In Erasing Hell, Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle take on the topic of hell and our eternal destiny, with a sense of humility and a deep respect for the inspired Word of God. They will address questions such as "Will everyone be saved?" and "Does God Get What He Wants in the End?" as well as reviewing in depth, everything Jesus said about Hell. Chan and Sprinkle lay all the evidence on the table and present all the facts from Scripture, so that people can decide what to believe for themselves.
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It is my strong preference to read, talk, and think about Heaven, but it is essential that we also know about Hell. I want to have a proper understanding of Hell for a host of reasons. I read about it regularly in the Good Book, people often talk about it unbiblically, I teach about it occasionally, and Jesus has saved His people from it eternally. I want others to know what it means to call Jesus the Savior of the world therefore I need to learn about Hell. Erasing Hell helped with that.
Erasing Hell is the third Francis Chan book I have read. Like thousands of others, I have greatly benefited from reading his books as well as listening to his sermons. Francis Chan can make challenging topics more understandable, and he has a knack for getting people from both ends of the spectrum to listen. Preston Sprinkle is new to me, but I think he's alright since he rolls with Chan.
Erasing Hell did not get my juices flowin' like some of Chan's other books (Crazy Love and Forgotten God), but the book is solid. Erasing Hell came largely in response to Rob Bell's Love Wins, and Chan and Sprinkle respectfully refute some of Bell's unorthodox teachings. Regardless of whether you are a fan of Bell's teachings, Chan and Sprinkle provide a profitable book about a not so easy topic. You may not always agree with what Chan and Sprinkle say, but they speak humbly and in a manner that can appeal to both seasoned and beginning theologians. Below is how the book is organized.
Preface Introduction Chapter 1: Does Everyone Go to Heaven? Chapter 2: Has Hell Changed? Or Have We? Chapter 3: What Jesus Actually Said about Hell Chapter 4: What Jesus' Followers Said about Hell Chapter 5: What Does This Have to Do with me? Chapter 6: "What If God ...?" Chapter 7: Don't Be Overwhelmed Appendix: Frequently Asked Questions Bibliography About the Author About the Coauthor Sample Chapter from Forgotten God
The book Love Wins by Rob Bell provoked this much better book on a neglected doctrine. Bell conforms to the secular culture, which has pretty much abandoned belief in any sort of afterlife, but most definitely does not believe in hell, since all this wonderful self-esteem training in our schools (the ones that can’t teach math, science, and writing) has made people think they are so darn wonderful God jolly well BETTER welcome them to heaven. Some might call that “wishful thinking,” but unfortunately, if hell is real, well, it might be a tad risky (to say the least) to deny it.
The authors write well, and they certainly do a better job at interpreting the Bible than Bell did. Actually, as they point out in the book, “interpretation” isn’t really even a factor in the doctrine of hell, for Jesus most definitely did believe in it, as did his disciples. Liberals like to focus on what Jesus said about God’s love – which is fine, except they choose to ignore his many pronouncements about sin, God’s anger, and the Final Judgment. These aren’t popular teachings today, but the author’s point out that the Christian’s duty is to study the Bible and learn the will of God, not to pick and choose doctrines that make us comfortable. The gospel has NEVER made people comfortable, and wasn’t intended to. Essentially it’s a rescue story, one that some people embrace but that most reject. As Jesus himself said, he came to call sinners, not to call those convinced of their own righteousness.
The authors point out that in Paul’s one sermon to a non-Jewish audience (the people of Athens, Acts 17), he preaches on divine judgment – even though he’s aware that most of the pagans listening to him don’t share the Jews’ belief in hell. Revealing, isn’t it? Paul claimed to be “all things to all men” as he preached the gospel, and in Acts 17 we see him quoting a Greek poet to provide a nice “hook” for his pagan audience – but he still insists on sticking to the core of the gospel: repent, turn to God, for the day of judgment is coming.
