A few weeks ago Laura and I went to hear Rob Bell on his "the god's aren't angry" tour. I have heard Rob Bell preach through his podcasts at Mars Hill, and I have read both of his books, so I was excited to hear/see him in person. I came away not disappointed in any way. He spoke for about an hour and a half on the origins on religious thought and how the revelation of the Judaic/Christian God was a radical alternative at every point in history to the "gods" created by humans.
As it has been a few weeks, the following 2 thoughts remain with me:
1. He really explained well this idea of progressive revelation. For example, it is easy for us to read the Old Testament and pass it off as barbaric and oppressive. However, Bell did an excellent job of putting it in its context and showing the ways that the OT was transformative and life-giving. Basically, the OT declares that you can know where you stand with the God of the universe, which was a main problem of the ancient mindset (ie not knowing where you stand with the gods).
2. He also did an excellent job of pulling everything into a present context. He gave examples and stories of how these primal urges and fears are still present today. People are still chasing after invisible "gods" and responding to urges such as self-mutilation and hopelessness.
All in all, it was a solid teaching and I would definitely recommend checking it out once it comes out on DVD.
By far the most interesting part of the evening took place after the teaching. Outside, a few loud "protesters" had gathered, preaching "turn or burn." One guy had a big sign that said "God is Angry with your Sins" and another guy was pounding a bible while telling everyone they needed to repent or go to hell. At first I laughed out loud because I thought it was a joke, but I quickly learned that they were dead serious. It left a really awkward feeling inside of me and I felt embarrassed for them and for myself. If outsiders to the faith are turned off to the concept of being in a relationship with God because of examples like I saw that night, I do not blame them, I was pretty turned off myself.