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What We Talk About When We Talk About God


Author: Rob Bell

Publisher: HarperOne


Publish Date: September 2, 2014

ISBN-10: 62378279

Pages: 240

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

I’m thrilled you’ve picked up this new edition of my book What We Talk About When We Talk About God. There’s a good chance you’re reading this because you’ve come across my work through the Life You Want tour or one of my projects with the OWN network. So before we go any further, I want to give you an idea of where I’m coming from.

I was at a birthday party recently and I met a man who’s a rocket scientist. It turns out that he’s not just your average rocket scientist, he’s in charge of pretty much everything we put into space. It was, as you can imagine, fascinating to talk with him. At one point in our conversation he was explaining how there are certain characteristics required for a planet to sustain life and from what he knows, he’s confident that we’ll find life on other planets in the near future. He said this like it’s the most straightforward, sensible thing in the world. Or other worlds, for that matter. He then leaned in and looked me in the eyes and said

And that, Rob, will be devastating for the Christian faith.

Which wasn’t what I was thinking.

I was thinking, Wow, that would be amazing.

I tell you about this fascinating man at this birthday party because of his assumption that the discovery of life on other planets would be a threat to faith.

He isn’t alone. Lots of people in our world see faith as stuck, rigid, narrow, behind, unable to cope with the new discoveries and challenges of our modern world.

I don’t see it that way. If your faith is threatened by something that’s true, then it wasn’t much of a faith to begin with, was it?

As I reflect on my work over the past fifteen years, I’m struck with how central the importance of discovery and exploration have been to my understanding of faith. In my first book, Velvet Elvis, I described a Velvet Elvis painting that I got in college. In the lower left hand corner the artist painted the letter R with a period next to it. Imagine if R had announced that there was no more need to paint because R had come up with the ultimate painting. That’s crazy, because we understand that art is about exploring and discovering and constantly creating something new. You’re never done painting. The same is true with faith—you’re never done learning and growing and evolving. The moment things become static, frozen, stuck, you’ve lost something central to what it means to have faith.

Jesus called disciples to follow him, and a disciple is a student. For many of us, our understanding of a student is shaped by the modern classroom where the goal is often to learn the facts and then regurgitate them back on the exam or in a paper. But in the first century, a disciple was someone who was learning how to do what their teacher did. It wasn’t just about the mind and what you knew, it was about your entire life, about you learning how to live in the world in a certain way.

I find this understanding incredibly freeing, and I want people to pick this up in my writing. I see myself as a student, learning the Jesus way, doing my best to put what I’m learning into words for others. We don’t have to understand it all or have all the answers: that’s one of the first assumptions of a student. You’re learning, and you’ll always be learning. So when you don’t get it right the first time, you take it easy on yourself because you’re learning. And whatever you have learned, there will always be more. That’s where the thrill is, the surprise, the joy—there’s always something new around the corner.

There’s a great line from one of the New Testament letters that goes like this:
All things are yours . . .

I love that line. It’s such a big, buoyant, beautiful, affirming view of the world. Wherever you find truth, wherever you discover something new, affirm it, embrace it, enjoy it. We will always be hungry to make sense of things, always looking for meaning and connection and depth in our experiences. Faith is here to stay, the question is what kind of faith will people have. I want us all to have faith big enough to handle whatever challenges come our way and open enough to celebrate whatever new discoveries we make in this world. Or other worlds.

I hope that you pick up this sense of wonder and joy in my work.

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