Well, hello again! I’m continuing to read Sex God, by Rob Bell. Pick up a copy and read it with me, why don’t you. 🙂
p11 – “People at this time believed the gods resided in religious places….” Great that he cites proof for this huge statement about ALL the peoples of the Ancient Near East! Unfortunately, he cites 6 examples from 1 Kings…not exactly a firm case for a historic fact about every single people group of a very diverse area. I think pretty much every historian out there would find fault with this. Then again, Bell isn’t doing history. Then again, he’s talking like he is by making claims about the Ancient Near East, a historical phrase never mentioned in the Bible. He’s using history to prove theology, and doing it pretty clumsily…if it should ever be done at all.
p11 – Bell writes that God speaking to Jacob in the desert shows us that God “doesn’t need temples and holy sites and rituals.” So…what’s up with God later telling Moses and the folks he was leading through the desert to create a temple? He gave really specific instructions for how to make it and all the stuff that was supposed to go in it, and exactly how to use them. In the New Testament, and even in parts of the Old, we find out that the temple and its accoutrements (priests included) weren’t the end all be all: God was. So, yes, Bell’s right that this God seems to be about something bigger than just one place (as he tells us that the Ancient Near East gods were). But, Bell’s statement about God not needing temples, holy sites, and rituals is troublingly simplistic and leaves the reader who’s done some Old Testament reading wondering: What on earth was God doing when he told the Israelites to make a temple, holy sites (at least one), and rituals? Bell isn’t exactly wrong, but he’s sloppy enough in how he’s right (especially because he’s talking about the OT here) that what he said could easily lead to something like Marcionism, a classic Christian heresy. Careful, Bell, these are deep things you’re talking about, so perhaps it would be better to not say them at all (lots of them are unnecessary to your main point) or treat them more carefully.
p11 – Jacob marries, reconciles with Esau, and “stopped pretending to be someone he’s not.” Okay, maybe I’m reading this book all wrong. Does it have anything to do with the biblical text? I don’t see a spot in the text that says, “Jacob stopped pretending to be someone he’s not.” Bell seems to just claim it, and that’s a pretty big claim. That’s fine if he wants to make claims, as long as he either backs them up by showing how he got there or telling us he’s going to make claims and we can learn something from them but we should understand that in no way do they exegete the text, that is, they may or may not have anything to do with the text at all. My best guess so far is that Bell is wanting to make some points and is using the Bible, not maliciously necessarily, but not carefully, reverently, or in submission to it. Whether or not that’s fine is one question. But, he should at least make it clear that that’s what he’s doing. Not to do so leaves open the possibility that people who haven’t deeply studied the Bible (probably his book’s audience) will think the Bible is saying stuff that in fact Rob Bell alone is saying. Whether or not he’s right about the points he’s making about life, he needs to make it clear whether he’s saying “the Bible says” or whether he’s saying “I’m saying.” One requires a very different sort of proof and attention than the other.
Okay folks, in an effort to keep posts short and manageable, I’m ending here! More soon. 🙂