Best-selling author and former pastor Rob Bell has teamed up with his wife to offer views on love and marriage around the concept of zimzum – a Hebrew word used to denote the space God created so that the universe could exist. They use the word as an analogy for the mystery of the special space between a married couple (straight or gay) and have chapters explaining how this space is responsive, dynamic, exclusive and sacred. Stick people (Good News Bible style) are used to illustrate the energy that flows between them.
The couple’s faith and Bell’s ministry are largely kept quiet, presumably for readers who don’t share their worldview.
Many will appreciate the insights offered and there is some classic Bell, whose Nooma DVDs and earlier books translated biblical concepts masterfully for a postmodern audience. It is fairly short, and has a winsome, chatty style as befits masterful communicators. Some script-style conversations between the authors serve to reflect on their own story of meeting, engagement and marriage.
But overall the book will confuse non-believers and frustrate believers. For all the interesting reflections there is too much doubt about the theological foundations of marriage.
To illustrate: sex is apparently ‘spiritual – a living, breathing, flesh and blood experience of grace’, and the space between you and your spouse is ‘sacred’. But the case for either is never made. Too much of the theology is understated or confused, and so much that is central to love and marriage is omitted.
This may be a new way to understand love and marriage, but is it a good way? I want the old Rob Bell back.
ANDY PECK is a tutor at CWR