Rob Bell is Youth Group Guy

I just got an advanced copy of Rob Bell’s new book, What We Talk About When We Talk about God. Part of the gig is I’m supposed to write a review

Here it goes.

Note: this will not be a normal, linear review. Given that’s pretty much Bell’s writing style, I figured I’d go with that.

I want to offer two disclaimers. This is the first Rob Bell book in my library.  I’ve watched a few of his sermons and his Nouma videos. Here is what I’ve always thought about Rob Bell. He reminds me of the annoying guy I’ve seen in campus ministries or youth groups everywhere. You know the one I mean. He dances during worship, raises his hands up and points to the heavens like God is a hot rock star. Youth Group Guy is also the type of person who’ll come up to you and say, “Dude, God is awesome, man, He really is.” Nothing wrong with the sentiment. However, you can’t help hide your laughter at his over enthusiastic and somewhat superficial anthems.

At the same time, I don’t get the unrelenting hatred of Rob Bell spewed by John Piper, Mark Driscoll, etc. Is Rob Bell a heretic? I honestly don’t know. Do I think he deserves the level of spew he gets? Most likely not. I think people hate Rob Bell because of his “Youth Group Guy” style. His critics say they don’t like him for his theology. They must be smarter than I, because  I have no idea what the Gehenna {redacted for language as people didn’t seem to get the joke about Love Wins view of the, er, bad place} Rob’s theology might entail. Thus, I find the condemnation of it a bit premature.

My second disclaimer is that, I’m undergoing my own faith transformation. I’m asking a lot of questions and going back to the raw foundation of what I believe. In this process, I’ve found myself deeply questioning my identity as a fully formed, full blooded Reformed Presbyterian. What does that mean? I’m not prepare to speak on this just yet. I’m not becoming “emergent” or “liberal”, whatever those terms mean. I’m in sympathy with Bell’s approach to “strip it back” to the basics. However, in this process, I hold firm and fast to that beautiful statement of the Faith, The Nicene Creed.

Now, on to Bell’s book. What did I think?

I think Rob does a great job at asking real life questions many Christians avoid. For example, what do we mean when we say the word “God”? This seems like a really basic and childish question. Most people can’t describe what they mean by “God” If they try, “God” starts to look like themselves and that “God” starts agreeing with everything they might say.

I’m always amazed at our ability to create God in our image. The God of the Bible refuses those labels. When Moses asks God’s name in Exodus, do you know how God responds? The essential translation is close to: “I Will Be Who I Will Be”.  This means God will define Himself, thank you very much.

Rob raising the “Who is God” question is important, because a lot of shit has been attached to God’s name. A lot of the Skubulos {redacted for language  as people can’t seem to take the modern translation of this word} must be flushed because I’m tired of worshiping it. I’m tired of worshiping the idol skubulos {redacted for language, see above} god of my heart and the American Christian culture. I want the real “God Who is There”.

I’m also glad Rob uses science to discuss the weirdness of the universe. Things are weird. They get weirder the more we find out through science. I appreciate Rob’s discussions in this section of the book, even if he still comes off as Youth Group Guy with enough knowledge to be dangerous.

I also appreciate Rob’s insistence on seeing the world through a REAL Judeo-Christian view of the world. That is, everything is sacred and spiritual. The dualistic mindset of physical and spiritual is a purely Greek philosophical invention.  Bell presents a great challenge to American Pietistic Evangelicalism and dualistic view of the world we embrace.

Problems start coming for Rob in this book when he keeps the focus on “us” and what “we” think. I found it a bit nauseating and narcissistic. Hell, I started FEELING self centered because of all the times I had to read  “I” or “we”. In this, Bell contradicts the title of the book because its not really about God. Its about us. In this, Bell falls back into the trap of the American Pietistic Evangelicalism he is trying to spurn.

So, what about the answers Bell proposes about who God is?

