I’m currently reading Rob Bell’s and Don Golden's book Jesus wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile. There are some fairly good reviews of the book here as well. I thought I would blog through my process of reading this book a bit. Hopefully if I write this stuff down and people can help me by critiquing it then I will hopefully be better at this process. So input is welcome. (Quiet thanks should go to Ken Schenck of Quadrilateral Thoughts as he has been blogging through several books, at once mind you, and manages to be both prolific and erudite. In that spirit we proceed.) (Disclaimer: I’m not a theologian. I’ve had quote unquote biblical training (PBU) and have tried to continue to encounter the biblical text and writings about it but am still developing.)
A note about Rob Bell and myself: We’ve never met. This is the first book of his that I’ve read. Tonight I just finished watch his video ‘The Gods ARen’t Angry’ which has really brilliant moments and some staggeringly horrific ones.Ssome of Bell’s best points seem to be in his ability to wrap theology into a story/narrative. He does this really well in the DVD and that ability continues on, and in, Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Also this idea of really brilliant moments and staggeringly bad ones also continues.
We begin. As stated in the preface the thesis of sorts is that “this book is our [Bell’s and Golden’s] attempt to articulate a specific theology, a particular way to read the Bible, referred to by some as a New Exodus theology.” (Disclaimer: I know nothing about the New Exodus theology at this present point. It’s on my list of things to do.)
Introduction: Air Puffers and Rubber Gloves
We start right off with Genesis and an examination of the relationship between Cain and Abel as farmer and shepherd. Well and good. However the authors in talking about Cain and Abel’s conflict discuss issues of land between a farmer and shepherd rather than obedience to a divine command. This struggle between these two is capstoned as “a seismic shift was occurring as hyuman society transitioned from a pastoral, nomadic orientation to an agricultural one.” Agreed that after the Lord grants Cain mercy Cain builds a city but the text in Gen. 4 does not seem to indicate the issue was one of economic issues between Cain and Abel. It was one of obedience. In fact Cain is sent into exile which will tie back into a point the authors make in Chapt 1 where “exile is when you find yourself a stranger to the purposes of God" but this point seems in odds with the original point the authors were attempting to make. B/G then focus on the leitmotif of people's movement eastward through Genesis . In making their eastward point in that Cain moves east, the tower of Babel is built as people move east, east is established as not being particularly good. Fair enough; this also allows the author to do an odd nod to pop culture with a John Steinbeck reference on p. 17. The authors use this idea of being ‘east of eden’ to then introduce their idea of the ursprache as “…the primal original language of the human family…the language of paradie that still echoes in the deepest recesses of our consciousness, telling us things are out of whack deep in our bones, deep in the soul of humanity.” (p. 17) this is pretty close to Romans 1; fairly acceptable. The idea that we are east of eden means that we are not where we are supposed to be. We are out of sync; we are not in our correct places. So next sentence: “Something about how we relate to one another has been lost. Something is not right with the world.” This is a difficult sentence because while it’s true I don’t think that’s quite the point.
If, at the beginning, the problem was simply how we relate to one another, why does the storyteller indicate that God asks Adam “Where are you?” to which Adam responds that he heard God in the garden and he was afraid. Also, Adam now talks about Eve differently. After the fruit eating, the woman is “…the woman you gave me…”Gen. 3:10 But in Gen 2:23 the woman is referred to as “this at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…”
This sin of disobedience causes a rift between God and man in conjunction with our rift between ourselves as humanity. It is because our relationship with God is incorrect that we are not sure how to relate to one another. I’m making a big deal about this because I think the authors in setting this premise attempt to drive home a social premise to this idea of Christianity. (Granted, the authors refer back to the separation between God/man bc of sin on p. 25 but it would have been nice here.)