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Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

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Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

4/5 (41 ratings)
195 pages
3 hours
Jul 24, 2012


From Scribd: About the Book

Pastor Rob Bell was profiled by TIME Magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential people. A spiritual leader who is also a New York Times beselling author, his explorations of sex, religion, and love through a Christian lens have inspired a generation of the faithful, and have made him one of the most recognizable figures in theology today.

Velvet Elvis, Pastor Bell's first book, takes readers back to where his journey began. It takes a fresh look at the traditional questions of Christianity and answers them in a personal, forthright and inspiring manner. Through simple sentences with layers of meaning, he offers a new perspective on traditional theories of theology and spirituality for a modern reader. For fans and readers of Bell's bestselling book Love Wins, Velvet Elvis gets at the crux of topical issues on faith.

Jul 24, 2012

About the author

Rob Bell is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and spiritual teacher. His books include Love Wins, How to Be Here, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Velvet Elvis, The Zimzum of Love, Sex God, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and Drops Like Stars. He hosts the weekly podcast The Robcast, which was named by iTunes as one of the best of 2015. He was profiled in The New Yorker and in TIME Magazine as one of 2011’s hundred most influential people. He and his wife, Kristen, have three children and live in Los Angeles.

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Velvet Elvis - Rob Bell




In my basement, behind some bikes and suitcases and boxes, sits a Velvet Elvis. A genuine, bought-by-the-side-of-the-road Velvet Elvis. And to say that this painting captures The King in all his glory would be an understatement. It’s not the young Elvis—the thin one with the slicked-back hair in those black-and-white concert photos in which he’s playing a guitar that’s not plugged in. And it’s not the old Elvis—the big one in the shiny cape singing to old women in Hawaii. My painting is the Pre-doughnut Elvis.

A touch of blue in the hair; the tall, white collar that suggests one of those polyester jumpsuits; and those lips . . . if you stare long enough, you might even see them quiver.

But I think the best part of my Velvet Elvis is the lower left-hand corner, where the artist simply wrote a capital R and then a period.


Because when you’re this good, you don’t even have to write your whole name.

What if, when the artist was done with this masterpiece, R. had announced there was no more need for anyone to paint, because he or she had just painted the ultimate painting? What if R. had held a press conference, unveiled his painting, and then called on all painters everywhere to put down their brushes, insisting that since the ultimate painting had been painted, there was simply no need for any of them to continue their work?

We would say that R. had lost his mind. We say this because we instinctively understand that art has to, in some way, keep going. Keep exploring, keep arranging, keep shaping and forming and bringing in new perspectives.

For thousands of years followers of Jesus, like artists, have understood that we have to keep going, exploring what it means to live in harmony with God and each other. The Christian faith tradition is filled with change and growth and transformation. Jesus took part in this process by calling people to rethink faith and the Bible and hope and love and everything else, and by inviting them into the endless process of working out how to live as God created us to live.

The challenge for Christians then is to live with great passion and conviction, remaining open and flexible, aware that this life is not the last painting.

Times change. God doesn’t, but times do. We learn and grow, and the world around us shifts, and the Christian faith is alive only when it is listening, morphing, innovating, letting go of whatever has gotten in the way of Jesus and embracing whatever will help us be more and more the people God wants us to be.

There are endless examples of this ongoing process, so I’ll describe just one. Around 500 years ago, a man named Martin Luther raised a whole series of questions about the painting the church was presenting to the world. He insisted that God’s grace could not be purchased with money or good deeds. He wanted everyone to have their own copy of the Bible in a language they could read. He argued that everyone had a divine calling on their lives to serve God, not just priests who had jobs in churches. This concept was revolutionary for the world at that time. He was articulating earth-shattering ideas for his listeners. And they heard him. And something big, something historic, happened. Things changed. Thousands of people connected with God in ways they hadn’t before.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Luther was taking his place in a long line of people who never stopped rethinking and repainting the faith. Shedding unnecessary layers and at the same time rediscovering essentials that had been lost. Luther’s work was part of what came to be called the Reformation. Because of this movement, the churches he was speaking against went through their own process of rethinking and repainting, making significant changes as a result.