His answers are a bunch of rambling, rumbling, shucking, jiving, beat poet, train wrecks that make very little sense. They’re “Youth Group Guy’s” answers. They’re well meaning, but mostly incoherent.  The answers might be fine for an open mike poetry night, but not as answers to the important questions Bell raises.

This is probably why he gets in so much trouble with people like Piper and Driscoll. Instead of saying, “Dude, Rob, your book kinda sucks because I have no idea what the Gehenna {redacted for language for above reasons} you’re saying”. Instead,  they’ll probably bring the rod of overreaction and bray like loud men whose opinion MUST be heard {redacted for language, as Asses in reference to donkeys seems to offend some].

For me,  I go back to Youth Group Kid. He says a lot of stuff that seems profound and good. In fact, some of what he says IS profound and good. Yet in the end, you keep wondering when the kid is going to make any sense. You wonder if he really knows what a jumbled mess he is making.

I’m sure there will be many blogs out there about Rob Bell being a heretic, etc and so on. I’m not going to cast him out of the Kingdom. I like his questions. I hope he keeps asking them.

Yet I would say to him “Youth Group guy, you’re scaring your brothers and sisters. They don’t get what you’re saying because you’re not making much sense.”

P.S. For those of you who claim Bell is an “artist”, I would say, so am I. And, if I turned in an incoherent mess of a book to my agent, she would skin me. Just saying.

 

 

photo by: matthewspiel

About Jonathan Ryan

Jonathan Ryan is a novelist, blogger and columnist. His novel, 3 Gates of the Dead, published by Open Road Media, is in bookstores everywhere. The sequel, Dark Bride, will be out early next year along with a powerful new Young Adult Trilogy, Revolution of the Wolf and a moving middle grade series, Ghost Bear.

  • Martin

    It’s unfortunate to come across a Christian blogger who uses profanity (repeatedly, and not in a pleasant or innocent way) to make their point. Thankfully, there aren’t many out there who do this.

    You seem to believe that just because you can’t understand or make sense of what Bell is saying (or trying to say, and asking questions does tell us something about the questioners beliefs) means that Driscoll, Piper, et al, don’t know either. Thus they are reaching in their analysis of him, because hey, you certainly can’t understand him. I’m not buying that. Next time maybe talk less about the importance of asking questions for the sake of questions (and their supposedly long-needed world-shaking effects) and talk about the content a little more. And while you’re at it, maybe throw in a reference to Biblical stuff to be a good Berean. You may find yourself quickly and easily turning into one of those “theologians” with enough knowledge to be dangerous.

    • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

      Martin,
      Thank you for stopping by Geek Goes Rogue. Let’s address your points.

      I think you need to redefine what you mean by profanity. I didn’t take God’s name in vain nor would I ever. That’s profanity. My use of “hell” was an attempt at humor in reference to Bell’s last book that caused such a ruckus. It was meant as irony. Second, the use of the word shit has biblical grounding: See Paul’s use of the word Skubulos. Don’ t like “bad talk”? You should probably cut out Ezekial’s passage about Israel’s unfaithfulness, the whole book of Hosea, and er, maybe most of the rest of the Bible as well. God is not ashamed to use “earthy” talk to reach people. I try not to be holier than God. I fail, but I try.

      As you’re a new comer to the blog, you need to understand this is not a “quote a Bible verse to support my position” blog. I despise that sort of theology as it is NOT faithful to the Bible itself. I don’t proof text. Further, this blog is meant for general discussion that every day people can understand. If you would like to engage in full on theological discussion, feel free to email me.

      Piper and Driscoll demonstrate their constant misunderstandings and sometimes blatant misrepresentation of people’s positions. (see Piper’s abysmal misrepresentation of N.T. Wright or Driscoll’s complete misunderstanding of fantasy literature).

      However, I’m not saying they aren’t ultimately right about Bell. I’m just saying they are braying asses in the process of disagreeing with him. Further, as Bell is just so unclear on a great many things, I find it impossible to know where to start in disagreeing with him.

