love wins?: msnbc anchor martin bashir takes on rob bell

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Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

rob bell love wins

love wins?: msnbc anchor martin bashir takes on rob bell

so, um, yeah. the whole rob bell thing.

you know the whole rob bell thing, right? i’m way too over it to type out a lengthy explanation, so if you don’t know about it, you can read a relatively brief overview here. over the last couple weeks, i’ve literally written two separate blog posts about it that i ultimately decided not to publish because i was sorta sick and tired of the whole thing (the first one was a doozy, titled when calvinists attack: the social media crucifixion of rob bell…yeah, that would’ve been fun…).

the book, love wins: a book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived, released yesterday and thanks to the aforementioned angry calvinists stirring the pot, the book shot to #5 on the amazon bestsellers list (thanks john piper!). i’m eager to read it and (hopefully) offer some thoughts here on the blog. until that time, i don’t plan to offer any thoughts on the content itself.

i was compelled, though, to offer some commentary on a video that has circulated amongst some of the (once again) aforementioned angry calvin-bloggers. a couple days ago, rob bell appeared on martin bashir’s msnbc talk show. i know relatively little about bashir’s personal feelings about christianity or hell or rob bell or anything related. further, i’m not one to jump all over the media for their “agenda” concerning the aforementioned issues. quite frankly, i get a little tired of christians claiming the media is part of an elaborate persecution conspiracy (but that’s a whole other blog post…).


when i saw this video, it struck me as particularly odd. why? because it was unnecessarily aggressive and seemingly agenda-driven. again, i have no idea why and what his particular angle was, but it instantly made me think of a session i attended where rob bell was teaching. he talked in length about close-ended questions. in essence, it’s questions that only allow for a “yes” or “no”, whereas more thoughtful response and dialogue might be more appropriate. bashir didn’t simply ask “yes” or “no” questions, but rather, was more of a series of questions that lended themselves to immensely oversimplified responses and/or lose-lose answers. simply put, bashir led an interview in which his agenda would “win” because regardless of bell’s attempt to broaden the conversation with thoughtful engagement, it appeared that he was merely trying to be elusive. needless to say the calvin-bloggers love this clip.

you see, bell—unlike many other pastors/christian authors who have appeared on these types of shows—doesn’t engage life with cliché catch phrases and oversimplified dogmas. quite frankly, these interview formats just aren’t his place to shine, as they lend themselves to surface level, baited response.

check out the interview and see what you think.

so what do you think? was bashir fair? or did he have some sort of agenda? was bell elusive? or was he attempting to make bashir’s closed questions more open?


  1. Kelcie says:

    Yes Bashir was tough. But he was asking the exact questions we all want answered from Bell. And yes, I think Bell was incredibly elusive. He thinks Christianity is all about “dialogue,” when in reality, there is ABSOLUTE truth. Of course, as Bell said in another interview, Christ can “handle” our discussions. But they are pointless. Instead we should get our answers from God’s Word, which clearly says Christ is the only way and that there is a very real place called Hell (and while, this earth is bad, this is NOT it.)

  2. I have yet to read the book myself, so I too must postpone my thoughts on the actual content until a later date. I will however comment on the interview. There were several things that I completely agree with Bell on that He said in response to the question of the relevance of our response to Christ. What happens when we die? There is speculation. There are tons of interpretations. Many, many questions are raised. He was right on the money, however is our response to Christ relevant or not….

    Despite the questions that are raised, Bell still responded with a resounding Yes…(which I also agree with) to the point of “yes, but…” The “but” lies in the questions and speculation of what really does happen at the point of death. I don’t think we could ever move past that speculation until that time comes for each of us. Is it too much to risk eternity on that speculation? I suppose everyone must answer that question for themselves.

    The elusiveness of Bell I think was present in the interview, but that is sort of classic Rob Bell. One thing I have always liked about him is his intent to cause us to question belief. Questions, if asked with pure intent, lead to answers…sometimes these answers sway our old belief patterns, sometimes they affirm them. Is he elusive because he is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of people? Does he really know what he believes? Is he elusive intentionally to challenge people to seek their own conclusions? Again, I suppose everyone must answer those questions for themselves.

