I take back what I said about Rob Bell being thoughtful. Martin Bashir, who represents the not-so-fuzzy view of Christianity did a good job of making poor Mr. Bell look like a bumbling idiot. It seems that these new warm and fluffy views of Jesus as some kind of genuinely all-loving deity who will eventually let everybody into heaven are… well… not very Biblical.
Mr. Bashir was right to make Mr. Bell look foolish. Sadly, this lines up with my more pessimistic prediction:
[H]eretics will be shouted down and destroyed in much the same way as they have always been. Christian leaders have seldom had much tolerance for heretics, and “universalism” has never accounted for more than a percentage point or two in any national polls.
I’m afraid the cold facts are not rosy. “Moderate Christianity” has never been able to hold much sway in the face of selective literalism. Oh, it’s possible that a few people will latch onto this nice, humanitarian, merciful version of Christianity, but they will continue to be irrelevant and they will continue to facilitate more radical beliefs with their acceptance of faith.
I hate to say it, but I think even FOX News junkies can see through the deflections in this interview. Martin Bashir asked all the right questions, and Rob Bell didn’t answer any of them. Well… when he did answer, he just let blatant contradictions lay out there in the open.
Bashir: “Is it irrelevant, and is it immaterial about how one responds to Christ in this life, in terms of determining one’s eternal destiny?”
Bell: “I think it’s extraordinarily important…”
Bashir: “But in your book, you said that God wins, regardless, in the end.”
Bell: “Erm… Love wins for me as a way of understanding that God is love, and love demands freedom.”
Let me translate this for you, because I’ve seen it before. (No, this is not the first time someone’s tried to soften Christianity.) Mr. Bell is playing politics. He is not being honest about what he believes or what he wants his book to accomplish. The interchange I just quoted is his hedge bet to keep Christianity relevant. When he speaks to “traditionalists” like Mr. Bashir, he leaves a plausibly vague gap, using buzzwords that trigger favorable emotions. Traditional Christians love using free will as a Get Out of Jail Free Card for God. So Mr. Bell is giving them the same card now, hoping they will grant him the same leniency.
For people who want to believe in a more fuzzy god, it gives them a nice little deflection. Instead of addressing their own contradictory beliefs, they can puzzle over the “mystery” of free will, the joy of heaven, and then pat themselves on the back for believing in a god who wouldn’t really punish lots of people for not believing… even if it is still important to live a good life and believe in Jesus. Because it’s better. Somehow.
It’s just politics. And it’s bad politics, at that.