I don't know if you're allowed to 'fisk' actual books, but I'm going to anyway. As I mentioned days ago, I'm reading Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis at the request of a friend, and I'm trying to read it quickly so that I can give it back. However, practically every line cries out for a response. I don't know if I'll have time or inclination to do this for the whole book, but here's what I got through just in the doctor's office yesterday.
Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith
The title and layout alone, for me, are a hang up. I was a lit major in college, and I reveled in deconstructionism and gender studies and all that, how shall I call it, c***, and had a marvelous time (really, if you want beautifully written deconstructionism, go to Jonathon Culler, go to Helene Cixous, seek out The Eloquence of Silence, but by no means waste your time on Christians trying to copy it. It just feels like walking into a Christian book shop to find "art". There probably isn't any). However, real life doesn't bear deconstructionism out, and this book seems to me, on its face, as a not very good copy of all that other interesting literature (as well as being ever so completely untrue). In other words, the title and layout alone says to me that Mr. Bell is trying a tad too hard. Let us consider the actual writing.
Mr. Bell first discusses his painting of Elvis and how things become dated and need to be rethought for each generation. Fair enough. I don't like the language but I'll save my quibbling. Then he goes jumping on his trampoline and considers who has faith and who doesn't, concluding, rationally enough, that everyone has faith. And then we come to page 22, entitled Springs.
He writes, "Take, for example, the doctrine-the spring-called the Trinity. This doctrine is central to historic, orthodox Christian faith. While there is only one God, God is somehow present everywhere. People began to call this presence, this power of God, his 'Spirit'. So there is God, and then there is God's Spirit."
Alright. Stop it right there. Just a moment ago, in a part I didn't quote, Mr. Bell made a point of saying that the "springs" are "doctrines", they are not God, they are ways of talking about God. So one of the main "doctrines" or "springs" is the Trinity, which, in one summery paragraph, Mr. Bell manages to completely mangle. Matt could put a couple of labels on all the heresy going on here. So God is "somehow" present everywhere, and we, in our great wisdom and understanding, came to think of that "presence" as "God's Spirit". I know I'm being fast and loose with the scare quotes, but Mr. Bell is being fast and loose with God. Its not that we came to understand God in this way, but Rather that God choose to make himself known, first through Scripture, and then perfectly through his Son, as One in Being and Three in Person.
"People began to call this concept the Trinity. The word trinity is not found anywhere in the Bible. Jesus didn't use the word, and the writers of the rest of the Bible didn't use the word. But over time this belief, this understanding, this doctrine, has become central...It is a spring, and people jumped for thousands of years without it."
Honestly. You believers out there will be able to see plainly what is wrong with this writing. But for anyone else who might be reading, Jesus himself plainly used the Trinitarian Formula, "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" when commissioning his disciples before Ascending into Heaven in what is traditionally come to be known as "the Great Commission" (Matthew 28). The church didn't "come to understand" God in this way. They may have later applied the word "trinity" but Jesus himself made it very clear that He was God, that his Father was God and that the Holy Spirit was God. God has always been this way, he just choose to make himself known at a particular moment in history.
Well, obviously, I have a lot more to say, but looking at the clock, I see that it is 10:15 and I have to be up at 5 to finish off things for church. But don't worry, I'll be back on this important subject. In the meantime, pray for the state of the church. Lord knows, it sorely needs it.