Martin Bashir interviewed Rob Bell as Rob was doing promotional interviews for his book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.
As you can see from the title of the Youtube clip, "Martin Bashir Makes Rob Bell Squirm", Rob Bell's critics thought Bashir hit a homerun. Then I go read Justin Taylor's (one of the initial attackers of Rob Bell on this book) blog and see Taylor's readers all piling on. The one comment that got me questioning the commenters was the statement that Bell dodged questions. That isn't what I remembered of the interview, so I went and re-watched it. You can watch the interview yourself, but I made a list of Bashir's questions and Bell's direct answer to those questions. This is not a complete transcript, just one dealing with Bashir's questions and Bell's immediate answers. Bell only dodged one question outside of the initial trap on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
Bashir: “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.’” He even goes on to describe the accurate definition of universalists after that.
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 is extremely important.”
Bashir: “Is it irrelevant as to how you respond to Christ in your life now to determine your eternal destiny?”
Bell: “It is terribly relevant. It is terribly important.” Then he goes on to explain.
Bashir: “Is it irrelevant and immaterial about how you respond to Christ now to determine to your eternal destiny? Is that relevant or irrelevant? Does it have a bearing or have no bearing?”
Bell: “I think it has tremendous bearing.” Then he went on to have another explanation.
After four times being asked the same question Bell continued to give the same answer, but Bashir refuses to let him have that answer. The critics say that Bell is a universalist, but his answering the questions as if he is not. What was Bashir to do?
Bell is really is in a pickle here because the people who claim he is a universalist refuse to hear his real answer. They want to hear him defend being a universalist. But he can't because he isn't one.
The interview goes on.
Bashir: “One critique of your book says this, 'There are dozens of problems with Love Wins. The history is inaccurate and the use of Scripture is indefensible.' It’s true, isn’t it?"
Bell replied, “No, it’s not true.” What was Bashir expecting there? “Yes, you’re right.” What a ridiculous, cornering question.
Bashir: "Why do you choose, for example, to accept and promote the works of the early writer Origen and not, for example, Arius who took a view of Jesus' deity as him being not God. Why do you select one and not the other?"
Bell: "Because first and foremost, I am a pastor. I deal with real people in a real world asking and wrestling with these issues of faith." A dodge. But irrelevant to the argument coming from the Bell haters.
Bashir: “According to this critic, 'It’s unbiblical and historically unreliable.' That’s true. Isn’t it?”
Bell: “No.” He tried to continue but Bashir interrupted his answer.
Bashir: “Here comes Rob Bell. He’s made a Christian Gospel for you. And it’s perfectly palatable, much easier to swallow. That’s what you’ve done. Isn’t it?”
Bell: “No, I haven’t. There is an entire chapter in the book on hell. Throughout the book, over and over again, our choices matter.” Then he goes on to explain.
Bashir then thought he had Bell by asking: “How much of this book is 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: “I would totally own up to that in a heartbeat.” And he goes on to explain.
Maybe people have problems with Bell going on and explaining his answers, but he only dodged one irrelevant question.