Monday, September 5, 2011
Clear As A Bell?
I borrowed the new Rob Bell book, Love Wins (Rob Bell 2011), from a friend a few weeks ago and found it super frustrating. Bell is a Michigan pastor and one of the leaders of the Emergent Church movement – a movement that I have a lot of interest in and feel strongly that the traditional 20th century American Evangelical church needs to be challenged by some new thinking and even new
“movements.” Maybe I’m most frustrated because I expected more – a better written book – out of a leader of a major spiritual movement.
But some of my complaint is stylistic, I’ll admit. First of all, this is a 200 page book, exactly 200 pages, as if Bell’s contract specified that length and so he had to stretch things to make them fit. And the book’s use of lots of white space on the pages and Bell’s grouping of prose as if it were poetry is part of that conspiracy. See this Chapter 1 excerpt:
“Does this mean, then, that going to heaven is dependent on something I do?
How is any of that grace?
How is that a gift?
How is that good news?
Isn’t that Christians have always claimed set their religion apart – that it wasn’t, in the end, a religion at all – that you don’t have to do anything, because God has already done it through Jesus?”
Bell uses this short, stacked question format over and over. Very much 5th grade-boy-needing-to-stretch-his-composition-to-fit-teacher’s-assignment if you ask me.
But also note Bell’s style – barrage them with questions – that will fill up space! In the early chapters just about every line is a question. Now, a book with the subject of questioning tradition should have a lot of questions. But Bell’s extremes leave the text unfocused and in many chapters it is hard to follow his thesis, even though I think I know what he’s getting at – and I may even agree with him, by golly. I just expect more of a spiritual leader purportedly on the vanguard of new Christian thought.
Rob, baby, work on that next book, ditch your current editor, clear your head - and write more like a scientist. My advice anyway.