Why don’t you just go to H – E – Double Hockey Sticks?

Erasing Hell at Amazon.ComErasing 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.

As Christ Submits to the Church by Alan G. Padgett, a review

Hot button topics. I love them. One of my favorites concerns  leadership and authority in the contemporary Church.

As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission, by Alan G. Padgett, Baker Academic, 2011, 151 pages. Interest Group: Religion/Christian Church/Theology

As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission by Alan G. Padgett presses that button. Actually, he presses that button to the tune of each page in this release from Baker Academic.

The author engages in an excellent cumulative style that makes the academic data accessible for most readers. Far from an easy read, the information is systematically is made digestible  with a summary and review style at the end of each chapter. This approach to the data disseminates and repeats the information previously read. The author accomplishes his task of proving his thesis very effectively and I would enjoy reading more of his works for the fun of it.

This book was paced efficiently and remained concise while breaching a topic that is broad and expansive in arena of Christian conversation. Far from a tome owed to the topic of leadership, authority, and mutual submission, this concise volume contains satisfactory references in the footnotes and a bibliography to keep any reader busy for an entire year. The measure of the author’s resolve concerning this topic is summarized in some his closing statements at the end of this book:

“Against too many church leaders in the evangelical movement, we must resist reductionist prooftexting in our efforts to understand the full will of God. Only the whole of Scripture, read as a whole, is a firm foundation for the reform of the church and the life of daily discipleship.”

As the author embarks on a journey to survey the evangelical approach to gender roles, male dominion, mission and submission, headship, and justice for today, he keeps several topics in the common denominator. Christ’s earthly ministry, relationship with mankind, and his association with the disciples. Through these areas of concern the author illustrates the posture of submission Christ intended for his Church. Alan Padgett begs the question in each chapter by demonstrating the power of Christ’s ministry and posture toward others as a tool of understanding true submission. In the end, the books title proves its worth and earns its placement on the front cover.

I found this book helpful for my own personal study. Endeavoring to discover the required posture of submission, whether it be in my relationship with my wife or members of the Church, I am eager to replicate Christ’s behaviors and desires for mutual submission to one another. The engaging style, diligent academic study, and careful attention to detail regarding the Lord’s life and ministry in this book will provide an effective and refreshing new approach to an age-old debate. I did not agree with all points made with the author, even when he was making them well. I did appreciate this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in resolving their own view concerning submission in today’s Church.