by Rob Bell
So this has been quite a year for Rob Bell, and it's the first year I've read anything he's written. So I am living proof that any press is good press. This is Rob's first book, but it's not the first book of his I've read, but I'll reserve comments on "that book" for now. I read Velvet Elvis to get a better picture of Rob's story. I find him an interesting character on the stage of contemporary Christianity. Finally, this book has received high praise from many and had been on my list for quite a while. Okay, I'm late to the party.
Regardless of what one might think about Rob's theology, he is a very engaging writer. His artist's heart shines in his voice as an author which makes him a joy to read. I must say though, that when reading an author with such a knack for graceful phrasing, I feel an extra obligation to carefully weigh and test what's being said. Artful language can sound good, but can veil theological problems. That said, I found little cause for such concern in Velvet Elvis.
The subtitle, "repainting the Christian faith" is an apt description of what this book portrays. Rather than replace the image that orthodoxy has left, as I see it, Rob really is trying to simply repaint it using contemporary colors and brush strokes. While his language may be quite different, his core message remains a recognizably evangelical. So the change is more about delivery, than about the core truths themselves. And this is what is most needed today, and in needed every few generations. Old language, old ways of expressing truth.... well... get old. In one of my highlights in the book Rob says it beautifully...
“Times change. God doesn’t, but times do. We learn and grow, and the world around us shifts, and the Christian faith is alive only when it is listening, morphing, innovating, letting go of whatever has gotten in the way of Jesus and embracing whatever will help us be more and more the people God wants us to be.”
Instead, this was one of those books that evoked moments of joy as I considered the things God is doing and revealing in our time. I'm truly energized and excited about the ways I see the Spirit at work in the church today. This book ultimately left me wanting more, and fortunately much more has been said since, and the voices are multiplying.