Yesterday I reviewed the interview with Rob Bell that occurred in New York City (read here). I mentioned several times that he seemed “evasive”. That was most defining part of some of his answers. Also, I did say that I am a bit sympathetic to this approach because sounds bites can be dangerous things.
BUT he keeps giving interviews. I guess he was on Good Morning America this morning and MSNBC sometime today. It is becoming more evident that he is not prepared to handle the onslaught that will come his way. Whether or not he has something beautiful or heretical to say is one thing; that he is now being made to look like someone who just wants to sell books is something else altogether.
Let me share this interview from MSNBC (via Jim West). It is ugly. It is the equivalent to a media TKO. I don’t know anything about Martin Bashir, except that he is fierce and he was ready to go after Bell. Bell was not ready.
I feel for Bell because this is a tough subject to address. I have sat down to talk about the doctrine of hell with people on several occasions and it is never, ever, ever easy. But maybe Rob Bell isn’t the person to tackle this subject. Maybe he would do well to preach and teach what he knows while discussing these big, career shifting questions with close friends and confidants, other pastors and former professors? Maybe it is not best to wrestle with it in front of thousand and thousands of watching eyes, friends and critics alike? That or learn to give an answer, because he wasn’t ready for what hit him.
Let’s continue to pray for Rob Bell as a sibling in Christ that the Spirit would guide him as he ponders this subject and that wisdom would lead him if this is not something he is qualified to address on a grand scale.
What’s that saying? Oh yes–you made your bed, now…
@Jason: Sadly, this may be true.
Sad, indeed. I don’t know Bell, I’ve not read his books, and neither have I watched his DVDs, so I am in no position to even evaluate his beliefs. I thought it odd that he evaded the first question before he offered a bit of a cop-out concerning the either-or proposal. He could have said “it’s neither of those” some sort of answer. It seems that a question concerning one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory is certainly appropriate, particularly as it pertains to the hope and love of God that is at the center of this whole stink of a issue (Bell’s book, that is). Anyway…
Bashir was rather tough. He asked the right set of questions. Yeah, but I have to agree with you about Bell’s defining more.
It seems like Bell is suggesting that the church fathers weren’t pastors, as if his perspective is more grounded as opposed to academics stuck in their ivory towers. Unfortunately, that’s not how it happened. His contribution to the church on many issues will remain, regardless of his view on hell. Makes me wonder about his integrity on issues like “empire” in evangelicalism though, while here he is being bullied by Harper One for press and publicity—that which he insisted to resist while at Zondervan. Bless you Rob Bell!
This was the first time I ever seen/read anything from Bell and regardless of whether his theology is acceptable/heretical/whatever, in this case, I honestly think Bashir made him look like a deer caught in headlights.
Poor Bell, he was just in over his head, sadly. It’s a a rough fallen and really evil world! And we have a real Adversity! Biblical theology is not done on a level playing field. The pastor-teacher must know his enemies! And this “Bashir” fellow was rather crafty….h’mm?
Bashir was suspiciously tough for a news interview….
I know he is Pakistani, but what’s his faith background? He really knew his terms well.
Someone ring the “Bell” 🙂
OH PUUUUULEASE! He answers just fine, they are just not the ones the guy wants!
The big problem here is he is critiquing fundamentalist Calvinism!
Bravo Bell, Bravo!
Some of the commenters over at Justin Taylor’s blog are saying that Bashir goes to Keller’s church.
When I read some of the words in your article, I thought Bell was going to flounder and not answer and it be awkward. But that wasn’t the case. Of course, I do believe he is evading some answers and redefining some things (though not everything). But I thought Bell was fine in responding to such harsh questioning.
One other thing is that Bashir’s first question is wrongly mis-paraphrased the second time he asks it to Bell. But I think we know what Bashir meant.
I think Bashir’s presentation of whether is God A (all-powerful and does not care) or B (cares and not all-powerful) is what we like to do with God. We systematise God, not just theology about God (though that as well). I like Bell’s emphasis on the tensions that we should allow because the Bible presents so heavy tensions. I would have explained it with an A + B = C, but Bell decided with A + B = A + B. I think the latter is a more Jewish mindset.
Kudos to Rob Bell for working out these conversations in public. I think a problem with the common perception of Christianity, or perhaps evangelical Christianity, is that it is monolithic without any room for variations and disagreements and debates. It seems like that’s why Bashir kept pushing. But things are never that simple, and we need to quit acting like it is or that we know all the answers. There’s nothing wrong with letting the world know that questions, doubts, and ambiguity are allowed in the faith (actually, there are essential to it). Being prepared to give an answer doesn’t always mean you have “the answer.” I think Rob Bell responded very well considering the context.
I haven’t read the new book yet, but I’ve followed Bell somewhat over the past year or so, and it seems to me that Bell likes to put himself in tough places more often than not. He’s a great thought-provoker, for better or for worse. (In a recent review of the book–was it Christianity Today?–the reviewer writes that a pastor is to provide answers while Bell prefers only to ask questions.) Bell may not have been prepared for the grilling by Bashir, but I’m not sure Bell’s personality lends itself well to a crowd-pleasing refutation. (He just kept up the strange smiling in that interview, and I’m not convinced he was at all uncomfortable.)
