Rob Bell on MSNBC Regarding “Love Wins”

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Thanks to Jim West for pointing this out. This is a video of Martin Bashir interviewing Rob Bell regarding his new book. Just after the three minute mark it sounds like Bell is admitting that his book is based on speculation, “Now how exactly that works out and how exactly that works out in the future…we are now, when you die, firmly in the realm of speculation. My experience has been that a lot of Christians have built whole dogmas about what happens when you die and we have to be very careful that we don’t build whole doctrines and dogmas on what is speculation.” But isn’t that what his book is about?

See what you think. That guy really had some good questions that were totally dodged. Too bad.

0 Responses

  1. I wonder if Bell is creating an evangelical purgatory. I think Bashir man-handled Bell quite easily with his questions. Bell certainly didn’t come off smelling like a rose with this interview.

  2. RB is frustrating because it’s difficult to get him to speak clearly. But I thought Martin Bashir wasn’t much help in that regard. Some of the questions in the interview were decidedly unfair. There’s a way for an interviewer to be tough w/o tilting toward antagonism, and Martin Bashir went way past that line. Not very helpful for me in forming an opinion on the book or the author.

    1. It seems to me (from what I assume Bell’s perspective is) Bell should have said Bashir was setting up a false dichotomy and that neither option he was putting out there was what he was teaching. It would have at least sounded smarter 🙂

    2. I totally agree Matt. Especially on the first question: Is God all-powerful but uncaring about people or does He care, but is not all-powerful? I felt like RB could have had a great opportunity to point out that it’s neither and why, but he tried to dodge it. I felt like Bashir was aggressive and not willing to hear anything that wasn’t one of the options he gave, but I also felt like RB floundered and wasn’t prepared to give straight-forward answers.

    3. I think it’s important to point out that in all of Bell’s work he absolutely refuses to plant his feet firmly in a specific theology. He repeatedly insists that his works is a contribution to a discussion in Christianity and that taking sides on these subjects is part of the problem, not the solution. Bashir’s aggressiveness wouldn’t have rendered a direct response from Bell if he had asked him the same question thousands of times. Bell’s unwillingness to give a direct theological answer made it an easy man-handling in this time constrained format.

  3. Matt, I agree that Bell should have challenged Bashir on the two choices he gave Bell concerning God (all powerful but not caring vs. caring but not all powerful). Actually Bashir’s aggressive stance showed that Bell hasn’t really worked out his theology on this subject. I’m surprised that Bell didn’t speak clearly since I’m told he is a gifted communicator. It seems to me that he should have handled Bashir, not the other way around.

    I was also surprised that an interview on MSNBC was antagonistic toward a type of Christianity that wasn’t conservative and orthodox. It seems to me that the mainstream media wants a Christianity that isn’t judgmental. But maybe MSNBC wants to discredit all thinking within Christianity.

  4. The interview, especially in light of his other writings, makes me believe that Bell doesn’t want to believe in anything that might be considered a “truth.” If it’s a certainty, then it becomes a “doctrine,” which he firmly resists. If a non-believer saw this interview, they’d walk away thinking that Bell doesn’t have a firm grasp on his own belief and that it doesn’t matter what you believe in the end. He’s a preacher of ambiguity. Given the opportunity to point people to truth, he instead glorifies the “search,” pointing out that people have been debating matters for centuries. Pilate looked Jesus in the eyes and mockingly asked “What is truth?” Bell seems to be doing the same.

  5. I’m reading through (and blogging) about the book and for that matter, I am trying my best not to form any hard conclusions until I read the book. Having said that, I though Bashir was forcing a false dichotomy. Further more, though I wish Bell would sometimes answer in a more direct manner, I think that desire is more a product of who I am. I am willing to live with some of the seemingly paradoxes in scripture and the realization that the Bible will never provide a clear answer to every question we have (e.g., the question of suffering, the fate of those who have died without ever hearing the gospel). Some of those questions and paradoxes will always be ambiguous which often resorts to endless proof-texting to affirm whatever answer we want to give, which in the end does not really help. As believers, where we stand on firm ground is the gospel of Jesus Christ which tells us, among other things, that God does care about his creation and is at work redeeming his creation from it’s fall and that as believer’s in Jesus we are called to be witnesses of this story (in both word and deed).

