Rob Bell Is (Not) a Universalist – Part One

I’ve now read the book, thanks to Tripp Fuller, who gave me his copy (Tripp listened to the Audiobook version at 3X speed).  Next week, I’ll have a series of posts on the book, with both my affirmations and my lingering questions.

And that’s in advance of my turn at guest hosting Doug Pagitt Radio on Sunday, April 10, 12-2pm CDTI’m committing the entire two hours to a discussion of Rob’s book and of Christian Universalism.

I’ve already booked two guests — in the first hour, Keith DeRose, a philosopher at Yale University; and in the second hour, Michael Horton, a theologian at Westminster Seminary-California.  Keith is an outspoken Christian Universalist.  Mike is, well, not. 🙂

I’ve also got a request in for Rob Bell to call into the show.  Rob speaks the next day in the Twin Cities.

I like the book — that will surprise no one.  I’ll get into the substantive issues of the book next week.  Here are my thoughts about the trivial ones:

In the past, I’ve been mildly critical of Rob’s writing style, but in this book it grew on me as I read.  The one-sentence paragraphs and many rhetorical questions still irk me at times.  But what many other writers could not get away with, Rob can, and it’s obviously an outgrowth of his speaking style.  It actually became endearing as the book went on.

Why a san-serif font?!?  I’m always baffled by this.

I noticed right off the bat that the possessive of our Lord was rendered, Jesus’s.  This surprised me, since I’d always been taught that ancient names ending in s do not take another s, although modern names do. E.g., Jones’s.  But it was confirmed to me yesterday on Twitter by @HarperOne and by IVP’s Dave Zimmerman that Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition has changed that longstanding convention.  Jesus and Moses now take an additional s.

7.17 Possessive of words and names ending in unpronounced “s”
In a return to Chicago’s earlier practice, words and names ending in an unpronounced s form the possessive in the usual way (with the addition of an apostrophe and an s). This practice not only recognizes that the additional s is often pronounced but adds to the appearance of consistency with the possessive forms of other types of proper nouns.

7.18 Possessive of names like “Euripides”
In a departure from earlier practice, Chicago no longer recommends the traditional exception for proper classical names of two or more syllables that end in an eez sound. Such names form the possessive in the usual way (though when these forms are spoken, the additional s is generally not pronounced).

Thus, if you follow Chicago, it’s now spelled Jesus’s.  Please note, however, that it’s still pronounced, jee-zus, even in the possessive.

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  • I, too, like a good serif font.

  • I don’t care what the Chicago Manual of Style now says, Jesus’s just looks weird. And if that ends up being the deciding factor in my self-publishing vs. going with a conventional publisher, then I am prepared to die on that hill. 🙂

  • KJ

    If that is what he meant by the last line, wouldn’t it still be a typo…shouldn’t it then be “loves win”? But if the three are one, then would it really be plural…maybe it would be “loves win” after all.

    Gosh, that typo and the Jesus’ vs. Jesus’s debate could be the most controversial part of the book!

  • i kind of like Rob’s writing style, but I think it’s because it IS unique… I’m glad every book isn’t written in that style. Youre right, only Rob could get away with it. looking forward to your thoughts on the book.

  • If the operations of the Trinity are unified, and I think they are, there can’t be any Trinitarian loves. Only love.

  • Paul

    That sans-serif is Gotham, and it is probably the fastest-rising typeface in all of history. You might recognize it from NBC, the Obama campaign, and a bunch of other places. It’s sheer beauty, and anyone who denies it will face conscious eternal torment.

  • Patrick

    If I’m the first one to accurately call “April Fool’s” on this post, do I win a copy of your new book, “The Post-new Post-Christians?”

    • I moved the typo info to its own post. It’s not an April Fool’s joke.

  • carla

    Sans-serif fonts are fine for ads and titles and other short bits of writing, but serifs help guide the eye through a sentence and are visually less taxing to read, so they are a helpful little bit of ink in a book. They might not look as lovely, but they serve a purpose.

  • Paul

    But when a book is written intentionally to incorporate negative space into the quick, choppy voice of the writer, the sans-serif is the right design choice. And given Bell’s persona, Gotham makes more sense than other top-tier sans-serifs (Helvetica, Futura, etc.).

    Depending on the nature of the writer and publisher, I think it’d be sensible to follow Associated Press style over Chicago. As the publishing industry becomes more dependent on cross-platform/trans-media comm, I think more copy editors should be open to the idea.

  • Patrick

    I’ve read the book, so I knew the “loves wins” line wasn’t. I just figured the rest of it (mainly the “Jesus’s” part)…

  • Help – I don’t understand! surely Jesus and Moses neither end in an unpronounced “s” or in an eez sound? And therefore aren’t covered by 7.17 or 7.18 of that style guide? Or is the pronunciation of these names different in the US from the UK where I live?

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