Jesus Wants to Save Christians (2)

JWTSC.jpgBell, Rob and Don Golden.

Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile

Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008. Pp. 224. Paper. $19.99.

Amazon | CBD



With thanks to Chris Fann at Zondervan for this review copy!


Alright, let’s see where these guys are going with this.  Okay, chapter one “The Cry of the Opressed;” I wonder what they’re crying about.  Maybe they’re crying about Bell and Golden calling Exodus the “first book of the Bible” [p. 19, 22].  How do they justify that?  Oh, I got it, “many scholars see Exodus, the second book of the Bible, as the book in which the central story of redemption begins — liberation from Egypt.” [p. 22]  That’s debatable, but who cares?  Let’s continue…

Egypt is an empire,

built on the backs of Israelite slave labor,

brick by

brick by

brick. [p. 22]

True enough, although I’m pretty sure it was around before it enslaved the Israelites.  And why, oh why do they do this retarded sentence structuring?  If they just wrote it normal then this would be like a 90 page book.  What editor came up with this scheme?!!  This is seriously annoying me… anyway… alright, God sees the misery of the people and hears there cries.  Good and well.  This is the “catalyst” for the “new story.”  Alright, I can live with that.

Think about your life. [p. 23]

Do I have to?

What are the moments that have shaped you the most. If you were to pick just a couple, what would they be? [p. 23]

Doesn’t much matter, whatever they are they’re radically different than what was going on with Israel in Egypt.  Why do authors like to apply stuff that isn’t applicable?  There’s more than enough stuff that is… why bother with the stuff that isn’t?  Maybe these questions would have more relevance to a person who’s been a slave… who knows?

In any event… This was the beginning of their liberation.  Okay, I can see that.  Alright, back to Genesis… Adam and Eve ate fruit… Cain killed Abel… Lamech is avenged 77 times… the whole world is headed for destruction except for Noah and his family… Yeah, I guess that’s a “dramatic progression.” [p. 25]  Oh wait, now “The story is a tragic progression: the broken, toxic nature at the heart of a few humans has now spread to the whole world.” [p. 26]

Slavery is “anti-kingdom” — okay, if they say so.  So then Egypt is “anti-kingdom” — alright, I guess.  Exodus is about “liberation” — yeah, that makes sense.  God sends Moses — yup.  Moses takes Israel to Sinai — uh huh.  God speaks… “Sinai is the breaking of the silence.” [p. 29]

And it happens in the wilderness, which has global implications. Because the Sinai event happened in the wilderness and not in the midst of a nation or city or province where someone could make ownership claims, it was for all the people of the world. [p. 29]

It was? Oh wait, there’s an end note.  God, why did you ever allow people to think up end notes?  The existence of end notes is more of a problem for theodicy than the “problem of evil!”  And before I check this note way in the back of the book, please Lord, tell me why they can’t cite the Scripture references in the text itself?  Who on Earth puts Scripture citations as end notes?!!  Oh, yeah, Golden and Bell, that’s who!  Alright, let me find this stinkin’ note.

15 Somebody somewhere pointed this out to us, and we don’t remember where or when or who. If it was you, well done. Dinner is on us. [p. 195, n. 15]

What?!!  Huh???  They’re kidding right?  Now that has got to be the most obnoxious thing I’ve ever seen.  Make some stupid claim, put a freakin’ end note for it, and then say you don’t know where you heard it?  What the heck is wrong with these guys?  Is that supposed to be cute or funny or something?  Well it isn’t!  Anyway, wilderness usually represents testing.  Jesus was tested (tempted) in the wilderness.  The same can be said of Israel.  And where are they getting that the ten commandments are universal from?  Oh, that’s right… they don’t remember!  I guess it doesn’t matter who God was addressing, he was obviously talking to everyone cuz they were in the desert.  I got it.

Alright, God calls priests.  He tells Moses that he’ll be like God to Pharaoh.  Wait, what’s that?

