Mark’s #37 – Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle

Earlier this year, Rob Bell wrote a book, Love Wins,  where he challenged the historic and orthodox view of God’s eternal judgment of unrepentant rebels in hell.  While this sparked a firestorm of controversy (and sold a lot of books), one of the great benefits to the church is that it has gotten people to talk about a topic Jesus spent more time talking about than He did about heaven.

In one sense, Erasing Hell is a response to Love Wins, but the strength of this book is that it’s aim and tone will most likely serve the church for a much longer time than a mere rebuttal would have.  There is no attacking of Bell in this book, though they do occasionally use Bell’s points as opportunities to engage some of the mythology surrounding the doctrine of hell that has grown up through the centuries – For example, the idea that the word ghenna (hell) derived from the burning trash heap outside the city of Jerusalem… The problem is that this idea does not first surface until about 1200 years after Christ!

In short, this book is both an honest look at what God has revealed about eternal judgment throughout the Bible and a passionate plea to feel the weight and reality of such truths in a way that they change the way we live and engage our world.

Or as the authors put it:

This is not just about doctrine; it’s about destinies… 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 (pg. 72).

While this book is not a rigorous academic and expositional study on the doctrine of hell, I do believe it deals with the doctrine adequately and honestly in a way that will serve as a resources for the masses.  I recommend you buy two copies. One for yourself and one to give away.


7 Comments on Mark’s #37 – Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle

  1. 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 afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Not all Christians agree on what happens after this life, nor do all Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or other believers. Rebirth, resurrection, purgatory, universalism, and oblivion are other possibilities…none of which can be proven.

    Mystics of all faiths have more in common than the followers of their orthodox religions. True mystics realize that eternal life is here and now; it does not begin after mortal death. The age of Earth is said to be 4.5 billion years, of the Universe 13.7 billion, yet few humans live to be 100. This lifetime is a fleeting moment.

    Scriptures are subject to interpretation; people often choose what is most beneficial for them.

  2. Ron, thank you for your comments and concerns.

    Your points bring up some common objections to the historic and orthodox view of issues such as the doctrine of hell, the role of plurality in the world, the nature of truth, and hermeneutics (interpretation of the Scriptrue).

    Briefly, here is my reply to a few of the issues you raise:

    1. “Chan and Sprinkle seem to be saying that 4.8 billion people may be facing eternal hell.” – The mandate from Christ is to go to all the nations and share the good news of the gospel (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Christ also said, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6). Now I’m sure, given your further concerns, you see this as merely an interpretation of Scripture issue, thus these arguments hold little weight. However, for those that do believe the arguments from Scripture, the implication for the potentially billions of lost people, should instill an extreme sense of urgency to getting the news about Christ to the ends of the earth.

    2. “Concepts of afterlife vary…” – You seem to be saying, “since we don’t all agree, there must be a plethora of contradictory truths out there”. Thus you violate the philosophical law of contradiction. While all of the positions that are believed may be false, they can not all be right. For example, Islam says there is one God, whereas Hinduism says there could be millions of gods… these two truth claims are contradictory… they could both be wrong, but they both can’t be right.

    Truth is never determined by popular opinion. If a majority of the world’s population decided to reject the idea of gravity, that belief would do nothing to change the truth about gravity.

    You seem to be making a claim that there is no such thing as absolute truth (if so, that statement alone would be self-defeating). I’m guessing you would never make the same mistake if you were offered a glass of milk and a glass of cyanide to drink… because you know, regardless of what you say you believe about metaphysics, there is a truth ‘out there’ and it is not determined by you or by me.

    3. I’m not sure exactly what your point is about mystics… except maybe that you’re saying as long as people don’t take their personal beliefs and apply those to others then we’re ok… as for your point about life being fleeting – Amen! finally we agree!

    4. Lastly, you bring up the issue of multiple interpretations of Scripture… again, I agree, there are A LOT of different interpretations of Scripture… However, as with any literature, some interpretations are better than others. Our goal in interpretation is to first determine what the author’s original intent was… so if I say, something like, “Well to me, what Jesus is saying in John 14:6 is that his favorite color is the number 7″ – you would rightly say,”that’s absurd!” – Or even if I say something slightly less absurd, like, “what Jesus means is that he is one way up the mountain to god” – you would have to conclude that I am still missing the point of the text…. Therefore, interpretation matters… We need to do the hard work of soundly exegeting each passage given the context of the passage.

