse, a new dimension for living Christian spirituality that is transforming, rejuvenating and ripe for living…now. Read this book! Live this life! Trust me. This isn’t just a great book. It’s a sincere, deep, heartfelt invitation to journey beyond wherever you’re at, embracing the God of More. Thank you Spencer!”
—Bill Dahl

And, of course, some quotes from the book.

If we adopt some misconception as absolute truth, it will actually prevent us from ever truly reaching the truth. Even when truth come knocking, we will not recognize it. Sometimes what we think we know becomes an obstacle to the truth.


“Churches assume their role is about eternity when in fact eternity is God’s business. The landowner in Jesus’ story [Matthew 13:24-30] is very clear that his workers cannot separate the wheat from the weeds, for they might pull up perfectly good wheat in their zeal to remove the wayward weeds. When explaining this story to his followers, Jesus makes it clear that the task of determining who is in or out is not the responsibility of humans, no matter how qualified they believe they are. I would likewise argue that the church should not be so focused on eternity. The church’s task is to help people follow Jesus here on earth.”


Rather than binding and gagging grace behind the walls of Christianity and making access to it conditional on the acceptance of culturally created ideas, I believe we need to present the message of Jesus outside of brand Christianity.

Maybe the greatest gift the Christian religion can offer the world right now is to remove itself from the battle for God.


— Spencer Burke
Buy the book HERE.

For more recommended reading,


Brand Christianity June 4, 2010

(Taken from “A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity” by Spencer Burke”)

According to the Barna Research Group, almost twenty million people have walk away from branded Christianity [from 2001 to 2006]. Brand Christianity has basically reduced the relationship between God and humanity to a business transaction.
Food, clothing, music, literature, movies, television, concerts, conferences and festivals — everything these days is available in a Christian version. The “us versus them” mentality that results is a major obstacle to many people, and the message of Jesus has become so wrapped up in a particual package that its potential to engage all of society has been lost. Brand Christianity has turned grace into a commodity that can be accessed only through the embrace of a particular cultural form of religion, one that is increasingly unappealing to many seekers.

Rather than binding and gagging grace behind the walls of Christianity and making access to it conditional on the acceptance of culturally created ideas, I believe we need to present the message of Jesus outside of brand Christianity.

Maybe the greatest gift the Christian religion can offer the world right now is to remove itself from the battle for God. I trust others will be excited by the prospect of encountering the message of Jesus without the baggage of brand Christianity.

If we adopt some misconception as absolute truth, it will actually prevent us from ever truly reaching the truth. Even when truth come knocking, we will not recognize it. Sometimes what we think we know becomes an obstacle to the truth.

— Spencer Burke
Buy the book HERE.


Heresy And Heretics June 3, 2010

The earth revolves around the sun. HERESY!
   (The Bible clearly teaches the sun rises and falls around the earth.)

The common man should have access to the scriptures.  HERESY!
   (The Catholic church said only professionals can understand the Bible.)

Persons with black skin should be treated as humans.  HERESY!
   (The KKK often held fundamentalist views and believed that the
   Anglo-Saxon Protestants were the DIVINE elite group who held the right to govern.)

Women are not possessions of their husbands.  HERESY!
   (We even need laws to state that women should get equal pay?!?!?)

     Galileo: HERETIC!
          Luther: HERETIC!
               Martin Luther King: HERETIC! (and Communist.)

Jesus Christ: HERETIC!

Jesus threatened the Pharisees foundational (fundamental?) beliefs to the very core, and
was Public Enemy #1 of the religious leaders.

History has proven, again and again, that the institutional church has
frequently labeled God’s prophets, and others speaking truth, as heretics.
Repeatedly, religion has had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the light of truth.
Anytime the status quo of it’s “authority” is questioned, challenged or threatened, rest assured,
it will be called heresy.

Knowing this, maybe we should look at who the church is railing against today.
Just to name a few.

Maybe, given the proven track record of the “church,” we should, at least,
give serious consideration to those whose teachings are currently being labeled as “heretical.”

From what I’ve seen, we need more heretics.  God bless the heretics.

— df


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