Velvet Elvis Part Two

Just in case you missed it, this post is part two of a two day posting, so if you want to read this cohesively, you need to check out Velvet Elvis Part One. I'll warn you once more, you might find this stuff boring so you might want to skip today's post.

When Rob Bell's new book came out, I knew I would get a copy and read it. The Bible teacher from the Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids has been speaking all over the country the past few years, so a book was long overdue. It only took me a couple sittings to polish it off; even though it's over two hundred pages, the layout doesn't include as many words per pages as other books, so it was a short read. The reason it looks longer than it really is, is because it was designed to look uber-hip and urban. To the publishers I say, "Congratulations;" they totally succeeded.

In the book itself, there's not a lot of new material. I would say three or four chapters are sermons which he elaborates on to make book worthy. Since I've listened to many of Rob's sermons through the early years of his church, nothing he said came across as new. But his book is sparking a ton of debate among Christians on whether Rob is correct [right on] or a heretic [right out]. So you've been waiting long enough; here's what I think.

Rob is right along the line of the Emergent Church movement who are wanting to make the church relevant to the ever-changing world. The most prominent person in this movement is a man named Brian McLaren, a pastor in Washington D.C. and a former literature professor [McLaren is taking it on the chin right now too because of things he has written lately]. The driving force behind this movement is the belief that we are headed into a new culture where a new way of thinking will dominate the world [postmodern thought] and the church has to adapt or will become out of touch. I appreciate the passion of the Emergent movement for a missional church that is constantly focused on reaching out to people. I do struggle, however, with some of the things they put out there like Christian yoga [not gonna do it] and their incessant tree hugging pleas.

I think the entire conflict, from Bell's and McLaren's books to the Emergent movement, comes down to semantics [I always think of Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 2 where he says, "I'm always up for some antics"]. Emergent leaders are trying to repackage 2,000 years of Christian truth into a new vernacular. This is always going to tick of the old guard because, to them, the language becomes just as important as the truth itself. Quick example: the argument of belief in "absolute truth." Sure, these Emergent folk believe in absolute truth but won't call it that because the language doesn't jive in a postmodern context. So the old guard [I'm not quite sure who I mean by "the old guard" but I hope you can figure it out] brands them as non-conformists and questions their salvation. I really believe that if these differing sides could get past the language barrier, they'd discover they're really not that far apart. But that's just my take on it.

We're in a new age in American Christianity with the advent of the internet. From sermon mp3s to blogs to Amazon, information spread at lightning speed. If I come up with a new theology this morning, the world can know it by this afternoon and I'm condemned by nightfall. In this age, everyone is a critic, everyone has a voice and whoever's the loudest wins. When everyone's right, everyone's wrong. And I get a headache.

So getting back to Rob Bell, I'm not sure that his book will necessarily resonate with people who aren't Christians [of course, if he really wanted that, I'm not sure Zondervan would be the best publishing company to have used]. I think the most affected group will be Christians who feel they don't fit in with main stream evangelical Christianity. This is a bigger group of people than you can imagine and that's why, I believe, that battle lines are being drawn. All I know is it's going be interesting to see what happens among followers of Jesus in the United States in the years to come. This book is just the beginning.