An honest, though unfavorable, review of Rob Bell’s new book What We Talk About When We Talk About God

Alright, let’s get one thing straight. If you want to read a positive review of Rob Bell’s new book What We Talk About When We Talk About God, you need to go visit one of the twenty-something Jesus blogs who love him. But it’s 2013, and mega-millionaire Rob Bell has another book out. Let’s get honest with ourselves about Bell and his books.

First, I have no experience with Rob Bell or his books, so you’ll be seeing my opinion of him from the view of a first-timer, though I must say, I’m a former reverend who doesn’t take too kindly to the trend of pastor-playing-teacher or know-it-all or scientist. Oh and pastors who get rich pushing their ideologies? Totally unethical in my opinion.

In an effort to better understand who I was dealing with after Cindy at HarperOne Publishers sent me a press release asking me if I wanted a review copy of the book, I looked at their link to his website and tumblr and came across this gem of a “short sermon”:

short sermon

(Screen shot, read the rest here)

So, first let me just say that I’m already bummed. This man, who the New York Times calls “one of the country’s most influential pastors” just did the “I’m a dumb pastor” thing where he picks two random words that are unrelated to the sermon and tries to justify his opinion of what God is saying in the Bible based on his thoughts. As an English major, I’ve got to tell you: rule number one in writing an analysis of any text is to back up your claims with proof from the text. Nowhere does God say “No, man, it’s bad to be an analyst  Stop that shit.”

It’s total horseshit, again, like the many progressive sermons of the day. If he is one of the country’s most influential pastors, then what is WRONG WITH THE PEOPLE IN OUR COUNTRY? He is influencing your thought? For real? This is sad.

Rob’s right in his definition of analysis in  his short sermon above:

“analysis pulls things apart, looks for cracks in logic, points out the inconsistencies.

analysis needs things to make sense.”

Uh…yes, Rob, we need things to make sense. We analyze the world around us because it does make sense and should make sense. Do philosophical questions always make sense? No, definitely not, but some things DO make sense and require analysis and to deny that and suggest that we should just float through life is just nonsense.

Rob says if we stick with analysis we will always be cynical: “but if we stay there, in that mode and that mode only, we can easily find ourselves stepping back with arms folded, pointing out all that’s wrong with this day and all the ways it falls short and all of the evidence for why this particular day doesn’t appear to be the kind of day that God would make-all while this day passes us by.” He also doesn’t capitalize his sentences. Is he aware of that?

Let me just say that my day job is to analyze data in scientific trials, so while he’s cute in saying that analysis will cause us to be cynical, he’s entirely incorrect. Analysis is what proves and disproves things, what gathers evidence and observes, and sometimes allows major medical breakthroughs to happens. We study genomes, and we can’t just sit around and be “aware” of them. We have to gather data and without that, we got nothing, dude. So go ahead, and stop analyzing but I’ll keep doing so because it’s useful.

***

Back to the book, sorry.

First, let’s talk about the title and the cover design. My designer friend Abby said the cover design is awful. I mean, I get what they’re trying to do: Let’s play like we know what’s up with math, guys, and then we’ll be authoritative when we drop the term “science” because they’re like, related. But the title should probably be, What Does Rob Bell Talk About When He Releases a Book Trailer? because judging from people’s responses, no one actually knows what the hell he’s saying. Someone even asked if Bell was off his meds. rob bell book

In his book trailer (h/t to the Jesus Needs New PR guy for the link), he starts talking about the “None’s”–you and I, those of us who don’t have a religion or a belief in God. This is all there is, we think. (At least, that’s what I think, and if you’re a reader, you likely agree or maybe you think there’s a paradise but certainly not the Christian one anymore.) We None’s are pretty popular with the pseudo-progressive Christian crowd. They want to get us, they want to reach us, THEY WANT TO SAVE US, so they’re trying to use the abstract, or science or math to reach us because they know we sure as hell don’t want that same bullshit line we once heard in a sermon. We are smart, they know it. So they’re trying to pretend to be smart to get us saved. But it’s the same game, the same proselytizing with a new design.

