Francis Chan Weighs In on the Hell Debate

As regular readers of this blog are aware, a huge debate surrounding the topic of hell was spawned recently due to the release of a new a book called Love Wins by Rob Bell – a Michigan megachurch pastor and alum of Fuller (my school).

In his book Rob says hell doesn’t exist – at least not as Christians have traditionally understood it (read the Time Magazine article on the book here). Bell’s reason for thinking this? He can’t wrap his mind around how God can send those who reject Him to hell for an eternity and still be called ‘loving’ (a view driven by anthropomorphism – “God isn’t doing what I would do or what I agree with, therefore this God can’t be referred to as ‘loving’ or even really God …”).

I’m happy to announce Francis Chan is coming out with a new book called Erasing Hell – a humble response to the current hell debate, and a reasoned critique of theological views defined by anthropomorphic tendencies.

A key scripture Chan points to is this one in which God speaks:

Isaiah 55:8-9
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Could it be, when we are tempted to write God off when He does something we wouldn’t have done or in a way we wouldn’t have done it, or says something we wouldn’t say, or thinks in a way we wouldn’t think, that HE is not the one with a problem? Could it be that HE is perfect and we are not, therefore we will always view his actions through imperfect, flawed lenses? Could it be that He really is loving regardless of what He chooses to do, because what He chooses to do will ALWAYS be right, holy, pure, and just – simply because that’s His inherent, perfect nature?

See, this debate isn’t simply about hell. This debate is really about trusting in God as holy and righteous and loving and perfect, even when we don’t understand everything. At its core, this debate is about our belief in the goodness of God regardless of our incomplete understanding or comprehension of Him.

A question we must ask: Is God really good “all the time,” or only when imperfect, flawed, so and so says? I choose to believe the former – not the latter.

You can pick up Francis’ new book after July 1 of this year. Here’s a promo video:

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10 thoughts on “Francis Chan Weighs In on the Hell Debate

  1. Kristin Brænne says:

    Be a ★

  2. G says:

    Thanks for sharing the word, anthropomorphism. I needed that word Wednesday night when we were discussing prayer at Wednesday night Bible study. I was responding to a question the teacher was asking about when God answers prayer (or doesn’t). I was saying it’s because we’re essentially praying to an idol — a god of our own making, one made in our image, not the God of Heaven who us in His image.

    Again, thanks for the word, but regarding the point you’re making it’s like the classic line about light and heat. There is no such thing as darkness, only absence of light. You can’t put dark into a room. You can only shine light or extinguish light. Darkness is the absence of light. Same with heat. You can’t put cold into a room; you can only remove heat. Cold is the absence of heat. Hell is the absence of God. It’s not so much that God is dishing out Hell / punishment upon wrongdoers but that they’re taking God out of their lives. Then you compound that with being in the presence of others who have rejected God, and it’s just a horrible place to be. But it’s not God’s choice, but our own.

    That’s the problem with this entire “debate.” The onus is upon us, not God. He’s only doing what He promised. Furthermore, Heaven wouldn’t be Heaven if He didn’t protect us from evil. We’ve given ourselves to Him, trusted Him to protect us and provide us a safe home (ala John 14). For Him to allow just any-old-body in, no matter how evil they are, THAT’S WHAT WOULDN’T BE LOVING!!! Why do people miss that point? God’s bad to condemn people? No, He would be bad not to condemn them! But again, it’s their choice, not His. And do we forget how gruesome the cross was? God did His part; if we go to Hell, it’s on us, not Him. Enough said.

    • G says:

      I just re-read that first paragraph. Clarifying its last sentence, sometimes when God doesn’t answer our prayers it’s because we’re essentially praying to an idol…

  3. Jeff Keely says:

    I appreciate you posting this. If you even take Rob Bell out of the picture, this idea of God can only be good if there is no pain and suffering in the world needs to be addressed. God is bigger than all of us and we also need to understand that not everyone will spend an eternity with Him (Matt 7:21-3). That is why it is our job to make sure everyone within our circle of influence knows Jesus.

  4. G says:

    quick question: the name Rob Bell sounds familiar, is he the the Zooma or Nooma (or whatever it’s called) guy?

  5. […] If you haven’t heard of the BASIC films, they are teaching tools made by the same folks who produced Rob Bell’s Nooma Videos, only this time Francis Chan is the one doing the teaching (which is amusing considering my previous post). […]

  6. K. Rex Butts says:

    I think highly of Francis Chan but I must admit that I am less enthusiastic to hear him proof-texting Isaiah 55.8-9. Though I disagree with some of the conclusions that Bell seems to draw regarding hell, Chan can’t resort to question the viability of Bell’s reasoning for Chan himself is employing reasoning too and therefore we could ask of Chan “who are you to claim X regarding the question of Hell? If God’s thoughts and ways not higher than your thoughts and ways?”

    Do you see the impasse that this sort of proof-text argument creates? To be fair to Chan, he never specifically said that his book will be a rebuttal to Bell’s book “Love Wins.” But the timing of this announcement is too coincidental to not suspect this to be the case. Rather than resort to a cheap proof-text that seeks to place God on the side of one person’s thinking and opposed to another person’s thinking, Chan just needs to (as he suggested) lay out all the passages he believes are relevant to the doctrine of hell and then present his best exegetical and theological case for how he believes Christians should understand those passages. Whether readers will agree or not with the conclusions he draws (and let’s not be mistaken, there’s room for some different views on this subject), his book would seemingly have a better methodology than Bell’s book.

    Grace and Peace,

    Rex

    • G says:

      Good points, Rex. The conclusions we draw from Scripture are an entirely different matter than Scripture itself. Well, hopefully not entirely different, but definitely a step removed and not having the full weight that God’s words have directly. Not sure if I’m saying that right, but hopefully y’all know what I’m getting at. Even if our conclusions are correct, if we took a step or two to get there then it’s not a “thus saith the Lord” as much as we might wish it was. I’m butting heads with the anti-clappers on this right now, such a challenge. They talk about not adding to the word… but fail to recognize they’re doing just that by adding a restriction the apostles didn’t bind. Not that I feel compelled to defend clapping, but that I deplore hypocrisy and intellectual bankruptcy…. Anyway, good points, Rex.

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