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?
Not reading “Erasing Hell.” Most of the book reading I do is synopses of others’ reading. :/ Kinda sad.
Anyway, I thought these two entries at McKnight’s blog about this book were the most thought-provoking. They are these:
“Might Makes Right”
Especially that last one has some things to say about the excerpt you just quoted where the authors essentially wish away the notion of Hell.
Thanks for sharing those!
God said that man’s imagination is only evil continually. I have just gotten started on what the Bible SAYS.
Is he for hell or against it? Here I go again but the types of hell are always marked by music.
Christ in Isaiah 30 uses the example of the Jews going in musical processions to Jerusalem to burn infants in the red-hot arms of Molech (moloch). He will repay all of the nations and the sounds of Him repaying His enemies is the sound of wind, string and percussion instruments. That “patter” repeats several times including Rev 17-18.
I think that we make ourselves too busy to fully understand that He is God and we are not: those who rose up in musical idolatry at Mount Sinai were executed by the Levites whom God commanded to stand guard against any godly person coming near the burning of animals: Just before and after the “God commanded instruments” passage the Levites were leading the worship with noise to burn infants.
God has give us such a clear example of His Will and sent Grace (in person) to teach us how to live, that those who try to trump the will of Christ in the Prophets and Apostles to educate the church, that it might be unjust if they did not have to repay for the “Laded Burdens” they have piled on believers just when Jesus died to remove the laded burden and burden laders.
I don’t like to believe in hell but I have read some of the anti-hell papers and they just lift their chosen proof texts. It would be better if we let the Word stand and follow the direct command and approved examples to PREACH the Word by READING the Word because we are certain to prevent the Word from doing its will.
Ken, you already know that I think you take that view to the extreme, finding it in places it is probably legit but also finding it in dozens of places where it is not the point. It goes back to Chan’s quote about just finding out what the Bible says and not reading our own opinions into the text. Now I must say that I really do appreciate your zeal and love for the Word of God and admire the amount of time you have spent studying it.