    Or to give another example: What you posted here you posted because you were trying to convey specific points. You did so using truth propositions. You had a specific intent behind your post. If I then, misinterpret your post and say something like, “Ron, what your post means to me is that your still upset about the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez.” – You would naturally conclude that I had totally misinterpreted your post – and rightly so!

    So you see, there may be lots of interpretations of Scripture, but not all interpretations are equal… some are better than others (the ones that work hardest at accurately portraying the original meaning of the author).

    Thanks again for your post Ron.

  3. Mark, sorry if you were upset by my comment. I respect your beliefs, but do not share them. Informing non-Christians about Christ is a noble pursuit; condemning them to Hell if they don’t accept Jesus as their savior is not.

    “Truth is one, people call it by many names” …a paraphrase from the Rig Veda. Absolute Truth, the Logos, cannot be written. As one kabbalist said “read the white of the Torah.” Words cannot entirely convey the spiritual teachings of holy texts, nor fully depict mystical consciousness.

    Most sacred scriptures were passed on orally long before they were written. We must hope that transmission continued correctly from generation to generation. Then we must have confidence that the person or persons who first transcribed them did so faithfully. Subsequently, translations were made so that a wider audience could read those scriptures. I have seen multiple translations in English of the same texts which were worded quite differently.

  4. Ron, I was not and am not upset by any of your comments – in fact, I appreciate them as they probably represent the thoughts and ideas of many in our age, and thus this gives a slight opportunity to engage those thoughts.

    You are right, we cannot and should not condemn anyone to Hell… that is not our call to make. However, if God has told us of the absolute peril of a person’s state of spiritual deadness (Ephesians 2:1) and eternal judgment apart from the subsititutionary atonement of His Son, then we are not condemning people, we are warning them.

    Put another way. I live in Japan. When I hear the tsunami warning sirens, I do not think, “who do these people think they are? I don’t want to be inconvenienced by that bothersome noise. I don’t want to have to go to higher ground.” – No, rather, I take the warnings as necessary and helpful. I may choose to ignore the warning, but, as we’ve seen this year, such a choice may have dire consequences.

    Is it unloving to warn people about the reality of hell? Not if there is such a reality. In fact, to do so may be the most loving thing a person can do for another person. Whereas, in the end, your position of ambiguity and nebulous religious notions may end up being the worst and most unloving position for all of eternity.

    As for your second point. Again, your arguments are self-refuting. You are using words to prove your argument that words are insufficient vehicles for truth. Whereas Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Mt. 4:4).” And the Apostle Paul said, “All Scripture is God-breathed…(2 Tim 3:16)” (for the record Paul was speaking specifically about the accepted text of the Old Testament – which Jesus also accepted as God’s word).

    In terms of your third paragraph, this may well be true for most of the ancient religions. With the exception of the book of Job (which probably did first exist as an oral retelling), when it comes to the texts of both the Old and the New testament, have you examined the process and manuscript evidence? You may be interested in an article entitled Archaeology and the Historical Reliability of the New Testament on website:

    At any rate, Ron, thanks again for raising some important issues!

  5. You said Whereas, in the end, your position of ambiguity and nebulous religious notions may end up being the worst and most unloving position for all of eternity.

    There is no ambiguity or nebulous notions in mystical consciousness. There are, however, many disagreement among orthodox religions and their divisions. That is why I said that mystics of all faiths have much in common.

    I am aware of statements about the reliability of the New Testament. Similar contentions have been made about the Hebrew Bible, the Vedas and Upanishads, and the Qur’an. The NT, however, was first written in Greek about 100-367 AD.

  6. Ron, again, just because various people say “similar” things, that has no bearing on the actual truth… If 100 people said they were the President of the United States, that would not mean that all 100 claims are valid.

    As to you point about the NT and it’s date – You’re wrong. Either you’re being deceptive, or you’ve been deceived. With the possible exception of the book of Revelation, all the books of the NT were written sometime between 50AD and 100AD. Clearly you didn’t even try to read the article I referenced.

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