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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

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.

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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.

 

Hell’s Bell April 21, 2011



Below are some quotes from the really good article in Time Magazine:
What If There’s No Hell?”
The article is by Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham.

Check out the quotes, or better yet
read the entire article. CLICK HERE.

Or, go out and buy the magazine. It includes a pictorial “History of Hell.”

OK. Some quotes:
(There are some additional links to related articles after the quotes.)

From the apostle Paul to John Paul II, from Augustine to Calvin, Christians have debated atonement and judgement for nearly 2,000 years.

What many believers in the 21st century accept as immutable doctrine was first formulated in the fog and confusion of the 1st century.

Bell insists he is only raising the possiblilty that theological rigidity – and thus a faith of exclusion – is a dangerous thing.

The dominant view of the righteous in heaven and the damned in hell owes more to the artistic legacy of the West, from Michelangelo to Dante to Blake, than it does to history or to unambiquous biblical teaching.

[Bell is] trying to reach a generation that’s more comfortable with myster, with unsolved questions.

Taken to their logical conclusions, such questions could undermine much of conservative Christianity.  [So?]

Read the entire article. CLICK HERE.

[“Love Wins”] has ignited a new holy war in Christian circles and beyond.

[Concerning a Florida pastor’s burning of the Koran, “which led to the deaths of
innocent U.N. workers in Afghanistan”]  We don’t burn other people’s books.  I think Jesus is fairly pissed off about it as well.

Bell’s creed of conviction and doubt – and his comfort with ambiquity and paradox – comes from an upbringing in which he was immersed in faith but encouraged to ask questions.

Like the Bible – a document that often contradicts itself and from which one can construct sharply different arguments – theology is the product of human hands and hearts.

——————

AND you’ll want to read the very interesting and
informative book, “Love Wins,” by Rob Bell.
CLICK HERE  for a review.

Also read “London, New York, LA and Hell.”

“A Heretic’s Guide To Eternity”

The Last Word and the Word After That

“Rejecting Religion – Embracing Grace”  (Hey!  I’m mentioned in this book!)

“A New Kind of Christianity”

“What Does The Bible Really Say About Hell?”

These and other books: Click Here.

 

Love Wins March 31, 2011

Love Wins
A Book About Heaven, Hell, and
the Fate of Every Person Who ever Lived
— Rob Bell

NOW IN PAPERBACK!

Love Wins

The first thing that really needs to be pointed out:
Despite all the focus on the “hell” issue, this book, as it declares of itself, explores “a fairly vast expanse of topics.” Everything from “heaven and hell to God, Jesus, joy, violence,and the good news.”  Even the “age of accountability” is discussed.  It’s one of those issues where there are a lot of differing views. People like to agree that there is one, but no one knows what it is.  Mostly because it’s not in the Bible. We’ve created it so God has a good “out.” Now He doesn’t have to send babies to hell.

As with Bell’s previous books, there is plenty of historical and cultural context of the biblical narrative. I love that kind of material. It adds so much to proper understanding. It also tears down a lot of false beliefs.

We look at, not only the original language and meaning of words, but just as importantly, how the letters and stories of scripture were received and understood by the original audience. There is, to me, simply no true understanding of scripture without getting out of (as much as possible) the American Western mind-set.

I’ve said before that with over forty-thousand “Christian” denominations(1), most of whom disagree with each other, and still claiming to “just believe the Bible,” it should be obvious we’ve missed something major in our understanding and approach to our faith.

In “Love Wins” Rob asks which “God,” which “Jesus” we believe in. Some believe in a god who has them fly planes into towers. Some believe in a god who stands behind government sanctioned torture, if that’s what it takes to ensure our “freedom.”  Some believe in a Jesus that says, “Love your enemies.”  Some believe in a Jesus that says, “Blow them away in the Name of the Lord.”
I hear lots of Christians spouting things of which the God I know would NEVER be a part.

There’s much discussion of our responsibility to each other and to the Earth we were given to care for.  We see how much of the view “end-times” theology leads to disrespect and ill-will for others and our planet.

Then there’s this:  If I’m sent to “preach the gospel.”  What happens if I have a flat tire?  Will you go to hell because I didn’t get to you in time?
Is your salvation my responsibility?  If I’m to blame, how can you be held accountable.
(Reminder:  This is a book review.  Please do not send me responses to these questions without reading the book.  Thank you.)

