Reader reviews for Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

The book was amazing. Even the layout of the book was amazing - being hardbound with a white cover with orange print. I picked the book up as soon as I could and poured over its pages as quickly as possible. This will definitely be on my “must read again” list for some time. I need to try and soak up all that I can remember from this first read and go back through with a fine-toothed comb to get out other morsels.The book takes the reader through seven “movements”: Jump, Yoke, True, Tassels, Dust, New, and Good. Each of these “movements”, like his sermons that I download weekly, are jam-packed with information on who Jesus was and is. Rob Bell writes (and speaks) in a way that shows he has definitely “done his homework”. Lot’s of early-church history and Jewish tradition finds it’s way into this book as well as his sermons.Some interesting ideas are shared in this book that will challenge any reader to be more firm in his/her faith.
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A chapter was discussed in my small group Bible study. Since I like Rob Bell anyway, I was able to borrow the book from our group leader.The book was good. I like Bell's writing style - he's open and has a way of painting pictures with words. And he's good at pushing you to God without beating you over the head with Him. I recommend the book.
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This was what I expected it to be. Some excellent thoughts by a person that is bringing very welcome ideas to mainstream Christianity. These ideas seem more like something from the recesses of faith rather than from someone in a large church.
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This book is provocative and well-written (and likeable for those reasons). You can't help but enjoy Bell with his edgy, self-consciously authentic, loose-cannon style. He raises some good questions about lots of things and makes you think outside the box, which is always good for me.But he's also a bit careless. Some of his questions leave you with big questions about what he really thinks about some pretty important core doctrines. He's also unfair - in using analogies that misrepresent what a lot of good, solid theologians of a more traditional ilk really say or think. (If you've read it, the brick wall vs. trampoline analogy is a case in point.)Finally, he sends confusing signals. It boggles my mind that he gives an unqualified recommendation of books by John Piper on one hand and makes positve, unqualified references to J. Dominic Crossan, on the other. That just seems careless to me. I can't imagine giving an unqualififed recommendation of something written by a member of the Jesus Seminar.
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Rob Bell can be frustrating. His book Velvet Elvis is loaded with word games, logical fallacies, exegetical fallacies, and a lack of continuity. He would probably brush off such criticism as the disturbed cry of another discouraged modernist, but he would be wrong. I realize that a formal book review should begin with a presentation of the author’s themes and then proceed to a measured critique. However, it will be much easier to get right to the point.Bell begins with a discussion of truth. He emphasizes the need for flexibility in our language about God since God is too great for language. Here, he engages in a common postmodern error, the idea that a lack of exhaustive knowledge precludes the chance of any knowledge. Since we can’t know God completely, we must be wary in making any assertion, in constructing “brick walls” in Bell’s language. However, God Himself had enough confidence in language to make some very absolute statements. Though I do not profess to understand the depth of the statement that “God is light,” I am confident that I now know something real about God, something without “springs.” Bell too shares this belief if he seriously considered it. The act of writing a book is an affirmation of the solidarity of meaning. He wrote with the expectation that his words would be understood in one way and not another. All I assert is that he should have the same respect for the authors of the Bible.As the book proceeds, we see that we are called to join the disciples in creating new interpretations of the way of Jesus, in testing and changing the springs of doctrine. Ironically, Bell supports this call by horribly exegeting Matthew 18:18. The disciples were not given liberty to reinterpret Scripture. The obvious context of the passage is confronting an erring brother. The loosing and binding has to do with discipline, not hermeneutics.Bell continues his discussion of hermeneutics by emphasizing the living nature of Scripture in the sense that narratives have a secondary, spiritual meaning that we can create as we see fit. I would suggest that this is a return to the allegorical style of Origen so many years ago and the rabbis before that. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now. The goal of good hermeneutics is the author’s intended meaning. Undoubtedly, the reader carries with him other ideas brought forth from his own experience that shape his approach to the text. It is these presuppositions that limit communication. A good reader does not abandon his presuppositions; this is not even possible. Rather, he conscientiously acknowledges them and tries to understand the author on the author’s terms. To abandon this effort is to surrender to anarchy in language. All hope is then lost. The remainder of the book is devoted to the practices that should result from the beliefs that were presented. Here, Bell is on much firmer ground. Specifically, he provides some thought provoking discussion concerning a Christian’s role in poverty and creation. Velvet Elvis is not the groundbreaking work that many want it to be. It is, however, a foundational book for the Emerging Church. It is a profitable read in the sense that it provides insight as to what the future will hold. The Gospel is as out of place in postmodernism as it was in modernism. There will be more confusion and more failure. I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.
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Rob Bell is an engaging and interesting author. Quite a bit of what he has to say resonates with my heart, but other aspects of his writings and teachings raise red flags... he does not seem to embrace the inerrancy or the divine inspiration of Scripture... rather, we can draw lessons from it for today's time and culture, but nothing definitive. His view of hell seems to be limited to the present reality, not an eternal destination. He also comes very close to universalism... while I believe lessons can be learned from his writings, it would be irresponsible to not use a healthy dose of skepticism/discernment in deciphering what he says.
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I liked the substance of the book but was occasionally annoyed by Bell's style--it seemed like he was trying too hard to be cool. If you're a liberal Christian, this is probably a good book for you. It also has interesting background information about specific Biblical texts that made those texts much more comprehensible.
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pretty interesting case for returning christianity to real christians
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This is a book not for the faint of heart or for those who take comfort in rigidity.Bell definitely walks a fine line; sometimes it seems he crosses over it. Nevertheless, even where one does not agree with him, he certainly provides things about which to think.The image of the trampoline vs. the brick wall was interesting and has some value in practice. Many of his discussions are spot on; with others, you can see how he will become a lightning-rod for controversy, and how he will get to "Love Wins" and the firestorm that creates. I can appreciate the idea that each successive generation is trying to wrestle with the faith and its practice; whether one can truly speak of "progress" in this endeavor might be another story. Bell seems to be simultaneously steeped in tradition while remaining culturally a late 20th/early 21st century American. He has an affinity for rabbinic exegesis; if some of these points are to be accepted as fact, they do provide interesting illumination to certain Biblical concepts. A challenging book to be sure, and one that you will not always agree with. But it's worth consideration.Kindle edition: very well done; the covers of the chapters do not render the best, and there's the occasional punctuation blip, but quite good in general.
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I am so glad I read this. So glad. I can't even put into words. Seriously, a lot of the things I have been thinking about lately (and even some I haven't been) were talked about in this book. It made me feel less crazy and gave me a bit of peace for all my questions and thoughts.I used to think I knew what it meant to have faith. I used to think I knew all the rules and all that jazz. I used to live a very black and white existance. But over the last several years I've begun to find this grey area, and have a lot of doubts and wonder if all the "traditions" I've believed in were in fact right.Not that Bell strikes them all down, but he just writes in a way that says that's okay to feel that way. And I can question things and that is okay. I can have faith through it all. I can not subscribe to black and white thinking and that's okay too ...there is a lot I'm feeling that makes it hard to put into words, but read this book! Really read it. And think about it. You don't have to agree with him or anything
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