Rob Bell’s Love Wins—and the PR leading up to its release—ignited perhaps the greatest storm of theological debate today’s Internet-focused church has ever seen (that same church being woefully unaware of anything preceding the Internet; but that’s another topic).
And then he had this interview with Martin Bashir.
I haven’t read Bell’s book. If I had, I might have some idea what he considers worth raising such a brouhaha over. I’ve heard others’ take on it, and I rather thought in this interview I would get Bell’s perspective. Bashir certainly gives him plenty of opportunity to explain himself.
So what does he tell us? God cares deeply for us. The last word hasn’t been spoken and God’s going to fix this place. The problem of evil is a paradox we ought to let be. I’m not a universalist. It’s terribly important how we respond to Christ. Why? Christians have had lots of perspectives on this, and what happens after death involves a lot of speculation and questions. Why do you accept Origen and not Arius? I’m a pastor and it encourages people to know they’re not the first ones to have the kinds of questions they have. What about hell? There’s an entire chapter in my book on that.
I’m still wondering: What do you believe, Pastor?
Jonathan Morrow said, “This was a cultural moment and he balked.” I agree: Bell missed a profound opportunity. I would alter the metaphor, though. Bashir, not Bell, was the pitcher, and he was serving up fast balls right down the middle: the kind that come hard, but that a real hitter longs for. He should have knocked them out of the park.
What pastor wouldn’t want to help the nation begin to understand God in relation to Japan’s disaster? What pastor wouldn’t want to explain that God has revealed himself in ways we can really know? What better moment for a pastor than to be asked what’s important about our relationship to Christ? Bashir kept asking that one. (He interrupted Bell once or twice as he tried to answer, but not every time.) Bell stood there looking at every pitch, called out on strikes without taking a swing.
What makes it stranger is that he was the one who had said “Let’s play ball.” It was his book that got the whole game started. For my part, I refuse to enter into the debate over Love Wins before I’ve read it; that’s just being responsible. But Bell failed to enter into the debate after he wrote it. That’s being something else.
I won’t be so rash as to suppose that this interview represents all that he believes. It’s a very short snippet out of his entire life of preaching, teaching, and writing. If somehow it did represent his beliefs, however, one would be led toward the conclusion that he doesn’t believe much of anything at all.
(By the way, kudos to Bashir for asking good questions and for persisting with them. Would that more journalists would do that with more politicians!)