And this process hasn’t stopped.

It can’t.

In fact, Luther’s contemporaries used a very specific word for this endless, absolutely necessary process of change and growth. They didn’t use the word reformed; they used the word reforming. This distinction is crucial. They knew that they and others hadn’t gotten it perfect forever. They knew that the things they said and did and wrote and decided would need to be revisited. Rethought. Reworked.

I’m part of this tradition.

I’m part of this global, historic stream of people who believe that God has not left us alone but has been involved in human history from the beginning. People who believe that in Jesus, God came among us in a unique and powerful way, showing us a new kind of life. Giving each of us a new vision for our life together, for the world we live in.

And as a part of this tradition, I embrace the need to keep painting, to keep reforming.

By this I do not mean cosmetic, superficial changes like better lights and music, sharper graphics, and new methods with easy-to-follow steps. I mean theology: the beliefs about God, Jesus, the Bible, salvation, the future. We must keep reforming the way the Christian faith is defined, lived, and explained.

Jesus is more compelling than ever. More inviting, more true, more mysterious than ever. The problem isn’t Jesus; the problem is what comes with Jesus.

For many people the word Christian conjures up all sorts of images that have nothing to do with who Jesus is and how he taught us to live. This must change.

For others, the painting works for their parents, or it provided meaning when they were growing up, but it is no longer relevant. It doesn’t fit. It’s outdated. It doesn’t have anything to say to the world they live in every day. It’s not that there isn’t any truth in it or that all the people before them were misguided or missed the point. It’s just that every generation has to ask the difficult questions of what it means to be a Christian here and now, in this place, at this time.

And if this difficult work isn’t done, where does the painting end up?

In the basement.

Here’s what often happens: Somebody comes along who has a fresh perspective on the Christian faith. People are inspired. A movement starts. Faith that was stale and dying is now alive. But then the pioneer of the movement—the painter—dies and the followers stop exploring. They mistakenly assume that their leader’s words were the last ones on the subject, and they freeze their leader’s words. They forget that as that innovator was doing his or her part to move things along, that person was merely taking part in the discussion that will go on forever. And so in their commitment to what so-and-so said and did, they end up freezing the faith.

What gets lost is the truth that whoever painted that version was just like us, searching for God and experiencing God and trying to get a handle on what the Christian faith looks like. And then a new generation comes along living in a new day and a new world, and they have to keep the tradition going or the previous paintings are going to end up in the basement.

The tradition then is painting, not making copies of the same painting over and over. The challenge of the art is to take what was great about the previous paintings and incorporate that into new paintings.

And in the process, make something beautiful—for today.

For many Christians, the current paintings are enough. The churches, the books, the language, the methods, the beliefs—there is nothing wrong with it. It works for them and meets their needs, and they gladly invite others to join them in it. I thank God for that. I celebrate those who have had their lives transformed in these settings.

But this book is for those who need a fresh take on Jesus and what it means to live the kind of life he teaches us to live. I’m part of a community, a movement of people who have been living, exploring, discussing, sharing, and experiencing new understandings of Christian faith.

And we love it. We are alive in ways we never thought possible. We are caught up in something we gladly give our lives to. This is the place that I write from: a place of joy and freedom, as a member of a community wanting to invite others to come along on the journey. We are just getting started. I have as many questions as answers, and I’m convinced that we’re only scratching the surface. What I do know is that this pursuit of Jesus is leading us backward as much as forward.

If it is true, then it isn’t new.

I am learning that what seems brand new is often the discovery of something that’s been there all along—it just got lost somewhere and it needs to be picked up, dusted off, and reclaimed. I am learning that I come from a tradition that has wrestled with the deepest questions of human existence for thousands of years. I am learning that my tradition includes the rabbis and reformers and revolutionaries and monks and nuns and pastors and writers and philosophers and artists and every person everywhere who has asked big questions of a big God.

Welcome to my Velvet Elvis.



