I know that right off the bat, I’ll have lost some of you. Even reading the name Rob Bell can cause a mild panic in many and if you are that person, I suggest you stop reading now because this short review of Rob’s new book is only going to get more positive.
Rob’s ability to convey deep Biblical truths in ways that seem to be radical and actually relevant has always been one of his greatest gifts.
His writing style.
And although this is Rob’s longest book to date, there is definitely enough spaces here to bring out mild anxiety in some readers. Despite the gaps, this is a book full to the brim with wisdom and beauty.
There seems to be something different in this book. In a recent episode of “You made it Weird”, Rob recounted how Pete Rollins told him that this was his most personal book to date and it’s easy to see why. There aren’t a bunch of personal stories but when you’ve spent your life devoted to preaching and studying the Bible, a book about the Bible can not by anything but personal.
This is a Rob Bell book coming out of a few years of intense criticism and rejection from many in the Evangelical Christian community and it shows. This is a Rob Bell book who has resisted the bitterness that could result from an experience like and it’s a book that isn’t out to prove anything to his critics. If you’re not a Rob Bell fan then there is very little in this book that will change your perception, but open yourself up to something different and you could just experience something wonderful in this ancient collection of writings we call the Bible.
And this is a book about the Bible, make no mistake. It’s a book about how to read the Bible but it’s much much more. It’s a book about the true nature of the Bible and how we’ve misunderstood some of the most well know stories.
But most of all, it is a book about the Bible that makes you want to put down the book about the Bible you’re reading and pick up a Bible.
As Rob Bell explores the stories we all think we know well, you want to dig in and explore what else the Bible has been holding out on you.
One of the greatest gifts Rob Bell has is to take the stories and accounts in the Bible and put them back into their original context. For example, the most striking and encouraging aspect of the book for me is his ability to take the most barbaric parts of the Bible and show us why they are actually very progressive.
When we realize that these very human accounts of God were written from the perspective of a civilization used to very primitive ways of living, it makes sense that they would interpret their victories as God taking their side. It’s what they knew. It’s how they understood the world. Violent and barbaric. Instead of this compromising the Bible, it’s what actually makes it genuine.
When Rob explains that the sacrificial system, actually helped the people know where they stood with God rather than living with anxiety that the gods were angry, you begin to see just how progressive and progressing, these accounts are.
It’s also a collection of writings that despite being written thousands of years ago and from a world, light years from our Western civilization, is still relevant.
In fact, we soon discover that we haven’t really progressed all that much. We still need these truths.
These aren’t stories of history, they are stories of what it means to be alive.
(For those brought up in a Christian culture bubble, that’s not the ending of that sentence you expected right?)
If you’re anything like me, there is power in this understanding that is giving me new Hope and excitement for the Bible.
Because let’s be honest, most of us hate the Bible. It’s difficult and cumbersome and seems outdated. Could that be because we’ve been missing huge aspects of what the Bible actually is? Have we weaponized a Holy mysterious book written by humans in real life experiences and so ironically losing the power these writings actually hold?
I know I have and I know that Rob’s new book has helped me see some of where I’ve just got reading the Bible plainly wrong.
We’ve ignored the Jewish context. We read the Bible backwards from our “civilized”, 21st Century experience, understandably seeing these ancient accounts as primitive, when we should be reading them forwards from back then, seeing how this God continually and patiently waits for us as mankind, to catch up.
Or maybe for you this book will simply help you see the missing pieces of the Sunday School stories of Noah, the Good Samaritan and an elderly man being asked to brutally murder his son.
This is a book that helps us as readers see the twists in the Bible. Those moments when we think we know what is happening, only to have something that has always existed turn everything we think we know upside down.
What Rob bell is doing is giving brand new insights from years of teaching and his study of the Bible and opening up a new vision of who God is.
He is taking the outlined pictures of the Bible that most of us have become so accustomed to and colored them in, bringing to light, images that are vibrant and hopeful and loving and emotive and true.
Rob is helping us to see how good God is, despite how He has been hijacked and it’s inspiring and wonderful and makes me want to take action and become a better follower of Jesus.
For Rob Bell’s critics and for all of us,
Is that such a bad thing?