See the None’s, those of us who would fill in “none” under Religion in a census, were once religious, and then were once spiritual. We journeyed into church, some of us into ministry, and we came out with not just a really bad taste in our mouth but convinced that the idea of God is a myth. God is a “mean, primitive, backward, illogical, tribal” being, in our minds because that is how we understood him based on his authoritative text, the Bible and by Christians, Christ followers. Many of us tried, and are still trying, to fight with our idea of God (the mean God) and the problems with God being mean, sexist and racist. We’re not caught up in dogma anymore, we can let go of God without feeling the guilt of “What if?” Or, even if we haven’t let go of the idea of God completely, we know that something isn’t right with the homophobia and hatred we see prevalent in Christian circles, so we’re honestly assessing our old religion and beliefs. Where will we end up? No one knows, and the good news is, we don’t  need anyone to tell us. We’re perfectly capable of finding answers or a new spirituality or nothing at all on our own, in our own due time.

Bell’s message is clear: he’s trying to save the None’s. He doesn’t know that the None’s don’t  need saving, and we resent the idea that we need saving. We don’t need saving–not from sin or Hell, and not from ourselves either. In the words of the great Pink Floyd, “We don’t need no thought control…Teachers Preachers leave those kids alone. All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.”

See, we (who are outside the old thought-control factory) actually believe we are fearfully and wonderfully made kick ass, unlike most Christians who live in guilt. So Bell’s abstractions and chapter called “Open” fall flat. He begins the chapter “Open” by saying, “One time I was asked to speak to a group of atheists and I went and I had a blast. Afterward they invited me out for drinks, and we were laughing and telling stories and having all sorts of interesting conversation…” Okay, we already know a few things about Bell: he’s not atheist but he thinks mentioning that he had fun with them and had drinks with them and laughed with them makes him a cool dude. No, man. That doesn’t give you some kind of “credibility” with the atheists or the None’s. That’s like when I say, “I had a black friend once.” That doesn’t make me instant bff’s with Barack and all other black people. It sounds weird.

On page 39 he’s discussing “light…the only constant, unchanging reality…”, which he goes on to say, “If you ask light a wave question, it responds as a wave. Ask light a particle question, and it reveals itself to be particles.”

I’m confused. How can you “ask” light a question, let alone a “wave question”? What is a wave question? You don’t ask light or waves or particles questions, you observe them.

He’s trying, on page 42, to bring this all back to God (after he’s giving you Physics 101 for a few pages) and leaves the reader with this:

What does any of this have to do with what we talk about when we talk about God? 

Excellent question.

Three responses, then,

beginning with

energy,

and then moving to

involvement,

and then a bit about

surprise.

Energy,

involvement,

surprise. 

[Note: All formatting Rob’s. As a writer, I need to explain to you that he’s using poetic enjambment incorrectly, breaking his lines in a kid-poet fashion to try to produce a forced effect. Rob, we may note, is not a good poet.]

In this same chapter, he starts to lose me again. Again, the preacher speak: the preacher who uses everyday examples that he pulls from his ass on some book or article he read during his “study time” to look for examples of how to talk about spirituality and stay RELEVANT. You want to be relevant? Stop taking pastor/family photos of all of you in white button up shirts laughing, wearing fauxhawks.

Look, I used to write sermons for well-known pastors. I know the tricks and Rob Bell’s chapter “Open” is pulling all the stops I used when I wrote a sermon for someone. I wanted to make the Bible relateable, modern, trendy even, so I would use some kind of inspiration from something “worldly” or “secular” or even from pop culture. Rob is using atoms and science and energy and his superficial knowledge of them to try to suggest that his thoughts about God being “energy, involvement, surprise” are credible because he’s linking them to science. See this passage as a case in point:

“I talk about all of this red shifting and dark matter and uncertainty and particle movement because most of us were taught in science class that ours is a hard, stable, tangible world that we can study and analyze because it’s there, right in front of us, and we can prove it in a lab.

