God: Using The Force (2): Rob Bell
Now I didn't intend to write this series in two parts (1). When I wrote the original post about God being a 'force' or energy I was honestly putting down some thoughts I had after listening to two people discuss Buddhism.
However, tonight I found myself thumbing over an online copy of Rob Bell's recent book What We Talk About When We Talk About God and surprisingly, this exact topic came up. Now I could write a whole series on Rob Bell (author of Velvet Elvis(2) and the recent controversial book Love Wins(3)) and his theological ideas alone, but for the moment I want to stick to the topic.
This book interests me, first, because Love Wins had such a huge impact in the world of Christianity and this recent writing has somewhat slipped under the theological radar. But more interestingly, Rob is trying to write from the perspective of an apologist in this one. Now this is interesting because apologetics doesn't always fall into the category of defending what you believe, sometimes (and I would argue to its determent) apologists fall into the campaign of modifying what they believe. It is much easier to 'do away with' and change the untidy bits, it takes much less work to properly defend them if you can merely adjust them to make them more appealing.
Bell continues his usual pattern of trying to repackage Christianity to fit a more comfy, postmodern generation. Running far away and trying to rescue it from those he thinks are holding it back (mainly the traditional, Sola Scriptura Christians like myself). However, that is not the aim of what I want to talk about. In fact, I want to ignore most of the book entirely (although there are many theological issues that I could concentrate on within this book). Instead, I want to stick to my original intent...
Bell in chapter four, a chapter called "With", while trying to discuss the immanence and presence of God ends up jumping into a very interesting camp. Now I don't find any issue with how Bell starts out, the problem is that the chapter would have been totally fine if he had kept God within biblical categories of thinking. Instead what Bell ends up doing is jumping head first into the same conclusions that the two I overheard discussing Buddhism did, namely: coming to the conclusion that God is better of as a 'force'.
In this way Bell starts to sound like a Gnostic spiritualist in his writings and descriptions, describing God as "creative energy", "a life force" and "unending divine vitality" (pg. 106). Now I've already discussed in my previous post why this is so dangerous, and I'll make sure to leave a link at the bottom of the page to that post. But I think we need to be aware that this idea is prevalent and growing amongst so-called Christianity(4). And we need to be aware of why this type of thinking is detrimental, not only to our perception of God, but how we as humans start to think of our spiritual lives as a whole.
A "Star Wars" God is not the God of the Bible. It is not the God that creates in His image; it is not the God that delivered the Israelites to the promised land, and was willing to sit on top of the Ark of the Covenant while they wandered in the process, simply to be close to his creation. And it is not the God who would step down from the right hand of Glory to be crucified on a cross to save an undeserving people of their sin. The Star Wars God described by Rob Bell is not the God who loves unconditionally and self-sacrificially. And for this reason. We need to be aware, we need to be careful...
Rob Bell within a few short chapters works to empty Christianity of all that it holds dear. Leaving out any discussion or clarification of the cross. He simply dresses Christianity up in modern-friendly terms, making Jesus the source of happiness and fulfillment rather than a savior and redeemer.
Now I encourage you to read this book, and all his books for that matter, simply for the fact that it gives us a good picture of how to not read scripture; how to not do apologetics; and how to not interpret the revealed God of the Bible.
What We Talk About When We Talk About God serves to dress fuzzy spiritualism up in Christian clothing. Creating a read that would fit quite comfortably on Deepak Chopra or Oprah's shelf. In other words, what Rob Bell does when talking about God, is completely leave out the God of Christianity.
"Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me!" - Isaiah 46:9
"Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I? The LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." - Exodus 4:11,12
(1) God: Using the Force, Part 1
(2) Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis
(3) Rob Bell's Love Wins
(4) Denominations & Abominations