What is Rob Bell Up To Next? A Glimpse Inside What We Talk about When We Talk About God

Margaret —  February 21, 2013 — 40 Comments

What is Rob Bell up to next?

I just watched the new promo for Rob Bell's next book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, which releases on March 12.

While viewing, I had the following thoughts:
Hey, Velvet Elvis.

Cool Guitar.

How come the stack of books doesn't fall?

You're rambling.

That's a lot of 3X5 cards.

Boombox. Snail. Volume. Further. Closer. What?

Dude, you gotta start wearing more sunscreen.

Is that Southern California influence I hear in your voice?

Again, how are those books not falling?

Wow. I've never seen a book trailer say so little. Why and what is this book?

That was profoundly non-memorably memorable.

No doubt Rob's next book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, will stir all kinds of controversy, spark meaningful and meaningless discussion, and bring out the internet snipers en masse.

But in the meantime, what came to your mind while watching this promotional trailer?

40 responses to What is Rob Bell Up To Next? A Glimpse Inside What We Talk about When We Talk About God

  1. Margaret,
    You are right? What is the book about? What did he just say? Very confusing for sure.
    May we have clarity today and be filled with His Spirit,

  2. I have read every one of Rob Bell’s books. He always appears to be attempting to bring an atheist-like culture into the idea that “there is a God” before the idea that this God is the Trinity. We run into this “higher power” idea in AA and as Billy Graham has pointed out, AA has brought a lot of folks to Christ. Do I think this is correct evangelism? I dont know, because I am not God, but I do believe this is way more on target than half of the ultra conservative churches “screaming” threats in Jesus’ name, instead of teaching of His love, or the “old school” ultra religious/traditional churches that are too busy worrying about following the rules. Jesus was a “rule breaker” and in a philosophical sense, he was just trying to show people this idea of a higher power (his father) with his love.

  3. I read one of the comments below the video and the person said “What we talk about when we talk about Rob.” LOL! I think that sums it up. I wouldn’t read any of his works. What was missing in the entire video was him mentioning going to God in prayer. Instead, we are bored to tears with him talking about the stack of books he’s read and his index cards and other meaningless blather. He basically said nothing at all. Who is this guy, anyway?

  4. My initial reaction as I watched the video:
    … random…
    that is a lot of books
    and index cards
    and more books!
    really random….
    After further pondering, the thought that came to my mind:
    When we talk about God we ramble?
    Where’s the clarity of thought…
    It made me kind of sad and I can’t say that I feel compelled to read the book.
    Generally disappointing…

  5. My reaction: So what’s the book about?

  6. He has a lot of books and index cards..and has no idea what he is trying to say. Also, Italian Monkeys? What?

  7. Do Italian monkeys only eat peanuts? I feel like they might be a little more sophisticated in their nut selection than most.

  8. my reaction:

    Wow, I miss the glasses.

  9. It’s a shelf

  10. I laughed out loud at the index cards. I’m sorry, but if I jotted random thoughts on index cards to that level of proliferation, my husband would drag my butt into a doctor’s office and get me some medicine. So, after I got over the enormous amount of index cards and the excessive display of books in this room, I began to listen to Rob’s talking voice. I believe that the purpose of the book is contained in the final paragraphs of his speech: It’s the process of him discovering what he’s been jotting down in those journals and index cards, trying to connect the dots and see where God is leading him and that that somehow is the cosmic answer to this Christianity thing and there will be a message in it for his readers, if they care to read it, because it’s not about them, or God even, but about Rob’s process in discovery and writing it.
    I just hope the book isn’t as cryptic as the trailer–and that it’s not printed in 3×5 card format.

  11. He is on his own unique spiritual journey and that doesn’t always require writing a book about it all. At the same time, marketing and promotion are essential. He is creating buzz. But it does make me think, “I am the walrus…koo-koo-kachoo”

  12. I don’t usually comment on blogs, but i felt compelled to say something. Watching the video what came to mind is a man being open and honest with his questions about his faith, the universe, how it all relates. He shared some of his process about how the book came into being. While a bit random, nothing super juicy.

    What I see in these comments is more disturbing than anything Rob Bell would ever write. I see a bunch of Sunday school kids picking on the kid who doesn’t think like they do. Mocking and teasing the kid who they think has the stupid questions. I see this behavior on blog after blog of Christian writers. Criticism, mocking and pounding out of Scripture to prove “I am right”. As believers, are we not called to love? I’m sure Jesus would be real proud.

