a little something to add to the noise around rob bell. my review (ostensibly) of one of his old books. this review also appears on Goodreads.
Before that book, the one about love winning, Rob Bell was already famous. He was famous because he'd written a book about the Christian faith called Velvet Elvis. Who'd ever heard of a book about Christianity having a title like Velvet Elvis? Extraordinary. His second book was called Sex God.
In both Velvet Elvis and Sex God, Rob Bell established a method of writing that revolves around a 'chatty' writing style, story-telling, the sound-bite, beautiful design, and of making statements and asking questions that are intended to spark thought and discussion more than present a dogmatic fixed position. It was a style that presented truths but trusted that the reader would be smart enough / thoughtful enough / be prompted by God Himself enough to be able to consider concepts (perhaps outside the strictness of 20th century evangelicalism) without risking their soul to eternal peril. It was, in short, a style designed to speak to a postmodern (substitute "21st century" if you like) audience.
We now know that this style can land a man in the depths of the ugliest controversy. A controversy so ugly that it has led some to attempt to push God off His seat, assume the role of judge of mankind, and assign Rob Bell to hellfire.
This all kicks off, in large part, because Rob has a tendency to be controversial. His style invites controversy. Take the title of our book, for example, Sex God. How a title like this avoided the kind of heat that Love Wins attracted, I'll never know. Or what about a chapter titled God Wears Lipstick? This controversial edge has a tendency in two directions (formatted here a la Bell):
To be compelling
To be sensationalist
It's a fine line that Rob Bell walks. I love him for being prepared to take the risk, but it is a risky business indeed. In all fairness to him, I believe his intentions are good with regard to controversy. He wants to get people thinking for themselves. He wants them to see things differently at least for a moment. He wants to communicate that there might be more to things than what we often automatically accept. That's the ideal, but have we seen that what happens in reality is that, when confronted with controversy, people often tend to retreat more deeply into their citadels? By now, after everything, will Bell wield the tool of controversy more carefully?
I feel certain that underneath all this, there is a mild mannered man with a profound level of insight. And to get back to the matter at hand, reviewing Sex God, here is a book that will certainly challenge your thinking. It isn't really the controversial book that the title and its chapter titles suggest. Instead, it is simply a book that explores ideas about what sex really is, and about how what it really is plays a part in who God is and what His plan is for humankind.
Which brings us back to talking about Bell's overall output to date. What we have is an author who, though he wraps his work in controversy, is really just a guy who wants us (whoever we might be) to think about God, our relationship with God, and what that means.
Sex God is excellent.