      Further, if you read just a bit closer, you will see that I’m not praising Bell for JUST asking questions. I said he asks good starting questions. Questions are good. Answers are better. But sometimes, things are a mystery. That is the nature of taking about our faith. See Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Jesus’ parables, etc and so on.

      I don’t aspire to be a Berean. I aspire to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Besides, who knows what other shi-, er, sorry, crap the Bereans got up to. Didn’t St. Paul say, “Only follow me as I follow Christ?” I don’t recall him saying “Be a Berean”.

      Again, thanks for stopping by and posting. I really do appreciate open and honest critique. I hope you’ll understand my need to address your points.

      J-

      • Tim R

        There is a huge difference between taking God’s name in vain, which you did do in this article, and simply having a dirty mouth, which Paul warns against in Epehesians 4:29. Do you really suppose that this kind of vulgarity builds up your audience (see referenced verse)? Throwing around language like ” idol s*** god” and pretending it is anything like the shocking yet careful language in Philippians 3:8 (or in the other biblical portions you mention) is at best wishful thinking.
        And good grief, I could see maybe a careful witty placement of the “h word” being an attempt at humor, but you use it three times in this article. Telling a joke three times in a row? Not funny.

        • Tim R

          I’m sorry, I apparently left a word out there. You did NOT use God’s name in vain in this article.

        • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

          Ah well, can’t make everyone happy on the humor front. I apologize you didn’t like the joke.

          I’m a very big wishful thinker, which is why I write fiction.

          I’m sorry, Tim, but you haven’t made your argument as to why I was out of line.

          And you’re wrong, telling a joke three times is often a well accepted rhetorical device.

          • Tim R

            If you believe that you would use the same kind of language if you were standing in the presence of Jesus Christ himself, in the flesh, then so be it… carry on as you have been. Personally, I don’t think it’s very edifying, but I guess the Bible does say everything is permissible. Go in his grace.

          • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

            As someone united to Christ, I say those things in His presence everyday.

            The question is, do you practice your self righteousness in his presence every day?

          • Tim R

            I deal with a myriad of sins in my own life, and this has included a struggle with keeping my language pure. I’m aware of the “speck in your own eye” concept, but I don’t believe it be a charge to list my wrongs before I offer caution to someone else on theirs. Instead, since by the grace of God I’ve been able to remove the “speck” of coarse language from my own life, I occasionally exhort others of the faith to seek the same removal.

            I can imagine that you may possibly have a significant portion of your works (perhaps even your upcoming book?) that you would have to cringe at were you to concede any wrong-doing in this matter, and maybe Patheos pays you to maintain an edgy style. So I certainly understand and even expect your rush to defend yourself. However, labeling unwanted counsel as self-righteousness is a common, if immature, tactic used by the defensive, and you’d probably be better off avoiding it in the future.

            But I’ll leave it at that, and I won’t post on the matter again. Feel free to tear apart my silly reasonings as you see fit.

          • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

            Good. Then we both agree that we are fellow sinners. That’s a start. I have no real need to defend myself to you. You had the graciousness to comment on the blog and I responded to you as I saw fit. I’m only obligated to defend myself to those in spiritual authority over me.

            Now, if we’re exchanging godly counsel, allow me to provide some for you. Maybe you should focus more on Loving Jesus and focusing on His purity. I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly His purity becomes yours. IF left to your own, I’m afraid we’ll be right back at Skubulos.

            Believe it or not, I don’t cultivate a “edgy” style. I’m myself. I write about what I believe is important. Sometimes that makes me edgy. Sometimes it makes me a distressingly traditional guy.

            I do many things on a daily basis that make me cringe and make Jesus cringe. Thankfully, my earthy language is the least of those things.

            As for labeling you self righteous, I would never presume to name your sins, as I don’t know you. I expect the same courtesy from you.

