Friday, August 5, 2011

Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

Francis Chan has done a superb job of telling us what the Bible says about hell. Not what I wish it said, not what he would like it to say, but what God actually tells us in the Bible.

He does so humbly and graciously with excellent documentation.  Erasing Hell is not clever or entertaining.  It is certainly not a "feel good" book.  It is horrifying and grievesome. And Francis Chan makes it clear over and over again how hard it was to write.  

Each chapter is followed by "Notes".  These include Biblical chapter and verse as well as extended hermaneutic information and books he has referred to. At the end of the book Chan includes a section of Frequently Asked Questions and an extensive bibliography.

You cannot read the book without understanding the author's heart for God, His Word and people. He does not write arrogantly, but rather with a broken heart.  Bottom line:
As I have said all along, I don't feel like believing in hell. And yet I do.  Maybe someday I will stand in complete agreement with Him, but for now I attribute the discrepancy to an underdeveloped sense of justice on my part.  God is perfect.  And I joyfully submit to a God whose ways are much, much higher than mine.
After having read Love Wins by Rob Bell several months ago and wishing I was smart enough to refute his  heretical, yes heretical! point of view, I thank God for godly men like Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle who are brave enough to pen these difficult but necessary words.



  1. I am starting to get the feeling that Chan is getting a free pass from evangelicals as the 'anti-Bell.' Like this post, the a priori position is the Bell must be wrong and therefore Chan, in his contrasting opinion, must be right. I find this troubling. I find many elements of Bell's books to be rubbish, but I can offer arguments why. The danger of the alternative is 'begging the question' or circular reasoning which assumes not argues.
    Chan makes some excellent points, but his book is not perfect. He makes mistakes in his hermeneutics, eg. it is doubtful the Lamentations was written by Jeremiah, and he assume it was. On the flip side, Bell does make some points which are good and consistent with proper theology. He encourages us to fight under-realized eschatology, understand the implications of our decisions on earth, and encourages good discipleship-all good things. To suggest his entire book is heresy removes these good elements from the discussion, again solely based on presuppositions. I think things are more nuanced than this!
    Finally, what defines heretical? Something theologically wrong that is dangerous to the Church? Is HOJ still going to carry Bell? I do not like using the H word unless absolutely necessary, and not sure it is with Bell! Specifically no more than some of the popular so-called biblical prophecy books!

  2. Good points. I'm not giving Chan a free pass (maybe others are) because I was disappointed in his dismissal of "the church" as we know it, but I did feel that his arguments regarding hell were spirited and well-supported.

    And I'm not throwing Rob Bell out with the bath water. His Nooma series was excellent and we used several episodes as great discussion starters with our care group. But I do believe that his overall premise for Love Wins, that all men will eventuall be saved, despite themselves, is heretical and anti-Biblical. I do not see him encouraging good discipleship, although I do agree that his emphasis on reaping what we sow was great.

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts on Mark Galli's new book, God Wins. The latest issue of Christianity Today, of which Galli is the editor, included an excerpt which I felt was quite balanced.

    I think what attracted me to Chan's book was his deep, sincere, heartfelt grief over the plight and future of lost people.

    We will continue to carry the book Love Wins. If we only carried the books that have not been criticized in our store, we MIGHT have a copy of the King James Version of the Bible.

  3. Thanks for the respones.
    My free pass comment is one the arose more from reading others and reflecting on that, not HOJ. However, this blog entry seemingly offered a presuppositional acceptance of Chan and rejection of Bell. (What do you mean about Chan's rejection of the church?)
    Secondly, the discipleship comment should have meant Bell connects discipleship with heaven and hell well.
    I have picked up Galli and am only just started. He is the first of the three who attempts to define what love means.
    The bigger issue at stake, beyond eternal destinies is our theology proper (as in the Nature of God). Who God is and what he is like! Both Bell and Chan spend time dealing with theodicy, and, in my opinion, neither present satisfactory answers. This is the issue that is forgotten. This is why we must understand the gospel, not just be able to summarize 5 verses.

    I am not an advocate of banning books for being controversial; I think that would be a dangerous precedent. However, is there not a significant difference between a book been controversial and being heretical and anti-biblical? I cannot think of any other examples of anti-biblical and heretical books being readily available and heavily promoted at House of James.


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