Hello, Rob Bell
A conversation about work, mission, and why some Christians throw "crap" parties.

Last year Rob Bell made waves with his book Love Wins which he describes as "a book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who has ever lived." The waves became a tsunami when John Piper tweeted "Farewell, Rob Bell" and dismissed him as a heretic. Agree or disagree with his point of view, Bell knows how to stir conversation. And there is one thing about Love Wins we cannot dismiss- how we think about the future shapes how we live in the present.

I've had the benefit of interviewing Bell a number of times and have always found him thoughtful, gracious, and genuine in his pursuit of Christ. He was kind enough to talk to me once again–this time about his decision to leave his church, the lost theology of vocation, and how our view of the end of the world impacts the way we think about our work today.

Skye: Apart from ministry, Christians talk very little about "callings." What do you attribute this to?

Rob: The problem goes back to how you read the Bible. A lot of Christians have been taught a story that begins in chapter 3 of Genesis, instead of chapter 1. If your story doesn't begin in the beginning, but begins in chapter 3, then it starts with sin, and so the story becomes about dealing with the sin problem. So Jesus is seen as primarily dealing with our sins. Which is all true, but it isn't the whole story and it can lead people into all kinds of despair when it comes to understanding just why we're here.

The Bible begins in Genesis 1 not with sin but with blessing, not with toil and despair but with life, and creativity, and vibrant participation with God in the ongoing creation of the world–which involves art, and law, and medicine, and education, and parenting, and justice, and learning, and thousands of other pursuits; callings that are holy and sacred in and of themselves. It's all part of flourishing in God's good world, which is our home. Here, on earth, is where the story begins and where it ends, and so our work here, in whatever way we co-create with God, is our vocation.

Secondly, we have to embrace our desires. For many, desire is a bad word, something we're supposed to "give up for God." That kind of thinking can be really destructive because it teaches people to deny their hearts, their true selves. What Jesus does is something far more radical. He insists that we can be transformed in such a way that our desires and God's desires for us become the same thing. Incredible. What do you love to do that brings more and more heaven into God's good world? What is it that makes your soul soar? What is it that you do, that your friends and community affirm, that taps you in to who you are made to be?

February 08, 2012

Displaying 1–10 of 68 comments

Chris Wileman

May 31, 2012  7:13pm

Just by reading the comments here it's easy to see that Traditionalists are afraid. I had to stop once I got to the "Wolf and Sheep" comment. Really?? We have to go there, huh? Couldn't take it anymore. This type of knee-jerk reactions are exactly what opened my eyes to the fact that people want to follow their little religious ways of "Doing Christianity" and if anyone comes along with a fresh word. They slap the label Heretic on it. My eyes were opened. I only have One Shepherd and that is Jesus. I SEE why young people are tired of the "Religion as Usual" mindset and fear. I came to know Jesus through more the "Jesus People" days... Funny, but they were called "Cultic" and "Rebellious" and "trying to redefine Christianity"... I bet a lot of THOSE people are working for Christian companies now and are the same people bashing any new wave of thought (that really isn't new AT ALL)! Because their jobs would be in danger if this stuff catches on. I personally think God is in control. And I like Bell's thoughts and artsy fartsy way of doing things! I don't like to be labeled a heretic or a wolf because I do. That is slanderous. It hurts. I have experienced it in the church as have a lot of people.

Report Abuse

Karen

March 02, 2012  5:14pm

Sheer, don't feel too bad. I'm certainly not immune to overthinking stuff myself and running down some rabbit trails in the process.

Report Abuse

sheerahkahn

March 01, 2012  4:28pm

"idiosyncratic"? Ouch...but I'll take the rebuke as intended. Hmm.../sigh...perhaps I'm to narrowly focused. I'll give it a break, and come back to it later, and see if my opinion is still the same or not.

Report Abuse

Karen

March 01, 2012  4:16pm

Sheer, the best I can say about your interpretation of Genesis 1 is that it is idiosyncratic. (I've noticed that about your take on a few things, actually.) One might also notice that it is only after mankind is created "in the image of God" that God sees all that He has made and pronounces it not just "good," but "very good." God makes quite a point of describing man's creation as in God's "image and likeness," He blesses him to have dominion over all He has made and blesses them to be fruitful and multiply. I don't have any problem whatsoever in putting humanity in its creation by God in the category of good, and I have never known a Christian or Jewish scholar to suggest otherwise.