  • Frank

    I believe that if we are an influencer, choose to be one or pursue the possibility, we should know what exactly we are saying. The problem with a Rob Bell and those that like him or find him profound is that they don’t know what the hell he/they are saying and that’s seems to be ok with him/them. It seems they are satisfied to approach discernment through emotion or celebrate the lack of discernment as the goal.

    Jesus and spoke/lived what he knew so we would know.

    • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

      Frank,
      Thanks for stopping by. In theory, I would agree with you and thus the point of my article. However, we have to be careful to avoid “Either/or” choices. This is the problem with Bell and then Driscoll/Piper (maybe we can call them Driscpip?). The Bible has both mystery and clarity. Jesus used both. We should too. Thus, in my opinion Bell fails in the clarity department and Driscpip fails in the mystery department.

      J-

      • http://Eastofeden.me Alisha

        Your last sentence… Exactly!

        • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

          Thank you, ma’am.

      • Frank

        Hey Jonathan. Just to push back a little…. Jesus did use mystery especially though the parables but he also says that its a mystery to some people because they refuse to listen/see the truth. Does not that suggest that people who still are unable to state clearly what they believe, refuse to listen/see? Hasn’t Jesus now granted the world to know theses mysteries?

        I would suggest that whatever we need to know is out there to know and its no mystery.

        • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

          Interesting, so there is no mystery to the Christian walk at all?

          Yes, certainly, Jesus said those things. No question. But, that wasn’t really my point.

          I think you’re confusing mystery with confusion. The two don’t equate, you know? Even after the Holy Spirit came in Acts, the disciples wrestled with much, even as they were convinced Jesus is Lord. As St. Paul says, “what we see through a glass darkly, we shall soon see face to face..” Even then, I don’t think Paul was saying we’d know all the mysteries of God. That’s what eternity is for!

          • Frank

            I agree however I think as far as belief the answer is there and it’s not a mystery. We will never understand everything but everything we ned to understand is understandable and not a mystery.

  • Dean Chang

    I’ve pre-ordered the book and I’m glad you didn’t give too much away because I am looking forward to reading it. I think if you are looking to Rob Bell for coherent theology, then you’re looking in the wrong place, which is also why the neo-Reformed get so frustrated with him. Rob Bell is clearly no theologian, his genius lies elsewhere, and someone with his influence you have to admit must have something going for him. I think he has this way of laying bare the Bible as read through the lens of Jesus and forcing people to come to grips with the conclusions you draw when you take some very plain and ordinary statements to their natural conclusion. I think it reveals in broad daylight how ridiculous some of the neo-Reformed positions are. For example, the neo-Reformed can’t make a simple statement such as “God loves everyone”, for them he clearly doesn’t, at least not in the same way as he loves the Elect. I would argue the Calvinist God in fact hates the Reprobate, from the beginning of time. Another example is that they can’t explain how evil came into this world even though God is super duper sovereign, for John Piper, this is just a mystery. These aren’t specific things that I read in Rob Bell’s books, but what I mean is at every turn, the questions he ask strike at the very heart of who we think God is and what he is like, and the neo-Reformed hate that because their theology breaks down when you push it too far in this direction, completely and utterly. What’s brilliant is Rob Bell doesn’t do this with any fancy hermeneutics or proof texting, but just by asking some very basic questions about what the Bible says God is like as revealed by Jesus.

    I really think Evangelical Christianity is on it’s way out, and thank God for that. I can only hope that this neo-Reformed resurgence is a last gasp of sorts. I for one have also been reformulating my faith, and the reason why I will be forever grateful to Rob Bell is that it was Love Wins that set the whole thing off and started me on this journey. I’m currently looking at the Anabaptist tradition, which in my opinion stands in stark contrast to the power-mongering, materialistic, nationalistic, violent, and just downright hateful Evangelical Christiandom that is striving so hard to stay relevant in American society today, as if it hasn’t already done enough damage. We’ll see, not sure how things will end up for me yet, but I’m sure Jesus will think of something. Oh, and the first commentator is a perfect example of what’s wrong with the Church today, he’s straining gnats. Is that what us Christians have been relegated to? Gnat strainers?

    • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

      Well, again, I admit that Bell’s strength is in asking the questions. However, I don’t think asking questions means leaving out answers. I’ll agree that I don’t like the answers provided by the neo-reformed. Actually, they’re not Reformed at all, so its a bit of a misnomer to put that label on them. The only real Reformed part of their theology is in the realm of Justification. Even then, its a bit truncated.

      Having said that, I really wouldn’t call Rob Bell a genius. I can’t. He’s just not. As i said above, the problem comes from a dualistic mindset we’ve accepted. That is, we must either have vague ambiguity or Concrete, rigid answers. I think its possible for us to have solid answers while living in the mystery of Jesus.

      • Sarah Walsh

        “I think its possible for us to have solid answers while living in the mystery of Jesus.” Yes, let us hope so. Love this.

  • http://www.samrocha.com srocha

    Yo, bro. Thanks for this. I won’t be reading the book. Velvet Elvis scarred me for life. For LIFE. But you do a nice job of exposing his whole schtick in terms as real as they are, sadly, true. Thanks,

    SR

    • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

      Srocha,

      Youre

      welcome

      deeply, thankfully, mysteriously.

      Consider……

  • http://nathanaelbaker.wordpress.com Nathanael Dei Gratia

    Thanks for this review, it is really helpful. I agree with you that you don’t know what Rob Bell is saying, but I don’t think thats what Rob is trying to achieve. I think what Rob Bell is trying to acheive is trying to prod people to think more deeply about our beliefs. Rob was all about that in his Ministry at Mars Hill. He wanted people to think deeply about why we believe that he is eternal concious punishment, or why we held that Penal Substitutionary atonement is the shiz.

    I am a fan of Rob, but understand he is frustrating, because he isn’t a teacher who provides answers (something evangelicals love) but he offers questions (something, I dare say, evangelicals find frustrating).

    Rob is also trying to get American evangelical Christianity out of its rut. Honestly, looking into it, its a rut. Its created an us vs them. Its scared of questioning. Rob and others is asking Christians to look into our tradition, our deep rich history and find whats going on in our tradition.

    I am looking forward to having the opportunity to read this book.

    • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

      Thanks, Nathanel. In general, I agree, questions are very good and God isn’t afraid of them. Sometimes, His answers are more questions. Yet, He did answer definitively, and that’s in the person of Jesus Christ.

  • Ingrid

    If you have no idea what Rob Bell’s theology is, than how can you find condemnation premature? Maybe it’s time you looked into exactly why Rob has serious critics who do understand the importance of what is said about God and His Word. To suggest that the warnings about Bell are just “spew” and not serious analysis rooted in historic Christian theology reflects poorly on your own education and training. The issues with Bell are serious because it involves the destiny of eternal souls. The warnings have been out about Bell’s false teachings and false view of Scripture (“man made product”) for years. You apparently haven’t troubled to even read those concerns before writing a review. This is ignorance at its most shameful.

    • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

      Ah Ingrid,
      Welcome! I believe we’ve crossed paths before. Thanks for stopping in…

      When you don’t know someone’s theology, you shouldn’t condemn it. It’s pretty self explanatory.

      As for the people you mentioned, I found their arguments unconvincing because A) I think they wrench Bell’s comments out of whatever context he has B) They have serious theological issue themselves. So, you’re quite wrong. I’ve read many. I’ll fully admit, I haven’t read everything out there. I frankly don’t have the time. Feel free to post any and important reviews you find needed to support your argument.

      Funny, I thought the destiny of eternal souls depended on Christ and not Rob Bell? If Bell is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, he’ll be found out, just like the ministers who, while teaching correct doctrine, have dark hidden secrets. So, let’s leave the eternal decisions up to Jesus, shall we?

      I’m ignorant on a great many things. Thankfully, ignorance is not a sin.

