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Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith…

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith (2005)

by Rob Bell

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The book definitely provided different perspectives on the Christian faith - however, I found it somewhat disjointed. ( )
  highlander6022 | Mar 16, 2016 |
A classic! ( )
  deldevries | Jan 31, 2016 |
I wasn't sure what to expect from this, having been rather mixed in my reactions to Rob Bell's other books. But I found it very appealing, right from the start. The concept of God being concerned with all goodness and truth is one that I've been hearing and reading in many places recently, along with the importance of testing everything, going back to Scripture and (most importantly) our relationship with God.

There's an excellent chapter explaining some of the basics of Jewish thought, such as the meaning of a 'yoke', the method whereby rabbis took disciples, and what was meant by 'binding and loosing' in the first century. Jesus was, after all, thoroughly Jewish, as were his biographers; yet it's quite rare to hear a sermon letting us know that even the best-read Orthodox Jewish rabbis believed that the Scriptures needed constant re-evaluation and interpretation.

The rest of the book encourages us to look for God where we are, to understand that the church is a community intended to bless those outside it, not a holy huddle to meet on Sundays. It describes eternal life in terms of where we are now, as a continuum, and how Jesus talked about a new earth rather than an abstract heaven.

I don't know that I agreed with every word, but that's okay: as the author said, we should test everything, including the words he writes. We're all on different paths, with our unique temperaments and gifts, and the Holy Spirit gives us different insights. If something doesn't apply, or I think his interpretation is wrong, that's fine. While unity of heart is important, there's nothing in the Bible to say that we should all agree on every fine point of doctrine or Scriptural interpretation.

Helpful, inspiring and thought-provoking. Definitely recommended. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
I started this book kind of expecting to be underwhelmed. Rob Bell was an unknown author in my little world, except that I had heard some small whispers in my ear about him and the whispers were a little negative.

While the book wasn't incredible, it was all right by me.

It came across as similar to something I might have read 30 years ago written by a younger Bill Hybels.

The beginning was quite good. The middle was so, so. The ending was good.

Enjoy! ( )
  Tower_Bob | Nov 13, 2015 |

I should note that here are two critical reviews of the book written by pastors that I have also read this week (PDFs):

I don't always see Bell saying what the critics accuse him of saying in this book. Which is important because most conservatives I know accuse him of being a "heretic," a "false teacher," "dangerous," and a "deceiver."

Bell is heavily influenced by Ray Vanderlaan, whose video series I once reviewed here. I have since found a more recent and very good critique of Vanderlaan that makes Bell's use of Vanderlaan very problematic.

But Bell has raised a question that I am working on answering in my own mind, something I've wrestled with in my mind for a few years:

Orthodox doctrine ("sola scriptura" or "scripture alone") says that the Bible is:
1. Perspicuous (or clear) such that anyone can read it and understand the one true meaning of the text; the meaning intended by the author upon writing.
2. Sufficient such that Scripture alone is all that is needed to understand scripture.

Also, 3. the mind of man is the same everywhere, so that anyone in any culture/context can read the text and find the same meaning.

Bell takes issue with this, saying "Scripture alone just isn't true." He contends that:
1. It's impossible to understand what the author meant in all passages without understanding the context they were written in and the context of the audience they were written to. Scripture alone isn't sufficient because it doesn't always give that context (for example, see my post about VanderLaan's look at John's letter to the 7 churches).

2. It is impossible for anyone to get the author's intended meaning, the one true interpretation, of the text because we all approach things from our own biases, culture, mores, etc. Moreover, our Bible has been translated into English such that some things get lost in translation.

The entire scholarship of post-modernism begins with linguistics. Certain European philosophers contended that the ideas behind language are different in different cultures, so things don't translate well--ie: we think differently. The doctrine that all men are of the same mind conflicts with this more modern view.

I go back and forth on whether or not I believe #3. I've intensely studied four different languages from four different language families. There are ideas in some cultures that are very difficult to convey in others.

I struggle with #1, and #2. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul commands the women not to pray without head coverings. The reason given from the pulpit of churches I've been a member of for this not applying today is that it had to do with the culture of Corinth. However, that cultural context is not given explicitly in Scripture and so that knowledge is an extra-biblical source used to apply the text today. How does that not violate the doctrine of "Scripture alone?"

Anyway, while I work on that with help from others (feel free to chime in!) I take issue with a couple other things in Bell's book, but not nearly as much as others.

Bell gives the caveat on the back cover:
"Test it. Probe it. Do that to this book. Don't swallow it uncritically. Think about it. Wrestle with it. Just because I'm a Christian...doesn't mean I've got it nailed."

I cannot really rate this book that I'm not sure about. It definitely made me think and go back to try and illuminate what was good and what was possibly heresy. ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0310273080, Paperback)

We know there's something more. We sense it, we feel it, and we want it. But how do we find it---a spirituality that stands up to the questions of an honest, searching mind? 'This book is for those who need a fresh take on Jesus and what it means for us to live the kind of life he teaches us to live,' writes Rob Bell. 'This pursuit of Jesus is leading us backward as much as forward ... I am learning that what seems brand new is often just the discovery of something that has been there all along--- it just got lost somewhere and it needs to be picked up, dusted off, and reclaimed.' Now in softcover, Velvet Elvis offers original and refreshingly personal perspectives on what Christianity is really about. 'We have to test everything,' writes Bell. 'Do that to this book. Don't swallow it uncritically. Think about it. Wrestle with it. Just because I'm a Christian and I'm trying to articulate a Christian worldview doesn't mean I've got it nailed. I'm contributing to the discussion. God has spoken, and the rest is commentary, right?'

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:35 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

"Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., offers an innovative and intriguing, if uneven, first book. This introduction to the Christian faith is definitely outside the usual evangelical box. Bell wants to offer "a fresh take on Jesus" - a riff that begins with the assertion that Jesus wanted to "call people to live in tune with reality" and that he "had no use for religion." Bell invites seekers into a Christianity that has room for doubts (his church recently hosted an evening where doubters were invited to ask their hardest, most challenging questions). He mocks literalists whose faith seems to depend on a six-day creation, and one of his favorite people is a woman who turned up repeatedly at his church, only to tell him that she totally disagreed with his teachings. He cites his church as a place of forgiveness, mystery, community and transformation. Bell is well-versed in Jewish teachings and draws from rabbinic wisdom and stories freely. His casual, hip tone can grate at times, and his footnotes, instructing readers to drop everything and read the books that have influenced him, grow old. Still, this is faithful, creative Christianity, and Gen-Xers especially will find Bell a welcome guide to the Christian faith" -- www.amazon.com… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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3 editions of this book were published by Zondervan.

Editions: 031026345X, 0310273080, 0310330688

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