So I’m reading Francis Chan’s new book, Erasing Hell. As I go along I’m not going to fully engage it, or even “review” it in the usual way that I like to do (by rambling on about it). Rather, after each chapter I’m just going to jot down some of my “impressions” and strongly encourage you to pick up a copy when it becomes available.
A few thoughts in no particular order
- Erasing Hell is not really about Love Wins. Well, it is, but it’s not. (Okay, it is.) Clearly Bell’s book is the occasion that called for this one, but unlike Wittmer’s recent response to Love Wins (reviewed here), Chan (and Sprinkle, the co-author) do not deal with Love Wins exclusively. In fact, they quote other authors and books just about as much as they quote Love Wins, and often when they quote Love Wins, they do so without saying so (you have to follow the footnotes).
- I was surprised at how quickly this book jumped into the heart of the controversy. Chapter One: Does Everyone Go To Heaven? It is a the chapter on universalism with all the regular fixings: what is universalism? Who have advocated it? What are it’s varieties? And so on. He cites many of the most oft quoted passages in favour of Universalism, but unfortunately, by answering a few of them he assumes that the rest have been answered (thus he doesn’t deal with passages like Col. 1:19-20, directly).
- As one gather’s from the promo video, Chan gives the impression that he has properly prayed and studied this subject in order to come to truth (naturally offending those who have also prayed and studied this subject and have been persuaded to the contrary). The video suggests that Chan just wants what the bible teaches, but it seems that he brings some of his interpretive assumptions of the biblical text (don’t we all) which a critic might say goes against his claim to just want to know what the bible says. For example, after quote Revelation 22:14-15 he comments: “This passage says that there will be an ongoing separation between believers and non-believers.” But the passage does not speak of “ongoing” separation, though perhaps it is implied. (Let me be clear as a matter of full disclosure that I agree with Chan’s view on the nature of hell, I just do not think it’s helpful to take the spiritual high road as if people who disagree with him have not prayed enough or that they are the only ones who “read into” the text).
- It’s been asked recently if Chan is a Calvinist. I kept looking for it and would suggest that either he is, or Sprinkle is. While it doesn’t come out explicitly, Calvinist Theology seems to be lurking in the shadows of many words and phrases and how they are employed. But at this point I can’t be sure.
- Two things I liked right away: Chan is a writer for the people, and he is well known. The theology stuff seems to come mostly from Sprinkle. When things seem to be getting “deep” you can always expect a “Chanian” (I just made that up) illustration to help make the point. The second thing I like is that Chan seems to have a genuine concern for the real-life implications of this discussion, and always brings the reader back to that.
Anyways, those are my impressions after reading chapter one of Erasing Hell. When it comes out I hope you’ll pick it up because I’ve hardly done it justice here.