It is my strong preference to read, talk, and think about Heaven, but it is essential that we also know about Hell. I want to have a proper understanding of Hell for a host of reasons. I read about it regularly in the Good Book, people often talk about it unbiblically, I teach about it occasionally, and Jesus has saved His people from it eternally. I want others to know what it means to call Jesus the Savior of the world therefore I need to learn about Hell. Erasing Hell helped with that.
Erasing Hell is the third Francis Chan book I have read. Like thousands of others, I have greatly benefited from reading his books as well as listening to his sermons. Francis Chan can make challenging topics more understandable, and he has a knack for getting people from both ends of the spectrum to listen. Preston Sprinkle is new to me, but I think he's alright since he rolls with Chan.
Erasing Hell did not get my juices flowin' like some of Chan's other books (Crazy Love and Forgotten God), but the book is solid. Erasing Hell came largely in response to Rob Bell's Love Wins, and Chan and Sprinkle respectfully refute some of Bell's unorthodox teachings. Regardless of whether you are a fan of Bell's teachings, Chan and Sprinkle provide a profitable book about a not so easy topic. You may not always agree with what Chan and Sprinkle say, but they speak humbly and in a manner that can appeal to both seasoned and beginning theologians. Below is how the book is organized.
The book Love Wins by Rob Bell provoked this much better book on a neglected doctrine. Bell conforms to the secular culture, which has pretty much abandoned belief in any sort of afterlife, but most definitely does not believe in hell, since all this wonderful self-esteem training in our schools (the ones that can't teach math, science, and writing) has made people think they are so darn wonderful God jolly well BETTER welcome them to heaven. Some might call that "wishful thinking," but unfortunately, if hell is real, well, it might be a tad risky (to say the least) to deny it.
The authors write well, and they certainly do a better job at interpreting the Bible than Bell did. Actually, as they point out in the book, "interpretation" isn't really even a factor in the doctrine of hell, for Jesus most definitely did believe in it, as did his disciples. Liberals like to focus on what Jesus said about God's love - which is fine, except they choose to ignore his many pronouncements about sin, God's anger, and the Final Judgment. These aren't popular teachings today, but the author's point out that the Christian's duty is to study the Bible and learn the will of God, not to pick and choose doctrines that make us comfortable. The gospel has NEVER made people comfortable, and wasn't intended to. Essentially it's a rescue story, one that some people embrace but that most reject. As Jesus himself said, he came to call sinners, not to call those convinced of their own righteousness.
The authors point out that in Paul's one sermon to a non-Jewish audience (the people of Athens, Acts 17), he preaches on divine judgment - even though he's aware that most of the pagans listening to him don't share the Jews' belief in hell. Revealing, isn't it? Paul claimed to be "all things to all men" as he preached the gospel, and in Acts 17 we see him quoting a Greek poet to provide a nice "hook" for his pagan audience - but he still insists on sticking to the core of the gospel: repent, turn to God, for the day of judgment is coming.
I doubt this book would convince anyone who is already a committed universalist - i.e., one who parrots the familiar line "I don't like to think of God as wrathful and judgmental . . ." That kind of person will simply dismiss the authors' arguments in this book as "biased" (also "hate-filled" and "mean-spirited," those useful words that are used so well to shut down debate). However, if you or someone you know is "on the fence" regarding this doctrine, the book may well push you over to the pro-hell side - or, to put it more positively, make you appreciate God's mercy and forgiveness in providing a means for us to spend eternity in his presence, not separated from him.
As I was reading this, something struck me: the authors clearly believe in hell, yet they do not see God as cruel and malevolent, nor does believing in hell make a person cruel and malevolent. Some of the best Christians I've known believed firmly in both heaven and hell. Unbelievers and liberal Christians somehow just can't hold the two ideas in their minds at the same time - God of love and mercy, God of judgment. But there's no getting around the New Testament: Jesus and the apostles had no trouble seeing the same God as both just and merciful.
My Pastor recommended this book to me. He had not preached specifically on hell at all. After reading this book he realized how important it is to tell people, not only about the grace and mercy of God, but also about the judgement that awaits those who do not accept Christ. Erasing Hell provides Old and New Testament references and descriptions of Hell in a very interesting and comprehensive format. I believe all believers at any stage of their walk with Christ need to read this book. It will definitely stir you to be even more bold in your witness to see the lost come to salvation.
Well researched view of what the Bible really says
June 20, 2012
Erasing Hell is a solid, well grounded view of what hell is like and who will qualify to be there. It's a wake-up call for everyone to genuinely review how real your relationship and obedience to the Holy Spirit is going. Clearly, being a good person and going to church does not secure salvation. Very thought provoking.
"Erasing Hell" is a response to Rob Bell's "Love Wins." Chan and Sprinkle delve into the Bible to see what God said about Heaven and Hell. Using Scripture as their main source, they also discuss what ancient Jewish and Christian writers had to say about Hell, as well as more contemporary Christian writers. Their goal is to present the truth, even if it may be hard to take.
Scripturally sound, this book presents Hell as the Bible does. While Biblical authors do not give detailed descriptions of Hell, we are given impressions of what Hell will be like and who will go there. The question is: will you accept it? Francis Chan freely admits that he asked Preston Sprinkle to help him write this book because of the seriousness of the topic and because of Sprinkle's theological background (PhD in New Testament) and ability (Sprinkle did most of the research). The effort is evident as sources are cited in abundance. This book is the perfect counter to "Love Wins" and Universalism as a whole.
Chan includes a prayer that I think we all should pray as we are likely all guilty of it in some degree:
"Please forgive me, Lord, for wanting to erase all the things in Scripture that don't sit well with me. Forgive me for trying to hide some of Your actions to make You more palatable to the world. Forgive me for trying to make You fit my standards of justice and goodness and love. You are God; You are good; I don't always understand You, but I love You. Thank You for who You are."
This is by no means an extensive work, but I recommend it to anyone who has any doubts about the existence of Hell in the afterlife.