I haven’t read Rob Bell’s newest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, and I honestly don’t expect to anytime soon. Too many others on the stack that I need to get to.
The book is currently ranked #10 in Christian Theology on Amazon, though (behind 3 books on heaven, 5 books on apologetics, and an end-of-the-world book — oh my…), so I can assume a number of people are reading it or will be soon.
I did read Tim Tennent’s unflattering review of the book. Tennent has me worried that Rob has gone even further down a path I’ve feared for years he might be heading down — toward a New Age spiritualism with plenty of grace but very little cost. Toward a faith that seems to rely on or embrace the great, ancient Christian faith no more than it would any other religion or spirituality.
I wrote not long ago about what a profound, positive influence Bell has had on me. I defended him early on (and I believe rightly, at that time) against attacks from people who just seemed angry and narrow-sighted. I later squirmed when I heard him explain some difficult Old Testament passages as perhaps things that people just thought were a revelation from God, but really used to justify their own actions. And when I read Love Wins, I found myself frustrated because a lot of the argument just wasn’t well-conceived.
But I stuck with Rob, because I still was convinced this was someone intently pursuing orthodox Christian faith. Bell has always embraced a pretty wide orthodoxy, and I do, too, so I wasn’t concerned that he come down exactly where I did everywhere. I just wanted to know he was taking me down the paths he had taken in that pursuit.
My problem is that the things I’ve seen recently from Bell are making me wonder whether he’s really still taking me and others down that path, or whether he has veered off the path that pursues the heart of the ancient Christian faith — the path pursuing orthodox belief and life. Has he veered to pursue a more bland version of spirituality that gives precedence to an inward “stillness” over the ancient faith?
I haven’t read the book, but I would guess some of you have. Can you help me? Is Tennent right? Is this the path Rob is more consistently taking here?
It will be pretty upsetting to me if the person who helped me see much more depth, richness, and nuance in the Christian faith ends up offering a “less nuanced, more simplistic, more pluralistic expression of Christianity,” as Tennent suggests he’s doing.
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