Several years ago my parents and in-laws gave our boys a trampoline. A fifteen-footer with netting around the outside so kids don’t end up headfirst in the flowers. Since then my boys and I have logged more hours on that trampoline than I could begin to count. When we first got it, my older son, who was five at the time, discovered that if he timed his bounce with mine, he could launch higher than if he was jumping on his own.

I remember the first time he called my wife, Kristen, out into the backyard to watch him jump off of my bounce. Now mind you, up until this point he was maybe getting a foot higher because of his new technique. But this one particular time, when my wife was watching for the first time, something freakish happened in the space-time continuum. When he jumped, there was this perfect convergence of his weight and my weight and his jump and my jump, and I’m sure barometric pressure and air temperature had something to do with it too, because he went really high.

I don’t mean a few feet off the mat. I mean he went over my head. Forty pounds of boy, clawing the air like a cat thrown from a second-story window, and a man making eye contact with his wife and thinking, This is not good.

She told us she didn’t think our new trick was very safe and we should be careful. Which we were.

Until she went inside the house.

It is on this trampoline that God has started to make more sense to me. Because when it comes to faith, everybody has it. People often tell me they could never have faith, that it is just too hard. The idea that some people have faith and others don’t is a popular one. But it is not a true one. Everybody has faith. Everybody is following somebody. What often happens is that people with specific beliefs about God end up backed into a corner, defending their faith against the calm, cool rationality of others. As if they have faith and beliefs and others don’t.

But that is not true. Let’s take an example: Some people believe we were made by a creator who has plans and purposes for his creation, while others believe there is no greater meaning to life, no grand design, and we exist not because of some divine intention but because of random chance. This is not a discussion between people of faith and people who don’t have faith. Both perspectives are faith perspectives, built on systems of belief. The person who says we are here by chance and there is no greater meaning has just as many beliefs as the person who says there’s a creator. Maybe even more.

Think about some of the words that are used in these kinds of discussions, one of the most common being the phrase open-minded. Often the person with spiritual convictions is seen as close-minded and others are seen as open-minded. What is fascinating to me is that at the center of the Christian faith is the assumption that this life isn’t all there is. That there is more to life than the material. That existence is not limited to what we can see, touch, measure, taste, hear, and observe. One of the central assertions of the Christian worldview is that there is more.¹ Those who oppose this insist that this is all there is, that only what we can measure and observe and see with our eyes is real. There is nothing else. Which perspective is more closed-minded? Which perspective is more open?

An atheist is a person of tremendous faith. In our discussions about the things that matter most then, we aren’t talking about faith or no faith. Belief or no belief. We are talking about faith in what? Belief in what? The real question isn’t whether we have it or not, but what we have put it in.

Everybody follows somebody. All of us make decisions every day about what is important, how to treat people, and what to do with our lives. These decisions come from what we believe about every aspect of our existence. And we got our beliefs from somewhere. We have been formed, every one of us, by this complicated mix of people and places and things. Parents and teachers and artists and scientists and mentors—we are each taking all of these influences and living our lives according to which teachings we have made our own. Some insist that they aren’t influenced by any person or any religion, that they think for themselves. And that’s an honorable perspective. The problem is they got that perspective from . . . somebody. They’re following somebody even if they insist it is themselves they are following.

Everybody is following somebody. Everybody has faith in something and somebody.

We are all believers.


As a Christian, I am simply trying to orient myself around living a particular kind of way, the kind of way that Jesus taught is possible. And I think that the way of Jesus is the best possible way to live.

This isn’t irrational or primitive or blind faith. It is merely being honest that we all are living a way.

I’m convinced being generous is a better way to live.

I’m convinced forgiving people and not carrying around bitterness is a better way to live.

I’m convinced having compassion is a better way to live.

I’m convinced pursuing peace in every situation is a better way to live.

