I have to admit when I heard that Francis Chan had written a book called Erasing Hell, I sucked in my breath. I mean the title is ambiguous and this book coming off the recent Rob Bell controversy, where he dismisses the Christian view of hell, was a little unsettling to say the least. I loved Forgotten God and wondered if Francis Chan would also drink the punch and attempt to erase hell? Say it ain’t so, I thought. So I bought the book and brought it home.
My husband, Doug and I sat down to read the book together over an afternoon. At first, Doug’s exasperated comment was, “What are we reading?” , in a tone that was displeased at my selection. Then we began to dive in. We read, keeping an open mind as was suggested in the book. We allowed questions that maybe we had squashed deep in our soul, to rise to the forefront of our mind. Granted, somehow it just seemed wrong to ever question why God chose to do things the way he does, but Chan’s transparency allowed us to at least form the question in a tangible way. Had the church today, pointing directly at ourselves, preached the palatable parts of the bible and neglected the very thing people really needed to hear?
Where Francis Chan hit a nerve with me was when he asked if the street corner preachers who are screaming about hell were actually doing more than I was? After all, I cringe when I see them and have said out loud that I think they do more harm than good to the faith. Yet, I couldn’t deny that what they were saying was true. Yikes, what an ugly feeling I had about my responsibility to humanity.
I loved that the book took the time to study out what Jesus said about hell, in the context of his Jewish faith and in the time he lived out his time on earth. I am a person who studies with an open concordance, dictionary, lexicons and commentaries so this appealed to me. Doug was eerily quiet through our reading. It wasn’t until the conclusion that we breathed a sigh of relief at the outcome of the study and then discussed where we felt we were at in the whole process.
We both concluded that this book deserves a read and a frank conversation. The bottom line is people are dying with a lot of different ideas which have no basis in fact and like it or not, we have a responsibility to at least take a chance and speak up.
Taking a ride on a train in Napa, we sat across from a woman who was wearing three necklaces. The first was a cross, the second was rabbit’s foot and the third was a buddha. Doug asked her what the significance of the necklaces were and she answered him sincerely, “I’m covering all my bases.” Admittedly that’s as far as the conversation went. The conversations of mercy and grace are easy, but it doesn’t negate the conversations about where people will spend eternity and that, my friends, is what we should be about. A million thanks to Francis Chan for boldly asking questions that demand soul searching answers.
Buy the book read it, if you’re like us, you’ll finish the entire thing in a few hours and search your heart. Where do you stand? What do you believe? It’s important to know.