I doubt this book would convince anyone who is already a committed universalist – i.e., one who parrots the familiar line “I don’t like to think of God as wrathful and judgmental . . .” That kind of person will simply dismiss the authors’ arguments in this book as “biased” (also “hate-filled” and “mean-spirited,” those useful words that are used so well to shut down debate). However, if you or someone you know is “on the fence” regarding this doctrine, the book may well push you over to the pro-hell side – or, to put it more positively, make you appreciate God’s mercy and forgiveness in providing a means for us to spend eternity in his presence, not separated from him.
As I was reading this, something struck me: the authors clearly believe in hell, yet they do not see God as cruel and malevolent, nor does believing in hell make a person cruel and malevolent. Some of the best Christians I’ve known believed firmly in both heaven and hell. Unbelievers and liberal Christians somehow just can’t hold the two ideas in their minds at the same time – God of love and mercy, God of judgment. But there’s no getting around the New Testament: Jesus and the apostles had no trouble seeing the same God as both just and merciful.
My Pastor recommended this book to me. He had not preached specifically on hell at all. After reading this book he realized how important it is to tell people, not only about the grace and mercy of God, but also about the judgement that awaits those who do not accept Christ. Erasing Hell provides Old and New Testament references and descriptions of Hell in a very interesting and comprehensive format. I believe all believers at any stage of their walk with Christ need to read this book. It will definitely stir you to be even more bold in your witness to see the lost come to salvation.
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Review 4 for Erasing Hell - eBook
Date:May 18, 2012
It's a more academic read, but very thorough and very reader-friendly. Well-organized, and very "true to the text."
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Review 5 for Erasing Hell - eBook
Date:May 11, 2012
As a Pastor, I was very pleased to see that this subject was handled in depth and with great respect both academically and with the heart. It was a great although sober read and useful to every person. Very highly recommended .
Well researched view of what the Bible really says
Date:June 20, 2012
Erasing Hell is a solid, well grounded view of what hell is like and who will qualify to be there. It's a wake-up call for everyone to genuinely review how real your relationship and obedience to the Holy Spirit is going. Clearly, being a good person and going to church does not secure salvation. Very thought provoking.
"Erasing Hell" is a response to Rob Bell's "Love Wins." Chan and Sprinkle delve into the Bible to see what God said about Heaven and Hell. Using Scripture as their main source, they also discuss what ancient Jewish and Christian writers had to say about Hell, as well as more contemporary Christian writers. Their goal is to present the truth, even if it may be hard to take.
Scripturally sound, this book presents Hell as the Bible does. While Biblical authors do not give detailed descriptions of Hell, we are given impressions of what Hell will be like and who will go there. The question is: will you accept it? Francis Chan freely admits that he asked Preston Sprinkle to help him write this book because of the seriousness of the topic and because of Sprinkle's theological background (PhD in New Testament) and ability (Sprinkle did most of the research). The effort is evident as sources are cited in abundance. This book is the perfect counter to "Love Wins" and Universalism as a whole.
Chan includes a prayer that I think we all should pray as we are likely all guilty of it in some degree:
"Please forgive me, Lord, for wanting to erase all the things in Scripture that don't sit well with me. Forgive me for trying to hide some of Your actions to make You more palatable to the world. Forgive me for trying to make You fit my standards of justice and goodness and love. You are God; You are good; I don't always understand You, but I love You. Thank You for who You are."
This is by no means an extensive work, but I recommend it to anyone who has any doubts about the existence of Hell in the afterlife.
There have been a number of evangelical responses to Rob Bell's "God Wins," in which that author raises doubts about the existence of a literal hell. Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle are to be commended for their attempt to challenge Bell's assumptions in this book on the basis of biblical criteria. Although the authors address most of the main issues associated with an evangelical understanding of the destiny of the wicked, they do so with compassion and offer an appeal to the reader to make certain (through the work of Jesus Christ) that they will escape its horrors. Chan has demonstrated the ability to click with younger audiences, and his appeal is more with those who are seeking to know God and understand biblical truth. In that sense, this book is recommended. At the same time, his books lack the depth that more seasoned followers of Christ are looking for. For those searching for a more detailed study of the subject of hell, as well as a solid response to Rob Bell, there are better resources available. While Chan and Sprinkle strongly believe in a literal hell, they stop short in wholly endorsing the literal biblical descriptions of it or of it existing as a place of unending punishment. These aspects are not denied, but the authors leave open the door for metaphorical interpretations, thus softening the impact of the very point they hope to make.
