Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What We Talk About

The latest book by Rob Bell is entitled What We Talk About When We Talk About God. For those of you who don't follow Bell, he used to be the pastor at Mars Hill Church in Michigan. He became the paradigm of the young, hip church leader who used books and videos to share his vision and his message. However, at some point along the way, Bell began to struggle with his faith and wrote a very worrisome book called Love Wins where he made a number of assertions questioning the existence of God and whether he was just a human construct. Wrestling with his doubts and struggles in such a public way must have been absolutely horrific for him. He ultimately left the church that he had founded and moved to California to find himself in the entertainment industry. Many even raised the possibility that we had heard the last of Bell given his downward spiral. However, just a few years after the dust from Love Wins settled, Bell has come back with his new book. A book written from a place of peace, perspective, self-assurance, and strength. Here we find a book written in the usual Bell pseudo-poetic, reflective style, but also with a bit more humor and a bit more true prose.

I must say that I didn't truly appreciate what Bell's main message was in writing this book until I reached the very last sentence of the epilogue. However, before I get there, I thought it appropriate to include a line from one online reviewer who wrote " ... [this book] challenges conventional notions of God as an otherworldly divine being set apart from humanity, opposed to science and insistent on a conservative interpretation of the Bible." In fact, Bell states:

To elevate abstract doctrines and dogmas over living, breathing, embodied experiences of God's love and grace, then, is going in the wrong direction. It's taking flesh and turning it back into words.

In other words, Bell's whole message is that God is likely to be more clearly perceived during moments when we are living life and interacting with those around us. Instead of God only coming into our consciousness during the times when we go to church and are beaten over the head with some deep sounding sermon about God and the doctrines of the church, once we relax and keep our eyes open to what is going on around us every day in every place, we can then begin to see God everywhere. It is this observation that Bell uses to conclude this book. A nice, reflective, approachable work that I recommend.