Rob Bell is excited about a lot of things, but what he is most excited about is the Bible. To those outside of the church there is the perception that the Bible is rigid and violent. Even those inside of the church have a complicated relationship with it. This book by Rob Bell is a breath of fresh air that tries to cast a vision of the Bible that is bright, hopeful, provocative, and inspiring.
Why bother with such a strange, old book? Because it’s a book about them, then, that somehow speaks to you and me, here and now, and it can change the way you think and feel about everything.
To those who are unfamiliar with Rob’s work, some back story is helpful. He was an evangelical pastor and author. He is a personality who at his very core is a pot stirrer. Like most interesting people who are doing worthwhile work, you will have an opinion about him. He became considered an outsider, and even a heretic, as a result of some of his writings. That hasn’t stopped him from continuing to explore what it means to be a Christian in the 21st century.
His work over the last several years has focused on speaking to those who are outside of the “Church.” It could be those who have never been in it or those who have left it. If you are a content Christian, Rob will seem dangerous to you. I do not think I can convince you otherwise. This book is for those that look at the Church and despair. For those that feel like the Church and the Bible has nothing to offer. For those who are a part of it, but struggle to make the pieces fit and find reason to stay.
In it he gives voice to many thoughts and emotions that I have experienced for years. Giving a clear voice to those emotions disarms them and lays the foundation to build on top of. The end result? After you get used to his quirky style of writing, his statements that seem a little over-the-top, and his weird sense of humor, you’re left with hope and excitement to continue onward.
Here are a couple quotes that I provided that voice that I found so encouraging:
Beware of sermons in which the point is to prove something about the Bible. The Bible is not an argument. It is a record of human experience. The point is not to prove that it’s the word of God or it’s inspired or it’s whatever the current word is that people are using. The point is to enter into its stories with such intention and vitality that you find what it is that inspired people to write these books.
What often happens, then, is people grow up or start reading or travel or go to university or make friends outside of their tribe, and in the process, they discover that things aren’t how they were told things are. They realize that what they were told is simply how-it-is in an absolute and objective way, is actually a set of interpretations made by actual humans. Humans who have a limited perspective.
Someone has to decide what the Bible says, what it means, and what that looks like in flesh and blood. This is why so many people are so confused when it comes to the Bible. They were taught by their pastor or parents or authority figures to submit to the authority of the Bible, but that’s impossible to do without submitting first to whoever is deciding what the Bible is even saying. And that requires trust. Because authority is a relational reality.