    • I get what you’re saying. But there is one thing that’s important to remember…while we need to respond with grace and care, and prayer to the writing and teaching of others — those responding here are responding to a question about a man who is speaking (writing, whatever) as a leader/teacher/pastor (he may deny it but that dosen’t change the facts). He is accountable for what he “puts out there” and there is a degree of care and wisdom that should go along with whatever he is writing. To write and say you are simply “questioning” is not justification for what you write if it is leading others astray. He knows that he is influential and that his words matter. His “questions” as he presents them have ramifications…I can think of biblical examples of how simple “questions” lead to some pretty horrific results and, yes, those hearing the questions were not without responsibility for their response but this doesn’t leave the one who is “leading” with questions without culpability. We ALL need to be discerning in all that we read, seeking God’s WORD as the final authority and those of us who “write” and “speak” and “lead” need to do so understanding that we are held to greater account and should do so as though we speak the very words of God.(James 3:1; 1 Peter 4:11) It is a sobering and weighty thing.

      • Deborah (Debbie) February 21, 2013 at 2:08 pm

        P.S. I am not suggesting questions are wrong or even that God has a problem with our questions when offered up to Him…just that when we are in a situation and role where others look to us as a leader/teacher etc. and when they are presented in a very public manner, we really do need to be careful in our “teaching” even through questions…

    • Love this ! YES!! thank you for speaking out with ‘clarity’ ..
      especially on this journey of Lent that leads to Yeshua Jesus’ Maundy Thursday message…

      once people can label someone or something, they feel they’ve gained the right to judge, to put another in the box of their choosing.
      not according to God’s book. nor the Ultimate Intuitive Creative …

    • For me, it went the opposite way. I clicked over merely for the fear and, I was sure, certain misunderstanding that the question was an invitation to a divisive, destructive conversation where Christians are not discussing theology or love but insulting and ridiculing someone who they don’t see eye to eye with. I don’t necessarily agree with Rob Bell’s theology, but how off putting for those on the “outside” when the rest of us feel like we are in safe company to rip someone apart simply because they see things other than the way we do. Please let’s all be gracious and not inflammatory. Love, love, love one another.

    • If you notice margaret used lots of grace in writing this–she simply said here’s a new video for a new book that we all know is going to attract a lot of attention. You’re the one who baited yourself and got upset.

      Seems to me that says far more about you then her.

      • Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not believe Margaret intended to receive the kind of comments that ripped another person apart. In my experience, she is an example of love and grace and I am grateful for her wisdom and thoughtful inspiration. I do feel, however, that sometimes we can take a discussion like this as an invitation to collectively exclude someone and say hurtful things about them. Many of the comments had little to do with Bell’s theology or teaching but a lot to do with his appearance, his voice, his talent, his belongings, his note-taking skills, and his process. I don’t believe comparing him to an aneurysm patient or mocking his shirt is constructive, and it just makes me sad the way the snowball can get rolling and suck us in to criticism and gossip when we could be focusing on theological truth and love in action.

        I am FAR from flawless in this area, so I am speaking to myself just as much here as to anyone. This conversation has given me even more cause to stop and consider my words and the spirit with which they are offered, especially in a public forum such as this. We all are entitled to our perspective about Rob, his trailer, his book and his teachings but I would just like to encourage us, in the spirit of Christ, to focus on what matters and draw nearer to love and peace than division and cutting each other down.

  13. I like Rob Bell. I loved all of the Nooma videos. I thought Velvet Elvis was great. I liked to hear him speak. Yes, he is quirky, odd, colors his hair different shades, and wears glasses that sent every youth minister in America down to LensCrafters. I read the first chapter of Love Wins, and it just frustrated me so I didn’t finish it. I seldom finish books anyway (most authors are finished with their point about halfway through their books, present company excluded of course!). So I’m watching this book trailer and I think that Rob has always been pasty white, uncomfortably pale, which worked well with his black glasses and muted abstractly toned videos. Rob is going to speak to some people who won’t listen to me. I think his goal is to nudge them closer to Christ, not necessarily to throw a net on them and get them to say the sinner’s prayer. Yeah, I like Rob. I don’t ‘get’ him, but I like him.

  14. I am sorry, Mr. Bell, but that promo reminded me of my mother after she had had an aneurysm in her brain burst, had brain surgery, was in a coma for a month and a half and then began talking again–about some grand conspiracy she imagined. He thoughts actually held together better than yours in the video.

  15. OK I obviously would not have seen or commented on this trailer if Margaret hadn’t prompted me, and I have to admit it was a good diversion on a gray Thursday morning in PDX…
    What went through my mind?

    Margaret – you need to get to IKEA or an interior design store more often….
    What the heck, when did Rob Bell become a golfer? What’s with the polo? Why is part of it untucked, homage to the old hip Rob?
    Index cards? Really? Someone please show Mr. Bell computer post it notes…He cut down an entire bonsai forest here.

    I’m glad he’s responding to God and working through his process, unique to him as it is. The trailer did not picque my interest in the book. And I apologise for explaining MF as the “female Rob Bell” …

    Grace and Peace to you Rob in your journey.

