Josh & Tiffany's Reviews > Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell
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Feb 09, 08

bookshelves: spirituality, josh, year2
Read in December, 2007

1) I really like Bell's enthusiasm and passion for helping people break out of a religious system that many times can be boring and basically anything but alive. Sometimes I think that I myself am far too intertwined with this system which, although good in many ways, is still man-made.

2) Bell's call to "test it. Probe it." is good advice. I have the awful tendency to read books, accepting most everything that I read as long as I trust the author or person who recommended the book to me.

3) I think that the way we respond to testing and probing is what can separate believers from non-believers, but unfortunately it doesn't. As you'll see below, there are some very big disagreements I have with Bell, but some of the things I've seen written and done in protest of his teachings is unbelievable. Protesting outside Bell's fellowship telling people they're going to hades isn't much of a disagreement, it borders on hatred.

4) All that being said, I have some very significant problems with some of Bell's theology. The first is his use of the trampoline analogy. Now obviously no analogy can be perfect, but the statement that all tenets of faith outside of Jesus are springs, and therefore we must be willing to allow them to flex, is very unBiblical. Now I agree with him regarding the man who said that if you don't believe in a 24-hour day creation, you don't believe in the cross. If by springs he means that we need to be open to various interpretation, I am all for that. It is when he wants my foundation to flex that I have a problem. Speaking of the virgin birth he says, "What if that spring was seriously questioned? Could a person still keep jumping?" My personal answer is that if I found that the virgin birth was untrue, the gospel writers knowingly putting a myth into their writings and thus compromising the inspiration of the Word, yes I would have some serious questions. But my personal answer doesn't carry as much weight as Paul's in regard to the resurrection saying, "...if [the Son] is not risen...then your faith is also vain." (I Cor 15:14). That doesn't sounds like a spring to me. I believe there are certain things which are bricks, or if I may add to Bell's analogy, maybe the stands on which the trampoline is raised. You take that away and you'll find that jumping on the trampoline is no different than jumping on the regular ground.

5) There was something that bothered me all through the first half of the book which I couldn't put my finger on until he basically wrote it out. Although I admire Bell's passion, I'm wary of his focus. Although he's not fully a "saved by works" preacher, he gets far too close in my mind by not emphasizing the power of the cross. Like I said, I couldn't put my finger on it until he got to his theory about Peter walking on water. That just blew my mind. Bell states, "Who does Peter lose faith in? Not Jesus; Jesus is doing fine. Peter loses faith in himself." The idea that the Son willingly gave up His life so that people like me could realize how great I already am and all of the things I am capable of borders on blasphemy. In response to that I want to ask Bell what happened when Peter got back into the boat. Did he apologize for not meeting his potential? Did he promise that next time he would be more confident in himself? Of course not. He worships the Son. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". I think those two words were missing in too much of Bell's ideology.

6) Bell far too often portrays the Word as full of metaphors. Yes, we desperately need to find the relevance for today, to apply it to our lives. I agree that this might be why so much of our "system" seems dead. However, what gives me hope in the life to come is not a personal, very subjective "...experience of [the Son] that transcends place and time" as Bell says, but rather the fact that the Son died and rose again on my behalf. I think the writers themselves make it clear that their purpose wasn't to provide metaphors, but to give us the story of our existence. Luke says, " Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught" (Lk 1:3-4).


To conclude my thoughts, I think that Bell is very well-intentioned and should serve as a wake-up call for many people, including myself, to see how much of what I consider to be my faith is in actuality just my system or culture. While I think that I should stand against what I believe to be foundational errors in Bell's theology, I think that the best reaction I or any person can have to objections is to expend my energy not on combative arguments but on being just as passionate for what I hold to be true. I hold that in Him, and not of myself or anything that I can do, grace is given as a gift through the sacrifice of the Son for our justification - but more importantly for His glory.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Ashleigh (new)

Ashleigh Hall this review very graciously reveals the theologically disastrous ideas of Velvit Elvis.


message 2: by Bob (new) - rated it 2 stars

Bob Great review. It's funny because before reading your review, I said many of the same things in mine. I think Bell's use of an analogy which is literally 'pulled out of his backyard' is a dangerous trend I"m seeing more and more in the emerging movement.

Just because you think it and can come up with a metaphor that (mostly) fits, doesn't make it true.

Anyway, good stuff.


message 3: by Chad (new)

Chad Excellent review - thank you.


Chase Bianchi The best review I have read yet.


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