Written in a 'way' I can understand. I am reading this so I have better answers for folks when they have questions about the validity of Hell. I've found some surprising differences from some of the things I was brought up to believe. I'm only part way through it but has been an excellent study for me.
I found "Erasing Hell" by Francis Chan an excellent book. Mr. Chan does a great job of placing focus on Biblical truth and helping the reader find other resources that give reason to his views and what he has discovered; whether through scripture or other authors views concerning hell. In reading "Erasing Hell," the reader is provided with a wealth of thought provoking information that the reader can use to decide for him/her self concerning God's truth that many may spend eternity in hell. And if the reader even digs deeper in understand he or she can also find God's truth in His Eternal Love.
In a word, I found this book rather disappointing. The title is deceptive as this book seems to heighten awareness on the topic as opposed to erasing it. I found this to be a rather shallow work with much of the author's bias present in the pages despite his insistence that he left personal bias out. The author had the good sense to quote such masters as Thomas Talbot but only in so much as it agreed with his own personal bias but he fell short of exploring Talbot's theological insights where they did not agree with his own. For instance, the author's perspective of eternal fire and eternal punishment are that they literally last forever whereas Talbot's view is that "eternal" is not a statement of time but of ownership. The author failed to explore these possibilities which is unfortunate. I found that the author seemed to have a bad habit of quoting portions of other author's statements for the purpose of reinforcing his own beliefs while, at the same time, making statements to try to discredit other aspects of those very same authors' beliefs, very unprofessional. There are far more authorative works on this subject. Two such works would be Bradley Jersak's "Her Gates Will Never Be Shut" and Thomas Talbot's "The Inescapable Love of God."
Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up was released last year amidst the rush of books sent to print after Rob Bell's, Love Wins. Most of the evangelical world responded in blogs, papers, books, and video critiques of what Rob Bell was churning out in his latest authorial offering. Laughably, most of this critique came long before the book was released, and the overwhelming response was to a video promotion pre-released by the publisher. It was effective in creating curiosity and bordered sheer marketing genius. Although the book only served a specific niche in Christian subculture, I am sure it helped to sell the book well. Without access to actual publishing data, Amazon records the sale of Love Wins at #16 in "Christian Books and Bibles" and #677 overall. I'd say that is pretty good for mid-western pastor from Michigan.
This book attracted my attention because I considered it a feasible offering amidst all the clamor during all the Love Wins hubbub. I also anticipated a systematic and reasonable approach to a difficult doctrine, hell. I have never been satisfied with the medieval caricatures of a horned, goatee and mustache sporting red guy with a pitchfork. Nor have I ever been quite comfortable with accepting the idea that we all just fade to black and become annihilated. The subtitle of this book clearly states, "what God said about eternity, and the things we made up." So, as I judged this book by its cover, I expected it to live up to its subtitle.
The things referenced in this book regarding what God said are largely relegated to the teachings of Christ in the New Testament (NT) where reference to Gehenna, Hades, or burning, weeping, and gnashing occur. References to outer darkness also find their way into the list and provide a accentuate the survey of what the NT writers had to say concerning eternal "punishment".
This book, written in conjunction with NT PhD Preston Sprinkle, uses Francis Chan's authorial voice while leaning on Sprinkle's expertise for backup. The candor and tone of this book is indeed in the voice of Chan, and reads smoothly. The style is engaging and it is simple to read very quickly. I was thoroughly impressed with pace of this book. On the other hand, being eager to get a "Jesus" perspective on the teaching of hell, I was also zealous in digging into its pages. Although this book weighs in at 208 pages, approximately one-third of those are compromised of a Q & A section, a sample chapter of Chan's Forgotten God, and a notes section for each the references used in each chapter.