Much of the religious furor and un-godly hatred toward Mr. Bell revolves around his writings about hell.
His discussion and views of heaven and hell are not new to me, so this book didn’t seem at all controversial. It probably would have at one time.
Early in this part of my journey, I felt disgust for ever being a person who could have believed many of the “monster-God” things I used to believe. This book addresses that, and helps us know that all of our journey is to be seen as necessary. It’s all a part of where we are now.
I’m not Samantha or Jeannie. I can’t instantly get to Indy from Fort Wayne. The only way to make that trip is to travel the space and time between here and there. Rob helps us see that all of that journey is sacred.

One of the things “Love Wins” does is help us examine the revelation of God in Christ in comparison to our various understandings of God. Will we believe “our version” of the divine story, or that of the Father?
In this context, we take a fresh look at the biblical story of the father and his two sons (often misleadingly called the story of the prodigal son). There are some truly great insights here.

This book is written in Rob’s usual style. Some have found fault with the very way he writes. I find it one of the things I greatly enjoy. His humor is also still intact.

Since so much has already been written about “Love Wins,” I’ve tried to keep this short; at least compared with my various “chapter by chapter” reviews.
This book is about so many things. But they all boil down to what kind of God we believe in. And, as Rob points out, whatever God we believe in, that’s the God we WILL be conformed to. That can be wonderful. That can be horrific.

PLEASE, don’t miss out on this book because of all the naysayers. I hope you NEVER avoid reading something because someone “warns” you about it. That may be one of the best indications you need to read it. Even if you don’t agree with it. Maybe, “especially” if you don’t agree with it.

Bottom line. I loved this book.
And I thank God that love wins.

-df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

——————-

What Others Say:

Millions of Christians have struggled with how to reconcile God’s love and God’s judgment: Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this “good news”?

Troubling questions—so troubling that many have lost their faith because of them. Others only whisper the questions to themselves, fearing or being taught that they might lose their faith and their church if they ask them out loud.

But what if these questions trouble us for good reason? What if the story of heaven and hell we have been taught is not, in fact, what the Bible teaches? What if what Jesus meant by heaven, hell, and salvation are very different from how we have come to understand them?

What if it is God who wants us to face these questions?

Author, pastor, and innovative teacher Rob Bell presents a deeply biblical vision for rediscovering a richer, grander, truer, and more spiritually satisfying way of understanding heaven, hell, God, Jesus, salvation, and repentance. The result is the discovery that the “good news” is much, much better than we ever imagined.  (Amazon Product Description)
—————–

“One of the nation’s rock-star-popular young pastors, Rob Bell, has stuck a pitchfork in how Christians talk about damnation.” (USA Today )

Buy the book. Click HERE.

—————–

Some Quotes:

There is no question that Jesus cannot handle, no discussion too volatile, no issue too dangerous.

The discussion itself is divine.  Jesus responds to almost every question he’s asked with…
a question.

When we hear that a certain person has “rejected Christ,” we should first ask, “Which Christ?”
Some Jesuses should be rejected.

Honest business, redemptive art, honorable law, sustainable living, medicine, education, making a home, tending a garden – they’re all sacred tasks to be done in partnership with God now, because they will all go on in the age to come. In heaven, on earth. A proper view of heaven leads not to escape from the world, but to full engagement with it.

The big words, the important words — “eternal life,” “treasure,” “heaven” — were all there in the conversation, but they weren’t used in the ways that many Christians use them.

“Here it is, a big beautiful fascinating world,” God says, “Do something with it!”

Jesus doesn’t tell people how to “go to heaven.”  It wasn’t what Jesus came to do.

In Jesus’s first-century Jewish world, they did not talk about a future life somewhere else.

Jesus makes no promise that in the blink of an eye we will suddenly become totally different people who have vastly different tastes, attitudes, and perspectives.

There’s a point to what the prophet interprets and understands to be God’s anger and wrath.”  It’s to teach the people, to correct them, to produce something new in them.

The God that Jesus teaches us about doesn’t give up until everything that was lost is found.

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

A discussion about how to “just get into heaven” has no place in the life of a disciple of Jesus, because it’s missing the point of it all. It’s a cheap view of the world, because it’s a cheap view of God. It’s the gospel of goats, and it is lethal.

People choose to live in their own hells all the time.

Death, then resurrection.  This is true for ecosystems, food chains, the seasons — it’s true all across the environment.  Death gives way to life.

