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Is Hell For Real?

August 29, 2011

I grew up in Southern California, and that afforded me access to some pretty cool stuff:  the ocean, Disneyland, and Francis Chan.  In fact, before he was “Francis Chan,” he was just our cool high school winter camp speaker.  One February he spoke to about 100 of us in the San Bernadino mountains, imploring us to live radical lives, lives that showed off the unmistakable tattoo of Jesus Christ.  Now, when Francis Chan tells you to accept Christ, you do it, and so began my life as a disciple of Jesus.

Fast-forward 10 years.  He is now THE Francis Chan.  In recent months popular conversation has shifted toward the topic of hell.  Does it exist?  Can we, as Christians, do anything to change the world if we claim God is going to send billions of people there?  Is the Bible even clear on what “hell” actually is?

Chan weighs in with his new book Erasing Hell.  He, along with co-author Preston Sprinkle, takes us on a journey through Scripture in an effort to see what the authors say on the topic.  Not a bad place to start, if you ask me.  While not a direct critique of Rob Bell’s Love Wins, Chan isn’t shy about addressing blatant mistakes Bell made, and works toward developing a right belief in the existence of hell – a literal place, referred to by real authors, in the real Bible.   His pastoral heart is obvious throughout as he seeks to clarify his purpose in writing the book.  He writes, “… don’t forget that the doctrine you are studying may be the destiny of many people.  Hell should not be studied without tearful prayer…. Because we can’t be wrong on this one.”  His honesty virtually drips from the pages as he confesses he doesn’t actually want to believe in hell.  However, we do not have the luxury of choosing what God does.  He is not ours to shape, and we must operate within the universe the Father created, one that includes hell, and, yes, the people who go there.

The subject is weighty and encourages – perhaps “demands” is more appropriate – a renewed sense of urgency to share the love of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.  And Chan, I’m certain, is leading the charge.

Check out an explanation straight from Chan himself below:

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2011 4:06 pm

    I won’t comment on the book as I have not read it, but I will comment on the topic. There is a great amount of religious energy expended on this topic and people commonly get their blood pumping over the different sides. An attitude of ‘us’ vs ‘them’ begins to set in. Being in the minority viewpoint, it is rather interesting to see how those holding the majority view behave. I have seen this response before in the form of an ugly version of fundamentalism. Original (i.e. historical fundamentalism) was a deeply positive response to sloppy theology. Alas, modern fundamentalism engages in many of the same errors they originally sought to combat.

    Hanging onto proof-texts. Ignoring context. Treating the OT as if it were not written by the same Jesus we worship today. Treating every occurrence of the word “you” as if it must refer to ourselves. Refusing to admit that there are verses that contradict the chosen doctrine.

    There is much room for thoughtful civil discourse by people who have fully researched it, and have looked at both sides with open eyes. The reason there is much room for this matter of discourse, is because the room reserved for myopic monologues is crammed full.

    For those interested in a fairly balanced well researched look at both sides (full disclosure: which happens to conclude that my viewpoint is right) read the book The Fire The Consumes by Edward Fudge.

  2. thebassoflife permalink*
    August 29, 2011 4:15 pm

    Thanks for commenting, Lyle! I’d definitely recommend the book, as Chan addresses that very topic (and I think he might even mention Fudge’s work). He concludes that there is room for interpretation on the issue of whether or not hell involves the ultimate destruction of those held within. He sticks to his main premise that hell is a real place that will one day contain real people, in an effort to establish the urgency of our own calling here, right now – to tell people about Christ!

  3. August 29, 2011 9:45 pm

    I’ve read Love Wins and Erasing Hell and I like both Bell and Chan. Erasing Hell was brutal. It felt like Chan didn’t really believe what he was writing and like he was still working through the doctrine. I felt like he should have waited to write the book as his explanations for many things was really weak. The Scriptures do not teach eternal punishment. There is a real punishment from a real God but it is not eternal damnation as many Christians like to believe. The Good News is better than that.

    • thebassoflife permalink*
      August 30, 2011 9:07 am

      Hi Jackson,

      Thanks for your comment! I’d love to hear more about which parts of Chan’s argument you felt were weak. Yes, it was a relatively short book, and certainly wasn’t a grand academic work, but that was his intention. Sometimes books need to be written on a level the average church attender 1) can understand, and 2) has the time to read. So, perhaps at times his argument wasn’t vetted out as much I would have liked it to be, but the argument itself seems pretty sound.

      • August 30, 2011 3:29 pm

        One example was when he said all doesn’t mean all. Okay, care to explain why all doesn’t mean all when it refers to all people being saved? That was one example that stuck out to me without having the book around.

      • thebassoflife permalink*
        August 30, 2011 3:32 pm

        Hmmm… don’t recall that one. I’d love to see a page reference so I can take a look at it. I certainly want to be open to correction, but I’m failing to see how that argument is even relevant…

  4. Joel Heebink permalink
    August 30, 2011 8:23 pm

    Jackson’s comment on “all doesn’t mean all.” There are lots of instances where God speaks of “all” in the Bible. But they don’t mean to say that all will be saved. Here are some examples…

    1 Tim 4:10 – (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.
    1 Tim 2:6 – who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.

    Paul does not mean to say that this automatically saves all regardless of belief. He means that Jesus is the Savior of all in that he offers salvation to all and saves all that believe. There is no salvation by any other means and it is available to all. But the transaction of a gift is not complete without being accepted and recieved. The gift is for all but not all recieve it.

    2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

    God does want all to be saved. That doesn’t assure that all will be saved. This gets into the discussion about human free will and accepting God’s grace and love.

    Luke 3:6 – And all mankind will see God’s salvation.
    Isaiah 40:5 – And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
    Psalm 98:2 – The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.

    These indicate that all will know and see God’s salvation at work, it does not see that they will partake of it. Imagine seeing multitudes saved by God’s grace and being left out of the feast. That would feel pretty awful, but it is what is suggested here.

    So where does it say expicitly that all will be saved?

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