I’m convinced listening to the wisdom

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What people think about Velvet Elvis

41 ratings / 31 Reviews
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  • (5/5)
    Every time I read something by Rob Bell, or see one of his videos, it seems to capture and express what I want to say, only so much better. This was no exception. Bell describes this book as a contribution to the ongoing act of painting the Christian faith. It is a vulnerable, honest, and open expression of a vibrant and living faith that invites engagement with excitement and an expectation of changed lives. It left me exhilarated and enthused for the possibilities open to the church in contemporary culture if we really engage with this approach to our faith.
  • (5/5)
    Velvet Elvis is one of my favorite books. I am a huge fan of Rob Bell and the way he can communicate faith through painting a picture with words. He's extremely bright and knows Biblical history very well. One great thing is he has a way of showing God with more than the Bible. If people don't believe in the Bible there is no point in using it to try and sway. He uses all of God's creation to tell a wonderful story.
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    In Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell provides some extraordinary insight into God's word and the Christian life. Of particular interest to me was Bell's insight into certain terms found in Scripture. For example "yoke" was a word used to describe a rabbi's interpretation of how to live the Torah. Every rabbi had his own yoke, or understanding/interpretation of the Torah. It was a tradition that Jews would follow after a certain rabbi's yoke because they believed his interpretation was the closest to what God originally intended. This explains why Jesus once said His yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30). Furthermore, Bell gives us insight into the formation of what would eventually become the canon of Scripture as we know it. Even before councils were convened, the early church had begun gathering books (even by oral tradition) they felt were inspired of God. In fact, Peter affirms Paul's writings as having the same inspiration as the rest of Scripture (2 Peter 3:16), implying there were others being written that did not fit into this criteria of inspiration. As in his book, "Love Wins", Bell assures us that it is okay to read Scripture and not understand it, even questioning it, and possibly having doubt just as the early church did. They, like us, are all a part of the story in God's grand plan to redeem and reconcile the world to himself. Bell also makes the claim that all truth belongs to God. And, it's not just found in Christianity. You may find some truth in other things, including other faiths. But what we ought to do is claim it for God, because it belongs to Him. I also liked the chapter about the environment. Bell makes the biblical case that all things will someday be renewed and reconciled. And, he is right. We shouldn't be working against it, but with it, just as Adam did in the original garden.I have read two Rob Bell books and haven't read a bad one yet. Bell challenges me and makes me think. On several occasions I had to open up my Bible as a result of reading through this book. And, if a book causes you to think and meditate on Scripture, then I believe it has served its purpose well. I highly recommend Velvet Elvis to anyone who wants to be challenged in their faith.Below are some of my favorite quotes extracted from this book:The Christian faith is alive only when it is listening, morphing, innovating, letting go of whatever has gotten in the way of Jesus and embracing whatever will help us be more and more the people God wants us to be.Doctrine is a wonderful servant and a horrible master.God is bigger than any religion. God is bigger than any worldview. God is bigger than the Christian faith.Questions bring freedom. Freedom that I don't have to be God and I don't have to pretend that I have it all figured out. I can let God be God.If you study the Bible and it doesn't lead you to wonder and awe, then you haven't studied the Bible.The Bible tells a story. A story that isn't over. A story that is still being told. A story that we have a part to play in."If it is true, if it is beautiful, if it is honorable, if it is right, then claim it. Because it is from God. And you belong to God.The issue isn't so much taking Jesus to people who don't have him, but going to a place and pointing out to the people there the creative, life-giving God who is already present in their midst. It is searching for the things they have already affirmed as real and beautiful and true and then telling them who you believe is the source of all that. "I am here to tell you where I think it comes from..."The thought of the word "church" and the word "marketing" in the same sentence makes me sick.God isn't just interested in the covering over our sins; God wants to make us into the people we were originally created to be. It is not just the removal of what's being held against us; it is God pulling us into the people He originally had in mind when He made us.So this old nature of mine, the one that was constantly pulling me down and causing me to live in ways I wasn't created to live... has died. And, no matter how many times that old nature raises its ugly head and pretends to be alive, it is dead.It is not that we are perfect now or that we will never have to struggle. Or that the old person won't come back from time to time. It's that this new way of life involves a constant, conscious decision to keep dying to the old so that we can live in the new.For Jesus, eternal life wasn't a state of being for the future that we would enter into somewhere else; it is a quality of life that starts now.When I sin and the old person comes back from the dead for a few moments... I admit it. I confess it. I thank God I am forgiven. I make amends with anyone who has been affected by my actions. And then I move on.For Jesus, heaven and hell were present realities. Ways of living we can enter into here and now. He talked very little of the life beyond this one because he understood that the life beyond this one is a continuation of the kinds of choices we make here and now.For Jesus, this new kind of life in Him is not about escaping this world but about making it a better place, here and now. The goal for Jesus isn't to get into heaven. the goal is to get heaven here.Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn't as bright as it could be?It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display.