Which is true.

But often another perspective came along as well, [Lisa’s note: From where? What perspective is this? Whose perspective? This line intends to make the reader believe that it’s a credible, scientific assumption, when it’s not. This is Rob talking out his ass here.] the one that declared there is a clear distinction between the material world and the immaterial world, between the physical world and the spiritual world. What we’re learning from science, however, is that that distinction isn’t so clear after all.” (pages 44, 45)

No. What? Huh? LOL

Good lord, this book is driving me insane.

What Rob is saying here is untrue. We aren’t “learning from science, however, that the distinction between the physical world and the spiritual world isn’t so clear after all.” I get it, he’s trying to play Mr. Beaker: “I got me a Science book, mom, and I studied real hard and I learned me what an atom was.” But the point is, he’s trying to make a false connection between the physical world (a chair, as his example) and the immaterial world (atoms and particles and waves and light), by extending his metaphor from science (something we know and trust) into spirituality (or a belief in God, something many of us have given up on or at the very least are questioning the traditions). This falls flat for the discerning reader.

Without having finished the book, I think I’ve done enough critiquing for the night. I’d be very interested in hearing from some of my other blogger friends, especially the atheist ones, about what you think. I might even pass the book around to have you read it and have a “book club” discussion on our blogs about it. If TIME magazine named Rob Bell one of 2011’s hundred most influential people in the world, I think this book deserves some critiques from people who can actually call him on his bullshit. I don’t expect many Christian bloggers to review this book honestly, as most of them are a bit awestruck by Rob’s fame and money. And when you have a Christian image to uphold, you often risk your own thoughts to preserve your image. Ain’t nobody got time for that. The world doesn’t need another bestselling author preacher who sells pseudo-science and pretend-new spirituality to people. The world needs more academics talking about culture and history around the stories of the Bible, and whether there was an actual Jesus. I think it’s important to distinguish between a Rob Bell, who pretends to be an academic and quotes high school science textbooks, and actual experts, scientists, and the like.

Lisa’s Assessment of What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell 

My overall rating of Rob’s book: 0 on a scale of 1-10

Recommended reading? Not unless you want a good laugh.

Is he doing more harm than good? Hmm, I don’t see the book as particularly harmful, just very elementary and misleading.

The title? Ranks as one of the most annoying titles I have ever had to type out in my life. It should be What Rob Tries to Talk About When He Pretends to Know About Science.

A note about my use of Christians. I usually generalize, but when I’m speaking about Christians who use pseudo-science, or who preach bullshit, I’m talking about a select majority of American Christians who play progressive but really aren’t. They’re typically fundamentalist, or extremely evangelical. I know and respect many Catholics and Anglicans and Presbyterians, though we disagree on religion, I think they are smart people who are thoughtful about their faith. I wish some of their books would get more press and praise, than books like this.

10 thoughts on “An honest, though unfavorable, review of Rob Bell’s new book What We Talk About When We Talk About God”

  1. I doubt I’ll be reading it, having already read CS Lewis and NT Wright and some of the more intellectual scholars that tackle the same topic – though I have to say, at least Bell is trying. A couple things I have noticed, why I think it is rather dumbed down even though I can identify all his sources (and he noted in “Love Wins” that he was basically borrowing most of his thoughts from “The Great Divorce” by Lewis) Bell is not a scholar, he’s a pastor. Lewis was a Professor at Oxford and a former agnostic turned Anglican. Bell was a hardcore Evangelical in his early days, Lewis never was and was rejected by the Evangelical community of his day (smoking, drinking, living with a woman he wasn’t married to then marrying a divorced woman all kept him out of that community entirely) I wonder too about the modern fascination with Lewis, and can only guess they never read his more controversial books, or they would have rejected him as well – he gives a very good argument for why evolution and Christianity are compatible for example.

    I think as far as Bell is concerned, he has good intentions, he sees a problem with the way Christianity in America functions and is attempting to address the alienation it has caused. But he himself is just discovering the world outside Christianity. He grew up in it, fully immersed his mistake I believe is to try and write to those outside it, because I don’t think he can fully relate.

