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Rob Bell and a New American Christianity

  • By James K. Wellman, Jr.
  • By James K. Wellman, Jr.
Product Description

Subversive? • Celebrity? • Radical? • Heretic? • Holy Man?

Before being featured in Oprah's Super Soul Sunday and making the cover of Time Magazine, Rob Bell caused the entire evangelical world to wrestle with the scope of salvation with one daring question: who gets to be saved?

For religious progressives, Bell – the star of the influential Nooma series, game-changer in the church, and budding TV entrepreneur – offers a passionate faith, a prophetic challenge, a biblical acuity, and a generous vision of who God is in the world. For conservatives, Bell’s the voice that young Christians are looking for—a person who takes science seriously, speaks at cutting edge of popular culture, and argues God is bigger than our language for him.

The Christian message needs a new interpreter: one particular enough to embody the tradition but broad enough to evoke thought and feeling from a range of people, including evangelicals, religious progressives, and those disenchanted with churched religion—the spiritual but not religious, who find themselves compelled by Bell’s charisma and artistic creations.

Rob Bell offers a beautiful Jesus that entices, absorbs and inspires individuals to go beyond the back-biting and turf-fighting and culture wars that plague contemporary forms of evangelical and liberal Christianity.

Author, scholar, and speaker James Wellman offers an incisive and critical look at Rob Bell: his influence, his roots, his brand. Wellman's explains Bell’s rhetoric, ponders the implications of his creative message-making, and provides an interpretation of his influence that puts Bell at the center of a new American Christianity.

Praise for Rob Bell and a New American Christianity:

As evangelicalism of the twenty-first century continues its centuries-long quest for speaking the cultural idiom, Rob Bell’s voice has emerged as one of the most significant – and controversial. James Wellman’s prodigious research and astute analysis helps us understand why. –Randall Balmer, Dartmouth College, Author of The Making of Evangelicalism

"Twenty years from now we may look back on Rob Bell as the man who forever changed the face of American evangelical Christianity. Thank God, then, for James Wellman's profile of this complex, controversial, and utterly compelling religious leader. This is a book that should be read by all Americans regardless of their religious affiliation." –Reza Aslan, author of No God but God and Beyond Fundamentalism

“Rob Bell is a phenomenon. The emotional outpouring evidenced in both his critics and supporters demonstrate that his work has isolated and exposed a crisis that exists within the Evangelical community. A crisis that, once brought to the surface, has the potential of short circuiting fundamentalist strains within the movement and clearing the path for a theological reformation. This book is among the first to provide an insight into the development of Bell's thought and chart the significance of his intervention in the rocky landscape of Christian culture.” –Peter Rollins, author of How (Not) to Speak of God, Insurrection: To Believe Is Human To Doubt is Divine

“Much more than a biography, Wellman uses the life of Rob Bell to reveal the inner logic of a growing orthodoxy in American Christianity. Wellman traces the maturing of this charismatic preacher from an earnest young pastor to a nuanced bestselling “heretic”—and in doing so maps the development of a more ambiguous, more open evangelicalism. This remarkably readable study of Bell’s ministry illuminates the controversies, connects the histories, and explains the theologies. As the most public figure manifesting the transformation of American evangelicalism, Bell’s less dogmatic, more relational faith may hold the key to its sustainable future. Even those familiar with his ministry will find new insights and come away with a deeper sense of Rob Bell’s intimate connection to the developing history of modern Christianity.” –Gerardo Marti, L. Richardson King Associate Professor of Sociology at Davidson College, and author of A Mosaic of Believers and Hollywood Faith
The Christian message needs a new interpreter: one that is particular enough to know and interpret the tradition but broad enough to evoke thought and feeling from broader groups of people, including evangelicals, liberals, and those who are disenchanted with churched religion and who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, yet are fond of the Jesus tradition.

This book helps readers to understand the new landscape and its key figure, Rob Bell, by bringing a reasoned voice to the conversation and shedding light on the story, directions, and emotional power of the figure who Andy Crouch claims will be the main influence on Christians in this generation.

