Category: theology

Eschatology in Velvet Elvis

One of the things that Rob Bell touches on in Velvet Elvis is eschatology. He does a great job of explaining the ‘new heavens, new earth’ idea, countering the popular misconception that the afterlife involves being sucked off to a disembodied heaven.

One of the most tragic things to ever happen to the gospel was the emergence of the message that Jesus takes us somewhere else if we believe in him. The Bible ends with God coming here. God, in the midst of people who can imagine nothing better, celebrating the life that we all share. (171)

Importantly, he looks to the garden in Genesis 2 and the city in Revelation 21-22 as pictures of our Christian hope.

In Genesis 1 and 2, we are told of a garden, but in Revelation 21 and 22, we are told of a city. A city is more advanced, more complicated than a garden. If a garden is developed and managed and cared for, it is eventually going to turn into a city. If there was no sin or death, creation would still move forward because God doesn’t just want to reclaim things; God wants to seem them move forward. (161)

Maybe, just maybe it’ll catch on! I think a better understanding of our Christian hope will give Christians a better sense of purpose to this life here and now. It’ll help them see why environmental stewardship is so important and why peace and social justice matter. We’re part of the good news! The good news that God is coming back to rule the Earth!

I’d reached a real low point in my faith in 2000. I went to talk to my friend, Ian Packer, about it. I think he must have been inspired, because instead of dealing with all the immediate problems I had with my faith, he asked me what I thought happened when I died. And I made the mistake of saying I hoped to go to heaven!

If you would like to know more on this, N.T. Wright has written some good stuff – especially ‘New Heavens and New Earth’. And then, of course, you can also read Velvet Elvis, which is much easier to get hold of.

Devouring theology

Earlier this year I fell back into my old trap of devouring theology, and I can sense it happening again. I was hungry for books on house church, mission and emerging church. I read about six books on these topics in six weeks. I had this sense that if I could cram some more into me, it would do me good. Like eating healthy food.

But reading books – and particularly theology – is not like eating food. It doesn’t do you any good if you haven’t understood it fully, engaged it, discussed it with others, started living what insights it brings you to.

Slow reading is the way to go. Slow reading means getting the ideas into your head and into your heart. Praying over it. Writing about it. Talking to others about it. Quoting from it. Thinking of ways to put the good stuff in practice. And then going back to the start of the book and reading it again until you’ve done it all.

I should be selective, though. I don’t want to do that for every book that comes my way. But often a book comes along that seems to have the mark of a prophet about it. Someone who has a message from God for the world… or at least me. That’s the book I should read slowly and appreciate.

Earlier this year when I went on a binge, I suddenly stopped. I’d read all these exciting ideas thinking I was on the cusp of a transformation. But nothing happened. I didn’t manage to start a church which shared the insights of Wolfgang Simpson, Frank Viola and Joel McComiskey. I hadn’t tried to live one before I’d rushed off onto the next.

So anyway, I could feel the temptation returning yesterday when I got excited about a book again – Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis. It was making a lot of sense to me, it was getting me passionate about the gospel… so I wanted to read it quicker… I wanted to get onto his next book… and that’s when I realised I had to fight down my instincts and read slowly.