    Grace and Peace,

    K. Rex Butts

  6. Matt,

    This interview was both refreshing and terribly sad. It exposes the false teaching of Bell for what it is and the gross inconsistency of Bell’s arguments. Bell wants to be a Universalist without taking the name, and Bashir didn’t let him off by a facile appeal to “paradox.”

    I loved how Bashir refused to let Bell off of the mat. He doesn’t abandon the central issue of Bell’s creative editing and deviation from Christian “orthodoxy”, namely that salvation is ONLY for people who come to have personal faith in Jesus Christ. (John 14:6)

    The sad reality is that Bell simply has nothing to say. He circles the theological runway like a plane with no landing gear.

    His response to Japan’s earthquakes and natural disaster was abysmal. The Bible clearly teaches that this is the planet earth, not heaven. In Genesis the whole of creation “fell,” not just Adam and Eve. Death entered the world because of human sin. (Rom. 5:12) The world has been subjected to a law of decay. (Rom. 8:20-24) We live in a fallen world. In a fallen world many things are broken and do not work as God intended them too originally. One day there will be no more sea to destroy lives and separate loved ones who die faithful in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Revelation 14:13; 21:3-4). What a glorious day.

    Yet, God deeply cares for the hurt and pain and suffering that we experience in this world and sent identifies with us as a “man of sorrows” (cf. JOhn 11:35; Heb. 4;16; 1 Pt. 5:7)

    I wonder if his weak answer is connected to his gross misunderstand and even rejection of the Bible’s basic teaching regarding man’s sin and salvation through Christ. You think??

    Back to the interview though.

    Bashir’s concluding summary was spot on:

    “You’re creating a Christian message that’s warm, kind, and popular for contemporary culture. . . . What you’ve done is you’re amending the gospel, the Christian message, so that it’s palatable to contemporary people who find, for example, the idea of hell and heaven very difficult to stomach. So here comes Rob Bell, he’s made a Christian gospel for you, and it’s perfectly palatable, it’s much easier to swallow. That’s what you’ve done, haven’t you?”


    Bell denies he is a Universalist, but that doesn’t seem to satisfy Bashir, who keeps returning to the question, “Is it irrelevant and is it immaterial about how one responds to Christ in this life in terms of determining one’s eternal destiny?”

    Bashir is so correct in his challenge to Bell which is basically this: Why does it matter what we do here on Earth if we all go to heaven?

    BTW, it’s been reported that Bashir is “Christian” who attends Redeemer NYC where Tim Keller preaches. He does seem to understand what is at stake here.

    But it just amazes when the secular media holds supposedly “Christian leaders” to biblical standards that many now in the church seem unable or simply unwilling to hold them to.

    This guy is a false teacher if EVER there was one. (cf. Romans 16:16-17; 2 Peter 2:1-3) He’s clearly grasping at straws because he knows the bible does not support what he’s teaching. What he presents is “New Age spirituality” with a little Jesus icon on top to really sell his all-inclusive message.

    Now, on the positive side, may this whole sad Rob Bell saga be used by God to help serve as a “wake up” to Christians and so called evangelicals who haven’t realized the enormous threats in many of the leading postmodern emergent church leaders.

    “We know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 Jn. 4:6)

    But also for Bell himself.

    We need to pray for Bell. Wouldn’t it be a joy beyond words if the Lord used this to bring about repentance in his life and come to real knowledge of the truth?

    So yes we need to pray for Bell to be convicted of true saving gospel truth. (cf. Rom. 1:16-17)

    Robert Prater

    1. Maybe you should read Bell’s book first and maybe you should visit Japan before thinking that there is any easy explanation for suffering in Japan or elsewhere.

    2. Rob Bell is doing what Rob Bell does, and you summed it perfectly. He never makes a point on anything. He can’t answer any questions because he doesn’t have anything concrete to offer. It’s trying to put a pin into the air.

  7. Bashir is a very experienced interviewer. I think he tasted blood and was going for the sensational kill on this interview. Bell had several opportunities to show Bashir that his either/or approach wasn’t sufficient but instead he appeared to be fumbling around and had more questions than answers. This really could have gone better. I look forward to reading the book and reading Rex’s thoughts over at his blog…see his link above.

