Rob Bell’s Atonement

Marc Chagall’s “Yellow Crucifixion,” which hung on Jürgen Moltmann’s wall as he wrote The Crucified God.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (a rock without internet), you probably know that I’m nearing the completion of a book on the atonement. It’s called Did God Kill Jesus?, and it comes out in March. (It’s the wrong subtitle, and the cover isn’t done yet, but you can preorder it!) I’m fortunate to have the same editor and publisher as authors I admire like Barbara Brown Taylor, Lauren Winner, and Rob Bell.

Speaking of Rob Bell, he continued his hilariously long Tumblr series on the Bible last week with a post entitled, What is the Bible? Part 72: The Question That Keeps Coming Up. He begins the post by listing five reader questions, each of which is basically asking, Why did Jesus have to die?

To that question, Rob has a two-part answer:

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Weight-Watchers and Dietary Restrictions in Leviticus: A (Post)-Colonial (Sub)Liminal (Post)Postmodern Neopragmatic Reading of the 2014 Ikea Catalog(ue) [Five Questions for Peter Enns]

Peter Enns is a fellow Patheosian. Ooh, I like that. Patheosian. We also have the same literary agent, editor, and publisher. In spite of that, I’ve never met him. But I’ve admired him from afar. So I’m excited to post this email interview that I conducted with him. 

1. I love your book. You have the rare skill of being able to translate serious biblical scholarship into light-hearted and witty prose. Have you always been funny?

Not really. I had to take classes in funny during college and remedial classes in funny at night school. But after a lot of hard work, it’s beginning to pay off. So let that be a lesson to you young people out there, you can achieve anything if you apply yourself and keep at it.

All kidding aside, I’ve always been a bit of a jokester and it’s gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion, but sometimes it can lead to new insights and growth.

Of course, not everyone laughs at the things that make me laugh. For example, in my new book, The Bible Tells Me So, I compare the rulebook view of the Bible to a fake Chanel bag. Some people might be offended by this, but others – well the humor can disarm people’s defensiveness and open up a dialogue. Humor takes the familiar and twists it just enough that it becomes unfamiliar, so you can see it from a different angle.

Humor can also annoy people, which is my reason for getting up in the morning.

 

2. Are you tired of the Bible? I mean, seriously, do you ever get sick of it?

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Reassessing Marcus Borg

Fellow Patheos blogger Frederick Schmidt has penned an article for the Journal of Preaching about the strengths and weaknesses of Marcus Borg:

Marcus Borg

One: Marc relies heavily on stereotyping of a Christian perspective that, where it exists, is historically representative of a small minority.

I’ve known some of the Christians that Marc uses as a foil for his apologetic, but it is hardly fair to suggest that the kind of thinking he outlines dominated the church until Progressive Christianity came along. The Christian tradition is a global, wide- ranging, and complex phenomenon covering more than two millennia. Protestant fundamentalism is both a relatively recent and relatively small part of that story, even if it looms large in some parts of the United States.20

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The McLaren Lectionary

BMac’s new book comes out today. I had the opportunity to give it a close read last winter and to provide feedback on it. My endorsement reads,

“This is Brian McLaren at his best, and I think this is what so many readers want from him: Deeply rooted in scripture, yet offering fresh, even radical, readings. WE MAKE THE ROAD BY WALKING will surely be a benefit and blessing to many.”

I stand by that. Over the years, I’ve read all Brian’s books and heard him give dozens of talks. He’s good at so many things, but I think he is absolutely on his game when he’s interpreting the Bible. His approach is both pastoral and radical, a difficult mix to maintain. He brings fresh and often unexpected interpretations.

What Brian is not is an unredeemed liberal, bent on demythologizing the text. He takes the text seriously and doesn’t get hung up on historical-critical arguments. Astute readers will see the influence of René Girard, whom Brian has immersed himself in over the last couple years.

I did lobby for a new title, The McLaren Lectionary, knowing that Brian was far too humble to agree. But that’s really what this book is: Brian taking the reader on a journey from the beginning of the Bible to the end, in short, digestible chapters. It can be read straight through, as I did, or better yet, on the bedstand as a nightly or weekly devotion.

If you’ve been influenced by Brian’s past books — I’m guessing that’s just about all of you — I encourage you to get ahold of this one to see a comprehensive McLarenesque hermeneutic of the love-and-redemption story of the Bible.


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