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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.)

 

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.

 

The Purpose of Parables July 21, 2009

Filed under: Relating to God,Religion,Scripture — lifewalkblog @ 2:24 am
Tags: , , ,

It’s important to remember that parables usually offer one, or maybe two main conclusions. Parables are stories that offer one central truth/lesson – all other details are incidental to that teaching.

A parable is not an allegory – so we should not attempt to determine what each character and action represents. The rich man/master in a certain parable, for example, who praises unethical behavior does not represent God.

The parable does not attempt to assign specific identities to each of its characters or elements. When we take that path we can wind up twisting and distorting the intended lesson of the parable.

Parables teach one fundamental value or insight about the kingdom of God and his grace – they are not intended as blueprints, offering specific details.

When understanding a parable, keep it simple! Don’t get involved in long, protracted, complex explanations. Such complexities almost always lead us away from the meaning Jesus intends.

G. Albrecht

 

 
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