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Dancing between faith and matter

Two friends immediately spring to mind when reading Rob Bell’s new book What We Talk About When We Talk About God. The first would call himself an atheist. One might say he is potentially intrigued by the idea of God, but utterly unconvinced of the existence of God, especially from a scientific point of view. My second friend is a pastor. He is a man who has great faith in Jesus Christ, so much so that he will often claim to know exactly what is on God’s heart to say to people.

The space between these two contrasting worldviews is difficult, and it is through that space Bell helps us navigate. He identifies so clearly the human condition and Western cultural position, understanding that most people’s experience is becoming increasingly blurry and messy. Yet into this blurry mess God not only speaks, but descends and points us toward something more satisfying. Written in classic Rob Bell conversational fashion he brilliantly choreographs a dance between theology and science, heart and logic, faith and matter.

Bell skilfully uses what we know to be true from science, logic and matter to reveal it is highly possible for the spiritual to coexist. According to Bell, God not only exists but is involved with that which he has created.

His intention is clear: make accessible that which history, science and religion so frequently have made inaccessible. Through the metaphors of seeing something new, and waking up to that which is already happening, he writes to renew our understanding that the seemingly non-spiritual is actually intricately connected to its divine roots of Jesus Christ. He does this in a way that demands your attention page after page; to jump ahead would leave you confused.

In this potentially controversial theological-cultural commentary, Bell reveals the invitation of God, who is present in everything, to find whole integrated lives of freedom in Christ. For this reason both of my friends need to read this book. It short-circuits both worldviews, leaving in its wake an opportunity to observe and engage with God in a fresh and unique way—a manner that our culture is pining for.

Rev Ralph Mayhew is the young adults minister at Newlife Uniting Church

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