When I was younger I did not like tomatoes. To me they were mealy, flavorless, red wedges of nothing. No good.
Now, I love a good tomato- of course. And it’s because the tomato has changed (I now live in California- not the Midwest- where access to delicious, juicy, flavorful, fresh tomatoes is easy. AND it’s because *I’ve* changed. My taste buds have matured. I’m over my old stereotypes about tomatoes, and I’m ready to dive in.
The same is true for me and Rob Bell.
I had heard of him years ago and presumed he was another surf-y, douche-y, Jesus-y guy with tousled hair and a well-worn, name-embossed Bible. Been there. Done that, I told myself.
Then I was getting into Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook a few years ago when her book, Big Magic, came out- and she recommended a podcast by her friend Rob Bell on Seasons.
It was like the first time I tasted a ripe, warm, fresh-from-the-garden tomato.
It was so good.
The RobCast is now – of course – my number 1 favorite podcast of all time period.
And now. I’m reading his newest book, What is the Bible? And let me tell you – it’s all over. Tomatoes for life.
Bell is utterly committed to relentless pursuit of the Holy. He is totally devoted to listening to Spirit and doing what it commands.
This total commitment has led him through theology school, into being a church pastor, and – now – living this Spirit-constructed existence of writing books, recording podcasts, and touring around the world giving talks about his observations regarding authentic human living.
One thing I love most about Rob Bell is his attitude of inclusivity. He is speaking to authentic human living. One need only be human to embody his message. It’s not even like it needs to be said with him- all are expected. All are welcome.
He does have a talent for speaking particularly to two sets of humans- those exceedingly familiar with the Bible and those raised completely (and purposefully) without it.
He able to meet Biblical scholars in their home territory- the lands of Greek and Hebrew – and explain, contextualize, and reframe the literature to reveal an even more liberating message than the reader thought possible.
When he talks about God, the Holy, the Great Mystery – it evokes a feeling for me that matches up with *my* experience of a loving God.
Another thing I love about Rob Bell is that his work is grounded in scriptural scholarship. He reads the Bible with attention toward Hebrew and Greek, as well as an eye toward the overarching, “bird’s eye view” of the Scriptures. I can tell he has read a lot of academic writing on the subject of Scripture, and he pushes that background through a filter of contemporary examples and understandings.
Give him a listen, y’all. You don’t even need basil or salt. This tomato is perfectly ripe and delicious at all times.