While his theology is seen as a theo-political stage by church leaders, when Rob Bell tours and speaks, it is the unchurched, the people in the pew, the people who want to be in the pew, who are listening—by the thousands. His recent placement on the cover of Time magazine sealed his import on the American landscape for anyone interested in religion.

Jonathan Nathan, a bookbuyer for the Harvard COOP, the largest booksellers in New England with a significant religion section says that no book has ever sold like Rob Bell’s to an audience that is young, thoughtful, and college-educated. Bell’s church has 10k members, and his influence has affected every sector of the American protestant church.

Why? Because Rob Bell has caused the whole evangelical world to rethink the scope of SALVATION with one single question: who gets to be saved? With that short sentence Bell has initiated a whole new movement in rethinking what it means to be an evangelical. A movement that has only begun.

Not only are heaven and hell at stake, but salvation itself. Is it meant for all or for only a small elect group—and if so, who gets to decide the parameters of that small group? If heaven and hell are not ultimate identifiers for a life of faith, can the passion to evangelize be maintained? If salvation is not either/or, but both/and, does the whole idea of world evangelism simply disappear?

Rob Bell has created another question for Evangelicals: Will you decide to live in a closed world of your own making or an open world? Those most influenced by Rob Bell are younger Evangelicals who are dying to open up their worlds. Rob Bell just gave them permission. According to Andy Crouch, his is the voice that will most influence this current generation.

For Liberals, Rob Bell gives them reason to be passionate about their faith and to think in big terms about it without giving up their minds and their questions. For the conservatives, he’s the voice that young Christians are looking to and admiring, and even if they disagree, they are trying to observe and imitate his approach and appeal.

Rob Bell doesn’t have the personality to sink into some religious subculture: He is a new super religious brand, the Apple or Pixar of his generation.

Evangelicals will buy it because they want to damn him, imitate him, or do both. Liberal religionists will buy it because they know that he is a Schleiermachian figure, making a case for faith to its cultured despisers with passion and a new aesthetic. Spiritual but not religious folks will buy it because Rob Bell has an invitation and appeal that is rare, and appeals well beyond holy huddles. 

As an authorized biography, that will allow for extensive interviews with Bell and his some of his congregants. This will include interviews with outside informed supporters and those that reject him and his theology. 

The book will reveal what makes him “tick,” how his Wheaton College background affected his work, and how he is dealing with accusations of being on the border of evangelical heresy. 

This book will be researched and written over the next two month, with a finish date of December 1. Half or more will be available by the fall AAR/SBL annual meeting, with the plan to have Rob Bell and the author presenting.

The book will show how is he challenging orthodoxy and why theologians are upset. It will outline the key players in the debate. It will also argue that no matter what the theologians say, people are still attending Bell’s church, listening to him speak. This is in large part because the man has a pastor’s heart. He cares about his people. The theologians aren’t reclaiming the conversation; they are making themselves irrelevant as the people who want genuine faith and are coming to Rob Bell’s books and talks because, as Bell said, “when the woman coming to church tells me she has stopped cutting herself and that a life of faith makes a difference”--that’s where the real things are happening.

Finally, people like him, he is a charismatic speaker that young people are listening to: He has something to say, and he is pastorally living the heart of what he is saying.
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  • Additional Details
  • Additional Details
    Product Specs
    • SKU: 9781426748448
    • Manufacturer: Abingdon Press
    • ISBN 13: 9781426748448
    • Closeout Date: 07/17/2014
    • Binding Type: Adhesive - Perfect Binding
    • Language of Text: English
    • Publication Date: 11/01/2012
    • Format: Paperback
    • Author: James K. Wellman, Jr.
    • Page Count: 168
    • Width: 5.50 inches
    • Height: 0.40 inches
    • Length: 8.50 inches
    • Weight: 0.03 pounds
    • SKU: 9781426749353
    • Manufacturer: Abingdon Press
    • ISBN 13: 9781426749353
    • Language of Text: English
    • Publication Date: 11/01/2012
    • Format: Electronic Media
    • Author: James K. Wellman, Jr.
    • Page Count: 168
    • Width: 1.00 inches
    • Height: 1.00 inches
    • Length: 1.00 inches
    • Weight: 0.06 pounds
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