Rob Bell is a polarizing personality and this week with the announcement of his position on same sex marriages, the conversation around him is only going to get that much more heated, especially in the religious community. With that said, this post will focus on his newest book and not his recent announcement.
Bell’s new book is called: What We Talk About When We Talk About God.
In some ways this book reminds me of Peter Rollins book, How (Not) to Speak of God (interestingly, there is a nod to this very book). In my opinion the overarching theme of both books is acknowledging that God and His presence in our lives and world is far bigger than we can imagine and it probably looks very different than what we understand it to be. The main difference between the two books is that Rollins approaches the subject matter more so as a philosopher/theologian, and Bell approaches it more as an artist/theologian (with a fair amount of science in there).
Some will love the book simply because Bell’s name is on it, and others will hate it for the same reason. There are two faint allusions to positions that I am sure some more conservative folks will jump on, but in my opinion they in no way impact the message of the book.
This book feels like it belongs with other books he has written, like: Velvet Elvis, Sex God, and Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Like these books, I found myself being incredibly inspired through some of his exposition of certain passages of scripture that I had never seen in that light before. What We Talk ABout When We Talk About God didn’t blow me away, but without question, sections of the book stirred in me a deepening sense of awe towards both God and the Bible.
One section that I found especially interesting and inspiring is found in the beginning of the book which is very heavily science based, looking at the make up, nature, and activity of atoms and neutrons. On pages 58-60 there are some incredible insights on the concept of body & soul and holism.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
- …when we talk about God, we’re using language, and language both helps us and fails us in our attempts to understand and describe the paradoxical nature of the God who is beyond words (p. 17).
- An image of God doesn’t contain God, in the same way a word about God or a doctrine or a dogma about God isn’t God; it only points to God. Whatever we say about God always rests within the larger reality of what we can’t say…knowing always takes place within unknowing… (p. 90).
- Jesus doesn’t divide the world up into the common and the sacred; he gives us eyes to see the sacred in the common. He comes to help us see things more, more how they actually are: that they matter, that they’re connected, and that they’re headed somewhere (p. 184).
So overall I do recommend the book to those who believe in God, but also to those who are on the fence. I found it to be a quick read and overall a pretty inspirational book. If you were turned off by Love Wins (I have mixed feelings about it myself), I think you will find this book to be very different and definitely worth your time.