(Tim, w/thanks to Tenile: One blogger produced a very, very rough transcript of Martin Bashir interviewing Rob Bell and I asked Tenile Victorsen if she'd give us a good one. Here it is. If you find an error, please let us know and we'll correct it. Interspersed in the text are a few comments of my own in black text between brackets, italicized.)
Bashir: One mega church pastor has ignited a theological firestorm by suggesting that our response to the Christian message in this life will not necessarily determine our eternal destiny. In his book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Rob Bell says that ultimately all people will be saved, even those who’ve rejected the claims of Christianity. He argues people will eventually be persuaded by God’s love, postmortem, in the life to come. [Note how straighforward Bashir is stating Bell's thesis. As we enter the murkiness of Bell's words, we must remind ourselves of this straighforward warning from God: "...it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment..." (Hebrews 9:27)] Pastor Rob Bell joins us now. Good afternoon, sir. Before we come to talk about the book, just help us with this tragedy in Japan. Which of these is true? Either God is all-powerful but he doesn’t care about the people of Japan and, therefore, they’re suffering, or he does care about the people of Japan but he’s not all-powerful? Which one is it? [Do we really have to choose between these two, Mr. Bashir?]
Bell: I begin with the belief [Let the listener understand he means no offense to those with a different belief.] that God--when we shed a tear, God sheds a tear. [Hallmark card sentiment, but the scale of the senitment doesn't match the scale of the horror. Pastor Bell trivializes the massive death and destruction of the earthquakes and tsunamis, or the terrible suffering of the Japanese people. Just one tear? Whole cities destroyed and "a tear" for Pastor Bell and "a tear" for God?] So I begin with a divine being [Speaking to the Areopagus surrounded by the pantheon of gods, the Apostle Paul declares: “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth..." (Acts 17:24). Speaking to the world today in the midst of our pantheon of gods, Pastor Bell can't even bring himself to use the definite article to refer to his god. It's not "the God Who is there" but "a divine being."] who is profoundly [Adverbs weaken arguments but strengthen sentiment. Pastor Bell adores adverbs.] empathetic, compassionate and stands in solidarity with us. [Actually, God stands in solidarity only with those who, by faith, are "in Christ" and His Church. Concerning all others, the ax is at the root. Thus note how, by leaving "us" undefined, Pastor Bell denies the distinction between the Church and the world. This denial of distinctions is central to his false prophecies and is a defining prejudice of post-moderns--Pastor Bell's target audience.] Secondly, the dominant story [To speak of the work of redemption recorded in Scripture as a "story" reminds me of what everyone said when the planes took down the World Trade Center on 9/11: "It was just like the movies." The false images of movies helped our mind's eye to see...
Bashir: So which of those is true, he’s all-powerful and he cares or he cares and he’s not all-powerful? [This question is the right one and was ready for Pastor Bell to hit out of the park. As in "He's all powerful and He cares and let me explain the Fall to you. As Pascal says, until you understand the Fall, you don''t understand this world or yourself. Back when God first created this world and man, everything was perfect. There was no pain. No suffering. No earthquakes hurt Adam and Eve. No tsunamis to drown them. No shame attached to sex--Adam and Eve were both naked and were unashamed. But then, Adam listened to the voice of his wife and sinned, eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and from that point on...]
Bell: I think that this is a paradox at the heart of the divine and some paradoxes are best left exactly as they are. [But instead of Pastor Bell taking this perfect opportunity to preach the Gospel starting with the Fall, he does precisely what you'd expect from an Evangelical Emergent; he goes off into lala speaking heart of the divine paradox gobbledegook. He has nothing to say to those who suffer. He has no theodicy and can give no comfort. Which proves that naming his church "Mars Hill" is misleading. When he's given the opportunity to preach to the Areopagus, he's mute. He's been lobbed a sixteen inch softball, he's up to bat, it's the bottom of the ninth with two outs, bases are loaded, everyone's holding their breath, and Pastor Bell's scared stiff and is hiding behind the catcher.]