Report Abuse

Lily

March 01, 2012  1:02pm

God created man in His own image to enjoy the good and oversee the good. It infers that God alone knows what is good for man and what is not good for man. To enjoy that good man must trust God and obey Him. God demonstrated his understand of what is good in the creation of man and woman. When He created man, He said, "It is NOT good," why? because man was alone. So, He created woman out of man for companionship and pleasure. They were to live and work in enjoyment of the good God created. This is Sabbath - to rest in the goodness of God. They disrupted that by attempting to create the good for themselves outside of God's plan rather than resting in it. Further reading on this is found in a "good" commentary on this by John Sailhamer "The NIV Compact Bible Commentary" pub by Zondervan.

Report Abuse

sheerahkahn

March 01, 2012  11:19am

"Sheer, is not the creation of mankind included in the "everything" of Genesis 1:31?" Based on how each aspect of creation is specifically treated in the texts...I can only conclude no...unless... There is a compelling argument to be made that says Genesis 2 is a frame-focus-capture of Genesis 1:27, and then how do we explain that after G-d declares all that crawleth and wiggleth on the earth is good, THEN he makes man...without the aforementioned good following the making? Now, granted, we get lumped into the who Day 6 making at the end in Genesis 31, but specifically...man is not declared good. Not bad, not good, but in the overall state of things, ALL that walketh, crawleth, and wiggleth is good. Man specifically...not a beep. "That's what I'm talking about. How can a creature made "in the image of God" Himself not be considered good?" Exactly my point...if we accept that G-d's view is both the beginning and the end, why didn't he specifically say the making of man is good? I don't have answer, but if we look throughout the bible whenever G-d talks about mankind in toto...yeah, uncomplimentary is about as good as it gets for us in G-d's thinking. "What was he then? Evil? Neutral? Surely not." (subject, "he" meaning man for clarity) Good questions...is man evil by design by G-d? I'd say no, because G-d doesn't design evil so...is man neutral? Well...my question would be is "neutral" the right word? I'm not sure neutral is the right word here...certainly there are aspects that would hint at neutrality...G-d's lumping of man into one big pile of genomic jelly and declaring it all good...but it doesn't say much about us, mankind...are we special or not? Our ego's say, "oh please, we're made in G-d's image, he became one of us, he allowed himself to be abused by us, and killed by us just so he can redeem us...how can we not be special?" And yet...Genesis, day six...everything is declared good after it's making...but man...not a rousing endorsement from the get-go. So yes, if all of what G-d made is considered "good" but...only mankind, after his making, is the term "good" left out...all other creations immediately got the seal of approval...but us. I think we should be careful how we apply "good" to ourselves...I think it was purposefully left off for a reason...certainly, our presence here on earth is good in consideration of relationships with other species, but man, specifically good...we never got that seal of approval from our maker. All of creation got specific seals of approval of good...us, we're lumped in with the rest of the animal kingdom. I take it as a "know your place." At first glance...that looks negative...but...consider this: G-d says we're meant for other things, greater things...and I think those things meant for us that we have yet to become part of means that our "relationship" with the rest of creation is tangential...parallel, but not in lock step. Resident aliens...we're not suppose to view this world as it is...as our home, as our place...I think there is a very clear message to us here in Genesis...it's how we read it that determines whether we grasp what is going on now.

Report Abuse

Karen

February 29, 2012  3:58pm

Sheer, is not the creation of mankind included in the "everything" of Genesis 1:31? That's what I'm talking about. How can a creature made "in the image of God" Himself not be considered good? What was he then? Evil? Neutral? Surely not.

Report Abuse

sheerahkahn

February 29, 2012  10:53am

"This is not identical with "human nature," though. Human nature, in and of itself, was created "very good" and remains very good–it still bears the image of God," And therein lies the rub for which we have no response too...of all of G-d's makings, the one he doesn't declare "good" is man. Read Genesis 2. You won't find G-d declaring the making of man "good." He doesn't even hint of it. Good isn't associated with the making of man...it is conundrum for which leaves open a lot possibilities...both "good" and...well, bad. But out of deference...I will allow this to hang...perhaps, we'll pick this up again later.

Report Abuse

Karen

February 28, 2012  4:37pm

Sheer, thanks. I suspect what you wanted to say is that we are personally responsible when we choose to sin, and Adam and Eve were personally responsible for introducing sin to the human race, and I would agree with that. I personally think we need to be clear that when we talk about sin in our "human nature" what we are really talking about is what Scripture calls "the flesh." This is not identical with "human nature," though. Human nature, in and of itself, was created "very good" and remains very good–it still bears the image of God, even though it now is diseased with sin. Sin is like a parasite on our humanity and properly we should identify sin as originating in "the flesh" as the Scripture does, not our human nature per se. Make sense? I do think it is probably time to table the discussion–it's a bit far afield of the original post. Thanks for engaging with me, though.

Report Abuse

eugene

February 28, 2012  3:53pm

Isn't immortality of souls a plato saying; whereas resurrection of body is Christian?

Report Abuse