Saturday, 17 April 2010

Jesus wants to save Christians

I had never read anything by Rob Bell before (this book is co-authored by Bell and Don Golden), and I nearly bought this book in Koorong at the start of the year, but luckily I didn't as I got this as a belated Christmas present. From the back of the book I was hoping that it would attack the Christian consumerism that is in the west, and it kind of does, but it does more than that. This book is pretty much an overview of the bible starting from Exodus.

Exodus is seen as the book where the "central story of redemption begins" (p22), so it skips over Abraham and why the Promise Land that they exodus to is called the Promise Land. But over all it is a good overview, although some details in it annoyed me.

We are told that the 4th commandment was to remind Israel that they a people and not slaves (p34), but I thought we are told that it was a day for rest because of the creation story.

While in Exile the authors seemed to imply that the prophecies about a messiah started out as hope for a "Jewish leader for Jewish people needing an exodus from exile in Babylon [then] evolved over time into the expectation for a leader who would be for the everybody" (p71). This negates the Psalms that were written before Babylon and other parts like God's promise to David, (they do acknowledge the serpent crusher (p70)). But it seemed to suggest that the prophets over time through this idea up and that a Saviour for the whole world wasn't originally God's plan for salvation.

They also mention that "Jesus lead two of his closest disciples up to the top of a mountain" (p80) when I thought there were three disciples...

Now these gripes are minor,

they didn't impact the whole book.

I didn't even mind

the short mid sentences or




It made reading the book much quicker (but did mean a lot more pages had to be turned).

But my main grip with the book was their vague definition of what Jesus did for us.

They define the word Eucharist as "good gift" (p148) and then go on to say "God has made peace with the world through the Eucharist, the good gift of Jesus" (p148) and that "The church is a living Eucharist, because followers of Christ are living Eucharists" (p150) The say that the Eucharist is about the new humanity (p154), is not a product, is people (p157) and that is not fair (p165). To which I agree but I would like a more details description, as it seems this "good gift" is left quite vague. I do like gospel presentations that use different words, but I do like them to be clearer. Yes Jesus is a good gift for the world and the church should also be a good gift to the world, but they are different. I am also not sure about using an already religiously loaded word "Eucharist", with all its originally meaning, to describe Jesus' saving act for the word and how the church is to be the new humanity made things any clearer.

In their epilogue they ask if the "do this" in the phrase "do this in remembrance of me" that Jesus said at the Last Supper, was more about Jesus' whole way of life (p180) (and not just repeating the Lords Supper). I am not so sure of that. In many other places in the Bible Christians are called to follow Jesus, but the Last Supper is more about Jesus than it is about us doing anything.

Over all they paint a nice picture and almost poetically, they draw neat connections with bricks, wine, empires, Mount Sinai with Pentecost, Egypt, Babylon etc... They pointed out that America is an empire and give horrible (but true) stats about the state of our world and how the Christian story appears to not impact Christians in the West. This book gives a general overview of the Biblical story (a bit squeezed through the lens of the Exodus) and does encourage Christians to live and act as if the Biblical story means something.


  1. Hey Drew,

    I had some thoughts when I read your post. And I've got lots of work to do... so I thought that I'd comment.

    I read Velvet Elvis a few years ago and I wasn't a fan at all. My impression was that he seemed to take little bits of what a handful of scholars would say, and import those bits into conservative framework. It's a recipe for disaster and VE is a testimony to that. So irresponsible and so misleading.

    Also, I'm not a fan of pop Greekisms. The word for Eucharist is a compound of the words for "good" and "gift" (grace), but its verbal use in the NT is "to give thanks", its substantive use is "thanksgiving" and its adjectival use is generally 'thankful'. This is what Carson critiques in part 1, chapter 1 of his book Exegetical Fallacies. Now you've got to be careful about limiting a word's meaning like I have here, but I'm pretty sure that εὐχαριστία is never meant to be understood as 'good gift'.

    Otherwise, the idea that Jesus is the one true sacrament is an idea straight out of Barth. I wouldn't be surprised if Rob Bell tried reading another book since trying to rip off Tom Wright for Velvet Elvis and has again only partially applied it.

    I agree that using loaded terms can be problematic, but isn't that what we do when we say that 'God hates religion'? I wonder if using eucharist (in some circles) might actually put back to Jesus in a way that people hadn't known before.

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  3. Hi klatu,

    I am not sure if I should just mark your comment as spam and be done with it. A quick google search of your post shows that you and a Robert Landbeck of which is the exact same page you posted, have just copied and pasted the above comment without any real interaction with multiple discussions.

    If your going to start a new religion, you might need a better website, and not spam other blogs. Also there isn't much chance I am going to read your 370 page pdf, because it is 370 pages.

    I'm going to stick with Jesus and the traditional views of Him and salvation. I think they got it right- the writers of the Bible after all were eye witnesses of things and not some 2000 years removed from the situation interpreting events through a contemporary world view.