There is exclusivity [you’re in or you’re out].  There is inclusivity [Jesus doesn’t matter anymore].
Then there is an exclusivity on the other side of inclusivity.  This kind insists that Jesus is the way, [but that not all] those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him.

We believe all sorts of things about ourselves.  What the gospel does is confront our version of our story with God’s version of our story.

Many have heard the gospel framed in terms of rescue…that Jesus rescues us from God.  We do not need to be rescued from God.  God is the rescuer.

We shape our God, and then our God shapes us.

Our beliefs matter.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

————–
(1) According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there are approximately 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations in the world. This statistic takes into consideration cultural distinctions of denominations in different countries, so there is overlapping of many denominations.
Center for the Study of Global Christianity (2011)

 

Is Evangelical Christianity Having A Great Gay Awakening? January 19, 2011



by Cathleen Falsani


Some of my dearest friends are gay.

Most of my dearest friends are Christians.

And more than a few of my dearest friends are gay Christians.

As an evangelical, that last part is not something that, traditionally and culturally, I’m supposed to say out loud. For most of my life, I’ve been taught that it’s impossible to be both openly gay and authentically Christian.

When a number of my friends “came out” shortly after our graduation from Wheaton College in the early ’90s, first I panicked and then I prayed.

What would Jesus do? I asked myself (and God).

According to biblical accounts, Jesus said very little, if anything, about homosexuality. But he spent loads of time talking, preaching, teaching and issuing commandments about love.

That was my answer: Love them. Unconditionally, without caveats or exceptions.

I wasn’t sure whether homosexuality actually was a sin. But I was certain I was commanded to love.

For 20 years, that answer was workable, if incomplete. Lately, though, it’s been nagging at me. Some of my gay friends are married, have children and have been with their partners and spouses as long as I’ve been with my husband.

Loving them is easy. Finding clear theological answers to questions about homosexuality has been decidedly not so.
In his new book “Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self and Society”, Jay Bakker, the son of Jim Bakker and the late Tammy Faye Messner, gives clear and compelling answers to my nagging questions.

Simply put…

———–

DON’T STOP NOW! Read the rest of this informative and thought-provolking article
by Cathleen Falsani (with subatantial material from Jay Bakker)
as written in The Huffington Post.
Click HERE.

 

Jesus Wants To Save Christians January 15, 2011


By the end of the introduction I was hooked. Rob Bell remains one of the most insightful, intelligent, interesting, thought-provoking writers I’ve ever read. For this outing, he teams up with Don Golden.

“Jesus Wants To Save Christians” is rich, and I mean rich in historical and cultural context of the Biblical narrative.  I know that personally, once I put down the Bible as a rule book, and picked it back up as the narrative of God and man, it all started making more sense than ever.  This book continues my education in that vein.

This book starts off with the realization that we are “east of Eden.” Rob shows how the Bible repeatedly uses “east” for special emphasis. He speaks of how “something about how we relate to each other has been lost. Something is not right with the world.”

The Introduction talks about where we are as a people, as a nation, and as a world. He compares our current state of affairs with that of Jesus’ day:
“The Roman Empire, which put Jesus on an execution stake, insisted that it was bringing peace to the world through its massive military might. Emperor Caesar, who ruled the Roman Empire, was considered the “Son of God,” the “Prince of Peace,” and one of his propaganda slogans was “peace through victory.”
“A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.”

Chapter One is about Moses. It’s about Egypt, and the exodus. It’s about the “new Egypt” that God’s people, via religion, eventually created. “Egypt shows us how easily human nature bends toward using power to preserve privilege at the expense of the weak.”
We see Rob’s take on what it means that we are all called to be priests. We are called to be a holy nation “shaped not by greed, violence, and abusive power but by compassion, justice, and care for one’s neighbor.
We then look at the Ten Commandments, not as “strict rules given by a fire-breathing God to keep people in line,” but in their original context. In this light “the commandments take on all sorts of new meanings.” This is the most relevant, meaningful look at the often misused and misunderstood commandments given to Moses. It’s really amazing.
There’s a history lesson on Solomon like none I’ve ever thought of.  After the exodus, after God sets free the slaves, “Solomon is building a temple for the God who sets slaves free…
using slaves.
This is a major moment in the Bible. In just a few generations, the oppressed have become the oppressors.” “Solomon is using his massive resources and wealth to build military bases to protect his…
massive resources and wealth.”
So much for “looking out for the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner.”
Chapter one also talks about the prophets God sent, the reaction to them, and exile in Babylon.

