Video streaming by UstreamI enjoyed Rob Bell’s enlightening, inspiring and thought-provoking message. Like what he shared, each of us would have felt at some points in time a reverence or sense of wonder, knowing or sensing that there is something about life that is precious and fragile, and some moments feel more special than others, such as when we listen to moving music, or we are in a nature place that is overwhelmingly beautiful, or when we holds a baby’s tiny hand. This observation or revelation or epiphany is worth musing over as compared to the claim that we are no more than biology or a sum total of atoms and that this life is all that is, and nothing more after that.
Yet, as he mentioned, quantum physics has shown subatomic particles that disappear in one place and appear in another without travelling the distance in between. Also, we can sense danger, and we can feel music stirring our soul, so there is a mystery about who we are and how we are. We are essentially matter and memory with a very fine line in between – we are a mysterious phenomenon.
I agree God is all the while with us, as evident in ruah or the life force of the universe surging through all creation. The sense of presence may be felt when we enjoy a meal, for example, and consider it transcendent, causing our soul to soar, which points to a larger reference point, an elevation. At the same time, the presence also has depth or kabod – weight and significance. So there are times we are more aware of what is already present – ruah or life force, and no matter where we are, we cannot go from the divine presence, as revealed in Psalm 139.
I also learnt that there are people struggling earnestly to recover from addictions and trusting in a higher power, as Rob Bell mentioned, and the gospel is counter intuitive because it is not about cleaning our acts to be accepted but rather knowing we are already blessed and God is for us and on our side even when we don’t have it all together. Instead of giving us law or gauging our performance, God meets us exactly where we are – God is our very present and ever present help in time of need.
Last but not least, I like his recount of how at a peace and compassion conference a few years ago which he attended, long time friends Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu would greet each other warmly by holding hands and tickling each other. It is such a laid-back atmosphere. Sadly in contrast to the congenial atmosphere, some protestors against the peace convention turned out to be Christians. Most likely the Christians were holding on to the outdated Old Testament laws such as “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth”. Compared to our day and age, this sounds barbaric and primitive. As Rob Bell pointed out, back then in their culture, this idea was considered progressive as the punishment of equal payment was seen as just. So we all have come a long way since then, and like what Jesus said about new ways of relating to God and one another by loving our enemies and blessing those who persecute us, God is ahead of us, pulling us forward to a better future.
So all in all, I have a better idea of why he wrote the book, in view of many people thinking God is about believing the right things to avoid getting into trouble, to point out that Jesus emphasised on seeing – and we are all wired to want to see the depth that is right here, right now what really matters. As Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “I didn’t ask for success. I asked for wonder.” I think this may be the only thing that carries us through the occasional setbacks and cynicism we all experience and see that life is worth living for ultimately.
- [Book preview] “What We Talk About When We Talk About God” by Rob Bell (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- Thoughts on Book Review: ‘Rob Bell and a New American Christianity’ (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- Rob Bell “Love Wins: for Teens” (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- Rob Bell plans another book, says he’s ‘on to something’ (mlive.com)
- COLUMN: Will God be left behind? An interview with Rob Bell (part one) – Articles (wilmingtonfavs.com)
- Thoughts on book review and background of Rob Bell’s “What we talk about when we talk about God”