Monday, April 22, 2013

Highlights from What We Talk About When We Talk About God

I've just finished reading Rob Bell's new book. Rest assured, it's not nearly as controversial as Love Wins. Unfortunately, it's not quite as interesting either. Anyone familiar with Rob Bell's previous work, especially Velvet Elvis and his DVD Everything is Spiritual, will find that this is just a condensed rehash of a lot of the things he said there. It's good, but it's not particularly new. However, I did want to share the passages I highlighted on my Kindle as I read the book. If you don't want to read the book and just want to read the parts I thought were most interesting, here you go:

The great German scholar Helmut Thielicke once said that a person who speaks to this hour’s need will always be skirting the edge of heresy, but only the person who risks those heresies can gain the truth.


Whatever we say about God always rests within the larger reality of what we can’t say; meaning always resides within a larger mystery; knowing always takes place within unknowing; whatever has been revealed to us surrounded by that which hasn’t been revealed to us.


This is because conviction and humility, like faith and doubt, are not opposites; they’re dance partners. It’s possible to hold your faith with open hands, living with great conviction and yet at the same time humbly admitting that your knowledge and perspective will always be limited.


This is one of the reasons we watch movies, attend recovery groups, read memoirs, and sit around campfires telling stories long after the fire has dwindled down to a few glowing embers. It’s written in the Psalms that “deep calls to deep,” which is what happens when you get a glimpse of what someone else has gone through or is currently in the throes of and you find yourself inextricably, mysteriously linked with that person because you have been reminded again of our common humanity and its singular source, the subsurface unity of all things that is ever before us in countless manifestations but requires eyes wide open to see it burst into view.


[Y]ou can be very religious and invoke the name of God and be able to quote lots of verses and be well versed in complicated theological systems and yet not be a person who sees. It’s one thing to sing about God and recite quotes about God and invoke God’s name; it’s another be aware of the presence in every taste, touch, sound, and embrace.

With Jesus, what we see again and again is that it’s never just a person, or just a meal, or just an event, because there’s always more going on just below the surface.


To elevate abstract doctrines and dogmas over living, breathing, embodied experiences of God’s love and grace, then, is going the wrong direction. It’s taking flesh and turning it back into words.


When someone wrongs us, we rarely (if ever) want to do the same thing back. Why? Because we want to do something more harmful. Likewise, when someone insults us, our instinct is to search for words that will be more insulting.

Revenge always escalates.


To make it really clear and simple, let’s call this movement across history we see in passages like the ones we just looked at from Exodus and Deuteronomy clicks. What we see is God meeting people at the click they’re at, and then drawing them forward.

When they’re at F, God calls them to G.
When we’re at L, God calls us to M.

And if we’re way back there at A, God meets us way back there at A and does what God always does: invites us forward to B.


Churches and religious communities and organizations can claim to speak for God while at the same time actually being behind the movement of God that is continuing forward in the culture around them . . .

without their participation.


In one of the accounts of Jesus’s death we read that the curtain in the temple of God—the one that kept people out of the holiest place of God’s presence—


One New Testament writer said that this ripping was a picture of how, because of Jesus, we can have new, direct access to God.

A beautiful idea.

But the curtain ripping also means that God comes out, that God is no longer confined to the temple as God was previously.


When the female voice is repressed and stifled, the entire community can easily find themselves cut off from the sacred feminine, depriving themselves of the full image of god.

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