Author and former pastor Rob Bell's interview with Oprah Winfrey on her "Super Soul Sunday" program this past weekend featured aspects of the Michigan native's rise to ministry and his founding of a megachurch, to suddenly finding himself the subject of controversy and criticism over his 2011 book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, and the adversity and pressure that eventually led him to depart from the faith community he had been leading for years.
"Love Wins held on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 24 weeks and helped usher in what some might call a new brand of Christianity...which didn't sit well with everybody, of course," states Winfrey in the narrated introduction to the interview. "Prominent conservative Christians called him a 'false prophet' and even...'a heretic.'
"The onslaught took its toll and Rob was shaken. He had never intended to become a polarizing figure. He says he just wanted to shine a light on the questions that many Christians struggled with in private."
Winfrey adds, "Rumors began swirling about Mars Hill (Church), suggesting that members were becoming uncomfortable with the negative press surrounding their star preacher. Weekly attendance started to drop. Many thought Rob had been asked to leave when he finally stepped down in 2011. But Rob says it was his choice to move on so he could focus energy on his work beyond preaching."
While Love Wins questioned traditional teachings on whether only Christians can go to heaven and if hell is a real, eternal place, Bell's newest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God "explains why both culture and the church resist talking about God, and shows how we can reconnect with the God who is pulling us forward into a better future," according to publisher HarperOne.
Below are excerpts of Bell's interview with Winfrey.
In this first clip, the Christian minister offers his definition of "God," how he distinguishes "religion" from "spirituality," and what he believes happens when people die.
In this interview excerpt, Winfrey asks Bell to comment on this line from What We Talk When We Talk About God: "When we talk about God, we're talking about that sense you have—however stifled, faint, or repressed it is—that hope is real, that things are headed somewhere, and that that somewhere is good."
This third excerpt from Bell's interview with Winfrey has the author explain what he means when he writes "God is for us," and avoiding "evacuation theology."
In the final excerpt, Bell comments on how confronting his doubt head-on helped his faith.
Visit Oprah.com to watch Bell and Winfrey's entire interview.