Chan, Francis; Preston Sprinkle (2011). Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up. David C. Cook. ISBN 978-0-7814-0725-0
Review by Leif L.
The Rights of God, the Rights of Man
or, the Potter and the Clay
Chapter six (“What if God …”) confronts what is probably the source of the reasons for rejecting the doctrine of hell: our small view of God. Do we grant God the space he needs to be God? Or do we cramp him up in the small room of our mind, pretending to fetter him by insisting that we have ultimate rights to self determination? Do we think that we are somehow completely free beings, and that God is bound by what we do, and how we choose? Paul addresses these questions in Romans, as a way to open up the real truth in the gospel: that mankind is weak and pitiful, and God is great and powerful. God has rights, and man is subject to those; we don’t have our own native rights except this one: we all are guilty before God. Based on this, our sole “right” is punishment in the lake of fire. I will expound on this in greater detail in a later article.
In this chapter, Paul asks a necessary question: What if? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory? ( Rom. 9:22–23 ) What if? What if God decided to do this? What if God, as the sovereign Creator of the universe, decided to create “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction”? And what if He did so in order to “show his wrath” and “make known His power”? And what if it’s His way of showing those He saves just how great His glory and mercy is? What would you do if He chose to do this? Refuse to believe in Him? Refuse to be a “vessel of mercy”? Does that make any sense? Would you refuse to follow Him? Really? Is that wise?
I often hear people say, “I could never love a God who would …” Who would what? Who would disagree with you? And do things that you would never do? Who would allow bad things to happen to people? Who would be more concerned with His own glory than your feelings? Who would—send people to hell?
These realizations, once embraced, have the ability to free us. They cut loose, not so much the chains that we have attempted to bind God with, but the shackles of man-centered thinking which entrap our minds.
He does not only address the reasons we should believe in the biblical lake of fire, but more importantly, the reasons behind why many reject the idea. It is engrained in our culture that we should have the freedom to choose without accountability; that we have natural rights before God that are even greater than God’s rights. Many hold the view that God’s freedom ends where human freedom begins, that God would overstep his bounds were he to interfere with our rights as humans. In the end, that is really why the question of hell hurts us so much in this modern age.
The Purpose of the Warnings of Hell
Francis Chan writes that the purpose of the warning of hell is so that we would bear fruit unto righteousness, and that too often they are used as material to debate.
So often these hell passages become fodder for debate, and people miss the point of the warning. Jesus didn’t speak of hell so that we could study, debate, and write books about it. He gave us these passages so that we would live holy lives.
There is much more material covered in this book, I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in taking seriously the words and warnings of our Lord and Saviour. Let’s not spend our time in vain attempting to overturn or diminish what he has spoken for our benefit, but take it to heart.
Finally, may this doctrine give us a zeal to be holy and a desire to bring the gospel to those who do not know Christ.
Next week I will share some of the thoughts and conclusions that were precipitated by reading this book.