Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Review: Erasing Hell

In response to Rob Bell's tragically popular book Love Wins, Francis Chan wrote Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We've Made Up and it is both a timely and critical treatment of a crucial topic. The topic of the reality of a literal hell is one that is divisive and also one we cannot get wrong. I don't think anyone is going to spend eternity in hell for getting baptism wrong since half of the church (or more!) is wrong on that issue but if we miss on this issue we run the risk of missing the calling of the church and that has eternal consequences.

Chan's Erasing Hell is often emotional and gut wrenching but while it is highly accessible for even the novice student of the Bible, it is also very thorough in a short book and intellectually deep. This is not a difficult book to read from a reading comprehension standpoint but the material is tough. Like Francis I have looked around at crowds in airports and on trains and been struck with the reality that many, if not most, of them are outside of Christ and bound for a very real hell. Pretending that it all just works out in the end might be comforting but it is a huge disservice to those who have eternity outside of Christ as their current trajectory.

Chan doesn't, and really can't, do a deep study of every single passage but he does look at all of the major text that deal with hell and ties them all together well. I especially appreciated his inclusion of Romans 9 in the discussion, a chapter that makes people squirm and when coupled with the doctrine of an eternal hell Paul's words in this chapter make people upset. Combining God's sovereign election in salvation with an eternal hell seems us but it is not really our place to question God on this (or anything else)

As Chan points out many times, the issue is not whether or not we want to believe in a literal hell but will we? There is nothing more asinine than someone who says "I can't believe in a God like that". We don't have a pantheon of gods to choose from, there is one God and we can either believe what He says or deny Him. The issue is whether or not God has decreed an eternal hell and if we believe Him when He reveals that truth to us. I think Chan makes a great case from Scripture that hell is indeed real and that the various iterations of "Christian Universalism" are untenable from Scripture when you look at the Bible as a whole and look at the alleged supporting proof-texts for universalism in context. The question then becomes what do we do with this revelation. Do we pout and impotently stomp our feet because of our perception of God being "unfair" or do we redouble our efforts to take the Gospel to the lost, acting as God's ambassadors to declare the very real penalty for sin but the glorious provision for salvation in Jesus Christ?

This was not a pleasurable read because the topic is so very weighty and the reality of hell is overwhelming but it is a necessary topic for the church to get a handle on. I recommend Erasing Hell for anyone who needs a good introduction to this topic and especially for those who have run into the oxymoronic "Christian Universalism" and are looking for a cogent response based in the Bible.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I really don't hear the preaching about hell in churches these days. I guess it might scare too many people away. Many are led to believe that since God is love, there must be heaven and hell must be somehow interpreted incorrectly.

Well, I didn't learn about hell from churches or from pastors. I was an atheist. Hell actually came to me one night. I wasn't on drugs or alcohol. I was a logical person. I believed in science. I learn about hell existence from the paranormal activities that appeared in my life. I know that God loves me enough to reveal to me some things most people don't come to realize or want to talk about. Demons are real and so I must conclude that hell must be real according to the Bible. It is a place called the Outer Darkness, a place separated from God for all eternity. I have been visited by demons and have been possessed by spirits twice. My wife who was next to me, felt its presence. She just happened to be with me at the wrong place and at the wrong time. I invite you to read my blog at

God Bless,