Home – Jo Swinney // Book Review


A while ago I decided that I wouldn’t do any book reviews for a bit. This first year of Curacy has been a little bit bonkers, and for my own sanity I decided that was one thing that had to go. However when I had an email asking me if I’d like a pre-publication copy of Jo Swinney’s latest book, I was like, ‘err, YES’! As soon as I started reading it I knew I’d have to write about it, so for now I’m breaking my own rule.

Though I don’t know Jo well, I just like her. She’s a likeable kind of person, she’s nice, she’s funny, she’s a bit quirky and she just seems genuinely interested in the people she meets. All of which comes across in her new book ‘Home’.

As the title suggests Jo looks at the concept of where is home. In the diversity of the 21st century, easy and accessible world travel and just the huge availability of opportunity for many people, it can mean that ‘home’ is a complex subject. Well gone are the years where you grew up where you were born, stayed in the same town or village, worked in the same job for life and then died, buried in the parish church by a Vicar who’s been in post for all of the above. For Jo this is taken to the extreme though by growing up in Portugal and living in various countries before settling back in the UK (but for how long I wonder!). The themes she explores are so relevant, regardless of our geographical placement and I found myself nodding and ‘hmm- ing’ aloud as I read to myself. I was quite staggered to make a list that told me that at the age of 43 I have lived in 7 houses, 3 flats, 2 mobile homes, 1 tent, and 1 hostel; in 3 countries, 3 cities, 3 towns and 4 villages. Which of those would I have called home?

The book explores different aspects of ‘home’, like family and identity but interwoven with Jo’s own story living around the world, as well as reflections on the life of King David, framing the whole thing in a biblical context.

Jo’s own life has given her a wealth of information and experience to draw on and share, from growing up in Portugal, where she paints a wonderful picture of a loving, safe home with a vastly extended family of visitors and friends; to the pain of boarding school and homesickness; and on to the choices of adult life as to where to make or find home.

She also touches quite profoundly on the idea of identity, both culturally and personally. She writes of how hard it can be to define a home in a world that in many places is so multi-cultural. In fact in many ways what she writes is hugely prophetic and key for right now as we nationally, and worldwide, seek to understand our identity as nations. She notes:

All of us, whatever our defining cultural identity, benefit when we step out of our ghettoes and learn from each other. Our cultures will always be home in some sense, but who wants to stay at home twenty-four/seven?

Indeed.

But she also highlights the need to remember we are resident here and that we’re also inhabitants of the Kingdom of God, and just as that was comfort for David, it should be for us too. Again a timely reminder when we can easily be so bogged down in national and international negativity

I was touched as Jo writes so honestly about her own battle with depression, self worth and finding an identity of her own. As she says:

As I was discovering, wherever you go, there you are. I needed to find a home in side myself.

I wonder how many of us can say that we have truly done that – or even attempted to? How many of us have struggled with escaping from a situation or reality that was actually all about ourselves?

The book jacket asks the question:

Is home where you come from? where you live now? where the people you love are? or what?

If you’ve never pondered those things, then this book will help you draw out from your own life the ‘or what?’ things that help you call a place a home. It’s a book that asks questions of us, that might help us to seek direction, and challenges us – but in a gentle way and with the encouragement of one who has walked the journey before, and with the truth of God at it’s centre.

 

Home is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £14.99 and is available now.

 

‘Becoming Reverend’ by Matt Woodcock // Book review

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I’ve not met Matt Woodock, but I suspect he’s one of those instantly-likeable types. His writing is funny, honest and real, and not at all what you’d expect from a Vicar. Which is nice, because it makes me realise I am clearly not the only odd shaped one in the church of England.

‘Becoming Reverend’ is Matt’s diary of his journey from getting selected to train for ministry in the CofE, through struggling to become a Father and attempting to reconcile his party-loving football-filled lifestyle to ordination and parenthood. It is laugh out loud funny in places, but also moving and humbling as Matt’s outrageous honesty and witty self-deprecation take you along with him in his journey.

Having gone through the same process of selection and training, and feeling many of the same sentiments as Matt about ministry and the CofE (not always positive) this book really struck a chord with me. Like him I am not your average Radio 4 listening, academic, safe, ‘normal’ Vicar and agree that encouraging people into Christian leadership who ‘have an infectious, living faith and can relate Jesus to the ordinary working man and woman, should be the highest priority’.

As he notes:

I don’t feel called to fit neatly into the way church has always been done. I’m called to be a pioneering agent of change. I’m praying that God will find me the right kind of boss.

