I thought I’d give Francis Chan a few pointers on his writing. Okay, maybe not. Take a closer look. This picture has fooled more than a few people. But, I will tell you what I think about his book Erasing Hell (David C. Cook, publishers).
Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle give an in-depth and challenging view at the existence of hell in this small book. Chan starts the book by admitting that most of the research was done by Sprinkle and is from his point of view. That is obvious for fans of Chan’s writing, at least through the first few chapters. It is like someone other than the author of Crazy Love does the lion’s share with a little bit of Chan sprinkled in (ba-dum-dum). However, that’s not a bad thing. Sprinkle does a great job of addressing the complexity of the theme of hell in Scripture in bite sizes for consumption by those of us who aren’t inclined to gorge ourselves on theological rhetoric.
A consistent theme that is certainly Chanian (I may have just coined that word) is the danger of this quest. The question am I willing to believe in a God who sends people to hell permeates the writing. The authors don’t take pleasure in convincingly refuting Rob Bell, the author of Love Wins, who went to great lengths to show an eternal hell isn’t biblical and is even less logical. Chan and Preston admit that there are things about hell – and things even about God – that they don’t want to believe, but that doesn’t make them any less true. They end the book, and this is where I believe Chan takes the reins, by challenging Christians to be more concerned with things like unity in the church, helping the poor and keeping people from hell than they are with condemning Rob Bell to it.
Though I disagree with the common stance they take on Romans 9 being about predestination (I think it’s about how we have no right to question the equity with which God shows mercy however he sees fit to bring about his plan for salvation, but that’s another blog), the main idea comes through: I must be okay with God doing what he does. He drives it home with the potter vs. clay analogy. No matter how much the idea of an eternal hell repulses us, we are the creation and have no right to tell God how to be God. It’s as absurd as Christians in Rome suggesting to God that there’s a better way to do things.
This is one of the better books I’ve read in a long time. It is short and to the point, and a great point it is. If I have to accept that Hell is real, I need to pay attention to Jesus’ warnings about it: “And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matt. 5:22). So, Christians who know the truth about hell, it’s time to let Rob Bell off the hook and let God do the judging. It’s better time management to be sure that when Jesus returns he won’t say “I never knew you” because I didn’t help the poor or tell people about him.