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Seeking Things Above

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Col 3:1)

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Book Review: Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

I am not quite sure how to review this book. It was an easy read, I liked it, but I'm not sure what I think about it. Does this make any sense?

I'll give it a shot anyway.

If I had to pick out one of the themes of this book it is that the Christian faith is always "reforming". Rob Bell is clear that he does not believe that biblical truths change but our understanding of those truths change - or reform. He cites the Reformation and Martin Luther as an example of this type of ongoing reforming.

I'm not sure what to think about this concept. There is some validity here but it is also an idea that could be abused. Many cults probably started by the leader changing the explanation of  the truth behind the scriptures to meet their own means.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think for a second that Rob Bell is doing this. It just makes me nervous - not that nervous is a bad thing. I think what Bell is saying is that we should not be afraid to study doctrine and question doctrine in light of scripture. A quote he likes to use is, "God has spoken and the rest is commentary."

I do think he made a poor choice of the virgin birth as an example of this questioning of doctrine. The scenario he used was far fetched so this example only serves to have mainstream evangelicals get up in arms. Bell affirms that he believes in the virgin birth. However, I think using this extreme example gets people side tracked on an otherwise valid point.

In chapter six, "New", Bell talks about our sin and the necessity for a new birth. He does not talk about it in terms one may have learned in Sunday school so this too may make more conservative evangelicals raise their eyebrows. However, I do like the point he makes that eternal life is not just about life after death. Jesus says that eternal life is to know God. Christians too often focus on heaven and neglect God's Kingdom now.

Overall I enjoyed Velvet Elvis and it was spiritually edifying to me. It really made me think. Am I just doing the church thing, or am I really living as Jesus calls me to live? Am I impacting the Kingdom in my life?

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chadholtz said...

This is one of my favorite books of all time. I read it when it first came out and it launched me on a journey of spiritual renewal that is still teaching and challenging me.

The idea that we should always be reforming can be an uncomfortable one. I wonder, however, if we have become a bit too comfortable about faith. Faith should always be making us uncomfortable, shouldn't it? Bell does well, I think, to point out how this reforming must always be done in community, NEVER alone and in some form of privatized religion, bolstered by much prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us into Truth.

I am reading Peter Gomes' new book, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, and he says much the same thing. The gospel ought to always be propelling us into life, into life today and tomorrow, rather than keeping us stuck in the past. The Good News is that there is hope for tomorrow and we do not have to be hostages to the way things have always been.

hope you are well,

Tony said...

Chad -

Thanks for coming by. I hope the vacation is going great.

Bell's books is challenging which is good.

What I find myself questioning is, do I have to have the same knowledge of Hebrew and Greek to really discern what a Christian leader is saying? Probably so, but I have a full-time job already.

My point is that just because doctrine is being discussed in community does not mean it can't have the same dangers of leading people astray as doctrine studied on your own.

If the leader is much more knowledgeable then the others can be led astray.

I'm speaking theoretical, I'm not referring to Bell.

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