DOWNLOAD THE MP3 of this debate.
Or you can stream online and get it via iTunes, or the Unbelievable? Podcast. Video will be available Tuesday.
This Saturday, Premier’s Unbelievable with Justin Brierley will feature a pretty feisty extended debate between Rob Bell and I. He is known to be pretty slippery during interviews, but I did not want to let myself get frustrated so I resolved to be firm but fair. I think being in the same room with him and discussing face to face helped me immensely to remember he is a real person with real feelings like you and I.
But, the issues here are deadly serious and I wasn’t about to let him off the hook. Like everyone else, I wanted to know, is Rob Bell really a universalist? And, I am glad to report, that on at least a couple of questions I got some straight answers out of him!
If you want to hear our debate, tune in THIS SATURDAY at 2:30pm UK time (9:30 am Eastern Time).
After the event, the audio and video will be posted at the Unbelievable? website and no doubt I will post it here as well in due course.
It is perhaps somewhat ironic that I ended up doing this, after posting just a few weeks back about why I had not at that time written about Love Wins.
Before the debate, I also met Rob Bell face to face for an on the record briefing with some Christian journalists. A full report of that encounter is available at Christian Today. What struck me about that encounter and the public presentation is just how much Bell stresses the love of God. He spoke at one point about how people had accused him of not telling the bad news. He accepts that accusation. My concern is that without the bad news the good news is not really good!
But, we do need to hear him when he says that many people think the God of the Christians is a hateful, angry being who doesn’t want anything to do with them. As he put it in a word association game, if you mention God, “Love is often not the first word that comes to mind.” He is of course dead right when he says that Jesus’ message is that God makes it rain on righteous and unrighteous— in other words, God is actually for you. But why do we need to throw out the holiness, justice, and yes wrath of God in order to stress his love?
Bell also said he felt that the UK response to his book has perhaps been more appreciative than in the USA.
The crowd seemed broadly supportive of Bell at his public talk. But, when asking for a hidden show of hands, close to 100% indicated they believed in hell. Bell then spoke breifly and compellingly, and to be honest, it would be hard for his most ardent critic to find much to argue with in his talk. Then there were a number of questions, and to be honest, I found Bell’s answers rather frustrating. Having actually read the book, he seemed much clearer in what he was saying in the book than on questioning. He kept trying to imply that it was OK for people to think lots of different things without pinning down what he himself actually believes. Yet, in the book, as Keller points out, he is positively scornful of many traditional evangelical perspectives.
This then was my preparation (as well as of course reading lots of reviews from both sides of the fence and collating a detailed set of notes which is practically a book in its own right!). As you can imagine, it put me in the frame of mind to firmly but lovingly “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3). This Saturday you can hear how it went.