Much of the response has been extremely negative towards Bell and his failure to clearly articulate the gospel at every single waking moment.
I figured I would offer my thoughts as well. If anyone cares.
I think that, like any piece of literature, genre and context are of key importance. And most of the people who have criticized Rob Bell’s statements here are ignoring both.
1. This is a transcription of a journalistic interview. Many people have treated it as if it were an all-inclusive systematic treatise of Bell’s theology. It isn’t; interviews are conversational, and, as in any conversation, things get left out. You have to realize that.
2. We cannot take this quote from Bell and determine things about Bell’s nature without considering the context in which it was said. First, he was doing an interview with the media. Who wouldn’t see this as a chance to change some people’s views about Evangelical Christianity? The first thing that he says is that evangelicalism isn’t what most people assume it is: right-wing, anti-intellectual fundamentalism. Naturally, he would follow that up with something that is strikingly dissimilar with what most people assume when they hear “evangelical.” And those things that he mentioned should probably be some of the natural responses to those who believe in the “evangelical Jesus,” if you will: helping the poor, caring for the environment, and extending hope to the world.
If Bell had said, “evangelicalism is all about telling people about Jesus.” The interview, in most of the readers’ minds, would have been over because they would have turned the page. They would have assumed that this guy is another religious nut job and would have ignored him.
Finally, you cannot remove this quote from the totality of Bell’s body of work and say that it somehow gives us a more clear picture of where his heart is at than anything else does.