Chapter Two continues to discuss the Egypt/deliverance/Babylon themes. Still, “God always hears the cry of the oppressed.” We begin to see why the first exodus, and the first “marriage covenant” with God didn’t work out. “There’s an Egypt that we’re all born into, and that’s what we really need an exodus from.” This chapter takes us to the end of the Hebrew scriptures, also called the Old Testament. We see we need a new Moses, a new covenant, and a new exodus. We have all these unfulfilled prophesies, all these “suspended promises.” This new “way” will be much different. And instead of being for a select ethnic group, it will be for all mankind.

As Chapter Three opens, we are in early first century Israel.  Solomon was the son of David.  Now we have a new Son of David.  We begin to see the connections between Solomon and Jesus.  We see the weight and meaning of “Son of David” to this first century audience.  “A new son of David, leading the people into remarriage with God.”  “Jesus speaks of a new kingdom as he shows what it’s like to be human in this new reality.”
We look at the expectation of Jesus’ followers,  and the shock when it all “fell apart.”  There a discussion of the “myth of redemptive violence,” and the propensity we humans have for bloodshed.  Of course, we also see that the death of Jesus was the beginning of new hope.

Chapter Four looks at, among other things, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.  Again, we get historical context that brings a new and deeper appreciation for what’s happening here.  We also see this encounter in light of Jesus’ stating that the good news should be shared “to the ends of the earth.”  There are more parallels between Moses and Jesus.  We look at Luke’s account of the day of Pentecost, when three-thousand are saved.  That’s the same number that Moses had slaughtered for the “golden calf” incident.
We also see, again, the inclusiveness of the gospel, and of Paul himself.

Chapter Five has an interesting title:
Swollen-Bellied Black Babies, Soccer Moms On Prozac, and the Mark of the Beast.”
This is an extremely important chapter that should be read by every one who identifies as a lover of Christ.
It should be required reading for “American Christians.”

First, there’s some frightening information about “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”  Man.  What a false bill of goods we were sold on that one!  We dropped bombs to kill Saddam Hussein.  We missed.  Lots of civilians killed and injured.  No “bad buys.”
I’ve had other readings where I learned that Bush wanted a war long before the “war on terror.”  The whole thing was really about control.  And oil.  Finally, he was handed an excuse.  (See “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”)
Anyway…
This chapter is about empire.  Egyptian empire.  Babylonian empire.  Roman empire.  American empire.  We’re reminded that blessings are not to be horded.  Blessings are to be used to bless others.  The consequences of forgetting the poor, the needy and the oppressed are both devastating and obvious.

This chapter also has great information on the book of Revelation, and the “mark of the beast.”
Again, we get relevant historical and cultural context, instead of all the twisted misuse and misapplications I’ve heard most of my life.
“Revelation is a bold, courageous, politically subversive attack on corrosive empire and its power to oppress people.”

Chapter Six is about lamb’s blood.  “In the first exodus, the lamb’s blood was place on the doorposts of the house” for those who lived there.  In the second exodus, the Lamb’s blood was placed “on the doorposts of the universe.”  This time “Jesus is saving everyone and everything.  Jesus is leading all of creation out of the Egypt of violence, sin, and death.
We also look at how Paul took offerings “for the poor.”  Not to grease the wheels of institutional religion.  The dividing walls of our differences have been broken down to usher in the “new humanity.”  One where access to God isn’t restricted to a religion, but is opened up, through Christ, to all people.  We get some good ideas about Paul’s “all things to all men” statements; especially, what’s noticeably absent in that passage.

Epilogue
The epilogue brings it all together and shows how our narrow definition of “being saved” has shortchanged Christians, and the rest of the world as well.   “God is looking for a body, a people to incarnate the divine.  That always involves hearing the cry of the poor and the oppressed and then acting on their behalf.”


Again, this is an amazing book.  Far too long we’ve seen salvation as an “afterlife” issue.  Salvation is here.  Salvation is now.  There is so very much from which Jesus wants to save Christians.  Religion.  Indifference.  Elitism.  Privilege.  Neglect of the poor and needy.  Oppressing others, especially in the name of God.
Do yourself, and the world a favor.  Read this book.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

———————-

QUOTES:
The “whole world,” “all nations,” “all people,” “all things” are the biggest, widest, deepest, most inclusive terms the human mind can fathom.  And they are on the lips of Jesus, who is describing himself.

