Before I get started on part 1 in a series of Velvet Elvis and Vicky posts, I would like to point to Joe Thorn, who has posted 2 excellent posts on family worship. Here and Here. Really good stuff, obviously, not having kids, Vicky and I can do some fun stuff like add reading a crazy book like Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell to our time. Now for the fun.
“Times change. God doesn’t, but times do.”
The best thing Bell does in Chapter 1, which also probably freaks most people out, is deconstruct our idea of doctrine. In an incredibly articulate way he makes an analogy to how we have set-up and worshiped our doctrine and beliefs in the place of God the same way Aaron and the Israelites set-up and worshiped the golden calf in the place of God. This was deeply convicting and moving. I pray that we all would here Rob’s advice and not trade in worshiping and following the living an true God for worshiping and following our man-made concepts of him. Our doctrine should lead us to God, not take his place. Horribly wonderful.
“Luther was taking his place in a long line of people who never stopped rethinking and repainting the faith.”
- This is probably a semantical issue, but still it would be much better to say that we are “rethinking and repainting” our expression off the faith. The faith (in the person and work of Jesus Christ) never changes, our expressions (which are culturally relevant) do.
At this point our reading I considered this simply a conceptual error on Mr. Bell’s part, not a theological error. However, it became apparent throughout the beginning chapter that Rob’s focus lent towards a modified justification by works, and not justification by faith alone. One very apparent part was his description of why he is a Christian:
As a Christian, I am simply trying to orient myself around living a particular kind of way, the kind of way Jesus taught is possible. And I think that the way of Jesus is the best possible way to live.
It isn’t irrational or primitive or blind faith. It is merely being honest that we are all living a “way”.
I’m convinced being generous is a better way to live.
I’m convinced forgiving people and not carrying around bitterness is a better way to live.
(I omit 3 lines for lengths sake)
I’m convinced being honest with people is a better way to live.
This is Rob’s view of faith. Atheists place their faith is many ways of living. Christians place their faith in the way Jesus taught to live.
This is really the standard Emergent “Christus Exemplar” version of Jesus. The problem with this Jesus, is unless he goes to the cross to take care of our sin problem, he is simply another legalistic Pharisee. Maybe I’m just not as good of a person as Rob, because when I am honest with myself, I am not convinced that the way of Jesus is the best way to live. I am constantly confronted with the fact that I want to live my way not Jesus. This causes me to repent, draw closer to Jesus, and trust by faith that he is in the process of conforming my heart to love what he loves. Like Rob, I come to my conclusion when I am honest with myself. And since we both think that when people are honest they come to different conclusion, the reality is that one of us is not really being honest with themselves.
Check out this quote:
“Perhaps a better question than who’s right, is who’s living rightly?”
I would say that Brian McLaren has a right to accuse Rob here of blatantly stealing his entire premise for A New Kind of Christian, however, Rob changes one word and thusly changes the entire meaning. McLaren’s thesis of ANKOC was that Christian are more concerned with being right than being righteous. That is a phenomenally wonderful statement, which stabs the Christian sub-culture with the most blatant truth of what it causes the prevailing culture to feel.
“Hey Rob, stop stealing my ideas. You don’t even get it!”
Rob’s rehashing of the statements produces a legalistic inclination, to what was previously a very wonderful thought. With McLaren’s version, we are freed from needing to be right and always needing to defend our side, and moved to loving God and others. With Bell’s statement, we move from needing to be right and always defend our side to facing the legalistic hill of needing to do what’s right. Now the burden is on us to be like Jesus:
This kind of life Jesus was living, perfectly and completely in connection and cooperation, is the best possible way for a person to live.
Great, you thought living up to your parents or societies expectations was hard, now you have Jesus’ life.
That review is only half-way through chapter 1. This process could take a while.
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