Thoughts on Book Review: ‘Rob Bell and a New American Christianity’

Here’s sharing some thoughts on this review article on the book entitled “Rob Bell and a New American Christianity” by James Wellman. I learnt from another article that James Wellman is associate professor of American religion in the Jackson School of International Studies.

It is refreshing to see there are people in America, such as author James Wellman as well as reviewer Adam Ericksen, who recognise the contributions Rob Bell has made to challenge and critique traditional or evangelical church doctrines, since he had been widely criticised by many in these conservative or fundamentalist circles. Rob Bell has indeed helped shaped American Christianity to a large extent with his books and videos, even as he himself is evolving in his own understanding of God and rediscovering with childlike wonder the truth and mystery of God’s love and non-violence. He has shown intellectual honesty and mettle in dealing with conflicting church doctrines that painted god as a monster by asking searching questions that invite others to think beyond the conventional theological boxes, as well as dealing with critics and accusers by choosing wisely not to respond to them in like fashion but simply to stay focused on sharing his own messages to inspire others and encourage them to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions.

English: Rob Bell at the 2011 Time 100 gala.
English: Rob Bell at the 2011 Time 100 gala. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also think Rob Bell has a revelation of not only the compassionate heart of Jesus but also the “post-modernist” outlook of Jesus who also challenged and deconstructed complex theologies into a simple axiom that God is love, which even a child can understand. As the book reviewer put it: So, John cut to the chase and simply claimed that Jesus reveals, “God is love and God is light. There is absolutely no darkness within God.”

As the author suggested, Rene Girard’s scapegoat theory that has shed light on the mystery of the cross, upholding the view that it is not God but humans who demanded the violent sacrifice of Jesus, could have influenced and helped Rob Bell to understand the nature of atonement in that light and explain to his audience why this understanding is important to see the loving and non-violent heart of God.

I like the author James Wellman’s response to the interview question on what he would like his readers to take away from his book.

A. “I would like them to enjoy the ride of the book. A lot of folks have said to me that they can’t put the book down. I think it’s a great story of an interesting individual trying to work out his salvation with creativity and passion. I think it gives people a chance to think about their own spiritual journey, and all the ways it can be filled with wonder, ecstasy and love.”
(From “New book by James Wellman explores the rise effect of Pastor Rob Bell“)

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