    • Sarah Walsh

      I happen to think that condemnation is always premature, always.

    • http://www.heartsandmindsbooks.com Byron Borger

      Ingrid,

      Just a quick comment, only as a small bit of feedback. I think it isn’t fair to suggest that because this reviewer said he doesn’t know just what Rob is saying in this book doesn’t mean he hasn’t taken the time to read the reviews of others about Bell. You make it sound as if he’s clueless, and I can assure you he’s not. I know he has read widely in serious theology, including the primary works of many who have chided Bell. In fact, he has studied under some of them. I don’t know why you jumped to the worst conclusion, as if he hasn’t taken the time to inform himself, because he said he’s not fully convinced of all of Bells views or the critics. It wasn’t quite logical and it wasn’t very charitable. To say he is shameful because you surmise he hasn’t read enough is not at all appropriate. It may be surprising to you, but some have read Bell and found him wanting, but some have read his critics and found them less than compelling. too. So just because this reviewer is left with lingering questions about Bell but doesn’t think we should roundly condemn him does not mean he hasn’t done his homework.

  • http://realclearpolitics.com Just A Forgiven Sinner

    Johnathan,

    The effort to use profanity as hip, cool, street, keeping it real, being yourself – whatever the desire – becomes a distraction. It isn’t necessary to make your points, and is absolutely offensive to many Christians when it is tossed into articles, blogs or discussions about these most serious of issues. It demonstrates a basic lack of respect for those who would read your opinion, and illustrates a serious lack of maturity when one “chooses” to do this. Heat of the moment, on the battlefield, emotional outburst – these are completely different contexts. You and me sitting in a bar – totally different conversation. But when you sit down at your keyboard and make a thoughtful, conscious decision to insert this language, it really does show a lack of courtesy and respect for your fellow believers. And, right or wrong, it tends to drown out whatever thoughtful or valid opinions you might have. Just food for thought, my brother.

    • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

      Sigh. First, I’m not sure why your automatic assumption is that I’m trying to be “hip” or “cool”.I’m too old to be concerned about that sort of thing. Second, as I’ve already pointed out, I DID NOT use profanity. My definition of profanity is to take God’s name in vain.

      I used earthy language in key spots to make a point. Kind of like the Bible does. So, I really am not sure what to say. If my fellow believers are offended by the s word or the use of the word hell in this context, I can’t help them. Further, this blog is not nessecarily for my fellow believers.

  • rumitoid

    The point about using “vulgar language” is interesting and one that I feel both pro and con. Hell, I’m probably more inclined to find someone “correcting” another for its usage to be, in a way, worse than the “offender,” but at the same time I find myself often carefully avoiding its usage.
    Do I think you were vulgar in the objected to terms? No. I see no intention to be purposely offensive or impurely suggestive by your terminology. And the reason I am spending so much time on this off-the-point point is that it’s more interesting to me than what Ron Bell has to say; I have and still am asking his “important questions.” The real mystery to faith is that I haven’t gotten all the answers yet, and I am old.

  • http://www.heartsandmindsbooks.com Byron Borger

    Jonathan,
    Since this is quite the feisty conversation, here, I thought I’d chime in just a bit. I haven’t read the book yet, but have written pages about giving authors a fair shake and being civil in our disagreements. I appreciate that even though you’ve got strong words of concern, you did say some good things about his questions, too. So, I appreciate your sincere effort to be balanced.

    You disapprove of Driscoll, Piper, et al, for their bombast in the past about Bell. Yet, you spare no words of over-statement (or so I suspect.) Mostly incoherent? Train-wreck? Jumbled mess? Shuck and jive? Mostly making mostly no sense? You compliment Bell for his questions, but give no credence to his answers at all because you say you can’t even understand them. I find this hard to believe.

