Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up, by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle, David C. Cook , 2011, 208 pages. Interest Group: Religion/Christian Life/General
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 received this book from David C. Cook for the purpose of review. No books were harmed in the reviewing of this book.