here’s my favorite paragraph from rob bell’s book, Velvet Elvis: repainting the christian faith.
it is important to remember that we rarely find these first christians trying to prove that the resurrection actually occurred. for one, a lot of the people who saw jesus after he rose from the dead were still alive, so if people had questions and doubts, they could talk to somebody who was actually there. but there’s another reason: everybody’s god in the first century had risen from the dead. to claim a resurrection had occurred was nothing new: julius caesar himself was reported to have ascended to the right hand of the gods after his death. to try to prove there was an empty tomb wouldn’t have gotten very far with the average citizen of the roman empire; they had heard it all before. this is why so many poassages about the early church deal with possessions and meals and generosity. they understood that people are rarely persuaded by arguments, but more often by experiences. living, breathing, flesh-and-blood experiences of the resurrection community. they saw it as their responsibility to put jesus’ message on display. to the outside world, it was less about proving and more about inviting people to experience this community of jesus followers for themselves.
hmm. sure has a resonance for today. not that people believe in all kinds of gods that have risen from the dead. but that people today could care less about the “proof” of our arguments, the “logic” of our evidence that demands a verdict, or our “cases” for faith, christ, easter, christmas or whatever else. the only evidence demanding a verdict people care about these days is how i live my life. the only case for christ people give a rip about is the case made by commitment to love and justice, or lack thereof.
11 thoughts on “favorite paragraph from rob’s book”
I love Rob’s style … it really connects with my way of learning. I’ve been downloading the mp3’s of his sermons for the last several months; they’re all on my Ipod for when I’m in the car. God’s given him some good stuff to say … I’m looking forward to getting his book. : ) Last year at Dallas was actually the first time I ever heard him (I may have seen one of the Noomas shortly before that, I’m not sure on the timing, but my first exposure to him was sometime around then). Anyway, good quote. Thanks!
(1) How do you reconcile Bell’s comments with Acts 17? Verse 2 says, “And according to Paul’s CUSTOM, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths REASONED with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving EVIDENCE that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead…” Bell’s conclusions seem to directly contradict the testimony of Scripture.
In addition, the Scriptures attest to Paul’s effectiveness. In verse 4, we see that God used Paul’s method and “some of them were PERSUADED and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women…”
(2) How would you explain all the anecdotal evidence for people coming to faith through reasoning, logic, and evidence? What do we do with the countless stories of people who testify that they were persuaded by the evidence and then put their trust in Christ?
brett — i certainly don’t want to get into a fight or a long comment-debate; so i’ll respond this once. i think “evidence” and “logic” and “reasoning” (as you’re using them, and, i suppose, as i’m using them also — just be aware that we’re bringing our baggage to those words) was HIGHLY effective in communicating with people for hundreds of years. no question about it, many people were helped by “evidence that demands a verdict” and similar. it’s just that times have changed. and, since christianty is, at it’s root, a way of life more than it is a set of propositions, i’d rather show people the gorgeous and meaning-giving way of life than the logical cognitive propositions. please don’t play a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” assumption on me: of course reason and evidence and such still have a place. i use reason, hopefully, every single day, every single hour.
I think you (and Rob Bell) are misreading history. Today’s culture is probably more akin to what was going on in the 1st century Roman empire than at any time since. The methods set forth in scripture still work. Trust in the sovereignty of God to complete the methods we employ. Those methods include reason.
If you don’t mean to throw out the baby with the bath water, then temper your language a little. Both ways are effective. Don’t be so quick to criticize the one into which you don’t seem to care to put the effort. You certainly came across that way even if that was not your intent.
Finally, stating that someone will make the decision based on how someone lives his or her life is a set-up for disappointment. We should trust in Jesus, not how someone else lives his or her life. Your unquestioning approval of Rob Bell’s comment leaves me very disappointed with you. It is neither generous or giving.
I’m confused about the “controversy.” Can you really base an opinion on Rob Bell’s theology based on ONE paragraph from a whole book? The reality is, for a lot of people their experience with Christians IS all that matters to them. One bad experience, and they will never set foot in a church, tolerate a conversation about God, or have any interest in the spiritual. “If that’s what a Christian is, then I don’t want it!” The number one reason people come to church is relationships … our lives should be one of our strongest assets in reaching the lost.
Even looking in the scriptures we see different ways of reaching the lost. Miracles were used for the Jews, logic for the Greeks/Romans. The Biblical model is to approach from a cultural relevance that will register with people. Today people are saturated with media; through print, tv, radio, etc. There are even signs/advertisements/newspapers above urinals! People don’t trust those sources like they use to, which is why our personal experience with God has more power than ever.
Brett was not the one who made the statement that reasoning will no longer work. No denying the quote that Rob Bell made. To me, it sounds like he has a point he wants to make and is willing to change history to suit it.
I disagree strongly with the experience with Christians comments. I think it is a cop out and simply not true. We all have had bad experiences at stores, but we still shop. I trust God to work through the imperfect. He is, after all, perfectly capable.
If you’ve been around churches all your life like I have, you’ve had plenty of bad experiences with Christians or so-called ones. Why haven’t I left the faith? Because my faith is not in how some guy lives out his story. It’s in the truth of the One who died for me and rose again.
By the way, this post reminded me this book was finally out … I ordered it and am anxiously awaiting its arrival. : )
Great Debate! Yes it is good for us Christians to live what we believe and to be good examples of what Jesus taught. HOWEVER, to become converted it takes a revelation from the Holy Spirit. It is foolishness to those who are perishing. How many of us are persuaded to convert to other religions simply because it’s followers lead a peace loving, giving, harmonious with fellow humans, kind of life? I can appreciate how they may live but it will take more than their Hindu example to convert me!
P.S. However, the Rev. Bell has no trouble reading Hindu text from the pulpit at Mars Hill (Bible?!) Church as I have personally witnessed.