Rob Bell is one of the better Christian writers these days, and one thing I’ve always loved is how deeply Biblical his theology is, while still showing a very different angle of view from the standard American Christian perspective. (If you’re looking for a book on heaven and hell, for example, his book Love Wins is just about the best out there. You may not agree with him, but he lays out the important questions–and ways to think about them that you might never have thought of before–very clearly.)
So you have no idea how excited I was when I found his blog and realized he was working on a long series of posts exploring “What is the Bible?” Like all Bell’s writing, it’s a simple enough style that anybody can pick it up and read it and get what he’s saying. There’s no jargon. There’s no expectation that you already know about the subject. You can come to his writing knowing absolutely nothing about the Bible and understand what he’s saying. It’s like having a conversation.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking his writings are simplistic. He deals with deep and profound issues of faith and Biblical interpretation. I have a Masters of Divinity, I read theology for fun, and I learn from him, too. So no matter whether you know a lot about the Bible or very little, I highly recommend his blog series. It starts out with Part One: Someone Wrote Something:
I’ve had a number of conversations recently that somehow led to the Bible. I say somehow because these weren’t conversations with particularly religious friends, and yet what they talked about was their interest in the Bible.
For some, they readily acknowledge that this particular library of books (Yes, it’s a library. More on that later…) has deeply shaped western civilization in countless ways and yet they haven’t the foggiest notion what it’s actually about other than vague references to David killing Goliath (Although in the book of 2 Samuel it’s written that a man named Elhanan killed Goliath) or ominous warnings about the end of the world (Like in the recent movie This Is The End where Jay Baruchel keeps reading passages from the book of Revelation to Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill and James Franco-as if that’s the book to help you understand why the sinkhole in your front yard just swallowed up Rihanna…) or stories about Jesus doing things like turning water into wine (Really? That’s his first miracle? He makes it possible for people to keep drinking for days on end? Is this why Jesus was accused of being a drunk?)
For others, they’ve heard someone quote the Bible and something about what the person said made them think there’s no way that it actually says that. And yet they don’t have some better or more informed way to counter the explanation they heard other than you can’t be serious, that’s crazy.
And then for others, the Bible caught them off guard. They had an experience, they tasted something, they felt something, they endured something-and they discovered in the Bible language for what they’d experienced. They were wronged by someone and in moments of honesty realized that they wanted that person to die in a violent and gruesome fashion-only to discover these exact impulses described in vivid detail in the Psalms. How is it that someone writing thousands of years ago in a different place in a different language in a different culture could describe with such startling detail exactly what I’m feeling here and now in the modern world? How could something so many have discarded as irrelevant be at times so shockingly relevant?
Each blog post is self-contained. They’re short and easy to read–if they were a book they’d be a few pages long. You don’t have to read the whole series at one go.
At the bottom of each post is a link to the next one. Usually it says something like “Next: What is the Bible? Part ___”
However, this series has been written over the course of a year and there are a few posts where he forgot to go back and put the link to the next post after he made it. So here are the links to follow to get to the next post:
Go, read, learn, and enjoy!