The Rob Bell Challenge

Last week I considered picking up Rob Bell's latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God. I decided to survey the Internet for reviews to get a handle on the topic matter. I don't always see eye-to-eye with Bell, but he's a brilliant thinker and communicator. Pastor Bell is also an influential thinker. He's one of those folk I need to keep up with to know what the people in my congregation are reading. If the book was on a topic that piqued my interest, it would go to the top of my reading list.

To my dismay, I haven't found a single review of the book that outlines the arguments of the book. I've found  reviews in which the authors remind us that Bell has views of Hell and judgment that fall outside of the Evangelical consensus. The reviewers are quick to point out how rad or how damnable Bell's views are.

I found reviews focused on Bell's positions on gay marriage which were made about the time of the book's release. While it's intriguing that Bell paired his statements with the book launch, marriage equality/the sanctity of marriage doesn't appear to be a theme in the book.

A handful of reviewers pointed to the structure of Bell's book: That God was with us in the past, is currently with us, and is already in our future. But there's little more substance offered in the review than that.While it's possible that part of the challenge is that Bell wrote in fuzzy, ephemeral language that, like Jell-O, can't be nailed to the wall. Or -- and I suspect this is largely the case -- Evangelicalism has reduced Rob Bell to a shibboleth. We've all flattened him into a marker we all use to measure each other's orthodoxy. We're past interacting with his ideas. That's so Love Wins.

Here's my challenge: In the comments section, post a link to a review that objectively reviews the content of What We Talk About When We Talk About God. When five reviews are listed, and signed off on as being focused on the content of the book, I'll put the lucky comments in a hat. The winner will receive a 150 Burnsider Points.


  1. I want to win 150 points!! :)

    I bought the book (my first Bell book) in mid-March, shook hands with my friend Rob, had him sign the book, etc. I started reading it and, like you, can't sort out what the book is about. I'm also 1/2 way through "Selling Water by the River" by Shane Hipps and "Love Does" by Bob Goff.

    I don't know what any of them are about, actually.

    1. Just know I haven't cracked open Bell's book. I'm not judging it. I just haven't found a review that dispassionately lays out his arguments.

    2. Yep, that's what I gathered after I read the article.

    3. Great article, Larry! You point to something very telling.

      Same here, Diane, in regard to "Love Does." I have a lot of respect for Goff, and indeed much of the book was entertaining. A book doesn't necessarily have to have a "message," but I think the general idea of it was to act out one's faith and embrace life, seemingly through grand gestures, ie making the ordinary extraordinary.