    The interview was a bit harsh, probably a bit on the unnecessary side, but on the other hand we really are dealing with one of, if not, THE most important realms of thinking ever….eternity. Kudos to Bell for his response to the harshness. Whether one considers his response elusive or not, despite his obvious frustration he maintained composure.

  3. I must agree with Kelcie. I am a fan of much of what Rob Bell has said in the past. I do think he brings a lot of enganging conversation to the world of Christian thought. However, just because he is engaging and is asking questions that many people are struggling with doesn’t mean that the answers he offers should be accepted.
    Bell offers much speculation in his book. Much speculation that is offered as answers to the “big” questions. Very little of it is based on legitimate, contextual biblical argument.
    Bell has a right to say whatever he wants. Likewise, the “calvin-bloggers” have a right to respond. One of the most dangerous things Bell has said in the past couple weeks is that, “God is good and we’re all going to be ok.”
    God is good, but that doesn’t mean that those who ultimately reject His goodness in this life will be ok in eternity.
    Bell is offering many dangerous teachings which are not new and frankly are a much lesser version of what much greater minds have already offered.
    The last thing to note is that what Bell has been teaching has not EVER been an accepted framework of teaching within Christianity. Yes, many before him has offered up these ideas and over and over and over again throughout history the body of Christ has rejected universalism, inclusivism and the denial of God’s justice, jealousy and wrath towards those who reject Christ in this life.

  4. Joshua says:

    Having read half of the book already, I have to say that I couldn’t agree more with Bell.

    Bell is not searching for certainty or a static existence or a static relationship with a static God. His “truth” is about a real-time, non-buffered engagement with life, with love, with others, & with God.

    Piper, Bashir, and others obsessed and proud of their own mental conceptions & graven images of God are not after that real-time, non-buffered engagement with themselves, let alone anyone or anything else.

    Love is all there is.

  5. SoCalGal says:

    The reason Bashir was “successful” in this so called interview (I call it an ambush using the power of the media) is that people enjoy judging and labeling amd Bashir is a master at that. Was he unbiased and objective as a journalist should be? No. Sure, he knows the American Evangelical movement’s theology backwards and forwards. Whether he has embraced it as his own belief system is another matter. I personally don’t believe Bashir is a saved person because his journalism is rife with unethical practices. Then again, it’s not my place to judge; Bashir will answer one day. When that day comes, I wouldn’t want to be him.

    Bashir-watchers know all about Bashir’s Andrew Breitbart techniques. Indeed, Bashir invented them. Watch…

    Viewed side-by-side, it’s easy to see why the outtakes of Bashir’s interview with Michael Jackson were a key component in Mr. Jackson’s acquittal. The jurors saw, as the public did not, Bashir’s deceit and duplicity. Bashir told Paul Edwards that his career as a journalist has been “injured” by his claimed pursuit of the truth. Do you see the truth in Bashir’s documentary when compared to the outtakes?

  6. Gary says:

    The whole interview is flawed from the opening salvo. Bashir asks a nonsensical question that Bell should have answered better. At the heart of Bashir’s argument though is a common theme, which always stirs up problems. Scholar v. non-scholar. Neither Bell nor Bashir are scholars. Bell has an MDiv from Fuller and Bashir has a BA from Kings College. I am not saying they are not educated. They are not scholars. Neither have the kind of academic training that Bell’s critics, some of them, have. So Bashir asking over and over “this in indefensible, right?” Is simply a parroted question he has stolen from someone else, in which Biashir cannot understand the merits of (Ie. his question about a new gospel). For Bell’s part, it is indefensible. There is no way for Bell to defend himself, he does not have the training either. That doesn’t mean Bell’s position is indefensible. Only that Bell cannot defend it. So is Bell being elusive? Probably not, he is more likely wrestling with the fact that he has no knowledge base for working himself through questions he himself never even considered. This book, after all, is nothing more than Bell’s opinion. It is important for, as Lance has pointed out, asking questions. But there is no way to for this book to be taken seriously, academically, nor do I think it was intended for that.

    So while I love the efforts of his book, the interview is simply a humorous curiosity.

    I would have enjoyed it as much if I were watching a man who had an MA in Math, talking with an interviewer who claimed to be a lover of molecular biology, discussing the potential of nuclear melt downs in Japan. It would be funny, meritless, and in the end we would walk away with nothing more than mere opinion.

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