Monday, October 5, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell and Don Golden

Pages: 218.

How it was obtained: Susan gave it to me as a Christmas present.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 10 months.

Days spent reading it: 1 day.

Why I read it: Rob Bell fascinates me. He often challenges my view of Christianity. He makes me think about the how and why of Christianity today. And I like his odd writing style.

Brief review: Rob Bell and Don Golden walk through the story of the Bible with a particular eye towards how God frees the oppressed and is opposed to oppressive empires. According to the introduction they take their cue from what is being called the "New Exodus" perspective. Basically, I think they see the Exodus as the primary imagery for salvation in the Bible (almost more so than the Cross, which is slightly disturbing).

There are some creative and good ideas in this book. Bell and Golden made me think deeply about what it means to have power and wealth. Some questions I tried to think through while reading this book included: How have we (Americans) obtained power and wealth? What are we doing with this power and wealth? What can we be doing differently? Is the way that we have obtained power and wealth by oppressing others? And if so, what should we do about that? Is America really an empire? Is it comparable to Rome during Jesus' time? What would Jesus think about America? How would he correct us? How would he commend us?

I appreciate the creativity of Rob Bell. I think this book is an interesting look at the overall story of the Bible. My only problem is that in a book like this, Bell is forced to downplay important elements of the Bible in order to make his point. For instance the title of the book is "Jesus wants to save Christians." But a much better (though less provocative title) would be "Jesus wants to liberate Christians." Salvation in this book is much less about a relationship with Jesus (however you phrase it), and instead liberation from oppression is the driving metaphor. I do not disagree with the metaphor Bell uses, but it leaves the title a little misleading. Of course, Rob Bell would not be Rob Bell if he was not probing and provoking and making the modern Christian rethink how we relate to the post-modern culture. So he has to have a provocative title about Christians being saved.

This is one of those books I would like to read with a group of people. Some who really like the ideas in the book, some who really hate the ideas in the book, and some who fall between these extremes. I think this book would be fascinating to discuss with others who were interested in it. As a theology student, I also think it would be interesting to do a research paper in an advanced theology class comparing and contrasting Bell's views with Liberation theology, or looking at his view of the atonement. There is plenty of material to read through and think about for a paper like that (and countless other papers if one was interested). Bell is not the originator of many of these ideas, but he is a popularizer of ideas. He is a master at presenting ideas. He is very creative, keeps your attention, and he knows his audience.

I would recommend this book to most people, but not everyone. I think it was interesting to read and think through. Not everyone is going to like Bell's take on things (I know I often do not), but at least he makes us think about what we believe. And that is always good in my book.

Favorite quote: At the height of their power, Israel misconstrued God's blessings as favoritism and entitlement. They became indifferent to God and to their priestly calling to bring liberation to others.

There's a word for this. A word for what happens when you still have the power and the wealth and the influence and yet in some profound way you've blown it because you've forgotten why you were given it in the first place.

The word is exile.

Exile is when you forget your story.

Exile isn't just about location; exile is about the state of your soul.

Exile is when you fail to convert your blessings into blessing for other people.

Exile is when you find yourself a stranger to the purposes of God.

Stars: 4 out of 5.

Final Word: Challenging.

1 comment:

bcschjenk said...

Wait until my book comes out. Then I'LL be the ultimate popularizer of ideas. (insert evil laughter here) You're adding books to my already long list of books I need to read.