Did you hear the one about the “non-Christian news anchor” who made Rob Bell look dumb

This video is doing the rounds. It’s painful viewing.

There are a couple of things I don’t like about it – one is the dichotomy that Bashir sets Bell up with. Bell can’t win with the question the way it’s framed. So it wasn’t particularly nice.

The other is that people keep calling journalist Martin Bashir a non-Christian, when he’s not. He, like me, is a reformed, evangelical, Presbyterian. A good Presbyterian no less. Who would doubtless be accepted for candidacy for holding orthodox theological views and having no characteristics that disqualify him from ministry…

This also explains why Bashir has such a grasp of Christian theology and why he sounds like he has a dog in the fight. Because he does. This Guardian Profile from 2003 is one example of Bashir’s Christianity being well known.


AndrewFinden says:

Yeah.. the old false Epicurean dichotomy was a bit off-putting. Not sure why he brought it up? did he think Bell actually had a good answer?

Jeremy says:

When you don’t like “the dichotomy that Bashir sets Bell up with” do you mean the one about Japan or the one about eternal destiny?

I agree the one about Japan isn’t fair because that’s not what his book is about (AFAIK) so he doesn’t have space in an interview about his book to address it well.

I think the one about eternal destiny was fair enough though. Is it really an implication of Bell’s book that one’s eternal destiny is not impacted by one’s response to Jesus in this life, because ultimately “love wins” no matter what? Fair question and one to which Bell surprisingly didn’t seem prepared to give a straight answer and explanation. From within what I understand Bell’s perspective to be (nb I’ve yet to read his book… but then to quote Mike Moore that means I’m still objective) he should have said,
“Well, how you respond to Jesus now MIGHT NOT have any impact on your ETERNAL destiny, because I’d like to believe ultimately God’s love will win no matter what. BUT there’s a lot more to life than your eternal destiny. There’s how much you know God’s love NOW. There’s how much you love others NOW. So how you react to Jesus NOW certainly has SUPREME IMPORTANCE RIGHT NOW, even if it might not alter where you end up eternally.”
He kind of says something similar in a roundabout way towards the end of the interview but I think what made it skirmish was his refusal to say it directly and own it from the beginning. He just kept saying “it’s terribly important, terribly relevant” and then just leaving a silence in the part where he should have been explaining HOW, from his perspective, it actually was important and relevant… until the end and even then he only hinted :-)

It seemed to me Bell actually had quite an opportunity to explain his position clearly there but for whatever reason he was reluctant to do so.

Nathan says:

Yeah, I meant the Japan one.

Jeremy says:

Well you could have just said that and saved me some writing.

Arthur says:

Bashir sets up the interview by making claims about the book’s message: that life has no bearing on eternal destiny and that all people will be saved. In the course of the interview, Bell attempts to deny both. Yet, as the interview goes on, Bashir doesn’t so much ask questions as reassert his introductory claims, even cutting Bell off.

In other words, whatever we think of Bell’s responses, I’d say that an interview like this is hardly the best place to gauge where someone’s coming from, and on top of that, the one who does the talking in this interview is effectively Bashir.

I reckon Rob Bell acquits himself pretty well.

But I suspect the way we receive this interview depends more on what we’ve heard about Bell in the first place!

Jeremy says:

It’s true that Bell’s book would be a better gauge of his view than the interview. But actually Bashir sets up the interview but citing the book’s primary thesis: God’s love will ultimately win people over even after death. At no point does Bell deny or even qualify this statement of his thesis even though he could have if he had wanted to. Bashir and Bell seem to agree on this.

Granted this, it’s reasonable to ask whether the way people respond to Jesus now makes any difference to their eternal destiny. On the surface at least the thesis of “Love Wins” would seem to imply that it doesn’t. It’s this apparent IMPLICATION of Bell’s thesis which Bashir asserts and Bell denies.

However, at several points Bell had opportunity to clearly explain WHY it isn’t an implication of his thesis and he wasn’t able to. He was unable to explain why a seemingly obvious implication of his thesis was not an actual implication.

It was this that made Bell seem to me either unwilling to fully own the implications of his position publicly or perhaps just poorly thought-through as to his position’s implications. But I take your point that this interview is a very slender basis on which to reach that conclusion and so I think I’ll stop talking now (at least until I’ve read his book :-).

Arthur says:

Yeah, Bashir (“You’re trying to have it both ways”) is attempting to set up a syllogism and find Bell wanting. But I don’t see this as an opportunity for Bell to explain himself. It’s a set-up. It’s the sort of interview style that can, with relative ease, make even the most consistent person sound like a dimwit.

And it’s not as if Bell’s responses are at all watertight. Bell is evasive — but then, I’d probably be trying to rework that conversation too!

Nathan Campbell says:

This interview with Bashir is doing the rounds today – where he confirms that he is, indeed, a man who takes his Christianity seriously.

David Ould says:

I’m not sure what the fuss is. The main dilemma for Bell’s position is exactly that which Bashir pushes him on – that the effective universalism that Bell is propounding really does mean that eternally there is no ultimate difference whatever you believe now.

Bashir got to the heart of the issue and Bell looked, frankly, embarrassed by the implications of the view that he holds. Rightly so, in my opinion.

Lee Shelton says:

Bashir may have presented a false dichotomy, but I also think that someone with even an elementary grasp of the truth found in scripture would have recognized it as a false dichotomy. It clearly went over Bell’s head.

Arthur says:

Robin Parry of The Evangelical Universalist has an interesting take on it here.