    As an example, I am an American who has lived for many years in Asia (China and Japan) I have tried to it some of that down on paper many times, and realized I can’t do it right except to write as an American to other Americans. As much as I would like to right from the perspective of my Chinese friends and bring their concerns to a wider audience, I can’t do it. I will never fully understand. And Americans honestly, will never care. They only care about what concerns them. And hey, China bashing is the cool thing in the nation lately, “America Made” and proud and all of that. From my limited experience in China (four years seems like a lot to Americans, but really, its not that much) I know this is wrong, and they have it all wrong – but if I am honest with myself, no one cares.

    There would be plenty of Chinese upset if I tried to write to the as well. I can’t do it, and honestly, the complexity of the culture is far beyond me. I am not part of it, and the arrogance of the idea that I could write to them would be disrespectful.

    So what could I write? What I have been trying to write – to Americans, pleading for understanding and suggesting that they should go to China and shut up. Just listen. Hear the people and learn some empathy before you rush to judgement and condemn a nation that we neither understand nor have given a fair shot.

    This is where Bell fails. His best audience should be Christians, and he should be going to them with a “Mea Culpa” and trying to represent his friends outside the faith in a way that would lead Christians to give a damn what they think. Instead, he has been trying to go to a community that is “Foreign” to him and tell them what to do. Unfortunately, this is what people usually do. It’s also what sells books. I am guessing Bell’s book sales will be the strongest among Christians. Just as Americans in general are far more likely to read books about China that reinforce their own stereotypes rather than books by say Henry Kissinger that would challenge us, call for a Mea Culpa and admit we don’t see what we don’t want to see.

    1. I guess all that to say, I think Bell has good intentions, but he would be better off writing an apology to the non-Christian community and a lecture to the Christian community. It seems he has it backwards.

  2. WoW!! just read your “review” of Rob bells book and it really stirred me up. I have been home sick today and have A LOT of time on my hands so I thought I would respond to your review in depth. I never do this but like I said…I had time on my hands today

    First…I have attended Rob Bells Church from the day he started it so unlike yourself…I am familiar with the authors books, films and teachings. I believe there is nothing wrong with pastors writing books. You said you think it is unethical for a pastor to make money off of books. I disagree. What is wrong with a Pastor becoming a successful author. If writing is in the heart, if you are gifted at it why not do it. I think your belief is based on a lot of judgment and several presuppositions. You state you know nothing about the author, but you judge him as if you know what is in his heart and imply his motive must be greed. God showed his favor on many biblical characters allowing them to prosper and he shows his favor on many today. It depends on what is in your heart that matters and how you steward your resources, not simply just how much money you make.
    I am still amazed that people write reviews about books they have not finished. I don’t think that is being intellectually honest to your subscribers or even yourself to make some of the conclusions you have posted about Bell and his book, after you only read the first 1 or 2 chapters. I’m not trying to insult you but your posting displayed so much ignorance, sarcasm and anger it was hard read.
    Just as you have a problem with pastors playing teacher and/or scientists, I am bothered when people state they know nothing about a person and then go on attacking their character and motives…It’s like saying, “I know nothing about Electronics but let me tell you how to improve on the integrated Circuit and why it is a stupid concept) Your credibility takes a hit right off the bat. You seem smarter than that.

    You state,
    This man, who the New York Times calls “one of the country’s most influential pastors” just did the “I’m a dumb pastor” thing where he picks two random words that are unrelated to the sermon and tries to justify his opinion of what God is saying in the Bible based on his thoughts”.

    The Bible is a paradox in many ways. It is a collection of static documents but as a whole it is a very dynamic book. Depending on the century and culture we find ourselves in, it has been interpreted in countless ways over many centuries. It sounds as if you are faulting Bell for having the audacity to have thoughts of his own.

    You state, As an English major, I’ve got to tell you: rule number one in writing an analysis of any text is to back up your claims with proof from the text. Nowhere does God say “No, man, it’s bad to be an analyst Stop that shit.”

    In the short sermon you posted, Bell said, “there’s nothing wrong with analysis” in the first full paragraph??? How could you miss that…its right there?

    You say, If he is one of the country’s most influential pastors, then what is WRONG WITH THE PEOPLE IN OUR COUNTRY? He is influencing your thought? For real? This is sad.

    You say this out of total ignorance. You yourself said, ” First, I have no experience with Rob Bell or his books”.

    You write, Uh…yes, Rob, we need things to make sense. We analyze the world around us because it does make sense and should make sense. Do philosophical questions always make sense? No, definitely not, but some things DO make sense and require analysis and to deny that and suggest that we should just float through life is just nonsense.

    In the short sermon you posted Bell agrees with you and states the benefits of analysis in the first full paragraph by saying it is vital for us to thrive????

    You write, He also doesn’t capitalize his sentences. Is he aware of that? Yes he is aware…and so are his publishers.

    It is a trendy writing style and that is all it is!! It was written to sound like a conversation rather than a novel. So what???

    You write, Let me just say that my day job is to analyze data in scientific trials, so while he’s cute in saying that analysis will cause us to be cynical, he’s entirely incorrect. Analysis is what proves and disproves things, what gathers evidence and observes, and sometimes allows major medical breakthroughs to happens. We study genomes, and we can’t just sit around and be “aware” of them. We have to gather data and without that, we got nothing, dude. So go ahead, and stop analyzing but I’ll keep doing so because it’s useful.

    Again…it sounds like you are not reading the book, posted sermon etc. Bell agrees it is vital and useful etc. The point he is making is that if we do not make room for “mystery” in our lives we often become cynical and close minded. In fact your response to his book actually makes his point.

    You write, We None’s are pretty popular with the pseudo-progressive Christian crowd. They want to get us, they want to reach us, THEY WANT TO SAVE US, so they’re trying to use the abstract, or science or math to reach us because they know we sure as hell don’t want that same bullshit line we once heard in a sermon. We are smart, they know it. So they’re trying to pretend to be smart to get us saved. But it’s the same game, the same proselytizing with a new design.

    I don’t agree with you at all. Bell states that this is a very personal book for him…it is much more about his journey and what he has learned, unlearned and learned again. He doesnt have a YOU NEED TO BE Saved tone at all….again…DID YOU READ THE BOOK? You have made the presupposition that if you believe in God you must be stupid. The entire chapter OPEN speaks to this.

    You write See the None’s, those of us who would fill in “none” under Religion in a census, were once religious, and then were once spiritual. We journeed into church, some of us into ministry, and we came out with not just a really bad taste in our mouth but convinced that the idea of God is a myth. God is a “mean, primitive, backward, illogical, tribal” being, in our minds because that is how we understood him based on his authoritative text, the Bible and by Christians, Christ followers.

    This IS NOT the Christian message, it is not Christ’s message and it is not the message Bell has ever communicated. It rips at my heart when Christians and Pastors convey this and I know it pains Christ. I have not read anything about your background and only know a little based on what I have read here, but it is clear that the Church and Christians have hurt you. Like you, I have issues with Christians but not Christ. There is a difference.

    You write. Many of us tried, and are still trying, to fight with our idea of God and the problems with God being mean, sexist and racist.

    I have news for you…so is everyone else. If they aren’t then they are not human or they are lying through their teeth. Man is “mean, sexist and racist” not God. As a Christian the best way I can get an understanding of who God is, is to study the teachings of Christ. This is God coming down to our level, interacting with us. Christ hung out with the lepers, tax collectors, the poor, prostitutes, men, women and did not seem to be filled with anger, sexism, racism or any other isms. What Gospels did you read?
    Before judging God based on the writings in the Old testament keep in mind that it was a different time, but most importantly we can not judge God as a man would judge a man. If God is not bound by time as we are…if he can step outside of it and look forward and back, what we may see as “mean, sexist and racist”, may in fact be compassionate and fair if he is aware of the end result of our actions. If I kill a man it is wrong…If I kill a man so 100 children can live is it still wrong? Is it less wrong? An all powerful God may work in ways that seem cruel to us but unlike him we may not know the end result. One example is the story of Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his own brothers and God allowed it to happen…Hell maybe even arranged it! Cruel and Mean God right?? But what was the end game…what did God see that Joseph could not?? Because Joseph was sold into slavery, all of Egypt was saved including all of Josephs family.
    Consider it possible that something that sounds terrible, mean or irrational now may be for the best years from now. Example….Many historians argue that the top two life saving inventions from man are 1.Antibiotics and 2. The atom bomb. dropping the atom bomb killed thousands but may have saved millions. A graph of time vs. death due to war, clearly shows a huge increase leading up to the dropping of the bomb. After the dropping of the bomb annual war depths dropped significantly. God telling one tribe to kill the others in another tribe may ultimately be better for both tribes…rationalizing God is pointless. Rationalizing each other is difficult enough but trying to rationalize the actions of God…through words like “mean, sexist and racist…Come On!! Watch Rob Bells video on youtube called, “drops like stars” This may give you some insights into”Mean God”.

    You write, We’re not caught up in dogma anymore, we can let go of God without feeling the guilt of “What if?” Or, even if we haven’t let go of the idea of God completely, we know that something isn’t right with the homophobia and hatred we see prevalent in Christian circles, so we’re honestly assessing our old religion and beliefs.

    Again…this is not the message in the book nor is it a message Bell has ever communicated. Regarding homosexuality, there are a few verses in the bible that talk about how wrong it is, but I dont think salvation rests on your sexuality. Something to consider…3000 years ago if you were in a tribe the most important thing was that the numbers in your tribe increase. Choosing a partner of the same sex could have been viewed as a refusal to participate in the survival of the tribe…a betrayal. Views on Homosexuality may have been influenced by such things. Today, we dont have that problem…in fact we have the opposite problem of too many people. Maybe God views it differently today. As a Christian, I have a huge heart for homosexuals because I believe many are born that way. I know what the Bible says about it, so I can only imagine the tension that creates within them. Is it a cross to bear and so you should be celibate? Christ taught that we are to love people no matter what, casting someone out because they are gay is not what Rob Bell preached…I remember sitting in church one Sunday listening to Bell preach. He said that he was reading that there recently was a poll taken and people were asked what comes to mind when you hear the word “Christian”. One of the answers was, “hates gays”. I will never forget seeing Rob practically in tears and he said, “THAT PISSES ME OFF.” In Church he said that. If that is how Christians are viewed today then something has gone terribly wrong, and it has. Bell always preached that the final word has not been spoken…the story is not over and we need to be very careful when we make judgments of others. We dont know their story, their struggles etc. We dont know how God is working in their lives we should love them where they are at the best we can.

    You write, Bell’s message is clear: he’s trying to save the None’s.

    Bell’s book is about his journey and what he believes. He is not preaching turn or burn. He is giving his view on a number of issues not unlike what you do.

    You write, He doesn’t know that the None’s don’t need saving, and we resent the idea that we need saving. We don’t need saving–not from sin or Hell, and not from ourselves either. In the words of the great Pink Floyd, “We don’t need no thought control…Teachers Preachers leave those kids alone. All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.”

    Your cynicism WOW!!! You have really thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Your cynicism makes me sad because it speaks volumes of the pain the Church and/or Christians must of caused you. Interesting how Christians are said to be close minded, but you post words like these…you missed the message in OPEN.

    You write, So Bell’s abstractions and chapter called “Open” fall flat. He begins the chapter “Open” by saying, “One time I was asked to speak to a group of atheists and I went and I had a blast. Afterward they invited me out for drinks, and we were laughing and telling stories and having all sorts of interesting conversation…” Okay, we already know a few things about Bell: he’s not atheist but he thinks mentioning that he had fun with them and had drinks with them and laughed with them makes him a cool dude.

    You are judging somebody that you admit you know nothing about. I am stunned at the intellectual dishonesty. This is not bell and this is not his motives.

    You write, I’m confused. How can you “ask” light a question, let alone a “wave question”? What is a wave question? You don’t ask light or waves or particles questions, you observe them.

    IT IS JUST A METAPHOR?

    You write, In this same chapter, he starts to lose me again. Again, the preacher speak: the preacher who uses everyday examples that he pulls from his ass on some book or article he read during his “study time” to look for examples of how to talk about spirituality and stay RELEVANT.

    Using everyday examples and talking about things you read is what a large percentage of writers do….how is this bad if it reaches people?

    You write, Mr. Beaker: “I got me a Science book, mom, and I studied real hard and I learned me what an atom was.” But the point is, he’s trying to make a false connection between the physical world (a chair, as his example) and the immaterial world (atoms and particles and waves and light), by extending his metaphor from science (something we know and trust) into spirituality (or a belief in God, something many of us have given up on or at the very least are questioning the traditions). This falls flat for the discerning reader.

    Bell uses science because it is a large part of his faith journey, not because he is trying to trick the reader or relate to “smart people”. Science has shaped his opinion on God. In the 21st century, how could it not?? Also, let’s just be honest with each other and with the rest of your readers Rob Bell is no idiot. He is a world class speaker and bestselling author who founded one of the fasted growing churches in American History . That being said…there is a lot of things he has said I disagree with…and he is as fallible as anyone else. But he is not the clown you are conveying to your readers. You have also missed the point of the chapter. His point in the Chapter OPEN, is that we need to stay open minded because there is so much we still do not know and so much mystery around us. Whether you believe in God or you dont…either one takes faith. We spend Billions each year to help us with all of the things we dont understand yet. We build super colliders, satellites, rockets, Mars Rovers, because of all the mystery still in front of us.
    Here is my take on Science and God. As a scientist myself I think it really comes down to this… If you were to ask a room full of astrophysicists and biologists what the probability of all the fine tuning in the universe necessary to support life happening strictly randomly, they would say based on our current understanding of things, it is incredibly improbable (1 to 10 with several 0’s after it). For example…if the expansion rate of the universe was slightly different in one direction stars could not form…if off in the other direction the universe would collapse. There are countless examples of this. This fact can not be glossed over. Science must address it and they do. There are 3 possibilities that can be used to explain why we are here given that it is so improbable. They are:

    1. Since the odds of our universe randomly evolving in such a way as to support life is so incredibly small…there must be an infinite number of universes and we are the cosmic lottery winners. (According to about every scientific show I have seen on the universe…most scientists think this is the explanation)

    2. There must be a natural fundamental principal that we have not discovered or confirmed that explains why everything is naturally finely tuned to support life.

    3. It must have been created (IE, God)

    The fact is that with our current understanding of astro and quantum physics whether your answer is one, two or three…or a combination, they all require a leap of faith of some degree. We do not know and have not confirmed if there are multiple universes, We dont know and have not confirmed exactly what natural mechanism can explain all of the fine tuning we see and we certainly can not prove the existence of God. We can test hypothesis’, but as of today…we dont know. Here is an excellent paper I found on the internet where you can see what I am talking about. The paper argues strongly and effectively against a creator but you can see that if you believe the answer to be 1, 2 or 3…at the end we still do not know and a belief in either one still takes a degree of faith. http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Fallacy/NoDesign.pdf

    Bell is saying its not unreasonable to have faith in God. Whether it is the harmony of the universe, the laws of classical physics or the mystery and many of the unpredictable things we see in quantum physics. it has all helped him come to the conclusion that faith in God is no more as crazy as not having faith in God. Therefore we need to approach faith with openness, hence (OPEN). That’s it…no cheap parlor tricks being done here just an intellectually honest chapter about what we see around us, faith and humility.

    You state, “. If TIME magazine named Rob Bell one of 2011′s hundred most influential people in the world, I think this book deserves some critiques from people who can actually call him on his bullshit.”

    It really bothers me that you are calling something bullshit without reading it or knowing anything about the author. I think Bell did a great job with explaining well known scientific terms, knowledge and meaning and did not find it to be a trick to appeal to a specific group of people.
    Overall the book is a quick read and like his other work, makes for great conversation starters. Bell does a lot of answering questions with another question. His books are really more about helping kick start discussions. I dont think this book is his best work, but it is worth the 4 hours it took to read. He has a gift with metaphors, and a way to make old conversations fresh and there is nothing wrong with that. He states early on in the book that he is not trying to prove God, so don’t read it as if he is. He makes some great points and I am sure it will do what it was designed to do…create discussion.

    1. Jimmy,
      Thanks for the comment. To be honest, I think we won’t see eye-to-eye on this. I didn’t like the book and think it’s a 0 out of 10. You attend Bell’s church. It’s a lose-lose for me to argue with you. I think Bell is a bit dumb–his writing proves it. In my opinion.

      As for creating discussion, sure it might. For some individuals who don’t get out much.

      1. The ad hominem of “dumb” is probably uncalled for. The guy graduated summa cum laude from his grad program. Your critique of his explanation and usage of science I’m very willing to accept as valid though, since that is not his “area.” I understand your frustration of people speaking with authority on a subject when it’s clear that they are either (1) quite uninformed on the topic, or (2) intentionally over simplifying it for some other purpose. I feel that way when I hear Dawkins speak about his divine child abuse (often to ‘jouissance’ like cheering or laughter from the audience — Zizek), without any side comment or acknowledgement about that being a specific perspective within a specific hermeneutic of the text, held by a specific, yet very loud portion of the western church. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate his scholarship within the hard sciences and have benefited from his work a great deal, but he is certainly not a scholar of the liberal arts.

        To be honest, your review was difficult for me to read. That being said, I’m digesting your thoughts carefully by going back over it and working past some of my internal reflex reactions. Kudos to your for going through a work that you are in opposition to.

        1. Sure, but Wheaton and Fuller aren’t seen as academically rigorous.

          You’re right, “dumb” was probably uncalled for. Overall, some of my friends brought up good points that I didn’t consider prior to talking with them: he is providing a more liberal outlet out of fundamentalism thinking to many Christians, which is a really positive thing. So for that, I applaud him. Is it sufficient or rigorous enough for me? No. I was in ministry for nearly a decade and I think a lot more is required of big named ministers like him, personally.

  3. Hoo, brother, Rob tackled the quantum stuff, eh? I’m a little surprised that he does such a poor job with it, at least as far as I can see from your excerpt here. I do think that quantum theory can make a nice, pretty analogy or example in the context of a sermon; but going literal with it is something I’ve only seen from the more cuckoo fringes of the Pentacostal movement. That’s wild.
    One other thought to add to this and our Twitter exchanges: I don’t think that Rob Bell is the kind of pastor that anyone really “learns” from. I think that he is more of a figure who people decide they want to emulate, based on their (truly inconceivable) enjoyment of his writing style. He makes “poetry” accessible for Evangelicals who have been taught that there is no art to language–only the literal. These EVs do not know how to identify the gimmick. They find beauty in his style because they don’t know any better. Anyways, I’m being harsh. But does that make sense?
    My hope–and in a few cases, my experience–is that Bell often serves as a gateway to better writing; better analysis or awareness or whatever shit he was talking about. So he may be influential as a signpost pointing toward another way, but he isn’t the destination for American Christians; at least none that I’ve met.

    1. My view is, if you’re going to use theories like that, use them smartly, don’t sound like a fifth grader.

      He is a disgrace to poetry. I’m a writer, that “poetry” made me barf a little. lol Again, it’s okay poetry if you’re FIVE. Bell is very much an adult man from what I can see on his videos.

      I DO hope you’re right, and for what it’s worth, I think you’re being generous to him. 🙂

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