He’s bringing liberation for everybody everywhere and ultimately for everything everywhere for all time.

A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Exile is when you fail to convert your blessings into blessings for others.

The first exodus was just a hint of the redemption God has in mind for all humanity.

[Jesus started] A movement bigger than any one nation, bigger than any one ethnic group, bigger than any one religion.

The central promise to the father of their faith, Abraham, was that God would bless his people so that they would bless the world.  It’s always about wealth, health, possessions, and influence being used to bless others.

Jesus’ death [was] an end to a whole system of “commands and regulations.”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

If anything, the biblical story teaches us that no nation is entitled to global dominance, no matter how powerful their national myths may be.

Jesus speaks of a new kingdom as he shows what it’s like to be human in this new reality.

What do you do when your religion isn’t big enough for God?

[Religious legalism] makes Paul furious.  In one letter, his rant reaches such a pitch that he says he wishes “they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

It’s a beautiful thing to learn from the journey of others.

If a sermon can be resolved in the time it took to deliver it, then it missed something central to what a sermon even is.

A church is not a center for religious good and services.

A church exists for the benefit of nonmembers.  This blessing extends even to our enemies.

Buy the book. Click HERE.


 

Velvet Elvis November 18, 2010

Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith”
by Rob Bell

“Some people’s faith is like a trampoline ~ it bends & flexes & moves (springs = doctrines)… for others, their faith is like a wall of bricks ~ pull one out to examine it, and the whole thing becomes unstable & threatens to crumble (bricks = doctrines).”
— a Book Cafe paraphrase of page 26 of “Velvet Elvis.”
——————————————————


I’ve just finished my re-read of “Velvet Elvis.”  It was even better than I remembered!
I wish everyone would read this book.

This is one of the most important books I have ever read. On a scale of 1 to 10, “This one goes to 11“.

I found this to be an engaging, enlightening, and thought provoking book. There were many historical aspects that I had never heard before. “Real world” explanations of phrases like “…the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” There’s a great discourse on Jesus’ talk about hell (gehenna) referring to an existing valley in their area where “fires were kept burning perpetually to consume the filth and cadavers thrown into it.”

Knowing the actual cultural references totally changes how we understand Scripture. This book uses LOTS of historical context in approaching the Bible.

The historical aspects, though fascinating, were not the main attraction. This book is about making following Christ alive and real in this world, and in this time. It’s about engaging our culture, our neighbors, and even our planet in a living and vital way…the way Jesus did. Christ’s teachings about salvation were about how to live…NOT about waiting to die and “the sweet by and by.”

Velvet Elvis will challenge your preconceived notions. It will expand your understanding.

It is not the final word on Christianity, as the author makes clear. Beware of anyone else who thinks they have that final word, even if (or especially if) they “just believe the Bible.”

I’ve read a number of other reviews of this book. It seems to have very extreme reactions. People really like it, or they label Mr. Bell as a heretic. Of course, the institutionalized church has pretty much always killed the prophets.

Anyway, like it or hate it, it’s a very interesting read. One which I highly recommend.
————————————–

Here are 3 reviews from other people:


Not sure why it took me so long to read this, but I am so glad I finally picked it up and made it happen. This book is a bit difficult to describe since Bell writes in a non-traditional format. It’s fitting though because for much of Velvet Elvis, Bell is asking the reader to step back from our tainted perspective of Christianity and reshape what it means to be a follower of Christ. He does this with personal insights, Biblical study as well as historical research.
Although this is a short book, it’s filled with powerful insights that every person will have to grapple with – whether you believe in Christ or not. By the end of my reading, having underlined and circled so many things, I was forced to go back and review all the statements and questions that had affected me both personally and theologically. Highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to dig deeper into their faith, truth and themselves.
— Jay Newland
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This book will challenge the boundaries of your faith. You will doubt some of the things Rob says. I doubted some of his statements while reading the book, and in fact I still doubt some of them. I think that is the beauty of it.
We don’t have to agree on every point. Some of the things he wrote are extraordinary, and I wish I wrote them. I could not agree more.
We have a dynamic faith and will never have everything figured out and, yes, we will never agree on everything. But we are all part of God’s family. Can we not see that, stop fighting and start changing the world? Please.
Velvet Elvis is an excellent painting, beautiful to look at. It is a marvelous conversation. But it will challenge you to think. Long and hard!
Enjoy it!
— Dries Cronje
————————–