The very idea behind his book is ripe for misunderstanding: He suggests that we can’t know whether or not a person gets more chances at accessing God’s saving grace after this earthly life; but one might misunderstand this as an affirmation of actually getting more chances. Is it not mere speculation that he puts forward, and nothing more?
By the way, I see plenty of evidence that the man loves and knows Jesus as Lord, so I really appreciate it, Brian, when you suggest we pray for him as our brother; it shows a lot of grace on your part. I for one will join you in praying for him!
A preacher needs to declare – never equivocate (Eph 6:20).
Some preachers think that book publishing is just another way of preaching the gospel, but, alas, it is not. The publisher is investing money in the book and its distribution, therefore he has an interest in scheduling the interview. The interviewer needs to attract viewers so he has an interest in pacifying his audience (which calls on him to be tough in some cases and lenient in others). The book’s author has to be sensitive to both the publisher’s interests and the interviewer’s interests. He is not completely free to preach the gospel as were, say, the apostles in post-resurrection Jerusalem. Book publishing can therefore compromise the preacher’s mission. I do not say that book publishing the gospel is wrong, but only that it is fraught with peril for the truth.
Thus “preaching the gospel through writing a book for publication” is not the “free ride” for the gospel that it might appear to be.
This point is, of course, independent of whether one agrees or disagrees with Bell’s theology.
If Bashir is a Christian? Then he played a bit of the devils advocate, at least for this “emergent”. God, heaven or hell…the biblical absolute’s!
God, heaven or hell…the biblical absolute’s!
No one denies they are absolutely in Scripture. What is being challenged are our assumptions about the said topics.
For some reason, on Mark Steven’s newest blog blurb posted, my comment went to spam. 😦
Yes I know, perhaps I am wrong..and it was Bell who was really playing Devil’s advocate, and Bashir is the good guy? Though Bell in my opinion is more of an “emergent”. And just out to sell a book and make some money and a name perhaps? Certainly God alone knows the motives!
Bell is probably ’emergent’, though I am not sure if he works with Emergent Village. Anyways….
I am not sure his major point is to make money. It is to ask questions that challenge and stir us to reconsider what he believes needs to be reconsidered. I was a bit surprised that he started out the NYC interview saying he did not do this to stir and that God is not happy with such. I would have thought he did it to stir, like I think McLaren and others do. I have no problem with people stirring with right motives. But we don’t stir just to be buttheads. We do it to help people see Christ and our Father more clearly.
Everything in the Church Catholic, i.e. visible must be strained thru the pastoral and the theological! That’s why the early Church had the Apostolic Council. Is Acts 2:42 before our eyes here? Not to my mind!
I watched the video and am not ready to indict Bell’s responses just yet. Though I might see his answers still as “gospel lite”, I also see Bashir’s, “It’s either this or that,” questioning as dishonest and disingenuous. Bashir doesn’t give a flip about the actual message of the gospel (using only the evidence in the interview), but on indicting Bell because others do.
Dave, I disagree. The “indictment” is the classic Judeo-Christian revelation itself! And Bell is certainly “gospel lite”! I am perhaps one of the oldest pastors here on these blogs, and this would not have flown one inch in my younger days, even in the Anglican Evangelical circles.
Fr. Robert, I am not certain what you disagree with. Brian said that the interview appears to be a “media TKO”, by which I understand through his context here and in other posts that he (Brian) wishes Bell to evade less on the touchy subjects. I am not yet ready to indict Bell of evasion or unpreparedness. Bashir was trying extremely hard to put Bell on the defense and corner him into some admission that his (Bell’s) critics are right in considering Bell’s work as heretical. Sometimes, when you are cornered by an opponent, you just choose to quit playing their game. And, though not knowing your age, Fr., I know that Bell’s message would not have gone well in my circles either many moons ago, but we aren’t many moons ago and we all have learned and grown.
Well I am 61, and was born in Dublin Ireland, and educated theologically in England. At best, Bell appears, as you mention..”Gospel lite”. Being right now in the USA (for the last three years), I am not a fan of the mega churches, evangelical (so-called) or otherwise. And btw, just to make a point from my own experience, I was a Royal Marine Commando (recon officer) for over 10 years. So a man’s clear word does matter in my world, even the mystery of theology! And also the core of the Gospel and theology changes not in my belief. 🙂
Although Brashir is Pakistani, he is a declared Christian. As for attending Keller’s church, I have not read anything but he does admit going to Tim Keller’s church in the second link during an interview with Paul Edwards.
Fascinating interview with Brashir–especially as he talks about Luther and from the 13 minute mark to the 16 minute mark. Also, the explanation he gives in bringing up Origen, etc. and Bell’s selective interpretation of the historical facts of what the Church Councils considered to be orthodox.
Incredible insight at 19:45 mark when he asks a question as a 12 year old to an Imam.
He clears up all questions about his commitment and his attending church at 31:45 and onward.
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