The answer leads us to a universal truth: God needs a body. God needs flesh and blood. God needs bones and skin so that Pharaoh will know just who this God is he’s dealing with and how this God acts in the world. And not just so Pharaoh will know but so that all of humanity will know. [p. 31]

Universal truth?  Too many “needs” in there for my liking.  God doesn’t “need” anything, let alone people to mediate his word.  He just got done speaking directly to Moses.  He could have done that for Pharaoh too!  Are they even connecting this to the incarnation?  I guess I’ll have to wait for the narrative to progress to find out.

Okay, Egypt to Sinai, to the Promised Land (Israel).  Now it’s generations later… got it.  Solomon’s king now.  He uses his wealth and power to build the temple.  What’s that?  He builds it with slave labor?  Oh no!  God forbid!  “This is a major moment in the Bible. In just a few generations, the oppressed have become the oppressors.” [p. 39]  Never really thought about that before.  I guess Golden and Bell aren’t all that bad.  Alright, Solomon uses his slaved to build military bases, and he has a bunch of horses and chariots.  Just like Egypt.  “Jerusalem is the new Egypt.” [p. 41]  Bit of an overstatement, but ok.

Solomon breaks the covenant through idolatry because he took all those wives and concubines he shouldn’t have been messing with in the first place.  Fine.  Some nonesense about 666 being “a very Jewish way of saying that something is evil, dark, wrong, and opposed to God.” [p. 43]  Documentation?  Nah, not a chance.  Moving along…  The Babylonians come along and destroy the temple.  Israel is exiled.  And now in Babylon they once again become servants.

Does this sound familiar?

Sounds a lot like Egypt, doesn’t it? [p. 49]

Yup.  Definitely a pattern there.

Oppressed → Liberated → Opressive → Opressed again.

I bet they’ll be liberated again!  Let’s see…


To be continued…


12 thoughts on “Jesus Wants to Save Christians (2)

  1. This sounds more devotional than any serious theology. And I agree that the wilderness motif is testing. If he is going to make the claim he does, he needs to unpack it more. (Of course Stanley Hauerwas says that original thought is forgetting where you heard it).

    Now it sounds like I have more sympathy with those who talk about the bible as narrative, but what gets me is that these emerging folk talk about it like they invented it, and it is all cool, and cutting edge. N.T. Wright, Richard Baucham, Richard Hays, and others have been doing this for years (and they don’t feel the need to have gel in their hair, nose rings, and goattees).

  2. Will: Yeah, I agree. But just to be clear, I don’t think this was ever intended to be a serious theological book, although I’d say that if anyone is going to write a devotional type of a book then it should take theology seriously.

    Your last paragraph is priceless!!! :-P

  3. Rob Bell’s books are not strictly theological. What I get out of them is usually a challenge to my worldview or way of approaching situations. Thanks for the amusing post, I look forward to getting my copy.

  4. From my understanding the book is supposed to address poverty around the world and challenge the comparatively wealthy american christians to address the discrepancy. I could be totally wrong though, but I’m hoping you get to that part next. Assuming you continue reading of course. 8)

  5. This book sounds like the theological equivalent of a really bad Saturday-morning cartoon. I’d almost prefer to read something from Rick Warren.

  6. for the record, I didn’t really care for the book at all and thought it was quite boring. I don’t really understand what kind of review this is supposed to be either.

    but i’m actually posting in response to will. I’m almost positive that Rob Bell doesn’t consider himself or their church as emergent. Also, he doesn’t have gel in his hair, a nose ring, or a goatee (not positive on the goatee though).

  7. Levi: Maybe I can help you out on what kind of review this is. The #2 in the title implies that there was a #1. In the first part of the review I explained that I wouldn’t be reviewing this book like I normally do others, but instead I’d be jotting down my thoughts as I read through it. So that’s what you have before you. But I gave up this format in part #3 and opted to offer some criticisms.

    Oh, and the NOOMA video I saw of Bell definitely depicted him with gel in his hair. No goatee and no piercings as far as I remember.

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