Agree or Disagree: We need to change how we talk about God.


This is a promo video for Rob Bell’s new book. The book is titled What We Talk about When We Talk About God. The book will be released March 19, 2013.

Now I suspect at this point, some of you might have one of three responses to this. They will likely be.

A) Who’s Rob Bell?
B) Rob Bell has another book! Cool, I like him!
C) Oh great Rob Bell has another book! I don’t like him.

For those who do not know Rob Bell has been a polarizing author for many years in the Christian scene. He was a Pastor and a founder at a church called Mars Hill in Grand Rapids Michigan. He has since moved on from that. In 2011, Times magazine named him one of 100 most influential people in the world.

Some of his books and videos you might have heard of. He wrote books like Velvet Elvis, Sex God and Jesus Wants To Save Christians (Co wrote with Don Golden). He also produced a video series called Nooma which you might have seen.

In 2011, Bell created a controversy for many in the Christian world with his book Love Wins. Specifically, the promo video started the controversy when he questioned if Ghandi was in Hell. This created a tweet that was sent by conservative Christian leaders John Piper, Mark Driscoll and Justin Taylor that said “Farewell Rob Bell”.

When I say that Bell is polarizing, there are different levels on this. On one hand, you have people who strongly dislike his view. Conservative Christians have accused him of being “unbiblical” and a “false teacher”. On the other hand, others have found him refreshing. He has opened the door for some questions that many have had for some time. The problem is they haven’t been comfortable in many forums to express it.

Perhaps one of Bell’s strength is he has the ability to listen. Since I never met him, I don’t know about his personal listening skills. But, reading his books, he seems to have an uncanny knack to hear the culture around him. He has a sense and a feel of the culture, church or outside, and feels their concern.

I’m intrigued by the conversation he will start with this book discussing God. Now the very mention of the name God, I imagine there is 3 general reactions to that.

A) There is no God. Does not exist.
B) The Bible is clear there is a God. And it is clear, the nature of who God is.
C) I possibly believe there is a God. I was taught about God in church when I was a kid. But I’m confused about who God is. He seems really cruel in the Old Testament. But Jesus was really cool and nice. If Jesus was God, that is really confusing.

While I know some of you are strongly in the A) Camp or the B) Camp, I also know many have sat in the C) camp for sometime. You have heard messages about God, about His wrath, His anger. And while the preacher’s intent was may have been to teach that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, you just were turned off. Maybe you heard that there are certain people group’s are going to a “lake of fire” because of who they are. You find that thinking confusing because these people can’t help it. This leads you to ask if this “God” is really that loving at all.

On a deeper level, you may have had some deeply personal stuff happen too you. It has confused you, as you have prayed and stayed faithful and your prayer wasn’t answered. You went to someone of faith, and you got a simple cliche answer that affected your view of God. And you might be angry or disappointed.

So is it time that we change how we talk about who this God is? For many, the debate has been His existence. For many it’s about how we need to follow exactly what He says. If you are not doing that, you are in trouble.

Is there, or does there need to be a change of how we talk about God? Some would say yes. God, or if you will, the idea of God, is much more complex then we imagine.

What do you think?

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4 responses to “Agree or Disagree: We need to change how we talk about God.

  1. I absolutely agree. I am a bit of a Rob Bell fangirl… I think he raises questions that the church needs to be asking itself. Right now I think all the religious sides, whether they’re liberal or conservative, traditional or progressive, everyone has a tendency to say, “God is like this. God thinks this. God would approve of this.” They set up that there’s an easy, simple way to read the Bible or go to church and know exactly what God wants you to do in every situation and exactly how he will respond to you *not* doing that, and I just don’t think that’s true. I think we have to at least acknowledge that God may be more than that, and that what we think he wills and judges and fights for may not be the same as what *we* will and judge and fight for.

    We’ll see how the book addresses it, but I think that in a culture that has increasingly confusing message about who God is and what God is like, the church needs to be finding at least some way to open up discussion beyond just the dogma they have always held to.

    • One of the things that I remember from Love Wins was the comment about how you speak about God is the type of God you like.

      I think that Bell sees that. I sense that is why many are angry. He is kind of pushing at the soul?

  2. I think you nailed it when you refer to Bell as a great listener first, a great communicator second. He seems to take an honest look at the world before offering his thoughts. A rare gift among religious thinkers.

  3. We are always changing how we talk about God. Theology isn’t frozen in time, but has always been in motion. This doesn’t mean that the traditions and theologies of the past are pointless. Reading Barth, and Bonhoeffer, and Yoder, and Luther will certainly blow your mind and help would be theologians (anyone talking about God) think about Jesus’ kingdom and movement in new ways. I think sometimes when we approach the question of if we need to change how we talk about God, the question really is, “Do we need to talk about God in different ways than the modern (probably seeker-sensitive) American church talks about God?” While that question isn’t really fair, due to all the different theologies of different churches throughout America, the answer is still yes. If you have arrived at your own complete and frozen-in-time theology at this moment, you’re doing it wrong. God’s nature can’t be bottled and quantified so easily.

    The stereotype (because sometimes it sure seems like the majority) of the American church’s theology is a sort of right wing, conservative fundamentalist sort of approach. This group likes to scream “heresy” at any slightly controversial thought. Clearly not everyone thinks that way. I read Bell’s books and they’re interesting and accessible – I don’t think that every word he speaks is pure gold, but he is an important voice in our culture to demonstrate, especially to unbelievers, that you can have an intellect and think critically about things, and still be a part of the fellowship of believers.

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