A Brief Review Of Rob Bell’s What We Talk About When We Talk About God -- By: Larry Dixon

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 21:2 (Winter 2012)
Article: A Brief Review Of Rob Bell’s What We Talk About When We Talk About God
Author: Larry Dixon

A Brief Review Of Rob Bell’s What We Talk About When We Talk About God1

Larry Dixon


Named by Time magazine as one of 2011’s one hundred most influential people in the world, Rob Bell presents another free-flowing, stream-of-consciousness challenge to what he understands as contemporary Christianity. He suggests that traditional views of God which people have encountered “aren’t just failing them but are actually causing harm” (3).2

The seven one-word chapter titles are “Hum,” “Open,” “Both,” “With,” “For,” “Ahead,” and “So.” Our purpose in this review will best be served by summarizing Bell’s ideas in each of his chapters, then providing some of our own thoughts at the end.

Early in the book he states that “like a mirror, God appears to be more and more a reflection of whoever it is that happens to be talking about God at the moment” (2).3

Bell believes that we are in the “midst of a massive rethink, a movement is gaining momentum, a moment in history is in the making: there is a growing sense among a growing number of people that when it

comes to God, we’re at the end of one era and the start of another, an entire mode of understanding and talking about God dying as something new is being birthed” (3).

Not Afraid Of The Heresy Label

Bell refers to the German scholar Helmut Thielicke’s statement that a person who speaks to this hour’s need will always be skirting the edge of heresy, but only the person who risks those heresies can gain the truth (4). Bell says that he is open to taking such a risk.

He takes his potshots at conservative Christians, for example, singling out an influential Christian leader who expressed his view that women should not lead or teach in the church, even though Bell’s friend Cathi had two master’s degrees (6, see also his footnote on p. 219). He also tells about an email he got from a friend of his who attended a church on Easter Sunday where the pastor said that resurrection means everybody who is gay is going to hell (6). (It is interesting to note that recently Bell declared his support of same-sex marriage, stating, “I am for marriage…. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think…we need to affirm people wherever they are” [World, March 18, 2013].)

The Oldsmobile God


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