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on 18 August 2006
If Rob Bell didn't exist I would have to invent him, as an imaginary friend, or something like that. You see, when you begin to wonder about whether the Christianity your church practices is really what God had in mind, when you start asking tough questions about your faith, you can quickly find yourself in a very lonely place. When about a year ago I came across the ideas of Rob Bell I had just about resigned myself to thinking I was the only one feeling like this - some kind of failure or freak. Rob's material helped me to see that my questions are not simply allowable, they are essential to an authentic Christian life.

Velvet Elvis is like a portal connecting the world Jesus walked with the world we walk. But Rob does so much more than demonstrate the depth of his commitment to studying ancient Jewish culture and history, he shows he is vitally connected to the here and now too. As the past and the present are brought together the future starts making spectacular sense. In many ways this is the book that Steve Chalke probably wanted to write but ended up with 'The Lost Message of Jesus' instead (which is good but not a patch on this). I really can't commend this book highly enough without resorting to superlatives but which one do I pick? Maybe the biggest complement I can pay is to say I think 'The King' would dig this book - I can just imagine him wobbling around the Jungle Lounge at Graceland turning the pages with frequent shouts of 'Uh-HUH!' (the book is absolutely nothing to do with Elvis by the way).

Before I leave you with a quote I need to give this book a health warning, or faith warning if you like. If you like your Christianity neat and tidy this will probably wreck your internal feng shui big time, so stay away! ;-)

"Central to the Christian experience is the art of questioning God. Not belligerent, arrogant questions that have no respect for our Maker, but naked, honest, vulnerable, raw questions arising out of the awe that comes from engaging the living God.

This type of questioning frees us. Frees us from having it all figured out. Frees us from having answers to everything. Frees us from having to be right. It allows us to have moments when we come to the end of our ability to comprehend. Moments when the silence is enough."
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on 13 July 2007
There's been a lot of talk about "Velvet Elvis" and this put me off for quite a while, I feared it would be another 'form over substance' book. And when I bought it this morning I wondered still. It's written in a trendy font with trendy coloured pages between the chapters, trendy blue highlight print colours, that kind of thing; the cover is the sort of shiny matte effect which shows your fingerprints instantly and a trendy spot varnish on the front. It was also a surprisingly short book for that much fuss (177 pages of text, extensive endnotes). But anyway I started reading and was instantly completely hooked. I read the entire book in one sitting and am writing this review now.

So what was so good about it? Well it reminded me a little in thought (although was completely different in execution) to Brian MacLaren's "A New Kind of Christian." The two books are approaching a similar subject from a completely different angle and with success in completely different ways. So what is that subject? It's how to relate to the gospel of Jesus in our postmodern world. I'm not sure Rob Bell ever actually uses the word "postmodern" in his book and in fact his is a far easier read on the braincells than MacLaren's (which required several days' thought between chapters). But that is not to denigrate this book in any way, I believe it's another very important addition to the discussion of the 21st century church.

On the last page Rob Bell sums up what he's been saying: "I am like you. I have seen plenty done in the name of God that I'm sure God doesn't want anything to do with. I have lots of reasons for bailing on the whole thing... But... I am not going to stop dreaming of a new kind of faith for the millions of us who need it. I am not going to stop dreaming of new kinds of communities that put the love of God and the brilliance of Jesus on display in honest, compelling ways. I am not going to stop dreaming of new ways to live lives of faith and creativity and meaning and significance."

The book is a fascinating meander through various parts of Christian belief and thought with a lot of reference to Jewish teaching and thought with many new insights to me (and I am a Biblical scholar). He writes in such a lighthearted style and yet presents some very deep thoughts and fascinating ideas about faith, Jesus' teaching and the nature of community and being a neighbour. I particularly appreciated his comparison of the church as trampoline or brick wall and his likening a lot of modern Christian teaching to a brick wall was incredibly aposite (i.e. there are a number of bricks you have to believe in to get in; if any brick is doubted then the whole edifice falls down, thus huge overreliance on doctrinal positions and the necessity of believing them to be a 'proper' Christian, one of my real betes-noirs about modern day evangelicalism). Bell highlights the real 'them and us' mentality that the label 'Christian' can cause as we force people to jump through particular doctrinal hoops which may well cause them to step away forever. He says, "being a Christian is about engaging the mind and heart more and more, not shutting them off or letting someone else think for you," and he explains a great deal about truth being from God, wherever we may find it.

I am sure there is a huge swathe of people from the more conservative fundamentalist wing of the church who hate this book and hate everything that Bell says. However for someone like me, teetering on the edge of giving the whole thing up as a bad job that clashes wildly with what I see as reality in the world in which I am living, "Velvet Elvis" is a reminder of the real meat of the gospel, of Jesus' mission, of his divinity and humanity and of our purpose here on earth, to bring heaven here to those around us by our deeds and our witness. Go and read it!
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on 4 December 2012
AMAZON, YOU NEED TO SORT OUT YOUR TAX IN THE UK! IT IS NOT FAIR TO USE OUR INFRASTRUCTURE AND NOT PAY OUR TAXES!!! SHAME ON YOU UNTIL YOU SORT THIS OUT!

Rob Bell's book is an interesting presentation of the Christian faith. It is more a reaction against a particular telling, i.e. evangelicalism, than a straighforward presentation, but it does have moments of real creative, positive teaching on the Christian faith.
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on 9 May 2006
In Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell frees us to consider God beyond the picture someone else painted for us in order to find an authentic understanding of the Christian faith. God doesn't have boundaries, and faith doesn't have to be limited to what someone else has told us. God is alive. Faith is alive. Velvet Elvis helps us to find (or re-find) our faith. It encourages us to keep looking and living and learning - to keep on repainting the Christian faith.

