Friday, May 9, 2008

My Not-So-Lengthy Journey With Rob Bell

At the behest of every hip young Christian I have met in the past five years (I have since decided that no one is hipper than us who are Young Reformed), I finally opened the book Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, which has been the bane of my existence for the past several years. Why has it been the bane of my existence, you ask? I'll give you a couple of quick reasons:

1. Bleached blond hair with horn rimmed glasses does not mean you are someone worth listening to. This is a trend that should have stopped before it began. Gordon H. Clark and Cornelius Van Til pioneered the "cool theologian in horn-rimmed glasses" look, and it's theirs until Jesus returns, as far as I'm concerned. It's the 21st century, people; they're called "contact lenses!" Look into it.

2. The soothing, gentle voice of a man who wants to hypnotize me. This just makes me nervous.

3. I am tired of hearing, "Until you read Velvet Elvis, you just aren't involved in the modern conversation. Your God is in a box, man."

Anyway, my wife was out for the evening, my daughter was asleep, and The Chameleons were spinning on my record player (YES!). What better time to try and read this obnoxious abomination than right now. I got no further than page 25, and my closed mind forced me to stop reading. I literally could go no further than page 25 if you paid me or put my life on the line. What was it that literally put a hobble in my literary step? Well, let me share it with you:

"The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. We are dealing with somebody we made up."

This sentence itself completely undermines the entire book this guy wants to write. He wants us to listen to this "new picture" of Christianity, but offers me no assurance that his picture of God he is presenting is even a remote similarity to the true God. If we can't have any clear, neat definitions about who God is, then maybe those of you who have read Bell's book can confirm for me my suspicions: through the rest of the book, Bell remains consistent and offers us a muddy, murky vision of God with no clarity or understanding. Knowing modern people (I live and breath modernity too; I swim in it), this is just what they want.

I'm sorry, hipsters. I tried to read this. I really tried. Maybe I'm just a wimp. Oh yeah, and I know that I'm about 3 years behind the trends, and that's why it took me this long to finally post my opinion of this book.

I'm going to go take a hot metaphorical shower in John Piper and Mark Driscoll books.


  1. Well, the problem for guys like Bell is that he seems to have a deficient doctrine of revelation. From that sentence, it looks like he may be assuming that we are just making things up as we go along, not basing our theology on what is revealed to us in Scripture.

    Of course, a robust and defined doctrine of Scripture is just what the emergent guys don't want. They want to talk about "stories" and "feelings" and such.

  2. I think part of it is epistemology. The postmodern mentality is one of skepticism in almost all areas of life. This includes doctrinal systems, and included in doctrinal systems is, as you pointed out, their doctrine of Scripture.

    The problem is, even a platform of skepticism is still, itself, a platform. One which, if the skeptic is consistent, he will stand in doubt of. And if your platform is in question, well, you really have no place to stand at all then, do you?

    Listen, I am all for contextualizing to my culture. I try and do that every time I post on here. But I will fight tooth and nail against someone who wants to throw out substance just because the people around him are uncomfortable with what we have to say.

    It is possible, for example, to talk to people about hell without using caricature and ridiculous imagery (red man with horns and a pitchfork, anyone). Hell can be argued for substantially. Just because some people have heartache when they think of hell does not make it untrue.

    I have to stop, now. I'm gushing.

  3. In addition to epistemology, man is always trying to maintain his own autonomy (how is that for a little Van Tilianism). Man doesn't like to give it up. He wants to remain in control. Even if decides to agree with Christianity and "become a Christian" he will do it on his terms. He will go through the doctrines one by one and agree with each on their supposed merits as they appeal to him. If something doesn't make sense or doesn't mesh with what they already believe about the world, so much for that part of Christianity. And the modern man is so, so, loathe to mortify anything that the Bible calls sin which they happen to enjoy.

    The sad thing is, the thing that modern "Christian" ends up worshiping is not the God of the Bible, but a god of his own making. Of course, they reject everything in the Bible which would speak against what they are doing. That stuff, after all, is so negative and out dated. I mean, didn't you already know that?

  4. It's more than mere skepticism. You probably would have let mere skepticism slide Adam. It's relativism. Neat lines and definitions? Sounds like a synonym for truth to me. What he's really saying is the moment you think you have the truth about God you're talking about the wrong God. This is more than just saying that we fallible humans cannot know the true nature of God. Even a fallible human can accidentally stumble onto the true nature of God. If he's real then there is a correct manner of describing him with neat lines and definitions. What he's saying by asserting that if we have a version of God in mind, then it is necessarily the wrong version... is that there IS no correct version of God. That's why we can never be talking about the right God, because there is no right God to talk about. Relativism plain and simple.


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