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What Is The Bible (Book Review) June 9, 2017

what
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover.
More than once.
I’ve read much of it dozens of times, and some of it hundreds of times.
I’ve studied it.  Meditated on it. Dissected it.  Taught it.  Preached it.
Made it much the focus of my life.
Eventually, to some degree, I discarded it.  Dismissed it.
I’ve considered that it may be a book to be banned.
(OK.  Not really. The book shouldn’t be banned.  But many people should be banned from owning a copy until they learn some responsibility.)

How I wish I had had the eyes to see, and the ears to hear the kinds of wisdom, insight, approach, and understanding that is represented in Rob Bell’s profound book “What Is The Bible?

 

A lot of the basic understanding here is understanding I’ve had for awhile now.  Some of this was addressed in Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity.” But, the specific perception of various individual passages that are discussed here are really, really eye-opening.
You’ll revisit stories with which you thought you were well acquainted.
Noah and the flood.
Abraham and his son.
Jonah and the big fish.
The parable of The Good Samaritan.
The “take-away” on these stories has (at least in my tradition) almost always strayed from the real point. But, they will take on a breath of fresh air as you understand them the way the original audience would have understood them.  And we find out why Americans often miss the major themes of the Bible!

There are stories we look at and think, “How backwards and barbaric!” And a lot of it was backwards and barbaric!  But, looking closer, in the midst of this we can see actual steps forward in the evolving understanding of God.
We go through lots of passages, Old Testament and New.   We get into all the violence that causes some to pronounce “There is no God,” and others to just accept it (or even appropriate it, so to speak) and use it as a justification for their own hate.  There’s a chapter titled “What’s the Worst Question to Ask When You’re Reading the Bible?”
It’s a question that believers and atheists both ask!

One portion discusses the word and concept of “sin.”  It’s become, for many of us, a cringe-worthy word.  Here you’ll find what may be the best material on the subject I’ve ever seen.
Rob also addresses many of the standard questions he gets, like “Did Jesus have to die?” “What about all that wrath?” and (concerning Abraham) “What kind of God would ask a man to sacrifice his son?”  I LOVED the answer to that one!
The last chapter, “A Note on Growing and Changing,” has some great advise for those of us with family and friends that dont see things the way we do.  (And who doesn’t fit that catagory?!?!)

I once suggested a book to someone thinking he might enjoy the unique perspective.   He didn’t read it (which is fine) But, what he did do was “analyze” the book based solely on it’s title, and then arrogantly proclaim “Book solved!”  I remember thinking, “WTF?”

This is not a book to be solved.  This is a book to be eaten.
Chewed slowly.  Swished about like a fine wine.
Will you agree with everything in it?  Not likely.  Can you find (or make up) reasons to tear it apart?  Of course you can.
Can you be inspired, encouraged, educated and entertained?
I sure was.  There is just so much here!

I wish every atheist and fundamentalist evangelical would read this book (and, well, everyone else).
It’s been my experience that both tend to approach the Bible in the exact same way.  But, as is often the case, many who could benefit the most will shun this book as either heresy or fantasy.  Religion has a long history of calling truth heresy, and intellectuals have a long history of dismissing anything “spiritual.”
Still, for those who let it, it can be another compelling part of their journey.  With lots of “ah-ha” moments.

I suppose once you’ve read “What Is The Bible”, that you can leave the experience unchanged.
But I can’t see how.

 

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

Some Quotes:

  • It’s possible to resist the very growth and change and expanding consciousness that God desires for you by appealing to your religious convictions.  (Read the story of Peter in Acts, chapter 10!)
  • You can’t take people where they don’t want to go.
  • The deepest forces of the universe are on the side of the oppressed, the underdog, and the powerless.
  • I’ve heard people say that they read it literally.  As if that’s the best way to understand the Bible.  It’s not.  We read it literately.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • [In the story of Jonah] the dude who sees himself as us is furious because of how chummy God and them have become.  He’s so furious he’d rather die than live with the tension.
  • I would often hear people say, We need to get back to how they did it in the early church.  But reading the Bible, you learn that it’s not about trying to be something you’re not.   We open our eyes to the divine invitation right here, right now in this [world].
  • When people debate faith vs. science they’ve already missed the point.  Faith is about embracing truth wherever it’s found, and that of course includes science.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • To make broad dismissals of the scriptures as having nothing to say to the modern world about what it means to be human is absurd and naïve.  These are radical, progressive, open, expansive, extraordinary stories… told from the perspective of actual people living in space and time.
  • The divine is always at work.

And, a few golden oldies:
“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”
― Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.
This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”
― Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save Christians

“Eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life now in connection to God.
Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death.”
― Rob Bell, Love Wins


Critical Praise for “What Is The Bible”

“Rob Bell is at it again. Love him or loathe him, the theological provacateur says it’s time to rethink the Bible.”  — Relevant

“With pastoral prodding, Rob Bell helps us see that scripture is a masterpiece of penetrating subtleties crafted by ancient authors with a transformative vision for humanity. Bell reminds us that the Bible is neither simple nor mundane, but worthy of our full attention.” — Peter Enns, author of The Sin of Certainty

“To my ear, Rob Bell is a preacher, a poet, and a scholar, drawing from a wide range of disciplines without ever making me feel like I’m reading a textbook. The style and format are poetic, moving, and almost breezy at times.” — Robert

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

 

The Zimzum of Love December 7, 2015

zimzumThe Zimzum of Love:
A New Way of Understanding Marriage
– Rob and Kristen Bell

My wife and I have been through counseling.
We’ve also had training to “do” counseling.
We have, in fact, provided counseling.
And we have 36 years (more or less) of marriage.
Just saying, I know a little bit about marriage and counseling.
From that stance, I can highly recommend this book.

This is a pretty short, easy read.  Yet, there are some great truths and principles here.  There’s a lot in these pages that is relatively standard marriage counseling, as well as some new ideas.  All of it, of course, has that trademark “Bell-style” way of looking at life; a style I very much enjoy.


stickAnd, you get stick-figure drawings!
Who doesn’t like stick-figure drawings?!?!

We are given, of course, an explanation of zimzum (originally tzimtzum, a Hebrew word), and how that concept relates to marriage. Chapters 2 through 5 expound on how marriage is Responsive, Dynamic, Exclusive and Sacred.
“The Zimzum of Love” is highly anecdotal. There is a lot of back-and-forth between Rob and Kristen.
Every marriage is unique, but a book like this helps us see how universal many of our experiences are. Just about whatever you may be going through, rest assured you are not alone.

This book is written from a Christian perspective, and thus incorporates a lot of spiritual language and understanding.  The associated actions could be easily adapted by non-Christians, as well.  I can’t imagine anyone not receiving some benefit from reading this book.  I think this would be a good hand-out for premarital counseling, as well as for those already married.
I’ve only done a few wedding ceremonies, but for future ones I’m asked to officiate I will be offering this book to the couple.

Marriage has been at the forefront of recent national discussion.
Some see marriage as a meaningless social construct, and think we’d all be better off without the legal commitment and ceremonial form.  Many of us, including Rob and Kristen, believe marriage is much deeper than that.  We believe that there’s more going on than meets the eye.    More than biology.  More than just synaptic brain activity.   More, even, than what it means for the 2 people who are married.  That marriage means “more” for our entire society.

“The Zimzum of Love” takes an in-depth look at this “more.”

– dave

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Some thoughts from other readers:

“The Bells wield their heartfelt words and honest voices to cheer on couples of all kinds. . . . This is a ‘feel good’ book, not because it skirts the issues, but precisely because it delves so deeply into them. . . . Married or not, read this book.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“After having stood on the cliff of divorce, I sure wish that our marriage counselor would have had a resource like this to share with us.” – Roger

“This is a book about how to people partner in life and create a special space between them–they zimzum. I’ve got a fantastic marriage, but I learned new things about my wife as we read this together.” – Mike

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

A few QUOTES:

– There are moments in marriage when you realize that some of the most profound truths of the universe are lying next to you in bed.

– Great marriages have an ease about them, a back-and-forth nonreactive, non-defensive, open, and ongoing flow in which you never stop talking and figuring it out together.

– Life never stops changing. It’s inevitable that these changes will affect the space between you.,br.

– Any thought – however trivial or fleeting it is – about who or what you aren’t takes directly away from who and what you are.

– Home is whenever I’m with you. [Recently stated by me to my wife during our recent move, before reading the book.]

– Out of 7 billion people on the planet, you decided to say yes to just one of them.

– Learn to see things from their perspective. When in doubt, assume that they are seeing something that you don’t.

– Few triggers are more explosive than the phrase “You always do that.”

– One of the primary ways you strengthen this bond is through shared experiences.

– Marriage -gay and straight – is a gift to the world because the world needs more – not less – love, fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice.

– It’s easy to divide your experiences in marriage into the good ones and the bad ones. We are invited to transcend those binaries, becoming aware of the divine presence in all of life.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

Picture This May 18, 2014

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irreconcilable

 

bibleMess

goodNews

doesn't work

dramaticTurn

 

 

 

 

 

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.”
OK.
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,
really
like
his
work.

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.

QUOTES:

– 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.




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Resurrection! April 7, 2012

We aren’t fixed, static beings — we change and morph as life unfolds.
Death, then RESURRECTION.

This is true for ecosystems, food chains, the seasons — it’s true all across the environment.  Death gives way to life.
– From “Love Wins.

———– ———– —————-

[HEY! Don’t read this while you’re trying to watch the video! It’ll still be here.]

