“Jesus wants to save our church from the exile of irrelevance.”
Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile by Rob Bell and Don Golden is a cool looking book. Let’s face it, the way Bell packages everything he puts out makes you go: “Oooooo neato!” With its hip lime green pages and mysterious puzzle cover, you are almost obligated to take it off the shelf and have a look at it. But does its attractive appearance reflect the content within the pages?
Recently I’ve been a part of a bible study that has been taking a closer look at Matthew, and a theme that has been blowing my mind is how the first book of the New Testament is designed to point to Jesus as a fulfillment of the Old Testament. It does this by quoting prophetic passages, but also drawing parallels to the Old Testament. Something that has excited me the most is the idea of Jesus being the 2nd Moses. Let me explain as briefly as possible:
Pharaoh attempts to kill Israelite males that could potentially threaten his kingdom, thus Moses and his family must find a way to dodge the malicious intent of Pharaoh. This succeeds because Moses is the deliverer of the Israelites who will lead them out of the oppressing slavery of the Egyptians. This draws a striking similarity to Jesus and his family fleeing the massacre that Herod authorizes to kill newborn males. This is to preserve the deliverer of God’s people not from physical slavery, but from the slavery of sin.
So once I heard from a trusted friend that Rob Bell’s newest book dealt with similar stuff, called: New Exodus Theology. I decided that I had to pick it up despite my opinion of Velvet Elvis and Sex God which I thought were OK at best. But Bell and Golden’s ‘manifesto’ argues that Jesus’ death on the cross was a liberating event that sets us free from any form of empirical rule. For the Israelites in the first exodus it was the rule of the Egyptian empire- for Christians today, it is not only freedom from sin but liberation from any oppressing force. And its here where the book gets a little bumpy. It becomes one of those hold your breath moments because you know you’re saying something controversial that is going to upset some of your readers.
Bell and Golden make the argument that Americans are an empire-like nation that draws resemblances to Egypt and Babylon. The similarities are primarily in our sense of entitlement and lack of aid given to those who are crying out for justice. Then, in classic Rob Bell fashion, he slams us with his overarching point: that THE CHURCH is essentially the agent God is using to liberate the captives from irrelevance and the consumerism of America, while aiming to end the oppression everywhere else in the world. It is quite a compelling argument whether you agree with it or not, and will undoubtedly cause you to take a closer look at your own views of God and country, and your role as a functioning member of the body of Christ.
Ultra Conservative Christians beware – if you think Christians should hold the bible tucked under one arm while waving an American flag in the other, this one is going to rub you the wrong way. Bell and Golden unashamedly bash consumerism, marketing, materialism, entitlement, the war in Iraq, and George W. Bush (and conservatism for that matter). I encourage you, if you read the book, to look beyond the political argument Bell and Golden make, and focus on what you can do as an individual as a response to the book. The staggering statistics will undoubtedly give you a sense of guilt and the feeling that you are sucking away the earth’s resources while others are dying around the world. But perhaps this isn’t such a bad idea… It is softened by Bell, admitting that guilt doesn’t do anything, but knowledge aids the situation.
The writing is typical of Rob Bell- he writes EXACTLY how he talks. And there are odd isolated double spaced paragraphs with no indention, and often only one sentence or one word per line.
I think he uses it…
Because he thinks,
Nevertheless, Bell’s unorthodox methods of writing read like a sermon and cultivate a sense of drama that feels like a JJ Abrams TV show. I’m not so sure I agreed with his logic or his oversimplification of worldwide events in light of the scriptures, nor do I like how far he extends the ‘exodus’ metaphor. But I certainly think there is a ton of truth in this book that will challenge any reader to become the body of Christ that Jesus truly meant us to be. The one thing I can never get past with Rob Bell’s book is the fact that the $20 item only takes 2 hours to read. It’s a decent work, but I would only pick it up if it’s laying on the shelves at Half Price Books.
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