I had the chance to go hear Rob Bell speak about his new book last night. Say what you will about the guy's logic, he's a damn engaging speaker. I took notes. He came out of the gate answering questions. No presentation. Nothing.
He was in a friendly environment other than the lone protester out front. The majority of protestant congregations (especially the free church folk like Winnetka Congregational Church (pic) and my congregation) don't find the book to be particularly challenging or Rob's thoughts surprising. In fact, many think he's a little too traditional (Note: They often say the same about Borg and McLaren, so...Yeah.). His evangelicalism is charming though foreign.
Bell and I have some friends in common. So, after the event I introduced myself and made the connection...trying not to be all, you know, "I'm cool, too!" Why is it that we never really leave the Jr. High School cafeteria behind? Shit. Ha! He was gracious and kind.
I finally have a copy of Love Wins and will read and post a little review. But what I want to say is this...For the evangelical community in this country, this stuff is brand new. If it's not new, it was rejected a century ago during the Modernist Controversy (Here's a piece from Get Religion that fleshes this point out.). The mainline traditions (like mine) has made peace with this theology. We've made peace with Origen and Jung, Nazianzus and the social activists. Rob is suggesting something familiar. But, and I really want to be clear, he's not taking the same route.
He's not taking that old humanist strain and spinning it in a new way. He's past that. He's taking a post-modern approach. Perhaps, perhaps, he's a tech savvy Derridian or Girardian homiletician. He's not trying to prove anything. He's not suggesting an answer to the questions. He's presenting the questions and then asking us to take a hard look at the character of God. Then he wants us see if that changes the questions at all. Really, I want to say he's been hanging with the Catholic and such and that's what has the evangelical community all in an uproar. He's really proposing a kind of "pergatory" and that's just not gonna cut it in Evangelical circles for they are convinced that the Catholics are in error as much as Bell is.
He's passionate. He's generous. He's convinced of the centrality of Christ Jesus. The Catholic priests present were suggesting he could borrow one of their suits. Ha! That was a funny moment. "I do like black," he said. His theology is not liberal in the way some fear. He's not trying to do away with anything. He's just opening up the conversation.
Time to read.