Book Review: Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

There has been a lot of buzz on the topic of Hell ever since Rob Bell came out the book “Love Wins”. Many (including myself) were concerned with some of his writings on the topic. While he brought up several good points about life, it ended up being what I call a “rubber band” book. A “rubber band” book tries to make a needed point but goes so far that it ends up snapping back on them. Bell finds it important to remind the church to worry more about hell on earth. However, it is lost in his careless yet poetic way of talking about the true hell to come.

As Chan puts it “But just because some have swung the pendulum so far in the direction of wrath and judgment, let’s not swing it back too far the other direction and do away with what the Scripture emphasizes. God is compassionate and just, loving and holy, wrathful and forgiving. We can’t sideline His more difficult attributes to make room for the palatable ones.” page 101

(Hence the balance of Truth and Love. You can’t have one and not the other…..)

Then enter several response sermons, talks, and books. This could fall under that heading but at the same time, it addresses more than Rob Bell’s teachings. Hell has been around a lot longer than this debate and there is much to be learned on the topic that impacts real souls.

The subtitle to this book is “What God said about eternity and the things we made up” and that pretty much nails it. Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle do a great job stripping away their own preconceived notions and start a study from scratch on what is Biblical and what is traditional.

First up is the question, does everyone go to Heaven? The most disturbing chapter in Rob Bell’s book to me is the one entitled “Does God get what God want?”. It is clearly not centered in anything Biblical and flirts with a Universalism view point. Chan however goes through a Biblical study of who does and does not go to Heaven. I think a couple of his views might surprise people (like his view on the “salvation prayer”), it is Biblicaly based and in some areas, challenging in all the right ways.

From there, they go through the beliefs on hell within the Jewish community during Jesus’ age to give us context, Jesus’ teaching on Hell, and Jesus’ followers teachings with Peter, Paul, and Jude. Going through Scripture after Scripture, Chan really digs into the crux of the matter. In a easy to follow pattern, he lets you in on his study as he travels through the Word. He lays out the raw material while sharing what he was challenged by and is still being shaped by.

To close the book, there are three chapters dealing with what this information means to us. He addressees these thoughts to both those who do not know the Lord and then also to those who do and are aware others are outside of His grace. It was not as power house as I wish it was but it still covers the thoughts.

Going to my thoughts… for those who do not know the Lord and wish to have a real relationship with Him now…. Here’s a thought….

“…..if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. ” Romans 10:9-10

For those who do know the Lord and want avoid this whole topic due to it being a “hot button topic”… As Chan makes clear in his book, there is not just a theological topic we are dabbling with…

“It forces me back to a sobering reality: This is not just about doctrine; it’s about destinies. And if you’re reading this book and wrestling with what the Bible says about hell, you cannot let this be a mere academic exercise. You must let Jesus’ very real teaching on hell sober you up. You must let Jesus’ words reconfigure the way you live, the way you talk, and the way you see the world and the people around you.” page 72

Overall, this is the best layman book on hell that I have come across. If you are wanting a Biblical view point on hell that speaks in every day language, this is it. There are some small side points Chan makes that he admits he is still discerning through that I don’t embrace (nor reject at this point… ones that are making me think) but the Biblical study part of this book is solid and stripped of personal agenda. I highly recommend. Get yours at your local Christian bookstore and support their ministry even if it cost an extra buck or two. Hope Crossing Bookstore at 375-4673.

About Tom Hypes

Tom Hypes is an ordained Pastor who has served in churches and the camping ministry for over 25 years. He currently leads at The Shepherd's Fellowship and volunteers at Leapin' Outreach (clothing ministry), Marion County Citizen Circle (helping clients with transitions from prison to community), Kirkpatrick Food Pantry, and ministers in the local nursing homes. He has also contributed to Group Magazine, CBA Marketplace, and Youth Worker Magazine. He serves in his ministry in the partnership with his family; wife Jenni, son Ryan, and daughter Emily.