  • (5/5)
    This book captures the heart and essence of the postmodern/emergent Christian church. Stepping away from doctrine, the focus becomes experiencing God through the world He has created instead of seeking Him through rules and religion. Rob Bell is an excellent writer, using parables of his own to create memorable points (such as the titular Velvet Elvis painting which demonstrates the need to "repaint" the Christian faith). Critics of Bell will likely hate this book but they are equally likely to oppose the postmodern movement as a whole, however, there is much truth to be found among the controversy if they are willing to look at it with an open mind. I would rate this as a must read for anyone in ministry with younger generations of Christ followers (high school, college, etc.) as that is probably the audience most easily reached with Bell's style and views.
  • (5/5)
    Great book for those looking for more from their faith. Not a program or plan, just a new way of looking at things. He's someone that gets the point of Christianity and can articulate it very well.
  • (4/5)
    This is an excellent book by Rob Bell. He pastors a church in Michigan, and the first Sunday they started, without promoting or anything, 1,000 people showed up. So the guy starts preaching through Leviticus for a year, and now they have 10,000. He is certainly not your average pastor. He is labeled as being part of the emergent church movement, which is not negative to me, and is very well studied. This book doesn't focus on one particular thing, but discusses many things that any person can learn about. He has a tremendous knowledge about the Word of God, and is certainly unorthodox in his beliefs. It is not a difficult read, and one can knock it out in about 2 or 3 days easy. I recommend this book to all people, Bell should not be criticized...he should be listened to, discerned, and learned from by all people.
  • (5/5)
    Phenomenal! Really made me rethink much about Christianity and how truly invasive it should be in my life. I have thought a lot about the part "if it is good, it is from God."
  • (2/5)
    I was rather, well, angry about the first part of this book. Then it got better, and then worse again. I was planning to give it three stars rather than two, but when I finished the book, I couldn't remember what the good points were. They made no impression on me at all.What I do remember is Rob Bell pretending to be the new Martin Luther. Bragging about how he grew his church. Making pretense to be very knowledgeable about history (He is not -- the example I will give is when he claims that Caesar Augustus wanted everyone to worship him as a god, which is completely untrue. The Senate kept trying to get people to worship him, but Augustus was opposed to these efforts.), and trying to at once be a biblical authority while claiming that we cannot understand the true meaning of the Bible.Throughout the first part of the book he tears down the Bible as something we cannot understand, but only interpret in our own way. He relies more on personal experiences to lead him to God than God's actual Word. And be sure and look up those passages he references (hiding the actual citations in endnotes), since quite often he's way off. He spins elaborate tales about Jewish society to prove how smart he is, only to finally reach the point that was obvious by the actual words of the Bible.I've listened to Bell's podcast some, and some I do like, while a lot of the times he is either misled, wrong, or just longwinded (again, telling all about Jewish culture to arrive at the obvious point of the passage). But even there, when he is right, he is right in the most common and obvious ways that there isn't much you can take with you.A new Martin Luther? No. Martin Luther's revolution was to give the Word of God to everyone and let them follow Christ. Rob Bell's revolution is to drain the meaning from the Word and replace it with his own stories, his own supposed knowledge, and his own undersanding. As for me, I will trust in the Word over Rob Bell.
  • (3/5)
    3 1/2 starsthis is my first book im reading by rob bell. i do agree with him a lot. i really liked all the analogies rob used. it helped me see things more. this book got me thinking at times,and i know i will be thinking for days on it. velvet elvis is a easy read that will have you reminded of what christianity is and almost like a guide to help you rethink who you are. oh and the end notes are about 10 pages long its gonna take me some time to look up the verses listed in the bible, and the books he's listed to go back, but i think it will be a good review and worth looking over.(
  • (4/5)
    I'm a big fan of Rob Bell's Nooma series so was interested in reading some of his books. I was not disappointed. Rob Bell addresses our spiritual relationship with God in a way that really makes you think. I loved the "Velvet Elvis" analogy.
  • (4/5)
    Rich with imagery and illustration, Velvet Elvis seeks to strip Christianity of its cultural baggage (for better or worse) and rediscover the wonder, joy, and mystery of faith (in exchange for revelation?). Bell walks the reader through a “repainting” of theology, discipleship, Christian living, creation care, truth, and the bible. Bell’s work has existential and exegetical appeal. B
  • (5/5)
    I wasn't sure what to expect from this, having been rather mixed in my reactions to Rob Bell's other books. But I found it very appealing, right from the start. The concept of God being concerned with all goodness and truth is one that I've been hearing and reading in many places recently, along with the importance of testing everything, going back to Scripture and (most importantly) our relationship with God.