Bashir: Okay. This book you’ve written has been stirring some controversy because the implication is, as you put it, God’s love will eventually melt hearts, that’s what you say in the book. So are you a Universalist who believes that everyone can go to heaven regardless of how they respond to Christ on earth?
Bell: In regards to the question, are you a Universalist? I would say, first and foremost, no. [Note how many words it took Pastor Bell to get to the simple and direct "no." But even the "no" is neither simple nor direct because what he apparently just gave with one hand he immediately takes back.] And that is a perspective within the Christian stream. ["Stream?" Is that what I'm in? I thought I was in Noah's Ark, the Household of Faith, the Bride of Christ, the Church of the Living God. I didn't know it was a "stream."] There has been within the Christian tradition ["Stream?" "Tradition?" What are the other streams and when will we merge and the world will be as one? Imagine all the people living in harmony... What other traditions are there and when will all the traditions finally be able to put aside our differences and be reunited into one divine tapestry showing every tradition's beauty? Which is to say both "stream" and "tradition" are hedge words indicating that Pastor Bell does not believe in the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If he did, he wouldn't tip his hat to the polytheistic revolution.] a number of people who have said, given enough time, ["Enough time?" So what--Pastor Bell has some kind of doctrine of purgatory? He believes God needs a lot of time to do what He really wants to do with people, and He just can't quite pull it off in this life? Time's too short? Really?] God will win everybody over. [Dylan once was being pushed by an interviewer to say he believed in reincarnation and he resisted for quite a while. The interviewer kept pushing, though, and finally Dylan (not Thomas--the other one) said: "How much time do you think you need to get it right?'" The way Pastor Bell talks about God, here, you'd think He is slow and weak. But then you remember that it's not God HImself Pastor Bell is talking about, but only an idol. And you breath a sigh of relief and tremble.] One of the things in the book I’m very clear on and want people to see is that this tradition has all of these different opinions, everybody will be won over, some will continue to resist god’s love, and that Christians have disagreed about this speculation.
Bashir: I get that. [Mr. Bashir "get(s) that?" He gets what? That Pastor Bell is not a universalist? Or that universalism is an honored tradition within the Christian tradition? Precisely what does he get?] So is it irrelevant and is it immaterial about how one responds to Christ in this life in terms of determining one’s eternal destiny? Is that immaterial?
Bell: I think it’s extraordinarily important. I think it’s extraordinarily important. [Note the double-barrelled adverbs. Pastor Bell's laying it on thick. Mr. Bashir must be getting hot.]
Bashir: In your book you said God wins regardless in the end.
Bell: Love wins, for me, as a way of understanding that God is love, and love demands freedom. [Huh? What?!? If love demands freedom, precisely how does Pastor Bell know love wins rather than judgment? Love demands freedom, you know. This stuff is crazymaking gobbledygook.]
Bashir: You are asking for it both ways. That doesn’t make sense. I’m asking you, is it irrelevant as to how you respond to Christ in your life now to determine your eternal destiny, is that irrelevant? Is it immaterial? [Mr. Bashir doesn't succumb to Pastor Bell's crazymaking gobbledygook.]
Bell: It is terribly relevant and terribly important. [Mr. Bashir is getting hot again, so Pastor Bell pulls out the double-barrelled adverbs, again.] Now, how exactly that works out and how exactly it works out in the future, we are now when you die [Why "when you die?" Couldn't Pastor Bell have been gracious and posed the hypothetical about himself, saying instead, "When I die?"] firmly in the realm of speculation. [The Word of God is filled with declarative statements about what happens after death, but Pastor Bell musters every bit of authoritative bluster he's capable of and declares us to be "firmly in the realm of speculation." Note that word 'firmly.' An adverb again.] And my experience has been a lot of Christians have built whole dogmas about what happens when you die and we have to be very careful that we don’t build whole doctrines and dogmas on what is speculation. [Scripture declares everything we need to know concerning the world to come--particularly Heaven and Hell--but Pastor Bell warns us to be very careful not to "build whole doctrines" on what Scripture declares. And by the way you do know that "dogmas" aren't good things, right?]