“Some have taken Jesus’ cry that his Father had forsaken him to mean that at the darkest moment, the Father had to turn his back on the Son. God cannot bear to look on sin, they argue, so that when our sins were laid on him, God had to turn his face away from his Son.
God has never run from sinful humanity. He didn’t hide from Adam and Even in the Garden. They hid from him as he sought them out. It is not God who cannot bear to look on sin, but that we in our sin can’t bear to look on God. He’s not the one who hides. We are. God is powerful enough to look on sin and be untainted by it. He has always done so. He did so at the cross
When Jesus asked people to “repent and believe” the gospel, he was not asking them to be sorry for their sins and embrace an orthodox theology.  It is not whether we want to go to heaven or hell, but whether we want to trust God or continue trusting ourselves. ”
– From “He Loves Me.
Jesus did not die on the cross to satisfy God’s moral rage at your sin. He died to save you from the beast of sin.”
– From “The Misunderstood God.
“If the gospel isn’t good news for everybody, then it isn’t good news for anybody. And this is because the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display.”
– From “Velvet Elvis

 

“LOST” Meets “Velvet Elvis” September 30, 2011



Yeah!

Pastor Rob Bell and ‘Lost’ Exec Producer Carlton Cuse signed for ABC drama “Stronger.”

“Stronger” is a non-supernatural drama with spiritual overtones, humor, and a helping of autobiographical input from Mr. Bell.

“With his knack at understanding culture, his creative abilities, and his understanding of the message of Jesus, I think we can expect some profound things from [Rob Bell]. Rob doesn’t seek to copy culture, but he is involved in culture making.”
– J.R. Woodward

Boy oh boy, I have HIGH expectations for this.
I can hardly wait!

Check out more about it. CLICK HERE.

 

The Gods Aren’t Angry July 23, 2011



“So, There’s this cavewoman…”

Thus starts this wonderfully educational, informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining presentation.
As usual, Rob weaves theology, history, culture, and philosophy into a beautiful verbal tapestry, where we learn of various religions, as well as the proposed beginning of religion.
We discover the nature of God along with pre-biblical, as well as biblical, characters.

There’s a positively refreshing and, somewhat freeing, understanding of the story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac. It’s right in tune with McLaren’s teaching of the evolving understanding of God. Not that God changes, but our understanding of Him has, and must.  Rob helps us enter in to Abraham’s mind-set, and see how God was showing himself as incredibly different from the other “gods” of Abraham’s day.

New light is also shed on the incident of Jesus in the temple with the whip.
[So many use this story to justify violent behavior. I’ve frequently stated that nowhere in the text does it say or indicate that the whip ever made contact with a person, thus causing bodily harm. Jesus rebuked his disciples for that kind of action. To do so himself would have been contradictory to everything he taught and held to be sacred.]
Anyway, Mr. Bell, again using history and the culture of the day, helps us see what may have actually been going on here.

We, at one point, get into a good discussion of the book of Hebrews.  We see how radical this book was in its time and setting.

There’s so much more he goes into in this approximately 90 minute production.
At the end, he brings it all home in a way that timeless truths, and a love of God, can be applied today, in our world, in ways that truly matter.

As would be expected, much controversy emerged over the content of this video.  But, as one blogger noted:
“The watchdoggies didn’t see the gospel because they weren’t looking for the gospel.
They were looking for the reformed religion they’ve invented to make themselves feel better.”
When those “watchdoggies” start howling, that’s a pretty good sign there’s something worth listening to.

— df

Buy the video.  Click HERE.

—————————————–

What others have said:

Rob Bell does an amazing job of weaving historical narratives and Christian and Jewish literature together with contemporary questions about faith and what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a pluralistic and postmodern culture. You will find this video presentation to be refreshing and challenging.
— C. Lambeth

Loving God and loving one’s neighbor go hand in hand, not just in word but in deed. The beauty of Bell’s vision is that the things he’s relating could be done by anyone. You don’t need an MDiv to change someone’s world. You don’t need a certificate to make things better for someone in need. I think Rob Bell is purposefully singing alto on many issues because all the parts of the music are beautiful and worth focusing on. Some people listen to Rob Bell and can only hear a failure to stick to the melody. But I hear someone who really understands the melody and can make it even more appealing to people.
— John Sexton

Buy the video.  Click HERE.

The thing I most enjoyed about it was his constant comparisons to Old Testament sacrifices and the Grace of God. This release explained what the Gospel is in a way that I have never thought of before. I am honestly thinking (as a pastor) that if you have someone with doubts in the existence or even love of God, allowing them to borrow “The Gods Aren’t Angry” and “Everything is Spiritual” may dismiss their doubts and get them on the path they need to be. Thank God for teachers like Rob Bell who speak in a way that even the biggest biblical novice could comprehend 10,000 years of history.
— Matthew C. Hafer

Rob once again turns Christianity (as we Westerner’s know it) on its proverbial head with his lecture: THE GODS AREN’T ANGRY. I found this DVD not only to be a breath of fresh air, but couldn’t stop saying “WOW!” for 15 minutes after it had ended. You will be inspired.
— David Margulis

Buy the video.  Click HERE.

 

 
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