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Rob Bell Interviewed on MSNBC by Martin Bashir

This is an interesting interview. Rob Bell is selling a ton of books, but he’s still not answering the questions that have stirred up so much controversy. Bashir asks questions such as: “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?”

Bravo to Martin Bashir for asking the kinds of questions everyone wants to know from Rob Bell. Unfortunately, we still don’t have the answers. Watch this and tell me your thoughts.

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posted March 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Rob Bell does answer the question, but his position on the subject sets him up for some bigger questions to answer. Yes, I’d like to believe that love will win out too. However, there’s nothing to substantiate the idea that we can avoid the invitation of Christ now and have a chance at it later. He is right, “love never fails” and “hopes all things.” It’s just that offering a speculative view of something that may or may not be true puts a lot of people in conflict if it’s not true.

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posted March 16, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I agree, bravo to Martin Bashir for asking! And Rob Bell, we are told what will happen after we die, in the Bible by the writer of Hebrews. I do not agree that this is a matter up for speculation.
“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” Hebrews 9:27

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Mary DeMuth

posted March 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I appreciate the questions asked, but I’m frustrated that Rob doesn’t seem to answer the questions. The interviewer pointed out Bell’s holes in his arguments.

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Darren Sapp

posted March 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm

It’s fine for us to discuss Bell and the book but I certainly would not want any unbeliever to read it. Martin Bashir gave him many opportunities to share the Gospel and he could not do it. I think it would be best for this book and Bell to stay out of the general public and I fear its harm on evangelism.
After two trips through that interview, I cannot tell you what he believes. Bell’s evangecube is as difficult as a Rubik’s Cube.

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posted March 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Relax y’all. There is no hell. You won’t end up there and I won’t either (disappointing, eh?)

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Jason Smith

posted March 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Did you really feel like Bashir was fair? I felt like he knew that giving Bell either/or closed ended questions would set him up to give confusing answers. From what I have read, if Bashir is a Christian and does go to Keller’s Redeemer Pres, he was prepared to put Bell on his heels from the beginning. Bell answers his questions with direct answers, but Bashir doesn’t like the answer because he has a presupposed line of reasoning. For example, Bell says three times, “I think it is terribly relevant how we respond to Jesus in this life.” Why didn’t Bashir ask a follow up question about Bell’s nuance instead of restating the question? He could have gotten more from Bell.
Bell obviously is asking the question, “What about people who are not given a fair shake at Jesus in this life?”
Tom, I would think you would be sensitive to this line of questions considering your work. What about people who are not giving a fair shake at Jesus in this life? What happens to Aids victims in Africa if they have not heard the Gospel and met Jesus before they die? That is what Bell is wrestling with. I would ask the same question about the people who do not have the mental capacity to express faith. Are these just special categories?
Bell is not wrestling with the question, “what will happen to the wealthy white boy from the Midwest who grew up in church, went to college and turned away from his faith and Jesus and never came home before he died? Does it matter? Will he have another opportunity after he dies to be saved?” That is not what Bell is wrestling with.
Why didn’t Bashir go down that road? That is where Bell tried to take it, but Bashir wanted to stick it to him.
I think Bell is asking some fair questions. Questions I get asked as a pastor. Questions that keep people from becoming Christians. They don’t want to be in relationship with a God who puts people in Hell just because they were born in Africa and didn’t hear the Gospel or because their dad abused them one minute and quoted bible verses at them at the dinner table the next and because of it they couldn’t stomach accepting Jesus. These are real questions real people have.
And get over it and accept that Jesus is the only way and he died for your sins isn’t a good enough answer.
Just sayin,

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posted March 16, 2011 at 11:55 pm

I have no past experience with Bashir, but from this video I find little value to his line of questioning and interviewing techniques. His first questions about whether God was loving but not powerful, or powerful but not loving is very similar to some conversations between Jesus and the Pharisees. It traps the other person so there is no credible answer they can give if they know God’s true character. God is both loving and powerful, which opens up a whole range of other questions about why he allows catastrophic natural disasters. Bashir was not listening to Bell or blatantly refused to listen to the answers. He repeatedly asked the same questions, or said “that is what you are doing, isn’t it”. Several times Bell gave a start to an answer that Bashir could have followed up on to get to more of the answers people would like to get, yet there was no follow up.
In this case, I do not feel Bell skirted the issues, but instead the interviewer failed to pursue valid opportunities to glean more in depth answers. Maybe I am missing something because I haven’t read the book, but this video wasn’t helpful in answering anything in regards to Bell’s thoughts or the content of the book for me.