I was not impressed with what really lies beneath the guise of this book. Although it is well written, engaging, and easy to read, this book really falls into the pile of books released responding to Rob Bell's treatise on universalism, Love Wins. Without queuing up the references in this book to Rob Bell or the teachings from his book or ministry, I will tell you that I was able to understand the gist of Bell's book without ever picking it up. Some reviewers have noted that it just may impact the relevance of a book like this in the future when Love Wins falls off the evangelical radar. Addressing a topic like hell, what God said about it, and how we should approach it is a timeless pursuit for all those who are students of the Bible. Erasing Hell could have done much better in these efforts, but overall, it serves well as a primer on the Bible's teaching on hell, and provides some historical nuggets of information along the way.
The back cover of this book sums up what you will find in this book pretty well,
This is not a book about who is saying what. It's a book about what God says. It's not a book about impersonal theological issues. It's a book about people God loves. It's not a book about arguments, doctrine, or being right. It's a book about the character of God.
If you are deeply interested in knowing what God said about eternity, I would encourage you study the scriptures, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your understandings, and wait for the truth to become known. Until then, follow the advice Chan and Sprinkle offer, pause and meditate on the scriptures addressing eternity, ultimately, they are the ones God wanted you to hear.
I'm only half way through and I really like how Francis Chan approaches what the Bible says about hell as well as the references he makes with regards to the time the Bible was written. It's important for us 21st century people to understand how words were used back then. Francis looks at some tough questions, he makes it easy to understand and I like his honesty. Honesty will get me every time.
Chan would love to erase hell out of the Bible, especially after watching his grandmother die, convinced she would be in torment for eternity. He struggled with it. He decided to write a book about hell. It scared him because so much was at stake. “Too many people were at stake.” (15) He prayed and fasted to prevent his own desires from twisting Scripture to gratify his own personal preferences. Chan says his book is much more than about hell. “Its a book about embracing a God who isn't always easy to understand, and whose ways are far beyond us; a God whose thoughts are much higher than our thoughts; a God who, as the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things...has the right to do WHATEVER He pleases.” (17) Since His thoughts are infinitely higher than ours, “Expect, then, that Scripture will say things that don't agree with your natural way of thinking.” (17) With that introduction, Chan moves on to distinguish what we want to believe and what we could believe, given biblical evidence. He looks at universalism as well as what the “will of God” means. He investigates Jewish literature to get a sense of the concept of hell around the time of Jesus (which Jesus and N.T. writers did not “correct”). I was surprised that, “there's no evidence from the time of Jesus that the Hinnom Valley (gehenna literally means “Valley of Hinnom”) was the town dump.” There is no “archaeological evidence that this valley was ever a dump.” (59) The first recorded suggestion is from a rabbi in the thirteenth century, and then only as an analogy. Chan shows that Old Testament passages reveal that the Israelites engaged in indolatrous worship there, sacrificing children to Canaanite gods. It became a fitting analogy for God's place of judgment. Jesus lived and taught in the era of this understanding of gehenna and “His views stand in line with the dominant first-century Jewish view of hell.” (74) Chan thoughtfully goes through Jesus' comments on hell. “Jesus chose strong and terrifying language when he spoke of hell. I believe He chose to speak this way because He loves us ans wanted to warn us.” (86) Chan then reviews what the New Testament writers said about hell. While Paul never used the term he did address the fate of the wicked, writing of eternal wrath, indicating “God will severely punish those who don't bow the knee to King Jesus.” (103). John's vision of wrath in Revelation is terrifying and is “forever and ever.” Chan reminds his readers that the threat of hell is important to Christians too. Jesus threatened hell to those who curse their brother (Matt. 5:22), to those who thought they'd end up in paradise but, in fact, didn't know Jesus (Matt. 7:22-23). James writes about the use of the tongue and Revelation speaks to being lukewarm. Chan works through Rom. 9:22-23, “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” to show His mercy and glory. He reminds us that our perspective is not God's. Out thinking is inferior to His. “Everything about Him and all He does is perfect.” (133) It may be impossible for us to figure out God but we must not submit Him to our reasoning. God is not embarrassed by His actions. “It's time to stop apologizing for Him and start apologizing to Him.” (138) “...[W]e need to stop explaining away hell and start proclaiming His solution to it.” (146) He urges his readers to make sure they are reconciled to God and are not in danger of hell.