    I realize that his answers may well be a bit rough around the edges and his beat-poet style is less linear than some thinkers may want. But there has to be something there, something to either agree with or disagree with, if only a metaphor or image or tone. To only say it is incomprehensible struck me as a cop out. Maybe it is too much to grapple with in the word limitation of a column, but to say you don’t want to fully condemn him because you have no idea what the Gehenna he means is just avoiding the issues. I realize that that may be part of it — his style is to ask questions, mostly, and his answers are poetic and rhetorically eccentric. So I get that he is allusive. But surely you could have discerned something you agreed with or something you disagreed with, if only the idea that Bell seems to think that the enterprise of nailing God down to a simplistic formula devoid of mystery is itself troubling, which has, of course, great theological merit. Did you have to utterly rule out his proposal by saying it was a jumbled mess and mostly meaningless?

    In other words, you seem irritated by those who were bluntly opposed to Bell’s previous book (saying they were braying) but you seemed to mostly do that yourself, here. That the conversation above got sidetracked about the colorful language, I think, is unfortunate. The bigger question is — and I don’t know if I will have a better answer when I go to review it, eventually — do you think he is on to something insofar as you follow some of his proposal? Besides the rejection of dualism — which you helpfully say is itself a major contribution! — is there anything helpful there? Is his view akin to Peter Rollins, who we know he likes? Is it process theology? Abraham Heschel? Give us a hint, where he’s coming from, what he may be suggesting, and if you see any merit it it at all? Why is he so popular? (You note that there will be many saying he’s a heretic, but that is only half of the story. He will also have people glowing and celebrating, and some saying they can remain Christian, now, if there are folks asking these sorts of profound questions without stock answers.) Saying he’s like the overly groovy youth group kid with a bit too much hip but meaningless lingo seems like a good starting story, but is that finally all you’ve got to say about it? (I hope you know I have great affection for you and for Francis Schaeffer, so in a way this is a veiled compliment, when I say that this sounds a bit like Schaeffer saying modern art was meaning-less because it was so abstract. It is a fair starting critique, but it just ain’t enough.)

    SO, I think that you were somewhat unfair to Rob and his publisher. You should take him more seriously. Forgot the sidebar debate about crass language, and get to the big question: what can we know about GOD and does Bell help us with a fruitful way forward or not? Maybe you are correct that there just isn’t much there. But I doubt that. You’re a smart guy. Give us more.

    • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

      Leave it to the bookseller to provide actual substantive discussion!

      I’ll cop to being a bit bombastic in my review. Let me clarify, I think this book is divided into two halves. One, is the beginning, where he asks some FANTASTIC questions. I’ve already pointed this out. I just feel like his answers did not live up to the excellent questions he asked. As for where he is coming from, that was my main point. I just don’t know. I’ve struggled with thinking through it the past few days since I wrote the review. Is he a process theologian? I don’t know. What is he in general in regards to his theology? I’m still working through it.

      IT was not my intent to do a full on, Byron Borger review. I frankly don’t have the time, and I leave it to your capable hands. I’ll post the link here when you’re done.

      Having said that, I still think my critique of him stands. BTW, I dont think Youth Group Guy as full on assault on him. Its sort of an affectionate term.

      As for Modern Art, I’m not really of the Schaefferian school in that respect. However, I think the art has to make SENSE. I agree, Schaeffer didn’t go far enough in his critique of modern art.

      I believe Bell is popular because he IS ASKING good questions. And maybe, that’s his only role in the Kingdom. IF so, I’m good with that. I’m even willing to deal with the shucking and jiving style.

  • Christopher J

    On your main point, Rob is Youth Group Guy; this is one of the most insightful metaphors I have read put out there on understanding Rob. Like an Oldsmobile is to our constructs on God. A Youth Group Guy, classic! I have met many Youth Group Guys because I work in ministry in Grand Rapids where they flutter to Mars Hill like moths to bug zappers. Thanks for the post, you made me smile while providing some good handles to grab the illusive enigma called Rob Bell.

    • http://www.authorjonathanryan.com Jonathan Ryan

      So, should I call Rob “bug zapper” guy now? Crap, I actually like that better


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