  16. Spot on analysis!

    Seems to me, the last twenty seconds would have been sufficient in describing the actual book. The rest is Rob letting his fans know he’s still Rob, and that they’ll want the book because it’s Rob being Rob.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  17. Atheism is a popular movement?

    Why is your hair that color?

    It’ll be a hot book for a few months, then die out.

    Self, self, self.

  18. Melinda, don’t worry, you didn’t say anything wrong.

  19. First thought…I was surprised to see Rob Bell’s name associated within Margaret Feinberg’s emails. I hope it is not an endorsement but to incite discussion. I thought it was quite sad that Rob Bell appeared to be convincing (himself?) that something significant was going on in his mind that he had to share (see the books? see the index cards?….whatever this confusion all is for him…he seems to try to think of it in terms of some great calling. I feel sorry for him…pathetic. I am confident he’s got nothing to say…evidenced by his own confusion of throwing sentences together. This book? Sounds like he might believe in the “Big Bang” theory of writing…something wonderful out of chaos!

  20. I don’t know.

    But most of these responses ring to the same tone of the righteous indignation of those guys Jesus dealt with…

  21. Margaret,

    Interesting. Seemed like stream of consciousness for the first few minutes. I was focused on the index cards and the Elvis picture.

    In the last 20-30 seconds, seemed to get to the point of what he might be doing in the book.

    As you say, will probably provoke both meaningful and meaningless discussions.

  22. First thought: Wow…a NOOMA promo video for his new book….And I also clicked on your page thinking “Oh please I hope she is not in agreement with Rob Bell”…and I just gotta say, those of us that agree with the fact that he is actually leading people astray, it is our responsibility to call those people out…not maliciously or slanderously, but to stand up and say “Hey…you are Not preaching the whole Word”….He’s preaching the Word according to Rob Bell.

  23. Or, a beginner’s version of the invisible bookshelf: http://www.boredpandashop.com/invisible-bookshelf/

    I have always wanted one right next to my bed… and get rid of my bedside table. 🙂

  24. My thought? “Hey, is Rob Bell left-handed? Yeah, I think he’s left-handed! Hmm. Well, that might explain a few things.” BTW, I am a (proud) southpaw.

  25. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Gal 5:22 I like Rob Bell and believe he loves Jesus and people. Sure, he’s different, edgy, and is reaching out to a different group of people. This promo isn’t his best but I’m sure that we’ve all had our great moments and our not-so-great moments. Grace, friends….grace.

  26. The title is thought-provoking. I wish he had told us what the book is about. The trailer sure lacked substance, and I can only guess at the point of the book, which doesn’t necessarily make me want to read it. But the question, “What am I thinking of when I talk of God?” is a curious one, something for good coffee shop discussion. So that’s probably what I will do with it, if anything.

  27. warrriorforchrist February 22, 2013 at 7:45 am

    You have a right to speak your mind. If I was face to face with Rob Bell I’d ask him why he didn’t speak more about God and less about himself and I would question him about his ramblings. Christian authors I have heard speak will expound on God, not themselves. (some of the ones I’ve read are Margaret Feinberg, Ann Voskamp, Max Lucado and Beth Moore. All totally God centered.) We are told to go out and preach the gospel of Christ and what does a monkey have to do with it. Mr. Bell seems more self-centered judging from his own words and actions, than God centered. He did not make a good first impression with me and we are cautioned to use a discerning spirit.
    With all those piles of books Mr. Bell showed everyone that he read in his video, I didn’t see him hold up a Bible or refer to it. How can you write any book that speaks about God at all in any context without the Bible being the most important reference book of all? After all, the entire book of Psalms is King David speaking to God and about God. And there is the gospels where Jesus shows us the Father in words and actions and the rest of the New Testament where the apostles speak about God. He didn’t quote any scripture at all. That would make me wonder about him just based on that.
    He obviously has fans out there. Personally, I am not a fan of anyone other than Jesus Christ. I don’t owe any allegiance to anyone else. And if anyone cares to rip me apart for what I have just said, have at it. Take your best shot.

    • warrriorforchrist/Christine February 22, 2013 at 8:17 am

      I do apologize to those I might have offended by coming off so strongly. My words came off as a challenge and I should have been more judicious in my choice of words. I became very annoyed when I viewed the video one more time. I still have the same opinion of him.

  28. I thought the exact opposite of what I thought when I first discovered you this week -this is a person who ponders deeply and inspires me to ponder as well. thank you Margaret.

  29. I think we need some pixie dust.

  30. What a bunch of judgmental self righteous Pharisees some of you sound like… I can’t understand why the world isn’t lined up at your door to get a dose of what you are offering.

  31. I thought the video was good ( I admit I was surprised after reading posts/comments about it. I didn’t find it too rambling (but hey, I have ADHD so…) I am with the people who don’t really get him now (loved his earlier videos) but figure he is attempting to get people who are not in the church to read and get interested in God. Nothing wrong with that! 🙂

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