  8. I am not sure that it is a given Bell’s motivation is to be popular. It is possible that he has studied and come to these conclusions with no intention for it to be popular.

    I also want to go back to the false dichotomy. Let’s have a look at Bashir’s two possibilities/options for God:

    1 – He is all powerful but doesn’t care enough to do anything to help the hurting
    2 – He does care about suffering but He is not all powerful.

    If you boil down Bashir’s options you find that what he has done is to create a dichotomy that says no God can exist because God either has to be so loving as to not let anything bad happen and we know that is not the case or else He is very loving but isn’t powerful enough to fix anything. It assumes that if God is powerful he would fix things in ways we would find obvious and meaningful, whether it was what we ultimately needed or not. It does not add into the equation that God can be powerful and compassionate and chooses to fix the most important things in His time.

    Anyway, I have heard several Christians side with Bashir on this interview but be careful if you side with Bashir on this interview because that is where his dichotomy is going. I could be wrong but it sounds to me like Bashir believes God either does not exist because He doesn’t fit into either of those categories or else it leaves God to be very in love with us but useless to do anything about it. I am putting his view into a false dichotomy myself? I don’t think so. What do you guys think about this?

    1. I have read that Mr. Bashir is a member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, the congregation served by Tim Keller. If so, he may have asked Mr. Keller the same type of question (and more than likely received a very thoughtful, biblical, and theologically orthodox answer). Mr. Bashir may have been looking for Mr. Bell to challenge the assumptions behind his question in much the same way that Mr. Keller would. Whatever the case may be, it highlights the need for Christians to know what we believe and why we believe it.

    2. Terry,

      Thanks for sharing that. I looked around a bit to find out what his religious background was but came up empty. If that is true then I would take back what I said above about where his questions lead in regard to his own faith. It sounds like he is basing those questions off the content of the book as if the book would have to lead you to one of those two conclusions and not that they are Bashir’s own personal theological questions that he is looking for Bell to answer. That makes way more sense.

  9. Matt,

    Hope you have gotten the chance to listen to the radio interview on the Paul Edwards show. It’s very, very interesting and revealing.

    Bashir clearly knows his stuff and wanted some straight answers from someone who has made a living avoiding giving any.

    What I particularly liked was his discussion about “truth telling.” In a post-modern world that seeks to simply tell a “better story,” without regards to the true story, very nice to hear someone in the media still committed to the truth, wherever it leads. That was his problem with Bell’s work, and it’s the problem most Christians have with it as well.

    BTW, did you also watch the video of the Lisa Miller from Newsweek interview with Rob Bell?

    He seemed embarrassed when she shared her personal offense of Jesus being the “mechanism of salvation as he puts it.” He doesn’t even have conviction to hold firm to that although he tried some by his reference to 1 Corinthians 10 and Moses and the Rock, which was Christ.

    Now, concerning what he has wrote in his book, “Love Wins.” I’m about three-fourths of the way through it. As I continue to work my work through the book, I just continue to find myself frustrated and saddened by all his false assertions and presuppositions. What One preacher friend of mine said yesterday at the OC’s preacher’s luncheon I attended, “Rob Bell’s Presuppositions Wins.”

    This is most evident in his dealing with heaven and hell passages. In his book, although he acknowledges the existence of heaven and hell, but his hell is NOT the same as the hell of the Bible. Both in this life and in the life to come, Bell says, hell is what one creates for himself and becomes a reality for those who reject God’s love.

    He imaginatively uses the parable of the two sons (prodigal son) as a picture of heaven and hell. The younger (prodigal) son enjoys God’s feast, while the older son doesn’t. Thus, the younger son is in heaven, while the older son has made heaven hell, even though they both exist in the same heavenly realm.

    Bell sees the parable as a picture of everyone going to the same realm when they die. Those who arrive in the heavenly realm, but who reject God’s love, will experience hell there.

    But here’s where the universalism comes in, with a “Love Wins” twist. In the end, even those who reject God in the afterlife will eventually be “melted by God’s love.”

    This is why Martin Bashir repeatedly and pointedly asks Bell if our decisions in this life are relevant to the afterlife, because Bell teaches that our life here on earth has no bearing on our ultimate state, because God’s love finally wins.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some good points he makes in his book, especially about the great need to “bring heaven to earth” and sharing more of God’s love, mercy, compassion and concern for social injustices in this world, here and now.

