In Erasing Hell, Francis Chan’s and Preston Sprinkle’s dive into the pool of controversy surrounding the discussion on the Theology of Hell is an approachable yet thorough exploration of the subject. The two primary questions, among others, are, “How could a loving God send people to hell?” And, “Will people have a chance after they die to believe in Jesus and go to Heaven?”
I have to admire the authors’ approach to the subject. It is forthright, yet humble. They freely admit that they do not have all the answers. They also freely admit that they do not always like the image of God presented in the Bible – particularly in the Old Testament. For example: Why would a loving God tell the Levites to strap on their swords and go through the Israelite camp, killing friends and brothers because of the “Golden Calf” incident? Where is the grace? Where is the love? Yet we cannot avoid this and other troubling passages in the Old Testament. And, to bring the examples more up to date, what about in the New Testament where God strikes a couple dead simply for telling a “little white lie” about how much they received for the sale of a piece of property. Not exactly the best way to attract people to your church.
These are some of the questions that Chan and Sprinkle tackle in Erasing Hell. Where the authors have a strong opinion and scripture to back that opinion, they are not timid to share their conclusions. The reader is not left wondering where they stand. Where, however, there is room for ongoing discussion and falling on both sides of an issue, they present the argument for both sides and leave plenty of room for the reader to explore and think for themselves. For example, they do not give a clear answer on the issue of Hell as a place of eternal punishment, or as a place of punishment followed by annihilation, stating that you could make an argument either way and then back both arguments with Scripture.
With extensive use of Scripture throughout, and comprehensive notes at the end of each chapter, Erasing Hell is scholarly enough for the student wanting a thorough examination of the subject of Hell, yet still highly approachable by even the most basic reader. Overall, it is a quick read. And while Erasing Hell does mention and references the Love Wins book by Rob Bell, it is not intended as a “response book” to Rob’s work. Any mention of the Love Wins book is done in a respectful manner that the most ardent supporters of Rob’s book will appreciate, even while perhaps disagreeing.