Rob Bell is back

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*Update: An editor at HarperOne, the publisher of Rob’s book, has explained to me that the video posted below is NOT the official trailer: “That was simply a behind-the-scenes video on Rob’s creative process. The actual trailer will debut the week of March 4. That video will be less vague about the content of the book.”

Former pastor Rob Bell rocked the evangelical world nearly two years ago with the release of his book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever LivedThough Bell was no stranger to controversy at the time, nothing he’d said or done previously provoked the kind of reaction that this New York Times bestselling book did. By raising questions about traditional views on hell, he became the target of attacks by some conservative Christians and was heralded by more liberal ones as a theologian for the future. The furor even landed his ideas on the cover of TIME Magazine.

Now Rob Bell is back with a new book that releases on March 12 titled, What We Talk About When We Talk About God (HarperOne, $25.99).The book, which lacks a subtitle, is already causing evangelicals to squirm as they predict it will become the source of even more controversy. This remains to be seen. What we do know is that a  trailer has been released that seems to be as intentionally vague as the book’s title:

Some of Rob critics believe that he now lacks influence with mainstream evangelicals, but I disagree. His book is pre-selling well and I can’t imagine that all orders are coming from fringe liberal Christians and the non-religious. I believe he still holds sway with a sizable number of mainstream evangelicals, which is why I have decided to explore the subject of his forthcoming book further. I’ve tentatively secured an exclusive interview with Rob that will run in this forum on March 13th if everything goes as planned. Take a moment to review the trailer and then let me know if you have any questions you’d like me to ask.

All suggested questions must be courteous and kind. No cheap shots, please.

  • I’ve always found Rob Bell to be a dynamic preacher, because he doesn’t preach in the way most do. I felt in his preaching there was a calm, assured, intellectually driven conversation he was trying not to lead, but to simply be a part of. Perhaps not on the level Rob has faced, but I’ve been struck numerous times how, when talking to people who have made up their mind, even asking a question is considered heretical and misinformed.

    All that said, two questions:

    1. In my personal experience, different Christian churches often emphasize one part of the Trinity over the other (a more charismatic church calling on “the Holy Spirit” more than a Baptist church would, etc). How does that affect our ability to talk about God, not just with other Christians but with non-believers? And continuing the thought, is there a wrong way (or a better way) for a Christian to talk about God?

    2. Also, (to my mind) Rob Bell’s ministry is different than most other pastors I’ve seen. It is based far more on causing people to ask questions than to simply give them definitive answers. All past (and current) controversy aside, how does Rob see his ministry working WITH the ministries of others in helping people achieve a closer relationship to God?

  • Annie

    Rob Bell has always surprised me, and challenged me, and I am sure that this book will be no different. We can not always predict where or how God will show up and what He wants us to learn next, and from whom. Rob Bell may have part of the message God wants us to know for this specific season. I will look forward to seeing what he has for us.

  • Ned

    I waited until the full trailer came out before responding, so I hope you haven’t interviewed Bell yet. Here’s what I’d like to ask: “Who’s this “we”, Kemosabe?”

    Joke aside, who is the audience for the book? Bell talks about both church and wider culture needing a new understanding of god, but I think those would be two different books. Does he have one intended audience, or many, and if the latter how does he balance their needs?

    Especially being an atheist, if he presumes belief in god in his readers I’m going to have a harder time getting into his work than if he first addresses why I should consider belief at all. On the other hand, a convinced believer may not care for that discussion.