In recent years, certain topics have become verboten in Christian circles in order to be “seeker friendly” and avoid speaking Christianese (i.e. using traditional Christian terms or phrases to communicate meaning) and one of the biggest off-limit topics is, “Hell.” Indeed, Author and Pastor Rob Bell released his book, Love Wins which calls into question the existence of Hell. If Bell doesn’t open the door to Universalism, he at least goes to the front step.
Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell is in part a response to Bell’s question as well as other critiques of existence of Hell. Preston Sprinkle co-wrote the book with Chan, lending a scholarly presence to the work. Chan and Sprinkle take on some of the arguments popularly used against Hell (such as the Sheol was a garbage dump theory) as well as examining the words of Jesus both in scripture as well as in the context of his time.
If all Chan had done in the book was to make the case for Hell, the book would be nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed, it would probably be superflous. However Erasing Hell stands out for two reasons.
First, is the heart of Frances Chan. Many books and sermons on contentious scriptural issues have all the love and compassion of an online political screed. Chan writes of hell and those going there in a heartbroken compassionate way, as he wrestles with the question of Hell and its implications.
Second and perhaps more importantly, Chan turns his attention to a much larger question than Hell, Why do American Christians feel the need to censor God? Chan is painfully honest as he admits that for years he tried to “cover for God” by avoiding unpleasant parts of scripture. Chan calls Christians to a deeper understanding and respect for God and who He is. Chan writes:
Our God is not a person who is slightly more intelligent: His thoughts are infinitely higher than ours. Knowing that the gap is so large, shouldn’t we put our energy towards submitting rather than over analyzing?
The challenge to trust God and let Him be who He who He is provides the core message of Erasing Hell and it’s one that’s much needed today.