If you google Rob Bell or Velvet Elvis you will undoubtedly find all kinds of criticism thrown his way. If you look at his Wikipedia page it is even on there. And rightly so, to an extent, because he phrases things a certain way to get people to discuss topics. If you can get an audience riled up they will talk.
I can see why believers are up in arms about him and this book. He says things that, if you aren’t reading with an open mind, will get traditional Christians hot. And when I say open mind that isn’t a liberal, everything is alright open mind, but an open mind that reads things through before commenting. An open mind that doesn’t take one sentence, most often out of context, and crucify someone for it.
My background: I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I believe there is absolute truth in this world and that is comes from God. I do not believe that every human who has their own version of truth is right. I believe Jesus was born of a virgin, died on a cross for our sins and rose again 3 days later. I believe He is coming back for His bride, all believers. I not only believe He is the way, the truth and the light, but He is the ONLY way. So, with that said I still can read a book like Velvet Elvis, Blue Like Jazz or Searching For God Knows What and not lose my religion or salvation.
But not only do I believe in all of the above, I am a conservative from the deep deep south: South Carolina to be exact. And if you’ve ever read any of the books I mentioned you know that I am one level below the anti-christ.
Now that you know my background, let me say this: I think Velvet Elvis is one of the best books I’ve read in recent memory and here’s why: Velvet Elvis is about setting aside all of the religious ceremonies we all do (Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic, Presbyterian, etc…) and getting back to the root of our faith, Jesus Christ. Rob Bell is obviously anti-institutional – ironic because he has a giant church. Velvet Elvis strips off the facade of churchianity and makes us look at our motives; are we looking for the approval of men or Jesus?
I know Rob Bell says things that will make your skin crawl, but that doesn’t make him a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as he was called on website I read somewhere (I would post it but I don’t remember where it was). It makes him controversial. And if you know anything about writers or publicists that isn’t a bad thing; it is how they sell a million books instead of a couple thousand. I am all for stirring up a hornet’s nest if it is done to get people talking and moving towards truth. But if it is done just for the sake of controversy then there is a problem.
Velvet Elvis is not for everyone. It is not for those who get offended easily and aren’t sure what they believe or why. It is, in my opinion, not for new believers. This book has to be, as he states on the back, weighed and studied. Don’t just take it at face value. Look at it from the Bible’s standpoint. If you strip away all of the things he says just to push people’s buttons you’ll find a book that has some awesome truth in it.
Our culture is evolving, but God’s word isn’t. The truths that God set forth in the beginning are just as relevant today. What is changing, or in some cases isn’t changing, is the “church’s” attitudes towards our culture. It seems we, as believers, have two choices: we can either hide in our churches and hope the world out there doesn’t get us, or we can dive in head first and bring light to a dark world.
The churches that are taking it to the street are growing exponentially. The ones that are scared to get little dirty are dying… and soon will be irrelevant.
Is Velvet Elvis walking that line between absolute truth and tolerance, yes, but don’t miss the forest for the trees. Read it and weigh it.