Me too. And the thing is people need to read this and understand it, both inside the church and out.

However this is not just a book for churchy types, Matt also writes about his and wife Anna’s battle to parenthood, through IVF, hormones, medication, lows and highs, whilst life attempts to carry on as normal. Egg harvesting, sperm donation, relationship tensions and tears are the norm for many people going through the IVF process and Matt’s honest but funny account of it will strike a chord with many. For Matt this is also coupled with dealing with his beloved Aunt succumbing to cancer, all on top of training to be a Vicar. One of those would be enough for anyone and reading Matt’s journey through it all is inspiring. Through it we see that it’s not just his faith that gets him though, or his wife, but he talks about his (amusingly titled) ‘Morning Glory’ group too. A bunch of fellow ordinands who pray, laugh and cry together, supporting each other through their ups and downs and it just highlights that we are all supposed to be in community. Down the pub, at church, in Iifes struggles, we need people around us – in any walk of life.

Matt also reminds us that we need to laugh. So many of us live lives that are way too busy, too exhausting and too full, to stop and laugh. Matt seems to find the funny in all situations which is an absolute gift.

For me personally, a couple of lines stand out in the book – perhaps because I could have written it about myself – and it sums up so much of who Matt seems to be:

And yet. God loves his church. He sees possibilities and opportunities everywhere. Deep down I know he calls me to do the same. It’s terrifying (but also quite comical) that he wants me to help breathe new life into it…

So, in summary, I’ll be a force for positive change in the Church of England, but could end up defrocked by my second year.

This book is inspiring, challenging, humbling and very funny. Go get it! Out now from Church House Publishing, priced £9.99.

matt-woodcock-paper-airplane

Book Review // Rhythms of Rest

41jvgn5dolI first met Shelly Miller at the HTB Leadership Conference in London a few years back, where by some quirk or fate – or rather, God – we ended up seated together. I, because I had bought my ticket alone and she because her husband, H, who was also seated next to her, actually spent much of the conference at various meetings (all to do with the big move to the UK – very exciting!). We chatted, bonded, prayed and wept together. It was really special and I know it was ordained by God.

Since then we have emailed, written, and now that she is in the UK met up for coffee too! Throughout this time we talked a lot about writing as we both love it, and now she has published her first book ‘Rhythms of Rest‘. Rest, Sabbath, Selah, whatever you call it, it’s an area that has become increasingly important to me and not least last summer when enforced rest through back surgery gave me the most wonderfully precious Sabbath time with God.

Of course Shelly’s book is focussed on Godly rest in Sabbath, as it grew out of her Sabbath society blog but it is so much more than that – it is a book of our time, a book our western world needs. We are entrenched in a society that is obsessed with working, with filling every hour, with being busy and ‘doing’.  I made a vow last year to stop saying ‘I am busy’ and not using it as an excuse. If we are too busy then that can’t be right, it can’t be what God intended, after all he is the author of time.

289793_rhythmsofrest_meme-6Shelly notes that some us attempt to find value in our measure of busyness, something I am sure many of us would recognise. But the truth is, as she points out, we are worthy, we are loved, no matter what! ‘in yoga pants, three day hair, and without make up in a room that looks like a cyclone hit…’ we are deeply loved. We don’t need to prove ourselves by being exhausted.

I love how Shelly has been intentional about Sabbath and how it has changed her life and the lives of the many who have joined her Sabbath Society. She notes how Sabbath was something that was noticeably different in her life growing up, how her grandparents reinforced this for her, not in word but in that one day was noticeably different to the other six. This reminds me of my own childhood where we would go to church and then to see my grandparents down the road, where we’d all have different parts of the newspaper and my brother and I would fight over the cartoons, whilst eating far too may biscuits (the kind that my Mum never bought). It seems such a world away now. These days Sundays are not sacred to anyone, there are too many demands on our time: sport, shopping, and working hours have changed so that Sunday is just another day. If we want a rest day, a Sabbath day, we have to be intentional about it. As Shelly says ‘choosing rest is the practice of loving yourself’.

I think the thing that has struck me most of all through reading this book, is the idea of a rhythm of rest. It may not be practical to take a whole day a week for rest (and for those of us in ‘ministry’ it’s unlikely to be a Sunday either!), but we can find regular times, even an hour here or there, to just take time out. For me that’s often in prayer but also in vegging on the sofa watching trashy telly, even though there is hoovering 289793_rhythmsofrest_meme-10to do; or maybe in painting and being creative, even though I may actually need to pop out to get something; or in just reading a book for pleasure when I could be studying. And what’s more, taking that time without feeling guilty. How many of us feel we can’t stop because there is so much to do, and if we do we spend the whole time feeling guilty! Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves?!

