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Spirituality plays a different ballgame than science, so the language used in either of them doesn’t often match up to the other side. New York Times bestselling author and spiritual teacher Rob Bell posits that the two need each other to help describe this modern world. Whereas science deals with explaining cold hard facts, spirituality deals in vagueries that can often help the more human and emotional sides of us a lot more. For instance, grieving families of a plane crash don’t want to be told the plane crashed because the force of acceleration became less than the force of gravity — they want to be told that their loved ones are in a better place. Both science and spirituality are searching for the truth, says Rob Bell, and therein lies their similarities. Rob’s latest book is What Is the Bible?: How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything.

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ROB BELL

Rob Bell is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and spiritual teacher. His books include Love Wins, How to Be Here, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Velvet Elvis, The Zimzum of Love, Sex God, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and Drops Like Stars. He hosts the weekly podcast The Robcast, which was named by iTunes as one of the best of 2015. He was profiled in The New Yorker and in TIME Magazine as one of 2011’s hundred most influential people. He and his wife, Kristen, have three children and live in Los Angeles.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Rob Bell: Ah, yes. That word: “spiritual”. 

I think the reason why many people run away from it is because lots of what has been done in the name of spiritual or spirituality has been completely crazy. So the problem with that word is it’s easy for a lot of really bizarre unfounded—sometimes even destructive and toxic—ideas can hang out under this word spiritual because you’re talking essentially about that which isn’t accessed through the five senses. 

When somebody says, “Well, I just had a spiritual feeling.” Well, you can’t really put that on a spreadsheet. You can’t really take a picture of that. My understanding of spirituality is that this life that we’ve each been given, the very breath that we took and we’re about to take, is a gift. That life is a gift and how you respond to it, what you do with it matters. 

So you’ll find in a business people working very hard and making lots of money and yet at some point asking these questions like, what is the point of what we’re doing? Why are we here? Why are we giving this kind of energy to this? Which is fundamentally a spiritual question, because the answer to that question won’t show up in the second quarter financials, and yet why people get up in the morning and come work here is the driving question behind the question behind the question.

So I begin with life is a gift and what you do with it, how you respond to it matters. And when we talk about it mattering we are talking about something that’s true but can’t be accessed in the ways that we normally access things. 

And I think a lot of scientists have run from the word spiritual because a scientist deals with hard facts. 

And when you get into language of the heart, language of the soul, when you start talking about transcendence you are talking about more than literal truth. 

So like if somebody asks me why I fell in love with my wife and I said, “Well because she’s five seven, she’s from Arizona and she drives a Honda,” that’s kind of a weird answer. But if you say to me “Why’d you fall in love with your wife?” and I said, “I fell in love with Kristen because when we got together it was like I found my other half.” Something within you is like okay, now that’s an answer that I get. I understand that answer. 

And yet it’s not like I was limping. It’s not like suddenly I actually literally found my other half. I shifted to a different kind of language to describe a different kind of reality. And so oftentimes in my experience the scientist is fine with spirituality when we understand the terms that we’re working with.

This idea somehow that faith and science are at opposition I’ve always found to be complete insanity. Both are searching for the truth. Both have a sense of wonder and an expectation and exploration. They’re each simply naming different aspects of the human experience. One thrives in naming exteriors – height, weight, gr…

For the full transcript, check out https://bigthink.com/videos/rob-bell-hungry-for-meaning-is-there-a-conflict-between-science-and-spirituality

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