Rob Bell on the Hot Seat

What I find troubling about this video, and with the interview Tuesday night in New York that is also making the rounds on YouTube is that Rob  is evasive in both cases.    This is not the same approach he has taken in the past on a variety of complex issues,  and it is troubling indeed.    Whatever else one can say about generous orthodoxy, it should not include suggesting that polar opposite views about God are equally orthodox,  nor that contradictory views on key Scriptures  are equally plausible or possible.    Rob once defined orthodoxy as like a trampoline, with some flexibility.     Flexibility yes,  on some things, but still definable and recognizable boundaries, especially when it comes to the issue of soteriology.  Even a trampoline has boundaries and if you fall outside them you get hurt, and so do others who try and follow such an example.

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Finding Jesus— Reboot
Finding Jesus– Review of Part One
Forward Thinking on ‘Reading Backwards’–The Interview Part Six
Forward Thinking about “Reading Backwards’ Conclusions
  • Rick


    C. He should not have let Bashir box him into just 2 options.

  • Chad Holtz

    You sound evasive. You are evasive, aren’t you? :)

  • Rick


    It was not an A or B question/answer. God is both all-powerful and caring. Bell should have gone there and not been boxed in. That is not being evasive; that is clarifying. However, I don’t even fault Bell that much for that answer since Bashir shot that bomb right off the bat. I am more concerned about the book related questions/answers.

    I am not anti-Bell (I appreciate some of his work), nor pro-Bell (I think he does not do sufficient homework for some of the topics he tackles). That being said, I do think it is interesting how differently people are seeing the book, interviews, and answers.

  • Tim Tyson

    The lack of humility in the questioner, and in the parts of this conversation that are most hostile to Bell, is breathtaking, isn’t it?

  • Kenton


    The book related questions box in Bell just as much as the first one did. You do see the irony, don’t you? Bell answers “C” and he’s dodging. Rick answers “C” and somehow he’s a rhetorical genius?

  • Peter

    The bottom line is Bell is being evasive and vaque. Just like St. Paul was at the end of Romans 11. Sure wish the apostle would just spit it out. “Who’s in, Paul? Who’s out?”

  • Randall

    I think Peter nailed it here, all the complaints about Bell being evasive and vague apply equally to the writings of Paul. If you want a neat, tidy, intellectually satisfying religion full of nice plausabilities, I have seen a few; but, the Christian faith isn’t one of them.

  • Chris Paytas

    Bashir was being a bit aggressive, it was a seven minute interview, and I suspect was set up as “Let’s talk about your controversial book” not “what is your take on God and Japan”. So I hypothesize Bell was caught a bit off guard. Bashir, I hypothesize, was trying to be a sensationalist.

    With all of that said; I have a question.

    Is God so powerful that He could make a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it? Makes about as much sense as the Japan question.

    It should be absolutely mandatory that everyone take and pass a logic course. Debate and dialog are dying a quick death in this country.

  • Rick


    It is a matter of what is the question, and what is the answer being given. As I look at the differing opinions on how Bell is doing in these interviews I see that some see him answering the questions they want answered, while others see him not answering the questions they want answered. I find it telling that Mars Hill has put out a FAQ sheet on this. Apparently they see a need to clarify some things.

    I think many see this going down the path that was see with McLaren. He was evasive with answers so for long.

    I am looking at the spectrum of opinions on this, and am looking forward to the reviews by Dr. Witherington and Scot McKnight. I think they will have a strong bearing on where things go from here.

  • Kenton


    You said: “It is a matter of what is the question, and what is the answer being given.”

    What I take it to mean is: “I (Rick) see the false dichotomy in the first question, but not in the others.”

    What those of us who are saying Bell is not being elusive are trying to communicate is: “There’s just as much problem in the other questions as there is in the Japan question.” To the extent that you don’t see that, read the book. Bell does a good job in Love Wins deconstructing the premises that make the other questions look every bit as silly as the Japan question.

  • Rick


    But Bell does a questionable job in revealing the premise of the questions. That was my point about letting Bashir put him in a box. He allowed him to do that with numerous questions.

    In those situations, rather than quickly throwing things to “paradox”, “speculation”, and “questions”, he needs to specify and clarify some things first, including exposing the premise behind the question(s).

  • Kenton

    He spends 200 pages of easy reading doing just that in the book. Not possible to do in a rapid fire interview. Read the book!

  • John Lussier

    find out the answer to this vital question ??

  • James

    an intelligent and perceptive pastor would have realized that Bashir was seeing if he would correct him and say God is all powerful and all loving. The reason Bashir asks this is because Bells title is “Love wins” so he was trying to show a clear contradiction in Bell’s preface.

    Also, this interview is not any different than any of Bashir’s interviews, he is always hard pressing and challenges people to talk about the hard things. Look up his interviews on you tube.

  • Rick


    I think you want me to read the book ;^)

  • guy m williams

    The Japan question should have been a softball for a Christian pastor — pointing out that there was another answer was a pretty simple move. In this respect, Bashir was really handing Bell an advantage, offering him an opportunity, a thinking Christian should be able to assume, to establish himself well. It seems to me Bashir was using the Japan question to do one or two things:

    1. See what sort of interview subject he had on his hands.
    2. Give Bell a chance to give the orthodox Christian position in straight-forward and simple terms.

    Bell didn’t accomplish #2, so Bashir let it go in order to move on to his primary subject matter. But Bashir no doubt got his answer to #1 and used that to his advantage throughout.

    That said, Bashir still made the positions in his questions so clear, he gave Bell ample space to take one of the paths he offered or deny his options and clearly present another at any point (Just like in the Japan question at the beginning). Bell consistently failed to do so, so he continued to press.

    Seemed like a tough but quite fair interview to me.

  • Jason

    I’m not sure why Rob shies away from the Universalist label. He’s far from the first to have had these leanings. Carl Barth once described himself as a Christocentric Univeralist: a Universalist who believes Christ died for all and that all will, eventually, be saved. If that’s what Rob believes, he shouldn’t be afraid to be called a Universalist. Perhaps he isn’t quite sure what he believes.

  • Beth Havill

    I hope Rob Bell is right, and I think Christians have had a hard time with the concept of never ending punishment, but there are a lot of mysteries in the Christian faith and to me, I’ve always had the confidence that I can trust God’s character. I know He’ll do right, He’ll be fair and just. I do fear Rob is catering to a liberal thinking Christian society who would like to think they can do what they like and God will forgive and love them anyway, rather than giving a more comprehensive view of His holiness, His justice, etc. And the fact He will not overlook sin in the life of a believer, and even in this life we will reap what we sow if we take sin lightly. I can’t help but wonder if some of these concepts, books etc. are also not an attention getter and a money making project. I would love to see the humble, godly attitude of a Billy Graham, rather than a young Rob Bell who professes to know so much more than many of the Godly Men in our past! May God help us to remember that all, who profess to be followers of Jesus are going to stand before Him at the Judgement Seat of Christ and we will give an account of what we’ve said or done down here! Solemn thought!

    Beth Havill