A review(ish) of Rob Bell’s newest book. Drops Like Stars is Bell’s best book yet. I was able to get a pre-release copy of the book from the Poets, Prophets, and Preachers conference held in Michigan. The book is now available (release date was August 1). Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
I had held off on reading Rob Bell ‘s "Jesus Wants to Save Christians" because I was figuring that it may be too much like the podcast series from Mars Hill Bible Church . I did go ahead and begin reading and the book is significantly different with a continuous narrative theme. Below is a webcam interview with Rob Bell from Zach Lind .
I’ll be honest. I’m not a fan of Independence Day. I’m trying to sort through whether that opinion is fueled by the despicable taste in in my mouth when I see red, white, and blue waving as a symbol of national allegiance and empire worship or simply by my struggle to intellectually and philosophically value independence. Freedom is good and necessary but cannot exist through the supposed provision of an earthly empire. Freedom is in the person of Jesus Christ and is quite different from that with which it is quite often confused, “rights.”
My reading on July 3rd proved to be rather timely for the upcoming day celebrated by most citizens of the United States. From Free of Charge by Miroslav Volf:
“Here is roughly how sin works in relation to God the giver. All things are from God and through God, and yet we want to be independent of God, standing on our own two feet, claiming God’s gifts as our own achievement. The young Karl Marx, barely twenty-six years old, put this sentiment as boldly as possible. In a text that remained unpublished during his lifetime, ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,’ he gave an expression to the heart of his rebellion against God:
‘A being only counts itself as independent when it stands on its own feet and it stands on its own feet as long as it owes its existence to itself. A man who lives by grace of another considers himself a dependent being. But I live completely by grace of another when I owe him not only the maintenance of my life but when he has also created my life, when he is the source of my life. And my life has necessarily such a ground outside itself if it is not my own creation.’
Marx held firmly to human independence. It almost seemed to him a value that lies at the bottom of all values. Because the reality of God as creator is incompatible with human independence, he denied the existence of God.
Most of us, especially the believers among us, won’t deny God’s existence in order to secure our independence. Instead, we thing that we can have it both ways. We believe that we can stand on our own two feet, independent of God, and still affirm that God is the creator of everything. But that doesn’t make sense. We can be both dependent on God and free; dependence on God is the source of our being, and therefore, our freedom. But we can’t be created by God and independent; God sustains creatures in being and in freedom. When we assert our independence, when we ascribe to ourselves what comes from God, we wrong God – at least as much as I would wrong an author whose ideas I would peddle as my own. That’s our main sin against God the giver. If, like Raleigh Hays, we see ourselves as more or less honest, hardworking citizens, we may believe that we deserve what we have, and even a bit more because an evil world is cheating us of our proper reward. We might not feel particularly grateful for what we have because we think that, rather than receiving it, we earned it. And we want to dispose of our hard-earned goods the way we please; they become not so much gifts given to us to enjoy and pass on, but rather our exclusive possessions.
Assertion of independence, pride of achievement, sense of entitlement, and absolute right to dispose with our goods – these are the ways in which we live in contradiction to who we actually are in relation to God. And in these ways, we, decent citizens, live as inveterate sinners. To live in sync with who we truly are means to recognize that we are dependent on God for our very breath and are graced with many good things; it means to be grateful to the giver and attentive to the purpose for which the gifts are given.” //
// Miroslav Volf. Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. pp. 35-6.
My Learning Track for Envision ’08 is “Beyond Consumerism” with Ron Sider. Our second meeting was in lecture format compared to our usual interactive dialogue. Book TV was present filming the lecture to be shown on C-SPAN possibly this coming weekend. I’m not sure how I feel about being on C-SPAN. I used to make fun of my dad for watching it all the time but now I feel myself captivated by watching the “YES” and “NO” votes tally during a congressional vote (post on “voting” coming soon). Ron is not with us today so we are interacting with Bart Campolo and some other practitioners who have come from the Philadelphia / Eastern College area. Sider had to fly out to Chicago in order to meet with Barrack Obama concerning the very things about which we are engaging at the conference: social justice, human rights activisim, non-violence, and the politic of Jesus.
My friend Tim Barenscheer and I have been highly involved with each other’s development as we journey through our philosophical wonderings and thoughts on the Kingdom of God. It’s a beautiful thing having a contemporary and friend with whom honesty and vulnerability exist genuinely without pretense. I’ve been sharing my thoughts with Tim about my “Premodern, Modern, and Postmodern Philosophy” course including readings from Roxburgh’s The Sky is Falling: Leaders Lost in Transition, Dawkins’ The God Delusion, and James K.A. Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church. Tim has been conversing with Caputo’s What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church and has given me two of N.T. Wright’s volumes, Jesus and the Victory of God and The New Testament and the People of God, that I’ve been wanting and will work through this summer following my course. I gave Tim Miroslav Volf’s The End of Memory. Anyone desiring to have a greater understanding of Jesus, culture, and the Kingdom of God may want to check out any or all of the aforementioned texts.
Remeber that term “devotions?”
“Did you do your devotions today?”
“I need to spend 15 minutes a day in my devotions.”
What did that even mean?
I can only presume that the language of “devotions” was used as the idea of being devoted to God. So did that mean that only 15 minutes a day was devoted to God? I have always preferred the idea of the disciplines. Reading, solitude, writing, and prayer are all fundamental elements of the Christian life. I maintain a personal journal that I do not publish here but have also found that blogging has become a source of fulfillment as a discipline. We are able to read the thoughts and lives of fellow sojourners and learn and grow from one another. When I ensure that I have time to post and read others’ posts I feel more creative and imaginitive as a hopeful follower of Jesus.
Apparently, I have been reading too much. I had to get glasses for reading, writing, and blogging due to a slight stigma, farsightedness, and ocular fatigue. It is relieving to have greater clarity when I read. At times I think that I would like greater clarity of thought, perspicuity in communication, and lucidity of vision but am trying to embrace the fatigue that accompanies the beauty of the unknown and unseen mystery of the kingdom of God.
This Sunday, December 2 marks the first Sunday of the Advent season. I am using A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants to follow the themes of the liturgical calendar as established by the New Common Lectionary. The guide begins with Advent and proceeds through Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. It also includes monthly retreat models which I will begin to practice as a discipline and point of reference and reflection.