Rob Bell is on our podcast this week. I didn’t get to participate because my laptop is a piece of ____. But Teer Hardy did a great job interviewing him. I wanted to share my favorite quotes from the interview.
The problem for many spiritual leaders is they’re just transmitting information: e.g. “let me tell you something about what Luke means in chapter 12.” But this person who’s telling you this hasn’t actually lived with it long enough for it to do something to them. They’re not witnessing to their own transformation; they’re just telling you stuff that they’ve been told is really important.
It seems like so many sermons in mainline Christianity are basically academic exegesis. Sometimes they can be very polished and clever literary productions with great stories and excellent object lessons. But if they’re not witnessing to personal spiritual transformation, they lack the urgency to change anybody’s life.
In the Protestant tradition… arranging your intellectual furniture often was the priority. What do you believe? Do you believe the right stuff? But Jesus didn’t come for that. He comes so that you would taste and see… You have a lot of people with degrees and health care running spiritual institutions but they haven’t seen; they haven’t tasted.
I love this distinction between “arranging intellectual furniture” and seeing and tasting the kingdom of God. The point is not to believe the right stuff for the sake of intellectual furniture; the point is to believe whatever we need to believe to see and taste the kingdom of God. We do not need to be correct so much as we need to be open to the Spirit.
All doctrine began with mysticism… It began with someone having an unmediated experience of the divine and they tried to give it language. And oftentimes what happens down the road is you have the language divorced from the experience.
I love this so much. Personal experience is the origin of all scripture and tradition. Before the Bible was codified and canonized, it was simply the personal witness of powerful encounters with God. The idea that truth must be impersonal or else it’s suspect is a lie of modernity. 1 John 1:1 opens with this beautiful statement: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” What we have received in scripture is the human attempt to capture an infinite divine encounter in finite human words.
The radical is not the person who wandered off into the deep weeds; the radical is the person who went to the heart of the tradition; they’re actually more traditional than people who call themselves traditional.
He’s riffing on the original root word for radical which is “root” in Latin. A radical wants to get to the root of the truth, which is why a radical doesn’t accept the non-explanations of a dogmatist who needs to follow blind in order to feel legitimately dogmatic. A radical is like the kid who can’t stop asking why. People who ask why are not trying to be mischievous and unfaithful. They simply want to be all-in with their faith. Radicals want to love God fully with their heart, soul, and mind, rather than just parroting the right answers and going through the motions.