If any of this is touching a nerve with you, you need to read this book! Sometimes we just need someone to tell us how, or tell us it is ok, and that is exactly what Shelly does in ‘Rhythms of Rest’. I guarantee you will read it and wonder why on earth you haven’t taken time out to rest before.

Rhythms of Rest is out now, published by Bethany House, and available from Amazon here price £9.99 (or less on kindle).

 

 

The Fragment // Book Review

fragment
‘The Fragment’ by Davis Bunn is the perfect holiday read for someone like me. An easy read, with a gripping storyline, and with spiritual truth woven through it. More than that, Muriel, the main character is a young woman, refusing to fit into the social and cultural norms of her day, post war 1920s in Alexandria, Virginia. In a way her desire to escape and not conform reminds me of my own journey – refusing to settle for what was expected of me – except she does it with much more grace and humility than I ever will.
 
Then very quickly her life changes as she heads off to Paris to work for an old friend of the family, an American Senator on a quest to find a fragment of the true cross on which Christ died.
(It is worth noting that whether you are someone with a passion for relics or one who finds the whole idea of them questionable, it doesn’t take away from a good storyline, so just shelve that, ok?!)
 
‘The Fragment’ reads like a more charming and less frantic Dan Brown novel, except here the input of Christianity is more obvious and certainly woven in as spiritual truth and not just for dramatic effect. Muriel’s initial desire to leave the mundane comfort of her home town develops as she realises that this is her calling, something she feels God has prepared her for for life. Seeking a calling that is so clear is something that will resonate with many readers I am sure.
 
The faith of Muriel and her boss and family friend, the Senator, is evident throughout, woven into the storyline with ease. It’s refreshing to read a novel like this which has such spiritual truth at the heart of it. And indeed, the story of the search for the cross is made on several levels. Their quest to find the fragment, the true cross, is echoed in the journey of Charles, a young man haunted by his war experiences who Muriel attempts to bring on a journey of his own towards the cross. She sees that his life can only be transformed by Christ but he continues to fight it, in a battle of inner turmoil.
 
Set in 1923, when woman had not long gained the right to vote in the UK and US, in France it would be another 20 years, and the author conveys some of the discrimination that abounded, the childish ways women were ignored, mistrusted or put down simply because of their gender. Muriel reacts to this with grace and patience and in this story she comes out on top, partly thanks to the generous and supportive senator who believes in her.
A cleverly written novel, perfect for the beach, sitting by the pool, or just for lounging around on an autumn evening in front of the fire (which it feels like as I write now in August) ‘The Fragment’ is available now from Marylebone House, priced £8.99.
 

Review of Grove booklet ‘Evangelical Leadership: Challenges and Opportunities’ by Ian Paul

L23_sm_cover3_1024x1024I’ve just finished reading Ian Paul’s new Grove booklet ‘Evangelical Leadership: Challenges and Opportunities’ having been sent a copy to review.

He starts out by looking at whether the notion of ‘leadership’ is biblical, an interesting question certainly. It’s a label that has been so important in wider society for decades but only really in recent years within the church. He takes the reader through some biblical concepts from both Old Testament and New in order to unpack this, which I found really helpful, as well as touching on some of the recent reports written on leadership in the church.

 

In fact throughout the guide Paul refers to other writers and looks at their approaches, which brings a wider viewpoint to what is essentially a short guide, as Grove booklets are. Something I like about Grove books in general is that you can read them in one sitting but that there is lots of meat if you want to explore a bit further, and this one is no different. It left me wanting to go back and start again and really get into the nitty gritty of what he is saying. In fact though I was sent the guide digitally for free to review, I will be buying my own hard copy so I can add notes and scribble on it to my heart’s content!

The title notes ‘challenges and opportunities’ and that’s exactly what it does, highlighting some of the key issues and needs for evangelical leaders today. Paul doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff, in fact he openly embraces it and rather insightfully I feel, notes how we can deal with it. For example noting how the rise of the evangelical tradition, and a significant number of evangelicals in senior leadership positions in the church, means that we now have more of a voice and need to learn to embrace that and use it.

He also looks at what it means to be an evangelical in a tradition that is about as broad in it’s understanding as the CofE itself, with some interesting notes on the variations in what the label means.