Bashir: I’m not talking about what happens when you die. I’m asking you how you respond here and now. The question I’m asking you, what you seem to be saying in this book, is that God will love, will melt everyone’s heart eventually, some even postmortem in death. So you’re the one making speculation about the afterlife. What I’m asking is, is it irrelevant and immaterial about how you respond to Christ now to determine your eternal destiny, is that relevant or irrelevant? Does it have a bearing or does it have no bearing?
Bell: I think it has tremendous bearing. ["Extraordinarily important." "Extraordinarily important." "Terribly relevant." "Terribly relevant." "Tremendous bearing." Each time Mr. Bashir gets anywhere near pinning Pastor Bell down concerning his denial of the need to believe in Jesus in this life, Pastor Bell goes adverbial on us.] It also at same time raises all sorts of questions, and that is why the discussion is so lively and vibrant, namely what about people who haven’t heard about Jesus? What about, uh, the woman I talked to a couple of weeks ago who was abused by her pastor? And so for her, Jesus is tied up in all sorts of things and I assume that God’s grace gives people space to work those sort of issues out. [This Pastor Bell can't speak the truth. He's constitutionally incapable. Everything that comes out of his mouth is indirect and misleading. People who approach him looking for his doctrine miss the point. His affect and facility with lies is his doctrine and says infinitely more than any objective content that might get through despite his desperate attempts to hold it back and hide it. I'll stop commenting, here, and let Mr. Bashir give the coup de grace. He needs no help. He's manly as only someone with a British education could be, while Pastor Bell reminds you of the Monty Python knight who's "not dead yet!"]
Bashir: One critique of your book says this, “there are dozens of problems with Love Wins, the history is inaccurate, the use of scripture indefensible.” That’s true, isn’t it?
Bell: No, it’s not true.
Bashir: So why do you choose, for example, to accept and promote the works of the early writer Origin and not, for example, Arius who took a view of Jesus’ deity as being not God? Why do you select one and not select the other?
Bell: Because, first and foremost, I’m a pastor and so I deal with real people in a real world asking and wrestling with these issues of faith. And what I have discovered over and over again, is there are people who have questions and hunches and have sort of I’m really struggling with this and when you can simply give them the gift of, by the way, within the Christian tradition, there are scholars and theologians and there are other people who have had the same questions, they have had the same theories.
Bashir: But you’ve just indicated, though, one of the problems with this book which is, in a sense, you’re creating a Christian message that’s warm, kind, and popular for contemporary culture but it’s, frankly, according to this critic, “un-biblical and historically unreliable”. That’s true, isn’t it?
Bell: No, it’s not true.
Bashir: What you’ve done is you’re amending the gospel, the Christian message, so that it’s palatable to contemporary people who find, for example, the idea of hell and heaven very difficult to stomach. So here comes Rob Bell, he’s made a Christian gospel for you and it’s perfectly palatable, it’s much easier to swallow. That’s what you’ve done, isn’t it?
Bell: No, I haven’t. There’s actually an entire chapter in the book on hell, and, there’s an, I mean throughout the book over and over again our choices matter, the decisions we make about whether we extend love to others or not, the ways in which we resist or we open ourselves to God’s love, these are incredibly important.
Bashir: How much is this book you working out your own childhood experience of being brought up in a fairly cramped evangelical family and really finding that difficult as you became an adult? How much of this is actually that?
Bell: Oh, I would totally own up to that in a heartbeat. I think we are all on a journey and we’re all, we were all handed things. You were handed things, I were (sic) handed things. This is the way the world works, this is what matters, this is what doesn’t. Here’s who these people are, here’s who these people are. Here’s who’s in, here’s who’s out. We’ve all been handed these things and we spend our lives sort of pushing back and questioning and probing. I think that’s what makes it so engaging. It’s part of the joy of life.
Bashir: Pastor Rob Bell, thank you very much for joining us. And your book is called, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Thank you.