Velvet Elvis

21 07 2008
I’ve finally finished reading Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell (after taking a break to read six or so books for my summer class. Ugh. Those were good, too, I guess :). ) The first part of the note is what I wrote in the comments to another note I wrote. The rest is what I’m adding now, having finished reading.

Part I: Chaps. 1-3
There are many things I like about this book, one being that it seems to have a very “questioning” theme about it. Rob Bell is very interested in shaking people out of their comfort zones in order to ask the tough questions about God and why they believe what they do. Some quotes I really liked so far:

“Questions are not scary.

What is scary is when people don’t have any.”

“Now I think the Bible is the most amazing, beautiful, deep, inspired, engaging collection of writings ever. How is it that this ancient book continues to affect me in ways no other book does?

But sometimes when I hear people quote the Bible, I just want to throw up.”

“It is possible to make the Bible say whatever we want it to, isn’t it?”

Another theme that comes into play in the book often (so far) is that of continuously reinterpreting and engaging our Christian faith. He says that Jesus meant for us to continue questioning and growing and following Him, without being stagnant in our beliefs (and this sort of comes into play in the subtitle of the book: Repainting the Christian Faith. He speaks of a woman who says that she is going to “get back to the Bible and just take it for what it really says” in reference to a particular subject she was discussing in church with people who disagreed with her. The author goes on to say that “this view of the Bible is warped and toxic, to say the least.” He basically says there is no way to read the Bible without interpreting it through your own biases.

In the second chapter he references the Jewish rabbis of Jesus’ day and how they had “yokes” that their students would take up. He then says, “One rabbi even said his yoke was easy.”

In the third chapter, he speaks of God being present everywhere. He mentions how some missionaries tend to have this idea of bringing God to people. This isn’t really true, since God was there the whole time. A missionary’s job should only be to point Him out. In this chapter, he also says not to be afraid of learning new truth, even if it doesn’t come from someone who is “Christian”. He talks about a theoretical girl who grows up in Christianity and then goes to college. She is exposed to new ideas that pique her curiosity and interest, but since she has grown up without realizing that truth can be found outside of church walls, she is “now faced with this dilemma: believe the truth she’s learning or the Christian faith she was brought up with. Or we could put her dilemma this way: intellectual honesty or Jesus?” This chapter also speaks of not discounting significant moments in life that could be considered spiritual, but to accept them.

He says: “I assume you have had moments… when you were caught up in something so much bigger than yourself that you couldn’t even put it into words.” He says that a good faith should accept these moments instead of denying them.

Part II: My thoughts now

I think this book should be required reading for all Christians. The fifth chapter (or “movement” as he calls it), Dust, is worth the price of the book alone. It gives so much meaning to Jesus’ interactions and manners of speaking in a Jewish culture. I understand now why what much of He did was considered so shocking. I was nearly moved to tears reading this chapter. It shows how dearly he loves each person and how much faith He has in us (yeah, you read that right).

There are a couple things that I (possibly) disagree with in the book, but I still recommend it to all Christians (especially those who are stuck in legalism and judgmental ways). Of course, non-Christians can get a lot out of this book as well (and probably even more than the sorts of Christians who will read this book and criticize it for Bell’s more open-minded way of thinking). It promotes the opening of discussions between people who have different views. It encourages people with different interpretations of Scripture to actually discuss possible different meanings, instead of exchanging their own thoughts for those of whatever the authority (pastor, etc.) says is the truth. It calls for a community of like-minded believers who aren’t afraid to change what they believe if necessary. It urges readers not to just accept what one man behind a pulpit says, but to actually discover for oneself what the truth is and have civilized conversations with others about what is believed.

“If the gospel isn’t good news for everybody, then it isn’t good news for anybody.”

(originally written 7/11/08 )



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