I had some trepidation about even reading Erasing Hell, let alone reviewing it. Part of that stems from a desire to not continue to tread the same ground, over and over again. The rest of my uneasiness came from another (greater) concern: Am I spending too much time thinking about hell? Worse, am I turning thinking about it into another academic exercise that doesn’t really have any impact on my life?
If you’re concerned about that tendency in your own life, you’ll be thankful to read Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up. Here, Francis Chan and co-author Preston Sprinkle offer a foundational understanding of what Scripture actually says about hell while explaining why it actually matters.
In case you were wondering, yes, this book is a direct response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins. Chan and Sprinkle interact heavily with the former work, carefully addressing the significant issues raised in its pages in Chan’s now-trademark conversational style.
The Terror of False Hope
One of the big questions in the Love Wins controversy centers on whether or not Christian universalism and the opportunity for post-mortem salvation is defensible from Scripture. The authors quickly move through a handful of the major proof texts offered in defense of universalism to focus on to the larger issue of post-mortem salvation. In their search for proof texts in its defense, they found exactly none.
“No passage in the Bible says that there will be a second chance after death to turn to Jesus,” they write on page 35. “And that’s frightening . . . because the idea of an after-death conversion is the most important ingredient for the Universalist position. It makes or breaks the view.”
Chan’s horror that anyone would offer the possibility of post-mortem salvation without explicit biblical reference is palpable, particularly when some passages explicitly speak against this view (see Luke 13:22-30, Hebrew 9:27 among others). Indeed, throughout the book, Chan’s emotional investment into the subject matter forces us to confront our own attitudes toward doctrine. He not only believes but feels the truths of Scripture deeply, in a way that sometimes I find lacking in my own life. It’s not an appeal to emotionalism vs. intellectualism, but it’s the fruit of head knowledge that has become heart knowledge.
Hell, First-Century Jews and the Garbage Dump
Have you ever noticed how there are some things in Scripture that you never really pay attention to until someone points them out? An area like that for me is Jesus’ teaching on hell. He speaks repeatedly of the judgment to come… and no one questions Him on it. It’s as if they had a pretty solid grasp of what He was talking about. Chan and Sprinkle suggest a reason for this:
They did. Continue Reading…