Erasing Hell Review & Giveaway

Photos by Daley Hake Photography

Erasing Hell is a short book written by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle that not only seeks to determine if hell actually exists, but “…it’s a book about embracing a God who isn’t always easy to understand, and whose ways are far beyond us.” Considering the recent release of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins in which he also raises some questions about the existence of hell, it would seem that Erasing Hell is almost a direct response to Bell’s thoughts from his book. In fact in the trailer video for this book Chan responds to some thoughts that Bell obviously makes in his book.

I must preface this post by saying that I have not read Bell’s book, but I have had the opportunity to attend a Q&A session (click here for my note) in which Bell answers questions directly related to Love Wins. So I will draw from thoughts that I have heard straight from Bell’s mouth. I also would like to say that this is not a review of Love Wins, it is a review of Erasing Hell but it is almost impossible to speak to the book without at least addressing Bell’s book. So with that preliminary stuff out of the way, lets dive in.

From the outset Erasing Hell attempts to come at this topic of hell from a somewhat neutral viewpoint. Obviously the writers have presuppositions but it would seem that when they sat down to write this book they wanted to present all of the evidence and then do the research it takes to come to a healthy conclusion. The writer actually makes the statement in the preface, “I’m not going to hang on to the idea of hell simply because it’s what my tradition tells me to believe. And neither should you.”

While this book includes many references and footnotes (all of which I think are great things to present) the writers emphasize that this topic of hell should not be taken lightly. With statements like “…it’s important that you don’t distance what the Bible says from reality…don’t forget that the doctrine you are studying may be the destiny of many people…we can’t be wrong on this one.” I was really satisfied to see that this book was one that was written with much thought, prayer, and care. It isn’t a book that is fueled simply by a debate, an opposing view, or proving someone wrong. It is fueled by the destiny of people we interact with everyday.

This book seeks to help the reader make a distinction between what they want to believe about God and what God actually reveals about himself in Scripture.  When someone says, “I can’t believe in a God that would…” what they should really say is, “I wouldn’t believe in a God that would…” The authors do the research necessary to seek out what God really reveals about himself in Scripture.

They not only do extensive amounts of research from Scripture, but they also research other writers and historical texts to seek out what they were writing about the topic of hell in their day. All of this research is presented in order to address several questions, such as…

“Does everyone go to heaven?”

“Does God get what God wants?”

“What about those passages that say there will be a second chance?”

“Is hell a garbage dump?”

“What if God…”

They also address some questions in the appendix that it would seem are asked by almost everyone at some point, such as…

“What about the person who has never heard the gospel?”

So the format of the book is laid out in such a way that causes you to want to hear their answers to these questions. Since these are questions that most of us have asked at one point in our lives, we are curious what they have to say about them.

Probably one of the things I appreciate most about the book is that Chan and Sprinkle not only do an extensive amount of research and include their findings in the text, but they also use a large amount of footnotes that follow each chapter in order to provide even more context for their research. They provide an extensive amount of information and research, but they also encourage the reader to not just take their word for it, but pray, do research, and seek God on this topic. I think this is a healthy approach.

From hearing Rob Bell speak about his book it would seem that he took a different approach. He seeks to ask many questions, give some research, and put people directly in this tension without offering any concrete answers. Normally I would say this is a great way to write about a certain topic. At times I think it is healthy to ask some thought-provoking questions, without offering much information in order to cause readers to think and come to conclusions on their own, but this topic should be treated differently. I’m not advocating for a spoon-fed teaching of the Bible, but there is a difference between providing ample research, context, opinion, and coming to a conclusion vs. providing some research, hardly any context, not drawing a concrete conclusion and telling people to figure it out.

If you’re tired of hearing about Bell’s book, I’m sorry, but it was kinda hard to review Erasing Hell without addressing Love Wins. When I first saw the trailer for Erasing Hell and I started reading the book I was actually quite surprised at how much of a direct response this was to Love Wins. Chan and Sprinkle didn’t pull any punches, and by the end of it you knew exactly where they stood, and they have presented evidence from Scripture and history that point to the existence of hell. It is sad, yes, but even more a reason for me to live my life to reflect God in every way. God is a God of love, justice, and wrath “This is the same wrath that has been poured out for your sins. This is the same wrath that ultimately will be satisfied, either in hell or on the cross. While hell can be a paralyzing doctrine, it can also be an energizing one, for it magnifies the beauty of the cross.”

Obviously I haven’t covered everything that was talked about in Erasing Hell and I haven’t even begun to touch on the research that was presented by Chan and Sprinkle, so I would encourage you to go read the book! It is a quick read (only 200 pages), and is in a format that is reader friendly (asking questions, and offering answers). Heck, I’ll even encourage you to go read Love Wins (just in case you think I’m not being fair). The only difference is I have some copies of Erasing Hell to give to you lucky readers! Sorry you’ll just have to go spend your hard-earned money on Love Wins.

Here’s how you can win:

  1. Leave a comment on this post
  2. Include your twitter handle (if you’re not on twitter connect the comment with your email address)

Thats it! I’ll pick some random winners on Friday, July 8 so pass the word around, and stay tuned!

Do you wrestle with this topic of hell?

Where have you landed?

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