Being a Mission Pastor, I was particularly drawn to the chapter on ‘Being Missional’ which highlights some key ways in which churches can enter into mission whilst also noting the potential difficulties. Really helpful especially for those who don’t know where to start or what ‘mission’ even means today!

Each chapter also has helpful questions and points of reflection to take the reader further and to encourage them to look at both their own faith and style of leadership but also that of the congregation.

Who is it for?

If you are starting to think about leadership as an evangelical, or perhaps you are a leader but haven’t given it much thought, this guide is a really great starting point. It is both interesting and yet useful (not always an easy match to make), theoretical without going too deep, and touches on both the individual and corporate.

Who is Ian Paul?

IanPaulI first came across Ian via his blog. I don’t always agree with what he writes but I do always appreciate the thoroughness of his posts and the challenges he poses – go check it out! However, aside from that he is also Associate Minister at St Nic’s, Nottingham and Honorary Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham and tweets at @Psephizo amongst other things.

 

Where do I get it?

It’s available now, from Grove books here for just £3.95 – what a bargain! You can either download it or get sent a paperback copy. If you want to know a bit more about it before you part with your hard earned cash then Ian writes about it on his blog here.

 

The Well of The North Wind by Kenneth Steven // Book Review


well-of-the-north-wind-FCI’m a visual type so when I read a book I love to be able to imagine the scenes, the dialogue and the people, in my mind. Kenneth Stevens book ‘The Well of the North Wind’, sent to me to review by the lovely people at SPCK, is perfect for that! As well as novels Kenneth writes poetry and this book is almost a mixture of the two, with beautiful lyrical lines that just let your imagination run wild. Like this:

‘He walked slowly over the mossy grass and the bed of a small stream, up over the rise of a last hill and down onto a beach. A rubble of boulders first, then round stones as big as a fist, before smaller pebbles once more. The wind full in his face and the sea coming in like great white dogs, leaping and playing and breaking…’

I love his style, I can imagine myself there on that beach, smelling the salty air and feeling the spray. It’s the kind of book you can sink into and just drift away into another world.

So what’s the story all about? Well set in the 6th Century, in the last days of Saint Columba, it follows the life of Fian, a young boy who is adopted by Monks on the West Coast of Ireland, after he is seen drawing in the sand on the beach. He is trained by the soft and Fatherly Monk, Innis, to draw in the style and language of the Book of Kells. (The book of Kells is a 6th Century manuscript, thought to be one of the finest of it’s style featuring beautiful hand drawn illustrations and calligraphy) such as this:kells

From there Fian is taken to the island of Iona to work on the book itself under the careful eye of Colum (Columba). This is the moment he sees the book for the first time.

‘ They climbed the stone steps and he heard the wind raging at the tower. It seemed to shake as they went higher, as they curled the spiral towards a top they never seemed to reach. They said nothing; his mouth was filled with questions but always they fell to dust…

They stood over him, watching not the page but rather him. It was beautiful. What more could be said or thought? It was all he had dreamed of seeing, since the days his hand learned to draw in the sand of home, since first he heard tell of books like this.’

We follow Fian’s journey with the book, but also spiritually as he explores who God is in his own life. Whilst living with the monks he is immersed in their culture he never quite becomes one of them. We see him grow up, become captivated by a local girl and the story develops as his life continues a mixture of spirituality, creativity and love.

This is a beautiful and captivating story set amidst holiness and wonder, moss and heather. If you are a bit of a romantic, into spirituality, are a creative sort, or just fancy something a bit different, then this book is for you!

Photo from my friend Tina Dray

Photo from my friend Tina Dray

 

Book Review: Moment Maker

Sorry another book review, but there’s some great books out there at the mo!

This one is ‘Moment Maker‘ by Carlos Whittaker. Pastor, Musician, Worship Leader, Writer, Blogger, Tweeter, Carlos is almost unheard of in the UK and yet in the US he has made quite an impact. ‘Moment Maker’ on Amazon UK right now has no reviews, yet the American one has 53 – and the books been out just over a week! (although by the time you read this I’ll have posted a review on the UK version…).

So, ‘Moment Maker’, what’s it all about? Well, the clue is in the title, it’s about making ‘moments’, allowing yourself time to make moments, listening for God’s guidance in making moments, recognising moments. What’s a moment? A moment is an opportunity, it’s making a memory, it’s a divine appointment, it’s a life changing experience, and so much more.