Chan is hard hitting but he is humble. This prayer will give you an idea of his heart: “Please forgive me, Lord, for wanting to erase all the things in Scripture that don't sit well with me. Forgive me for trying to hide some of your actions to make you more palatable to the world. Forgive me for trying to make You fit my standards of justice and goodness and love. You are God; You are good; I don't always understand You, but I love You. Thank You for who You are.” (139)
Chan writes, “As I have said all along, I don't feel like believing in hell. And yet I do. ...I joyfully submit to a God whose ways are much, much higher than mine.” (141)
Chan's book is slim, a mere 150 pages (less when you subtract the pages of footnotes). Add to that an appendix of FAQs and a bibliography. Certainly you have the time to read such an important book.
Right away, we need to address the fact that this book was written as a response to Rob Bell's book "Love Wins." In fact, without Rob's book, this book does not have much to contribute. Typically an author is inspired to write a book about something that they are passionate about, something that they feel needs to be said. And arguably, Francis Chan is passionate about the scriptures and about orthodoxy, and about doctrine, but because the book was written as a "response" it feels like "the other half of the argument" as you read it.
When Love Wins came out, I did read a lot of the criticism that followed, I felt it was wise to see what 'the other side' was saying; and I will say that Chan's book is the most thorough, most considerate of the responses I have read. I do recommend that those who have read Love Wins go back and read this volume.
Second, this book is not a typical Francis Chan book. Those of you who loved Chan's earlier works should notice that this book is co-authored by Preston Sprinkle who I am sure did a lot of the leg work and study. When you read the book, it certainly has Chan's "voice" and is peppered with his stories and passion, but this book does not have the same caliber feel as his earlier two works.
Third, like most of Bell's critics, Chan fails to understand why Love Wins was written and who Bell's audience is. Chan's book is concerned with letting the reader know that Hell is a real place and that Jesus preached Hell as a real and literal place and that his audience would have first and foremost heard Christ's Hell as a real and literal place - and I don't think Bell would disagree. Chan even admits (unlike most critics) that Bell actually admits to Hell being a real place in Love Wins, but he admits it in the end notes of his book and not within the main text. (oh, that's another thing I didn't like - I hate books with end notes).
Fourth, Chan argues against universalism - another "rookie" mistake of Rob's critics. A closer reading of Love Wins reveals that Rob does not argue for a "sweeping arm" that eventually brings everyone into Heaven. Rob makes it perfectly clear in his book that many people will "choose hell" and never enter glory.
I did appreciate Erasing Hell and felt it was a great companion volume to Love Wins, but if I were grading this, I would hand it back to Chan and ask for a rewrite. Chan failed to truly address the main thesis of Love Wins and was only concerned with arguing that Hell existed - and that not everyone will go to Heaven. The bottom line is, years from now "Love Wins" will still be in print and be relevant because it has something to offer as a stand alone work - and "Erasing Hell" will be erased....
I had the impression of an eclectic selection of time-worn arguments hastily put together to catch a publishing market- opportunity. It didn't tell me anything new and carefully avoided addressing the recommended source of the work of N T Wright.
Erasing Hell speaks well to the discussion on whether everyone eventually goes to heaven. The authors do an excellent job of comparing popular thought to what scripture has to say about the existence of hell, and who goes there.