Book Review: What we talk about when we talk about God by Rob Bell

Rob Bell, author of Love Wins, has recently published a new book entitled, What We Think About when We Think About God. Those who are regular readers of my blog will recall that when Bell published Love Wins I wrote a four part blog series exploring what I liked about Bell’s book and, mostly, where I felt the book contained serious errors. In his earlier book, for example, Bell misunderstands the Biblical teaching regarding God’s love. Bell exchanged the biblical teaching of God’s covenant love with a highly sentimentalized view which played heavily to popular cultural views regarding love which are then imposed on God. Further, Bell has an inadequate view of sin and has, it seemed, abandoned in both books any vestige of the doctrine of the Sin nature. Several other key doctrines are ignored to the peril of his argument. Finally, Bell misunderstands the biblical teaching regarding the kingdom of God, rejecting a kingdom which has been inaugurated but still awaits final consummation. I rehearse his earlier difficulties only because several of those difficulties still seem to plague Bell. I don’t want to be uncharitable to Rob Bell, but since he is a best selling author and has been hailed by the New York Times as “one of the most influential pastors in America” he deserves both our prayers and our rigorous scrutiny. Nevertheless, I devoted several blogs which also commended Bell for much of his analysis. In the end, I wished he had the courage and theological depth to write a book entitled, Holy-Love Wins – that might have gotten us all closer to the mark. Bell seems to offer little to no resistance to the worst errors of tired old Protestant liberalism. Indeed, the adage by Richard Neibuhr about liberal Christianity is certainty true of Rob Bell’s writings: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”[1] But that was then and this is now, so let’s move on to Bell’s latest work which will likely also become another best seller.

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Three Cheers for Southland Christian Church

From time to time I have blogged about some of my concerns about mega-churches in North America.  It is not hard to find examples of how contemporary Christianity in North America has been co-opted by the culture and by a whole host of market driven assumptions.  I have observed on several occasions that mega-churches are far better at assessing where people are culturally than where they should be culturally.

Nevertheless, there also comes a time to pause and heap praise where praise is due.  I am continually impressed by many of the ways that Southland Christian Church is making a great impact on our community.  Southland is one of the largest churches in central Kentucky.  They have multiple campuses, and are based in Nicholasville, Kentucky.  They are showing the whole nation what a large church can really be.  Led by John Weece and a large staff, the people of Southland are showing us how the church can make a big difference.  Let me give you a few examples.

They have mobilized hundreds of people to serve the poor and feed the hungry and have demonstrated before this community what it means to love those in our midst who are in need.  Southland’s service to the poor makes you proud to be called a Christian.

They also have never lost sight of the core gospel message.   I did a survey of dozens of church websites one Saturday afternoon.   It was Southland Christian church which had the clearest presentation of the gospel on their website.   This is also reinforced during their weekly services.  On occasion I visit Southland and have found John Weece’s messages to be thoughtful and biblically sound.  He always points people to Jesus Christ.  More recently, the church has challenged hundreds of young people to read Timothy Keller’s book, the Meaning of Marriage.  It is a fantastic book which sets forth a strong case for the importance of traditional marriage and the long term joyful impact of fidelity.  I have heard testimonies of young people who have had their entire understanding of marriage revolutionized by being a part of this reading project.

These are just a few examples which demonstrate that Southland Christian Church is not just another mega-church.  They take their faith seriously.  They are certainly a model for other churches  – large and small – in the way they demonstrate the in-breaking Kingdom of God through word and deed.

I attend another church which is also doing some wonderful work in the community.  Our church recently successfully planted a new church in Frankfort, Kentucky’s capital.  At some point I’ll blog about them as well.  But, today I want to pay tribute to Southland Christian Church.  Keep up the great work, Southland!   In a day when the media is full of churches and church leaders who embarrass us, it is great to see men and women who make us proud to be a part of the church, the most amazing movement in the history of the world.