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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.)

 

INSURRECTION November 20, 2011

INSURRECTION
– Peter Rollins

Wow. What a book.

In the introduction our author speaks of “reactionary movements that seek to return to the early Church,” but proclaims that one of the shortcomings of such philosophies is that “they fail to go back far enough.”
And so we begin the journey to bring to light the ways “Crucifixion and Resurrection open up a different reality” altogether.  A reality that has been predominantly absent from “church” as we know it.

The first 4 chapters make up “Part1: Crucifixion.”

Chapter One begins with a humorous story about a lying pastor, his golf  game, and God’s teaching technique.
This story is used to springboard into a discussion about desire.  We look at the desire behind desire.  Or maybe, the desire within desire.  We view different reasons for affirming God, as well as religious control and manipulation.  We examine faith, doubt, and the positive aspects of what the author calls a “journey into darkness.”

Chapter Two takes us deep, deep into the Crucifixion, and into participating in Christ’s death.  We see how it has often been rendered rather meaningless by a religion that glosses over it to get to the Resurrection.  We begin to understand that “The Crucifixion signals an experience in which all that grounds us and gives us meaning collapses.”
Those of you who, like me, are “youth challenged” may remember a 60’s TV show called “The Prisoner” staring Patrick McGoohan.  Our author gives us a synopsis of that show, and then draws some very interesting parallels to religion and it’s systems that imprison us.  This is the kind of chapter for which I would have paid full book price.

Chapter Three is called– “I’m Not Religious” and Other Religious Sayings. —
This had quite the ring of truth for me.  Some of the most religiously legalistic people I know are quite found of stating that “Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.”  Their attitudes and actions prove their statements to be much less than an experienced reality.  We see how having only mental assent to a particular truth can itself insulate us from actually experiencing that truth.  This is a phenomena we see often among those who love to speak of grace while still trapped in and perpetuating the exact opposite.
“Cartoon physics” is also addressed: “that self-conscious beings will not fall until they look down.”  This has to do with facing the inconsistencies between our stated religious beliefs and reality.
We also observe how “communication involves both a stated message and a hidden one.”  “In fundamentalism, we witness a type of psychotic relation to language in that there is an attempt to banish the hidden message from discourse.”

Our next chapter is partially about the cost of no longer pretending to be ignorant.  It’s about letting go of the religious machinery that “protect us from facing up to the anxieties of our existence.”  We look at the marketability of certainty, and its use by the religion industry.
There’s a small section on Mother Teresa.  Although “she never stopped believing in God…she lived beneath the shadow of a profound sense of God’s absence.”
The whole of part one serves to show us the crucifixion in ways modern Christianity (as opposed to post-modern) usually avoids.
Without properly addressing the truth of Crucifixion, Resurrection is robbed of it’s truth as well.

Now we start “Part 2: Resurrection.”

In Chapter Five, Mr. Rollins maintains that “We hide every day behind a mask that is a Photoshopped version of ourselves.”   Some of the sections in this chapter are:  “I Wear a Mask That Looks like Me,” “On Avoiding the Truth of Who We Are,” and “Maintaining the Gap between Perception and Reality.”
We read some very interesting insights into people like Hitler and John “Junior” Gotti.  We uncover how we can hide the monster we may truly be, even from, or rather especially from, ourselves.  Ultimately we learn here that “Our practices do not fall short of our beliefs;  They Are Our Beliefs.”

We take a close look at grace and how “it is in experiencing the license of grace rather than the legalism of prohibition that real transformation becomes possible.”

Chapter 6 is titled “We Are Destiny.” We are given the proclamation that “Eternal life is thus fundamentally a transformation in the very way that we exist in the present.” We learn about what it means to participate in Resurrection. This is a recurring theme in the works of Rob Bell, and a number of other good authors. A theme which, if taken to heart, could bring about some rather radical, much needed change among those who name the name of Christ.
A brief analysis of “Chick tracts” is given. Most readers are probably familiar with these miniature graphic horror stories. If not, let me tell you they twist the gospel, and pervert the character of God beyond recognition. At the same time, they “merely reflect what we find in most churches today.”
We also explore the deeper meaning of loving God, religionless faith, how we participate in the creation of eternity, and “the proper Christian answer to the question of what God’s will is for my life.” Wile E. Coyote also supplies some theological insight.

The Seventh Chapter dives into the “Violence of Resurrection.” Not “the type of violence we witness in fundamentalism;” which is usually one directed at people, but “a violence against those systems that would oppress, destroy, and bring death.”
This chapter also mines real-world applications of truth from the movies “The Dark Knight,” “Collateral,” and “The Matrix.” Through these we recognize how we may be feeding the very systems we say we oppose, and how some of our “supposedly ethical acts come to resemble the exercise of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”
Chapter Seven also provided me with one of those wonderful “Wow” moments where you finally see something that has been in plain sight all along. It has to do with the ripping of the temple veil at the Crucifixion. It was one of those times where I saw how my religious training had blinded me to a very obvious truth.

Our final chapter unpacks Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
These divisions were considered the divinely mandated “natural order.” “Paul is here describing here how Christianity cuts across all political, cultural and biological divisions, rendering them null.
There’s also some interesting information about the difference between traditional Western fairy tales, and those from other cultures.

This is a very interesting, wonderful, and I thought, unique book.
In his comments on this book, Rob Bell says that Pete takes you to the edge of a cliff, and then pushes you off.
That’s a pretty accurate description of reading this book. It’s a fall I would highly encourage you to take.
—–

Buy the book (and read some other short reviews).  Click HERE.

SOME QUOTES:

– We must not be afraid to burn our sacred temples in order to discover what, if anything, remains.

– To truly unplug from the god of religion, with all the anxieties and distress this involves, takes courage.
Indeed, one could say that it takes God.

– The felt experience of God’s absence [is] the fundamental way of entering into the presence of God.

– There will always be an army of Job’s comforters who attempt to save our mythologies, and like Job, we must resist them.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– By allowing the Church to believe on our behalf… we remain firmly embedded in a religious worldview while denying it.

– [We need to bring] radical doubt, ambiguity, mystery, and complexity into the very heart of the liturgical structure itself.

– The foot of the cross is the graveyard where religion is buried.

– The “heart” in the biblical sense in not the inner life, but the whole man in relation to God.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Religious experience cannot be properly approached as an experience at all. Rather, God is that which transforms how we experience everything.

– The claim “I believe in God” is nothing but a lie if it is not manifest in our lives, because one only believes in God insofar as one loves.

– [Concerning many fundamentalists] Their often sexist, homophobic, and racist rhetoric is aimed frimly at maintaining their position of power and thus is designed specifically to prevent change.

– “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.”
Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Faith is about this life. Faith is lived out in love of the world.

– Resurrection is not something one argues for, but is is the name we give to a mode of living.

– It can be so hard to give up on easy answers and face up to our feeling of finitude, meaninglessness, and guilt.

– You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave not free, male nor female, black nor white, rich nor poor, Republican nor Democrat, liberal nor conservative, orthodox nor heretic, citizen nor alien, gay nor straight, Israel nor Palestine, American nor Iraqi, Christian nor non-Christian, for you all are one in Christ Jesus.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

 
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