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Steve K.

posted March 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

Tom, as a journalist, I have little respect for Bashir’s “attack interview” approach with Bell. For whatever his reasons, Bashir clearly had an agenda he was pushing into that interview, which says more about Bashir than it does Bell. It also shows pretty clearly how that dogmatic, black-and-white theology has become the “default” in our society and discourse, and why voices like Bell’s and others are so threatening.
I’d just add a hearty “Amen” to the comments here by Jason Smith and Sherie, as well.

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Wyatt Roberts

posted March 17, 2011 at 11:35 am

I must say, Bell seems quite defensive here. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s wrong, but he seems to be evasive (in a Brian McLarenish sort of way). I downloaded the book yesterday, but haven’t started it.

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Joshua M.

posted March 17, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Jesus said to the masses “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26). If we are ashamed to speak the full message of Christ, not just the redemptive love and grace of our Amazing Father, but the reality and inevitable destination of an aweful and unimaginable hell for those who reject him IN THIS LIFE, who refuse him IN THIS LIFE, then we fall under this statement.
Jesus never promised a candy coated easy life, full of warm feelings and little resistance. In fact he promised quite the opposite to the believer. Visit your brothers and sisters in the Lord at These are those today who understand what it is to “carry their cross” as outlined in Luke 14:27-35, who have counted the cost and made a decision that Jesus was worth that cost no matter what. We have no comprehension of that in this nation with our feel good gospels. I am saddened that a secular journalist was able to make a pastor of thousands(?)look so inept on national television when the Word states we are to be always ready to give the reason for our faith. I do not condemn the journalist. He was merely doing what a cynical and hell bound world will do against those who profess Christ – test their mettle to see if they are as potent as they claim.
The “feel-good” message that was espoused here was not what Christ called us to. God called us to love our neighbors reach out to a dying hurting world. This isn’t done by attending mega-churches once a week for our own benefit and leaving it at that. We’re called to be empowered to be the hands and feet in this world for Christ in our communities, in our work places, and, when we can – across this globe. Jesus even said his message would divide and bring strife (Matt 10:32-35) but that is because hell will fight back and resist when the love of God is introduced to areas the enemy has ravaged in people’s lives. People will turn from you, people and family leave you, all because you have “counted the cost”. In this passage of Matthew, Jesus said he came to bring the sword. In Hebrews (chpt 4) the Word is called the Living Sword that divides. In John (1:1) we learn that Jesus, himself is that Living Word. There is life, power, strength and victory in that Sword of the Word! But there is also division, conflict and struggle as the forces of hell array against it and it is our responsiblity to stand up and proclaim this Kingdom and this message boldly – not in a feel-good seeker friendly fashion, but in the same fashion that Jesus did when he would turn on the very masses that thronged him and demand of them “COUNT THE COST OF FOLLOWING ME!”

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Allen Travis

posted March 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I liked Bashir’s questioning, but he definitely had a biased agenda in the interview that was not appropriate in the journalistic context.
Rob did answer some questions directly and was terribly evasive with others. His defensiveness could be attributed to the style of questioning.
I have read the first five chapters of Love Wins, and agree with some assertions when it comes to Jesus’s teaching about this age and the “age to come” (N.T. Wright, Surprised By Hope). But I have huge problems with Bell’s theology and lack of academic and historical perspective in others.
Rob makes big assumptions and makes big leaps to come to his conclusions without the support of the historical church or by addressing the whole counsel of Scripture.
He also asks some big questions that none of us really have all of the answers to. Maybe re-starting the conversation outside of traditional theological circles is his point. Although I am not sure it is a wise one.
At the very least, Love Wins will provide some lively discussion and debate about the matters of life, death, and eternity that the modern church seems to “answer” in an all too simplistic and North America-centric manner.

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Mike Todd

posted March 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Tom, my view is that Rob is trying to take the conversation to a new level, to a place where the old questions are no longer helpful or even relevant. The questions however, are firmly entrenched on the old level. In that sense the two sides are speaking two different languages, and will never really communicate.

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posted March 24, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Yes Jesus (reportedly) said that he’d be angry at/ashamed of people who are ashamed of his message. And yes, the bible did say that Jesus know his message would bring strife. However, those are pretty meaningless things to point out. Of course Jesus would be displeased with people who were displeased with him. And of course Jesus’s message would bring strife; he defied the religious leaders of his day and said that everyone who doesn’t follow him would get tortured forever. By his ever loving father. Who he also happens to be.

The bible is rife with qualifying lines designed to prevent believers from questioning the illogical portions of the living. Why does an infinitely loving God torture people who didn’t happen to believe the statements in the Bible without proof? Because he is also infinitely just! How does torturing someone for eternity for a finite crime qualify as justice? Um… because a couple of humanity’s ancestors (ancestors that we have no proof ever existed) ate a magical fruit that made them understand the concepts of good and evil. Which God thinks is bad. For some reason. Great.

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