    There's an excellent chapter explaining some of the basics of Jewish thought, such as the meaning of a 'yoke', the method whereby rabbis took disciples, and what was meant by 'binding and loosing' in the first century. Jesus was, after all, thoroughly Jewish, as were his biographers; yet it's quite rare to hear a sermon letting us know that even the best-read Orthodox Jewish rabbis believed that the Scriptures needed constant re-evaluation and interpretation.

    The rest of the book encourages us to look for God where we are, to understand that the church is a community intended to bless those outside it, not a holy huddle to meet on Sundays. It describes eternal life in terms of where we are now, as a continuum, and how Jesus talked about a new earth rather than an abstract heaven.

    I don't know that I agreed with every word, but that's okay: as the author said, we should test everything, including the words he writes. We're all on different paths, with our unique temperaments and gifts, and the Holy Spirit gives us different insights. If something doesn't apply, or I think his interpretation is wrong, that's fine. While unity of heart is important, there's nothing in the Bible to say that we should all agree on every fine point of doctrine or Scriptural interpretation.

    Helpful, inspiring and thought-provoking. Definitely recommended.
  • (2/5)
    One of the more frustrating reads I have enjoyed in the last 2 years. So much of what Bell has to say is helpful and clarifying, and then there are these unbelievable slips of sheer, distoriting, damnable folly. The first chapter slaps one in the face with its clear departure from gospel clarity. It orients the faith around practice rather than around the historical event of what Christ actually accomplished. Theology is thus over-ruled by praxis, when it is precisely theology which empowers praxis. Bell's writing is like his teaching- He is skilled. Extremely skilled at drawing his audience in to experience his prose. And while much of what Bell says could do much good, in the end he undermines his own project by repainting the Christian faith into a beautiful mess whose actual content is unimportant- so long as it fits our expectations for what beauty should be.
  • (5/5)
    My new favorite book. I love it in every way.
  • (3/5)
    An easy reading way to convey non-institutional Christianity. Generally I agree with what he says, though I'd alter his heaven talk abit to convey a renewal more than a restoration throughout, and not just at the end. I really like the contextual readings of Jesus' work and teachings. A few good insights there.

    I did find the book lacking in its discussion that we are called to be who God meant for us to be. Bell goes into detail about forgiveness of your vices, but he gives little guidance about how to find out who we really are --other than to go see a therapist. He glosses over this part in his own story, too. Disappointing.