I love this book. Rob nailed point after point that I really feel are valid praises and criticisms of the church and the mindsets in which we tend to put ourselves. Ultimately, I think Rob wants us to be informed people. People thirsting for Truth. People who won’t just zombie around at the instruction of every “bible-preaching” pastor or church that claims good things. He makes his point clear: There is no such thing as a church who “just follows the bible,” as if God had intended the bible to be a reader’s manual like the one that comes with your toaster. Everyone is submitting themselves to biblical interpretation and biblical teaching. This is exactly why we should be vigilant, mindful, and truth-seeking. Thanks, Rob, for thoughtful Church culture exegesis and honest reflection. It is clear that the truths of God have sunk deep into the author and he’s writing from a place of deep reflection.
— Nathan Paul Verschaetse
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And Some Quotes:


“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”

“What is accepted today as tradition was, at one point in time, a break from tradition.”

“Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be.”

“God has spoken, and everything else is commentary.”

“Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker.”

“[The Bible] has to be interpreted. And if it isn’t interpreted, then it can’t be put into action. So if we are serious about following God, then we have to interpret the Bible. It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says. We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people.”


“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. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the “un” and “non”, they work against Jesus’ teachings about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody. We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, “God shows no favoritism.” So we don’t either.”


“In the accounts of Jesus’ life…we never find him chasing after someone. If anybody didn’t have a messiah complex, it was Jesus.”

“…to be able to quote these [pagan] prophets & poets, Paul obviously had to read them. And study them. And analyze them. And, I’m sure he came across all sorts of things in their writings that he didn’t agree with. So he sifts & sorts & separates the light from the dark, and then claims & quotes the parts that are true.”

“God blesses everybody. People who don’t believe in God. People who are opposed to God. People who do violent, evil things.”

“I live with the understanding that truth is bigger than any religion & the world is God’s & everything in it.”

Paul sees their insistence on a reversion to the customs of Moses as a form of violence. When people are manipulated with guilt and fear, when they are told that if they don’t do certain things they’ll be illegitimate, judged, condemned, sent to hell forever – that’s violence.

Imagine how dangerous it would be if there were Christians who skipped over the first-century meaning of John’s letter and focused only on whatever it might be saying about future events, years and years away. There is always the chance that in missing the point, they may in the process be participation the and supporting and funding the various kinds of systems that the letter warns against participating in, supporting, and funding. [People then weren’t thinking] “this is going to be really helpful for people two thousand years from now who don’t want to get left behind..” It’s a letter written to a real group of people, in a real place, at a real time. Christians were being killed by the empire because they would not participate.

What [Jesus] is doing here is significant. He is giving his followers authority to make new interpretations of the Bible. He is giving them permission to say, “Hey, we think we missed it before on that verse, and we’ve recently come to the conclusion that this is what it actually means. – R. Bell


Read more reviews, and buy the book at:
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Everything Is Spiritual November 13, 2009

“In the Hebrew language, there is no word for “spiritual.”  If you would have said to Jesus, “Jesus, how is your spiritual life?”  He would have said “What?”  To label part of your life as “spiritual” and part as “not spiritual” is foreign to the world of scripture, and to the worldview of Jesus.”
– Rob Bell
This stuff is absolutely amazing!
You won’t want to miss this presentation.
Buy it HERE AT LIFEWALK STORE.
(If you can’t afford it, let me know, and I’ll buy or loan you a copy.)
——————————–

Some reviews:

Michael J. Cauller says:
Who would have thought that a lecture on Creation stories and Quantum Physics would be so instrumental in conveying the truth of a holistic perspective of spirituality?  I’d say that Nooma is like a piece of candy and this is like a steak dinner.  Brilliant stuff.  Excellent revelation as one would expect.

Christopher Bernard says:
Rob Bell has received a great deal of criticism in his career for a variety of reasons. Some might have some merit, but most come out a desire for him to be something he is not. He is not a world class Biblical Scholar; he is not the greatest theological mind; he is not a person that will champion conservative ideologies, nor liberal. If you desire any of these things from this man, do not buy his work for you will be disappointed.
But if you are looking for a thoughtful person engaging with faith, culture, and life, then you might have found someone that will really speak to you in a refreshing confession of Christian faith.
Rob Bell is a pastor with a heart for humanity. He is a person that desires to unite, rather than divide. He is a person who recognizes the burden of our society and addresses them in faithful ways and “Everything Is Spiritual” is a wonderful testimony of God at work within Humanity.
I was blessed to watch this. And I trust that those who have ears to hear will come away from this experience moved in profound ways.

