The second section of What We Talk About When We Talk About God is the heart of Rob Bell’s message. Chapters 4-6 (with, for, and ahead) present his way of “talking about God.” While the first few chapters of What We Talk About is about the “talking” itself, these chapters focus on the content of what is being talked about. They address what we are or should be saying about God.
Chapter 4 is familiar to any Christian. This chapter discusses how God is “with” us. This of course is at the heart of the name Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” This chapter is a reminder that God is here with us. God is present in all of our lives and we all live in this reality where God is working. Chapter 5 discusses a God who is “for” us. Many times we think that God is vindictive and out to get us. God, however, is for us. He wants to see us succeed. God cares for us, loves us, and wants to help us. Finally, in chapter 6, Bell describes how God is “ahead” of us. What he means by this is that God is forward thinking. His example for this is the idea of an eye for an eye that comes from the Old Testament law. What we see in the O.T. is God establishing order in judicial system and ordering that the punishment fit the crime. If you kill someone’s ox, then you owe them an ox. You don’t owe them 3 oxen and you can’t just give them a chicken. There is just payment, no more no less. This is a step forward, while to us it may seem like a step back.
For the most part, I believe most Christians will agree with these statements. Jesus came lived with us and now the Holy Spirit dwells among us. God is in fact with us. Second, God is for his people. Jesus died for our sins. Lastly, I do believe that God is more forward thinking than we are. Look at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus takes a few of the commandments a step farther and says it’s not just about murder, instead it’s about hate, or it’s not about adultery, it’s about lust. God is ahead of us pulling us forward.
My main concern is in the area of God being ahead of us. While I agree with his examples, I am also afraid of what someone could justify by claiming that God is ahead of us in our thinking. One that comes to mind would be in the area of universalism. Is God ahead of us and showing us that all religions are okay? There are some areas that we think God is ahead of us and in reality he is not. God is good and is ahead of us in goodness, but we need to be careful that we don’t step away from the hard truths claiming that God is ahead of us. There are places where God is pulling us, but he has also given us his scripture as his guide.
Read Part 3 here.