    Bell does make some good connections between eschatology with ethics. He comes up with an a fine ethic: ‘taking heaven seriously, then, means taking suffering seriously, now … because we have great confidence that God has not abandoned human history and is … taking it somewhere.’ (45)

    He further says:

    “It often appears that those who talk the most about going to heaven when you die talk least about bringing heaven to earth right now, as Jesus taught us to pray … At the same time, it often appears that those who talk the most about relieving suffering now talk the least about heaven when we die. Jesus teaches us to pursue the life of heaven now and also then, anticipating the day when earth and heaven are one. (p. 45-46).

    It’s clear that Bell is motivated by love for people. He has many moving stories about pain and sin in his book. He definitely has a “pastor’s heart.” He badly wants people to have hope and love Jesus.

    Of course, the problem I have is how he redefines “Eternal life.” Bell wants to insist, that eternal life is not about endless duration, but about a new ‘era,’ a new age to come. He explores this by reference to the prophets, ending with the comment ‘if this sounds like heaven on earth, that’s because it is. Literally.” (p. 33)

    But it seems that one of his biggest problems is that he has let his version of love for people become more important and a “better story” than the way in which love is actually displayed by God in the Bible. It is not love to tell someone they will eventually go to heaven when the Bible is clear that they may not. It is not love to tell people, “peace, peace” where there is no peace.

    To me, his explanations are an affirmation of his universalism!

    Now, I think Bell should be more accurately labeled “universal reconciliation,” which is a belief in universal salvation for ALL, but which comes exclusively through Christ.

    That is, he seems to believe that people of all religious tribes and none, whether or not they confess Christ or understand Christ or have ever heard of Christ, can be saved by the redemption God made available through Christ

    Here’s a passage which clearly to me explains this idea and belief, this in discussing John 14:6:

    “What he (Jesus) doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and restore the world is happening through him…(page 156)

    He then writes,

    “…As soon as the door is opened to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Baptist from Cleveland, many Christians become very uneasy, saying that then Jesus does not matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter what you believe, and so forth. Not true. Absolutely, unequivocally, unalterably not true. What Jesus does is declare that he, and he alone, is saving everybody. And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe. He is as exclusive as himself and as inclusive as containing every single particle of creation” (page 157)

    While this sounds open-minded and tolerant and even loving. It is not. His words seem vague but the underlying teaching is clear: personal faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is simply not necessary to be reconciled to God.

    And Bell’s conclusion is this: there is no eternal judgment and faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not essential for salvation. Muslims, Hindus, and people of other religions can meet Christ in their own ways, but Jesus Christ and the cross and Resurrection is the catalyst to salvation. That is as false of teaching as there will ever be!! (cf. Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Cor. 11:3-4)

    What I’m simply stunned by is how many Christians and bloggers, even those in the Lord’s church are completely missing this point or either dismissing it just only a minor theological point that has no impact on the everyday lives of people.

    The subtitle of Love Wins conveys perfectly the magnitude of Bell’s teaching, for it deals with “the fate of every person who ever lived.”

    Now I pray that this blows over and that many are not deceived. But I fear, however, that Bell’s words are what many people have been waiting to hear espeically younger Christians who have “bought into” what these type of Emergent church leaders are selling.

    I pray that we continue to hold to the Biblical truth that the lost without faith in Christ are indeed lost, until they hear and response in obedience of faith to the gospel. (cf. Rom. Mk. 16;15-16; Rom. 1:5; 16:25-26; 2 Thess. 1:7-9)

    We God help us all to never cease spreading the gospel and rescuing the perishing.

    God bless,

    Robert Prater

    1. Robert,

      the book came in the mail today and now you have me really ready to read this. Thanks for taking the time to write this…It doesn’t seem like this is one of those things that will just blow over. We’ll see.

  10. Some questions for everyone to consider:

    1) Can anyone show me a scripture where our option to chose Jesus Christ as lord ends at death?
    2) Who will be the ones that are part of the resurrection of the just? (Keep in mind scriptures like Romans 3: 20 “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin”)

    Just for your consideration….

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