Francis Chan’s new book, Erasing Hell, which will be on the shelves from July 5 countering Rob Bell’s recent work, Love Wins, is receiving both praises and suggestions from other Christian authors and reviewers.
Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We Made Up by Francis Chan, the founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif., and New Testament professor and writer Preston Sprinkle is “a valuable and accessible contribution, if not correction, to the conversation about biblical teaching on eternal destinies,” Steven Koster, director of ReFrame Media, said in his book review on the Think Christian blog Thursday.
Chan’s presentation and Sprinkle’s research form a “dynamic combination,” remarked Randy Alcorn, who wrote the foreword for Mark Galli’s recent book God Wins, which was also a critique of Rob Bell’s book.
Chan has explored hell from a “nearly opposite approach” from that of Bell, remarked Koster, who founded and still moderates a world-wide user community of professional film and video editors. Bell acknowledges hell’s existence on earth but finds it difficult to believe that it is forever and that God can punish non-Christians for all eternity. Chan, on the other hand, says while most people wouldn’t want to believe in the reality of hell, the Bible clearly speaks about it.
Neither of the two emphases is healthy, cautioned Koster. “…Where Bell sees hell only now at the expense of later, Chan emphasizes the later at the expense of now,” he noted, adding that the pain and suffering of broken people damaging themselves and their world in crime, genocide, and disease somehow implied that “these realities are the totality of hell, rather than being amplified in the fullness of hell after death.”
Koster said he wished Chan had explored more of the passages on eternal life “beyond just the ones with warnings of hell.” “Of course our sin is great and hell is deserved – our deep need for a Savior stands in the starkest contrast to Christ’s sacrifice and grace. But where Chan mentions only warnings of punishment, the Bible also offers security.”
However, Koster highly recommended Chan’s book. “In the midst of tears and reminders that we are not God, Chan holds strongly to the promises of a loving Lord, echoing Abraham in Genesis 18: ‘Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?’”
“You can almost feel him (Chan) trembling over the issues at stake. He recognizes this debate is about God, His nature and His authority. I sensed both humility and prophetic power in this book,” agreed Alcorn, director of the Eternal Perspective Ministries, reviewing Chan’s book on his blog Wednesday.
In his book, Chan honestly admits that when it comes to Matthew 25:46 – “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” – “Everything in me wants to interpret it differently, to make it say something that fits my own view of justice and morality,” Alcorn quoted from the book.
Alcorn, author of Safely Home, supports Chan’s approach to the issue of hell. He said too many Christians had chosen to believe “whatever makes them feel good,” ignoring, denying, or reinterpreting Scripture to suit culture’s current definition of love and tolerance. “Hence, culture and the reader of Scripture become the authority, rather than Scripture itself. Faith becomes merely a collection of fleeting opinions, always subject to revision.”
While Chan has refuted Bell’s Universalist theory, which envisions God saving everyone eventually, he said Love Wins encouraged him to go back to the Bible and re-examine his own views on hell. And that showed him some new revelations.
In an interview with Relevant Magazine, Chan said he was surprised to discover that the passages on hell were written to believers. “Usually we only talk about hell in this evangelistic, ‘I’m going to preach the gospel’ and ‘Hell, fire and brimstone’ to these unbelievers, but these passages really were written to those who called themselves the church. It’s a very sobering thought, and a very interesting warning,” he was quoted as saying.