Rob Bell is the founding pastor of Mars Hill, which has been described as one of the fastest growing churches in American history. Despite that, I really like this book!

Velvet Elvis is a breath of fresh air. I would particularly recommend it to church leaders, and not just because it is a mine of good illustrations for your next sermons! This is the sort of book that reminds you why you ever started this journey of faith in the first place, and should inspire you to keep on journeying with the real Jesus in the real world.
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on 12 March 2008
I have read through some of the previous reviews and been struck by the sense of alarm, and at times, panic induced by reading this book.
What concerns me most about that, is that it indicates that as a church (in the widest possible sense) we seem to have forgotten the art, nay the responsibility of studying, questionning and debating our beliefs.
It seems over the course of time we have been taught to simply accept whatever we are taught from the pulpit, without necessarily chewing it over a great deal. We simply swallow it wholesale. Literally. And without question.
I think a mark of maturity in a Christian is being able to reflect on new/very old ideas and perspectives, without feeling threatened or defensive.
Bell takes a look at some common and less common aspects of the Christian faith and puts them under the spotlight, asking some searching questions. I found the book to be exciting, challenging and thought-provoking.

Please, let's not turn off our God-given intellect when we walk into church and sit down.Let us instead ENGAGE with the issues facing the church and the society with which we are inextricably linked. Let us debate and discuss, and perhaps be brave enough to admit that sometimes our nice 'pat' answers aren't always enough.

If we can dare to be real and honest enough with our non-christian friends and workmates, so that they can see we are normal people, who have faith, rather than perfect, pious, 'untouchables', then perhaps Jesus might just become a little more accessible, and little less far away?
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on 1 April 2011
Got this in the mail today and it's finished..loved it! Sat down to read a few pages and ended up reading the whole book. Been struggling with my faith for the past three years. After reading Velvet Elvis I feel like a new person...I am not alone in my thinking anymore, there are people out there who think as I do. This book is for everyone not just Christians. Please try it and see for yourself..you'll be glad you did! Also, if you want to read inside a book then try Amazon.com, they seem to have more books available to read inside first before buying. It helps in making that final decision...to buy or not to buy?
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on 26 June 2012
My friend insisted I bought this book telling me it had truly changed her perspective. Usually I really like rob bell's stuff, especially the nooma stuff. However this is written in short sentences. He has some challenging views and I agree with the concept of the book, about how the church is no longer accessible to a lot of people and how we have interpreted the bible at times for our own needs but the way it is written is a bit weird in short sentences and I have to say I didnt finish it
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on 28 August 2006
If Rob Bell didn't exist I would have to invent him, as an imaginary friend, or something like that. You see, when you begin to wonder about whether the Christianity your church practices is really what God had in mind, when you start asking tough questions about your faith, you can quickly find yourself in a very lonely place. When about a year ago I came across the ideas of Rob Bell I had just about resigned myself to thinking I was the only one feeling like this - some kind of failure or freak. Rob's material helped me to see that my questions are not simply allowable, they are essential to an authentic Christian life.

Velvet Elvis is like a portal connecting the world Jesus walked with the world we walk. But Rob does so much more than demonstrate the depth of his commitment to studying ancient Jewish culture and history, he shows he is vitally connected to the here and now too. As the past and the present are brought together the future starts making spectacular sense. In many ways this is the book that Steve Chalke probably wanted to write but ended up with 'The Lost Message of Jesus' instead (which is good but not a patch on this). I really can't commend this book highly enough without resorting to superlatives but which one do I pick? Maybe the biggest complement I can pay is to say I think 'The King' would dig this book - I can just imagine him wobbling around the Jungle Lounge at Graceland turning the pages with frequent shouts of 'Uh-HUH!' (the book is absolutely nothing to do with Elvis by the way).

Before I leave you with a quote I need to give this book a health warning, or faith warning if you like. If you like your Christianity neat and tidy this will probably wreck your internal feng shui big time, so stay away! ;-)

"Central to the Christian experience is the art of questioning God. Not belligerent, arrogant questions that have no respect for our Maker, but naked, honest, vulnerable, raw questions arising out of the awe that comes from engaging the living God.

This type of questioning frees us. Frees us from having it all figured out. Frees us from having answers to everything. Frees us from having to be right. It allows us to have moments when we come to the end of our ability to comprehend. Moments when the silence is enough."
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on 2 March 2008
Excellent read. very thought provoking.

The key is doing what Rob Bell suggests... talk about the book with friends and church leaders. Don't take things on board without checking them out.

Rob Bell made me realise that it is ok to question what you believe and why you believe it.

I realised that loads of what I believe is based on a western view of Jesus and also based on the beliefs of the churches that I have attended. I want my beliefs and faith based on the bible and the way Jesus went about doing things. Make sure you question and find answers with the help of Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, christian friends and church leaders.
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on 13 August 2007
Velvet Elvis, I am part of the small percetage in this world that does not like any of elvis's songs so when i read the title i thought, no way, but i was drawn to buy it. Boy!!!i read it all in one night i had never read anything that gets your mind thinking, heart moving, spirit yearning and soul searching (all at the same time) about what interpretations are made in the bible and why every one that makes the interpretations is convinced there are right. It has taught me to ASK, QUESTION, PONDER, DIGEST, READ ABOUT, SUGGEST, ACCEPT, ...the list goes on, but in short I no longer, as a new Christian just accept everything that a "critically acclaimed" preacher is sooo right all the time (as long as he is my pastor kind of mentally). They are human beings as well waiting to here from God to understand about what they have read in the Bible .......
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