Religion Magazine

What We Talk About When We Talk About God

By Sjbedard @sjbedard

Rob Bell’s previous book, Love Wins, was one of the most controversial books in recent memories.  That such an influential pastor would come out and claim that hell was not permanent and that all would eventually choose God was quite remarkable.  I still see reviews of Love Wins being posted.

What We Talk About When We Talk About God
Because of this, I was eager to read Rob Bell’s latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God.  If you are looking for the big controversy, you will not find it in this book.  While some of the things that he says will bother many conservatives, he does not come out and say anything shocking.

This book comes out of Rob Bell’s crisis of faith.  He asked the question that we all ask at some point: Is all this true?  Is there really a God and what is he like?  Instead of jettisoning his faith, Bell journeyed through doubt to a renewed confidence in faith.  In many ways, this is a postmodern apologetics book.  It is an argument for the existence of God, without actually arguing.

Rob Bell does a lot of what he does best and that is telling stories.  He is a master at sharing illustrations that really make his point.  He takes the reader through a journey, exploring life and reflecting on where God might be on that journey.

While Bell makes some good points and he avoids heretical statements, I was uncomfortable with some of his conclusions.  The first and longest chapter, deals with the uncertainty of reality.  Using some amazing scientific facts, he argues that reality is not as we experience it with our senses.  His point seems to be that if we can’t tell that the chair we are sitting on is mostly empty space, how can we be so dogmatic about who or what we say God is?

Bell also suggests that God’s expectations for humanity have changed and continue to change.  He shows that things changed with the appearance of the Old Testament from the pre-biblical times and that they changed again with the New Testament.  He seems to be arguing that God is in a continual state of pulling us to new places and that we need to be open to those changes.  Bell’s recent statements in the media about same-sex marriage give us an indication of the kinds of changes he is thinking about.  Even if we allow some development from the Old to New Testaments, that is a development observed by revelation.  To say that we must develop beyond New Testament teachings is to invite the question: By whose authority?  How do we discern the new pulling by God?  Is it by joining in what we see society doing?  Both Old and New Testaments were very counter-cultural and so we must look elsewhere.  But where?  Bell is vague on that.

What We Talk About When We Talk About God is an interesting book.  It is a good summary of the kinds of faith questions many people have and the ways they explore those questions.  I suspect that are certain types of skeptics who will be convinced that there is a God by reading this book.  Although I am not ready to trade in traditional Christian for a newer make,  I still think we can learn something from Rob Bell.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog