I have to be honest with you. I’m really conservative. I tend to gravitate toward more traditional churches. I come, almost subconsciously at times, with ideas about the ways we should worship God and how we should not. I would have to admit that sometimes, I’m more cultural than biblical about these things, which is why I appreciate Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis. While I don’t agree with everything he has to say, I can respect and admire the position he takes in questioning how we’ve always done things in the modern church.
Bell begins his book by stating that Christianity, over the years, has always been evolving and changing. He insists that even in the Apostolic age, theology was changing and transforming as the early church fathers made decisions and came to outline the faith. He goes on to say that the Reformation would never have happened had Martin Luther held onto the faith that those before him had established and that by thinking outside of the box, Luther changed Christianity.
He goes on to tell his own story, about how his church exploded from a small gathering to a church of thousands. With frank honesty and vulnerability, he discusses his personal struggle of faith, his journey to know Christ more even in the midst of chaotic and overwhelming ministry success, and how his life has been changed in the process. He raises important questions that we should all be addressing as Christians — how do I reconcile my belief in Scripture with the ideology of the world around me? What does it truly mean to be a disciple of Christ in today’s world?
The most pressing theme of the book is the strongly emergent idea that community plays as much of a role (if not more of a role) than Scripture in defining truth. While Bell doesn’t discredit Scripture, he tends to elevate the opinions/theologies of godly men, suggesting that our reading, understanding, and interpretation of God’s Word should change over the generations. I don’t have all the answers on this, but I’m highly resistant to the idea that God’s Word EVER changes meaning, especially in reaction to our cultural changes.
Even though I didn’t agree with everything and even though this book was WAY out of my comfort zone, I have to agree with Mr. Bell when he says that what we’re doing in the modern church doesn’t always reflect who Christ is. I can think of several examples right this minute of how we dishonor Christ in our traditions and practices, and I agree with him that we all need to start thinking biblically and leading truly transformed and redeemed lives.
Have you read any books by Rob Bell? What did you think about them?