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"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. This pursuit of Jesus is leading us backward as much as forward. . . . 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."

—from Velvet Elvis

Topics: Spirituality and The Bible

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062197221
List price: $10.99
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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.more
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.)more
pretty interesting case for returning christianity to real christiansmore
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.more
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.more
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.more
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.(more
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.more
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.more
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.more
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 Teachermore
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.more
A profound discussion of modern Christianity.Rob Bell starts a modern discussion of what it mans to be a Christian, to be a Christ-follower. This is much more than the WWJD bracelets-it's a challenge to think about your faith and how it appears in a modern world. Faith is more than belief, it is acting on that belief. Bell is the first to state he doesn't have all the answers, but his questions will force you to confront your own faith and what it means.more
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.more
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.more
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.more
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.more
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.more
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.more
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."more
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.more
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.more
My new favorite book. I love it in every way.more
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. Bmore
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.more
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.more
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.more
Read all 33 reviews

Reviews

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.more
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.)more
pretty interesting case for returning christianity to real christiansmore
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.more
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.more
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.more
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.(more
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.more
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.more
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.more
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 Teachermore
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.more
A profound discussion of modern Christianity.Rob Bell starts a modern discussion of what it mans to be a Christian, to be a Christ-follower. This is much more than the WWJD bracelets-it's a challenge to think about your faith and how it appears in a modern world. Faith is more than belief, it is acting on that belief. Bell is the first to state he doesn't have all the answers, but his questions will force you to confront your own faith and what it means.more
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.more
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.more
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.more
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.more
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.more
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.more
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."more
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.more
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.more
My new favorite book. I love it in every way.more
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. Bmore
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.more
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.more
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.more
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