Buy it HERE AT LIFEWALK STORE.

Here’s John Sexton’s review of live presentation of “Everything Is Spiritual” at The Glass House:

The Glass House is a small concert venue in a little artists’ colony section of downtown Pomona. It’s surrounded by vintage clothing boutiques and used record stores. Usually it’s host to punk bands, but on this Wednesday night a somewhat different crowd had turned out to see a young pastor from Michigan named Rob Bell.

Our Ticketmaster tickets ($10) read “Door: 7PM Show: 8PM.” My two friends and I arrived a bit after seven and found the place already packed. Nearly 350 people sat on folding chairs facing a corner stage. The stage was black except for a huge whiteboard about four feet tall running the length of the stage, perhaps 16 feet. A few white lights were shining on it, making it appear to glow slightly.

As 8PM approached someone came on stage to ask us to turn off our cell phones and to let us know that tonight’s performance was being filmed. A few minutes later the mood music that had been playing in the background became louder, adding to the concert-like atmosphere of the show. Finally, Rob Bell stepped on stage dressed all in black. He uncapped his marker dramatically and we were off…
He began with a ten minute discussion of Genesis chapter one, treating it as Hebrew poetry. He paused once to emphasize his underlying principle of interpretation, i.e. “the Bible is not a science text book.” If there were young earth creationists in the room, they decided not to throw vegetables at that moment.

At one point, he pantomimed Adam naming the animals God brought before him. When Adam named one “cat” God’s reaction was “Hey, I didn’t make that.” It was one of the lighter moments in the message. Rob then made this aside: “Someone out there with a blog, please don’t write that I hate cats. There’ll be demonstrators at the next show.” So while it was extremely tempting to title this post “Rob Bell Hates Cats”, I resisted.

The second and longest part of Rob’s talk was, in fact, about science. From quarks and strings to the vast universe itself, he covered an enormous amount of ground. I have a background in this material, so I listened with an awareness not only of where he was going, but also where he might have gone. The impression I had was of watching some agile person cross a river by leaping from stone to stone. At times he would slow his progress to draw out a tricky point, such as quantum entanglement or the stellar habitable zone. At other times he would skip lightly over issues too complex to engage in an abbreviated way, such as the differing interpretations of quantum theory. But always it seemed to me he dealt accurately and fairly with the material. It was an outstanding 20-25 minute summary of modern physics. It was a setup for a point he would make later.

Next, he turned to the issue of perspective. Using Flatland characters, he discussed how God’s interaction with our world may be difficult to understand in everyday language. This is where the “emergent view” of all things theological came across most strongly. Is God Calvinist or Armenian? Rob suggests there may be a way for him to be both.

I recognize that answers like this will never satisfy those who’ve invested any energy in either of the alternatives. And I probably enjoy a good theological argument as much as the next person. Still, I found Bell’s appeal to lay down our theological arms quite winning. There are simply some issues where the Bible stands in tension with itself. Perhaps this too is inspired and should be respected. At times I get the sense that the seminary-denominational complex has an institutional investment in keeping the arguments going. In any case, this was probably my favorite section of the talk.

Having loaded his plate with literally “everything”, Rob now had the unenviable task of summing it up neatly. If his conclusion wasn’t fully successful it’s worth pointing out that few pastors would even have the courage to try.

And there was a theme that came through, a single thread on which all the beads of science and theology were strung. We live in a very big world and yet its one in which our perspective has the ability to shift our understanding of everything. Is the universe an accident or a work of design? The truth is it could be either. Is theology confusing because it’s imperfect or because our language is insufficient? Again, it could be either.

Is anything spiritual or is nothing?  Rob suggests that as Christians we must choose everything. It’s this perspective that changes what we see. We move forward through life with the anticipation — the faith — that God is not absent, that he may indeed be hiding in plain sight.

I don’t know if Rob Bell has read Roy Clouser’s The Myth of Religious Neutrality, but he certainly seems to have adopted Clouser’s ideas on the religious control of theory-making. In any case, Rob’s presentation of it is a lot of fun. If there’s one person I’d like to have a chance to have a long talk with at some point, he has to be near the top of the list.

Buy it HERE AT LIFEWALK STORE.

 

 
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