Whittaker (or Los as he is known) is an expert moment maker, wanting to get the absolute most out of life. This book is essentially a collection of stories about ‘moments’ from him and his family’s lives which he shares with raw honesty, self deprecating humour and a passion to show you how you can get more out of your life! I love the way Carlos writes, high paced; thoughts and experiences blurring into one; a riot of creativity and joy. I’ve never met the guy but I imagine he writes just like he lives his life.

Although this book is about Whittaker’s own experiences, he gives some great advice on how to get more out of your life – how to experience ‘moments’ in your life too. That said, it’s not one of those irritating self-help books by any stretch of the imagination, it’s more a collection of inspiring stories, centred on the heart of Jesus, as he notes: ‘the greatest moment maker of all time’. Most importantly it focuses on the why? of ‘moments’ – there’s great stories of fantastic things he’s done, but the important thing is the heart behind it – the why.

Reading this book, it’s hard not to be encouraged by Whittaker’s enthusiasm for life. Once I started it I couldn’t put it down, being carried through it on a wave of joy. There were such laugh out loud moments that I totally embarrassed myself reading it in public, and yet his genuine honesty allows you to experience his willingness to be vulnerable too. I literally cringed reading about his plan to woo a girl back to him (not a moment that ended well!) and I have to admit to shedding a tear as he relates how his daughter gives her life to Jesus as he almost tries to talk her out of it!

A great read, an inspiring reflection on life and well worth buying… 

Moment Maker is available from Amazon and costs (in the UK) £9.99 although the dispatch time is quite slow so if you can’t wait you can get it for kindle for £5.99.

Book Review ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’ by Dr Bex Lewis

Great book – note the number of post-its for me to go back to!
Plus my new fave mug which matches the cover of the book ;)

I have three kids aged from 8-18, all of whom use the internet and have various tech devices. Likewise my husband and I are both pretty digitally savvy too so I wasn’t sure what this book would bring to us. However after an incident a few weeks ago (which I’m not up for writing about now but might in the future), I realised I needed some advice in this area. Great coincidence then that this book has just been released, I ordered it and devoured in within a few days! Obviously I was specifically reading it with this incident in mind but it opened my eyes to so many things we hadn’t even considered about the internet and allowing our kids to use it. Even if you think you know it all/are doing it all already, I encourage you to read it!

Dr Bex Lewis is a research fellow at CODEC (Centre for Christian Communication in a Digital Age)  based at Durham Uni. The book is a result of her research, including input via a questionnaire from parents and those involved in childcare. Bex says the book is intended to give you confidence to allow your children to engage digitally, whilst also giving practical advice and also looks at specific areas of digital use too.

The book starts off by challenging some of the oft-quoted fears surrounding children and the internet, creating a healthy balance between scare stories and the real issues. Helpfully Bex intersperses her writing with quotes from the questionnaire about peoples own fears and experiences. It is great to realise you are not the only one worrying about this or that someone else has the same issues with their kids and their tech!

She also covers some great positives around usage of the internet. After all, we live in the 21st century and there is no avoiding the digital age, whether we like it or not! If you were worried about your kids and all the tech they have access to, then this will really help you put some of those fears to rest.

The book is full of practical advice and points to other places to look for further info and advice too. As I said, I am pretty well up on the internet & digital technology but there are several things that Bex raises that I hadn’t even thought of. My oldest child is 18 and so she has grown up with the internet, and it growing with her in a way. It was difficult to put in rules and regulations when she first got online, as while she grew so much was changing so fast, from Club Penguin to Bebo, to Facebook, to who knows. Now, she is pretty sensible and I trust her, but some of the issues kids face as they come into this world we are only just beginning to realise. For older teens and young people they have been the guinea pigs who have learned through their usage of the internet. Mistakes have been made that have enabled others not to make those same mistakes. We are not just entering this age of technology, we are well and truly in it, and any parent or adult bringing up kids in this age needs to be fully aware of both the benefits and the pitfalls. So much of that is covered in this helpful book. 

This is really where we are at with our younger kids. We are aware of the pitfalls, the issues and the dangers and now we need to put in place a structure for our younger kids that the oldest one didn’t have. Equally if you have no idea where to start, then Bex gives some great pointers on this, from basics like making sure you know your kids passwords, to more in-depth stuff around security and safety online. 

