Wednesday, May 02, 2007

For Whom The Bell Tolls

I've been engrossed in a paper this week examining the hermeneutics (interpretation strategies) of Rob Bell. Our assignment was to analyze the way someone reads the Bible and I chose him because I liked his first book but had postponed questions about it. So now I get to ask those questions.

It has been interesting. I had some of my concerns confirmed. For instance: Rob Bell loves to compare Jesus to rabbis and then learn things from that. This is fine, but there are some problems with that since the rabbis he compares him with wrote their stuff about 150 years later. So there is only so far you can take that comparision. But that's not what I wanted to blog about.

This past two weeks I've read his two books to death, watched several of his short films, and listened to three of his sermons (the last 12 weeks of his church are podcast online).

Quite frankly, and I'm sure he would take no offence at this, due to the overdose I must say that at times I have become quite tired of him. He does have a certain style to him, and you pick up on that after awhile, and he is much more "obviously hip" than I'll ever be, and he probably was the cool guy in high school that I was jealous of and therefore mocked---but at the same time, I've come to really appreciate the guy.

And here's the thing. God has been speaking to me through him. And some of you will know that I haven't really been hearing from God all that well this last while. Quick backstory: I've been in what they call a "dark night of the soul". Or at least I hope so. As I said on another blog, I hope so because it would be nice to know it is just a night and that day light is on its way. Anyway, at times like this you really notice when a shaft of light or two breaks through the doubt-stained-glass. So let me repeat that in Rob Bell style to emphasize its sincerity: God has been


to me

through him.

It started on Friday afternoon when I was reading Bell's new book, Sex God, which is actually much better than it sounds. Actually it started that morning with a couple guys praying for me (unprovoked and relentlessly understanding I might add, but that is another story). Then today I was listening to this sermon that he preached a month ago called "Leaving Control for Faith" and it was on Exodus 3; 4; 5:22-23; 13; 32 and Deut 34 (far as I can tell) and it really spoke to me. No, God really spoke to me. I know because I've heard Him before. Same God. Different thing he was saying. Different day. Different language even. But same God. Faithful. Still there.

And this verse, which Rob Bell said is the closest thing to a "life verse" (even though he enjoys mocking that expression) for him lately, really resonated with me:

"When Pharoah let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter" (Exod 13:17).

I've been wanting control of the faith. I've been wanting a certain journey, a certain ministry. I'm discovering faith again. At least I hope so. I'm a slow learner and I won't pretend the dark night is over.

But I'm thankful that even in the midst of a paper where I'm trying hard to rip a guy apart, God still speaks through him to me. An unpredictable, yet faithful, and good God. Makes me want to listen harder.


Bryce said...

Thanks for your thoughts...would you mind emailing your paper on Rob's preaching to me when you are done...I would be very interested in reading it as I have had a number of the same questions.



Tony Tanti said...


Thanks for this Jon. I plan to go listen to some of these sermons, I had no idea you could go 12 weeks back.

The Hansens said...

I haven't read Bell's books, but they're on my ever-growing list... It's sounds like it has been a rough journey for you for some time. I wish I had more to say or offer, but I just wanted you to know that I've been reading your stuff and I hope God sends many more shafts of light through the doubt-stained-glass.

Jen =)

erin said...

Thanks for being open and honest. As I am just starting to feel my way out of the dark night too, it's encouraging to hear another journey. I first heard Rob Bell in person and he definitely interprets things in a unique manner, not always the way I would interpret them. However, he never fails to make me think or at least desire to dig to figure out what I truly believe.