What we talk about when we talk about God (by Rob Bell)

The more books I’ve read by the American writer Rob Bell, the more impressed I have been. He’s a Christian minister who is firmly in the ‘progressive’ camp, dubbed ‘liberal’ by some, and undoubtedly controversial. His book ‘Love Wins’ caused a huge flurry of disagreement in the Christian world. But I thought it helpful and thought-provoking, and was very pleased to be given his most recent book a few months ago.

‘What we talk about when we talk about God’ is intended - so the back states - for those who are confused about God. But then, as God is infinite and cannot ever be fully understood, that applies to most of us. Rob Bell starts with explanations, apologies and anecdotes, and the book continues in the same kind of style.

His aim is to help people understand what he - and many others - mean when referring to God. As such, he first has to get rid of some misconceptions. God is not an old man in the sky. God is not a harsh judge, waiting for us to do wrong so we can be condemned. Nor is God a figment of our imagination, although how we perceive him is undoubtedly a reflection of our personalities, our upbringing, and our experience.

The author chooses just a few words - simple prepositions for the most part - to guide the reader through his ideas, to encourage people to ask questions, to think outside the box of their prejudices and what they’ve been taught (which may or may not be correct). As such, he gives an overview of what we mean by language; he gives word pictures of the universe and its magnitude; he explains how God takes us where we are, and moves us - and the whole of humanity - forward, a small step at a time.

Bell points out that nature - as the Bible says - declares the glory of God. He tells us why science doesn’t ‘disprove’ God, and why so many scientists are increasingly likely to turn to faith. He wins my admiration for being the first person ever to explain to me, in lay language, what the heart of quantum physics is, and how it’s yet more evidence of God’s existence.

All this and much more in an easily digestible book, written in the author’s typical style with short paragraphs interspersed with longer ones, lists of words spread out over the page, no justification for his right margins, and quite a bit of white space. I found it annoying in his earlier books, but he’s modified it so that now it has the feel of a friend discussing issues, explaining his viewpoint, encouraging his readers to think for themselves, and see God as over all and in all.

The book is about integration, and wholeness, and is refreshingly honest.

I recommend it highly.

Review copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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