    But still worth reading. (A good book to use for small group discussion, too.)
  • (4/5)
    It is a book about what the author thinks Christianity should look like - about how Christ taught people to interpret and live out scripture. He attempts to give the reader some historical and cultural perspective on some scripture and some thoughts about the difference between following religious doctrine and following Christ's teachings. I read it twice and I didn't have time to read it the first time. Reviewed by:Greg GunnScience Teacher
  • (4/5)
    I found this to be a very interesting read. He talks about binding and loosing. Which I found very interesting. He also talks about a metaphor the rabbis have for when Jacob wrestled with God that I really liked. I found his views to be relatable. I have a favorite quote: Questions no matter ho shocking or blasphemous or arrogant or ignorant or raw are rooted in humility. A humility that understands that I am not God. And there is more to know.
  • (4/5)
    Harper One appears to be doing a reprint of Rob Bell’s works, and sent me a nice little stack of books. So I’m beginning with Bell’s Cinderella work, Velvet Elvis, published back in 2005. I had actually never read it before. Had heard it talked about, but never turned the cover. It turns out to be a good book, but I really didn’t enjoy it as much as I did Bell’s latest, Love Wins. I’ll review that one shortly.Velvet Elvis is written in a style exactly like I expect the young mega-church pastor to preach: friendly and colloquial, somewhat meandering, common-sensical. I don’t quite get the “Velvet Elvis” part, so let’s ignore the title and just say his is common-sense Christianity. It’s not terribly controversial (it’s actually more conservative than I expected), and it’s not theologically probing, but it’s clear Bell can think for himself … or rather, he can unthink some of the stray ideas that have led many Christians away from simply living a Christian life. I absolutely love this observation early in the book about what happens when you try to follow Jesus:Over time when you purposefully try to live the way of Jesus, you start noticing something deeper going on. You begin realizing the reason this is the best way to live is that it is rooted in profound truths about how the world is. You find yourself living more and more in tune with ultimate reality. You are more and more in sync with how the universe is at its deepest levels.What is Bell talking about? He’s talking about what it means to be a disciple of a first-century Rabbi who sees potential in each of us, and calls us to live like him. He’s talking about what happens when you quit pushing your religion on your neighbors and dwell like Christians among them. He’s talking about what happens when you view God’s dream for mankind as one of him coming down to make his home with us, rather than us peering into the heavens with a forlorn hope of rapturous escape. He’s talking about compassion, goodness, simplicity, all the things that can make this world a better place for all of us.
  • (4/5)
    Outstanding. I knew I wasn't crazy. This book is a total vindication for everyone who sits in the back pew listening to their weekly dose of bullshit and keeps thinking, "That can't be right!"

    This is "Mere Christianity" for the 21st century. I didn't read it for the longest time. The title put me off. Velvet Elvis? How hokey can we get? I haven't read "Blue Like Jazz" for the same reason. It just sounds like someone trying to be cool. And when Christians try to be cool... Well, we're just not that good at it.

    And I absolutely disagree with him on most of his theological positions. But, his spirit is undeniable and I think he's preaching the same plea for tolerance that I am. This book is clever, cool, and full of "Hell, yeah!" moments.

    And now I hear that Bell is a heretic for saying that there is no hell. It's about time Faith was heretical again. Being mainstream for 1800 years all but ruined us. Velvet Elvis is proof that there's still a "scatrd few" out there who are looking for a better place.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    The book definitely provided different perspectives on the Christian faith - however, I found it somewhat disjointed.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    pretty interesting case for returning christianity to real christians
  • (5/5)
    An excellent explanation of Christianity as praxis, with a lesser emphasis on theology. His aim is to make Christ inclusive, not exclusive. I can imagine that he could come across as abrasive or arrogant by those with whom he disagrees, but it is a message worth listening to.His discussion of Mary Magdalene's non-recognition of Jesus after his resurrection and the resonance with the story of Genesis was fascinating. His drawing out the meaning of 'rabbi' in terms of social importance and practice in atracting disciples was likewise extremely interesting. While the message of Jesus may be timeless, placing the story in the 1st century context has to aid our undrstanding.
  • (2/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    I've been following Rob Bell's teaching for a few years now so much of this book wasn't new for me. However, I'm glad to have it in writing now.He's opened my eyes to a few things about Jesus and he's shown me another way to look at my own preperation for teaching.
  • (1/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    Very thought provoking! Lots of great questions asked