Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Thames River, London

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Erasing Hell" by Frances Chan

In "Erasing Hell", Chan says over and over again, "We can't afford to get this wrong." He's talking about what we believe and teach about Hell. He makes a compelling case for discarding everything we've been taught about Hell and reforming our conception of it based on a careful analysis of what the full body of Scripture says about it.


What seems to have become popular today is to formulate our idea of Hell (and whether or not it even exists) using scraps of Bible verses taken out of context and without regard to harmonizing those tidbits with the rest of the Bible. Add to that a strong inclination to reason the ways of God out according to our human feelings, wisdom and logic, and you encounter a potential error of epic proportions as mankind strives to redefine God, the gospel and the doctrine of Hell in his own terms. Chan, in a brief 164 pages, disarms that notion and presents a fully substantiated description of Hell and why it is important for us, as believers, to get it right.

His argument is this; If it is a place of eternal, conscious torment, then we are making a big mistake in trying to make it sound more pleasant than what it is, something the church has been fond of doing in recent years. If it does not exist, then we have created untold agony for those who have lost unsaved loved ones.

Chan manages, in 6 short chapters, to debunk those that question the existence of Hell or its severity, among them Rob Bell and his recent diatribe against Hell, "Love Wins". He also wisely admits that we don't have all the answers and that Bell makes a few good points albeit at the expense of an extreme and perhaps damaging lack of clarity on Bell's part.

I was challenged and moved by Chan's overall approach. He began his study with a desire to conform his thinking to the Scriptures rather than try to conform the Scriptures to his thinking. His prayer is one we should all be praying as we study the Scriptures on any issue,

"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."

3 comments:

  1. Francis Chan is one of the soundest thinkers around. Too bad he decided to leave the pastorate. His humility and giftedness were assets to his congregation and to the Church. "Crazy Love" is an excellent book, as his book on the Holy Spirit. I have not read his book on Hell, but your paraphrase of him sounds distressingly a bit like the "reformed company line" on Robb Bell, rather than any real engagement with the issues Bell raises. I suppose I will have to pony up the coins to invest in his book in order to form a more complete assessment of Chan's engagement with Bell. I would be sad if he simply recited the common screed against "the heretic from Grand Rapids".

    ReplyDelete
  2. Which Afterlife?

    In 2011 world population will reach 7 billion (vs. 3 billion in 1960). There are now approximately 2.2 billion Christians. Chan and Sprinkle seem to be saying that 4.8 billion people may be facing eternal hell.

    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from "the greatest achievement in life," my ebook on comparative mysticism:

    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

    (59) True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @ Solus, thanks for weighing in. I found your comments intriguing and welcome. On one hand you acknowledge Chan and his contributions. On the other, you sound like you want to dismiss him based on his theological affiliations. Does it make a difference what "camp" he's in if his exegesis is solid and his criticisms are valid?

    Much was said, prior to the release of "Love Wins", about judging the book before it was released. Isn't this approach (I'm not going to acknowledge Chan if he's going to criticize Bell) much the same thing?

    I believe we can debate all day long about the virtues (or lack thereof) of anyone's ideas. Until we begin to compare them to the Scriptures, in an objective way, all we're doing is debating for the sake of debate. There's no resolution possible without some objective criteria. This, IMO, is what Chan brings to the table, an unbiased analysis based on what the Bible tells us an nothing more.

    ReplyDelete