Francis Chan starts Erasing Hell with an introduction that could have been an appropriate introduction for any of a number of books on difficult and controversial topics. First, he addresses the fact that this is not a pleasant issue. It is a difficult issue that has ramifications that are far reaching and highly significant. Next, he says that we have to put what we have heard aside and really take a good look at scripture on this issue. He mentions several things that he heard over the years in church that he has changed his mind on and says he is open to his mind being changed on this issue as well. Next, he addresses the problem of making up or minds first and then twisting scriptures to make them say what we want them to say,
“Part of me doesn’t want to believe in hell. And I’ll admit that I have a tendency to read into Scripture what I want to find–maybe you do too. Knowing this, I’ve spent many hours fasting and praying that God would prevent my desires from twisting Scripture to gratify my personal preferences. And I encourage you to do the same. Don’t believe something just because you want to, and don’t embrace an idea just because you’ve always believed it. Believe what is biblical. Test all your assumptions against the precious words God gave us in the Bible.” p.15
I hope he sticks by that throughout the book! Last, he puts God where God needs to be…right in the middle of the conversation. Like Chan says, sometimes God is not easy to understand but we still need to trust that He knows better than we do. It seems to me Chan is trying to make himself as credible as possible in this introduction. It is like he is saying he is tempted to have a horse in the race but he will take him out just to make sure his conclusions are fair. I am not sure if that is completely possible but he is making an attempt at doing that. Not only that but he is fasting, praying, studying, and willing to throw out any and everything if he finds something else in scripture. Last, as a just in case, God is hard to understand sometimes…so the truth of something is not contingent upon our complete understanding of the matter.
A couple of thoughts. I appreciate the compassion that comes through in his writing. He seems like a guy who genuinely cares and that is an important quality on a topic that can come across harsh and abrasive, especially in text. Second, just because we fast and pray does not guarantee we come to the right conclusion or somehow ensure that God will reveal anything to us that gives us an edge. There have been many genuine people who really tried hard to understand things that they still got wrong. I know that because I am quite sure that describes myself on at least a few things. Last, I appreciate Chan seeking the truth rather than seeking to confirm his own ideas, his traditions, or what he has heard his whole life on the subject.
The last thing I want to mention is the lack of press on this book. When Bell’s book Love Wins came out there was all kinds of hoopla. People came out with a vengeance. Not so with this book. Maybe it is because people perceive this book is going to toe the line with more conservative doctrines on hell or maybe they feel like the Bell controversy was hashed out enough via various blogs, websites, etc. I am not certain why there has been so little said about this book unless I just missed it all. But I look forward to reading Chan’s thoughts on the matter and will share a few thoughts here along the way.
Any of you reading or have read Erasing Hell?