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WHEN WE TALK ABOUT GOD: FAITH FOR THE 21ST CENTURY – ROB BELL

Rob Bell has written a number of books, all of which can be classed as apologia for the Christian faith. They are written in a colloquial style, with plenty of examples from ‘real life’. There have been several such in recent years: Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic comes to mind, as does The Shack by William P. Young. With my Thomas mentality I am still looking for another Rudolf Otto to ‘update’ the sense of the Other (there seems to be nothing left one might call numinous) or a new Teilhard de Chardin (instead of heading towards Point Omega we seem to be rushing to Eliot’s whimper), to give us an apologia of Christianity consistent with evolutionary theory, a new comprehensive philosophy of religion. Such a book does not seem to be forthcoming though.

The problem is, in Bell’s words: ‘When we talk about God we’re using language, language that employs a vast array of words and phrases and forms to describe a reality that is fundamentally beyond words and phrases and forms’. Which begs the question ‘Is there such and is there a need for it’? Ultimately, Bell might say, God is to be experienced, which is also a way of knowing. Blaise Pascal said that the heart has reasons reason does not know.

Which is not too far from Rob Bell’s (writing about St Paul): ‘His (Paul’s) point is that the same creative bang that formed the universe is unleashed in us through our trust in what God is doing in the world through Jesus. His insistence is that this is extraordinary, in all its diverse and expansionary forms, is deeply personal and readily available and on our side.’

Though easy to read this book is never superficial in a happy-clappy way. On nearly every page there is a moment when you are brought up short and have to think. It is certainly the best little book I have come across for a while. It does not answer my basic quest whether there is a being, an objective reality we can call God.

Faith knowledge is of another dimension of course, and as such this is highly commendable. You’ll be impressed too!

Thomas Anthony SSF