His book opens with a comparison of our talk about God with an oldsmobile (see his book trailer for the story). This sets the stage for why Bell is writing. Oldsmobiles are outdated being left behind and God seems to be getting the same treatment. In our fast paced world, God, especially the God of the Bible, seems to be treated as old and no longer necessary. Bell’s experience, however, has been that people recognize in their lives that there is something beyond them and they can feel it (the hum) in their lives, but most religious discussion of God has turned them away. That’s why he’s writing this book. We need to change the way that we talk about God. We need to speak about God in a way that connects to people. God seems irrelevant, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
The next two chapters, serve as an extension of the introduction. They prepare the way for Bell to talk about how God is with us, for us, and ahead of us. “Open” is a jump into science. Much of it is very similar to what he spoke about in his video “Everything is Spiritual.” The heart of this chapter is that the universe is not as definable as we think it is. Because of this, it is very sensible for us to talk about God. Bell writes, “When we talk about God, then, we’re talking about something very real and yet beyond our conventional means of analysis and description.”
Chapter three, titled “Both,” is focused on the paradoxical nature of talking about God. One one side of the paradox is the fact that God is beyond us and beyond our understanding. We can know God, but we cannot fully know or understand him. On the other side of the paradox, we must talk about God. For us to know him, we have to talk about him.
When it comes to the first section of this book. I’m really pleased. I’m not so sure about the science, but ultimately, talking about God is theology. I think more people need to hear what he says about how we discuss theology. We use words and phrases to describe the indescribable. There is humility needed when approaching theology. Many people think that they have solved the riddle of God or that they have theology down, when really they have barely scratched the surface.
The part that I am cautious about is the discussion of updating the way talk about God. While I don’t disagree with Bell, if not careful this can lead anywhere. This requires humility. Sometimes we need to recognize that we speak incorrectly about God or in an unhelpful manner, and that does require change. On the other hand, we need to also be willing to stick to the truth when it is unpopular.