A friend of mine allows her 3 year old to use the iPad unattended to watch Peppa pig. At 3 she can find her way around youtube to find all the Peppa videos she can find. This worries me as I think of all kinds of stuff that can pop up on youtube when you are not expecting it. But then I imagine her thinking is – why should I worry? – after all, as far as she is aware her daughter is just watching Peppa. But this is exactly the kind of issue parents need to think about these days. I realised after reading the book that my iPad has no protection software on it, because it’s mine and I don’t need it, I hadn’t thought about the odd time my kids use it…

The book is written in an easy to read style, complete with a jargon buster for those who don’t know half the things that are mentioned! Chapters are short and focussed, interspersed with relevant comments and quotes so you don’t feel like you are wading through a big tome, more a friendly guide. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone with their own kids or those who work with kids and young people. In fact, I would say you need to read it!



Raising Children in a Digital Age is available here from Amazon.

What We talk About When We Talk About God – Rob Bell // Book Review

I have to admit I don’t know a huge amount about Rob Bell, I haven’t read any of his books and I’m not sure I’m likely to, but his name crops up more and more and so when someone offered to write a book review as guest post, I thought it was about time I took a bit more interest. So the fab and very interesting Sam Hailes who blogs at Holy Man Sam, has written a review of Rob Bells latest book ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About God’ and you can check it out below. I’m sure he’d be up for engaging with others opinions so do leave comments below or tweet him…

‘What We Talk About When We Talk About God’ by Rob Bell

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.
The young hipster named Rob Bell planted his first and only church in February 1999. Leviticus isn’t the book of the Bible you’re supposed to start preaching through with a brand new congregation, but Rob Bell hadn’t read the “church planting manual”. Right from the beginning of his ministry, Rob’s creativity and out of the box thinking has not only won him a huge audience, but attracted widespread criticism. 
NOOMA was massive and his weekly Mars Hill preaches were downloaded by thousands. But it was the pastor’s last book that really set the cat among the pigeons. His entire catalogue is now likely to be divided up and viewed in two halves: Pre Love Wins and post Love Wins.
That’s right, Rob Bell’s last book, which (in case you’ve been living in a cave for the last 2 years) discussed heaven and hell simultaneously enraged and reassured Christians around the world. 
In stark comparison, his new release, ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About God’ is straightforward and largely noncontroversial. It’s both fascinating and unremarkable.
The Rob Bell protestors haven’t forgiven the man they view as a heretic. And those hoping for a confession in ‘Talk About God’ will be disappointed. The new book doesn’t even mention Love Wins, let alone make an apology for it.
Rob’s three main points in ‘Talk About God’ are God is WITH us, FOR us and AHEAD of us. The average Christian probably won’t be bowled over by these words. But the way Rob unpacks the ideas is inspiring. 
“With” because, “I believe God is with us because I believe that all of us are already experiencing the presence of God in countless ways every single day.” Rob explains this idea through a fairly lengthy excursion into particle physics!
“For” because “I believe God is for every single one of us, regardless of our beliefs or perspectives or actions or failures or mistakes or sins or opinions about whether God exists or not.” 
“Ahead” because “when I talk about God, I’m not talking about a divine being who is behind, trying to drag us back to a primitive, barbaric, regressive, prescientific age when we believed Earth was flat and the center of the universe.”
It’s this last word, “ahead” which is the least convincing. Just as ‘Love Wins’ was a below average attempt at justifying a form of universalism, Rob’s new book is in part a below average attempt to justify a way of reading the bible known as “trajectory hermeneutics”. That’s not to say either arguments are definitely wrong, just that Rob’s points aren’t as strong as they could be.
The other issue is that as Trevin Wax notes over on The Gospel Coalition: “God is ahead of us, beckoning society forward, and (how convenient!) it just so happens to be in the direction that society is already headed. Who would have thought?”
The book is quite hard to pin down. It’s like Velvet Elvis in that it’s exceptionally subjective but still very insightful. It’s a thinkers book, but as always it’s written at a popular level. This combination of deep thinking and accessibility continues to make Rob Bell one of the most interesting Christian(?) authors you could ever hope to read.
‘Talk About God’ is likely to impact those outside of the church as much as those within it. Some of the early chapters form a strong argument against the new atheism. But much of Rob’s writing seems to be aimed not at just atheists, but theists who are disillusioned with church. 
You could argue ‘Talk About God’ is the book that confirms Rob’s ministry hasn’t changed much over the past 15 years. He’s still after the same people – attempting to draw them away from Christian fundamentalism and towards a form of Christian liberalism. If like me, you’re caught somewhere in between those two extremes, this book will help you both think and talk about God. 
Sam Hailes, 23 is a Freelance Journalist based in Southampton, UK. He tweets @samhailes and blogs at holymansam.wordpress.com