Monday, September 12, 2011

Does Love Win and hell is Erased?

A Comparison of 2 books.
I recently read the book Love Wins by Rob Bell… With all the controversy (Even the company I work for decided not to carry the book), caused me to be intrigued. So I rented it from the Library. The book sits on the premise that “In the Bible God is not helpless, God is not powerless, and God is not impotent.” The idea is that by allowing His creation to go to hell would be making God just that. The back of the book states “God loves us. God offers us everlasting life by grace, freely, through no merit of our part. Unless you do not respond the right way. Then god will torture you forever. In hell. HUH?” Bell’s chapters include What about the Flat Tire, Here is the New Hear, Hell, Does God get what God Wants, Dying to Live, There are Rocks Everywhere, The Good News is Better Then That, and The End is Here. I then decided to read a second book. Erasing Hell: What God said about Eternity and What We Made Up by Francis Chan.
The chapters are: Does Everyone Go to Heaven, Has Hell Changed or have we, What Jesus Actually Said about Hell, What Jesus’ followers Said about Hell, What Does This Have to Do With Me, What if God?, Don’t Be Overwhelmed. So what are the differences and similarities? First off these books have a couple similarities. Both use scripture, but to different degree’s. Bell used a verse or 2 without much context in order to make His Points while I found that Chan used entire passages, in context, with multiple other passages in order to make his point THROUGH the lenses of Scripture. Second they both talk about Tradition. Bell in his typical fashion uses a lot of Jewish tradition which has always been fascinating to me and still is. The issue is that this tradition can often be well after the fact of the events or context. One such was the illustration about Gahanna and that people of the day would have been familiar with that; yet Chan points out that Jewish Rabbi’s have shown that this was not used to describe the area until much later in time. Chan on the other side uses the same ‘canonical’ proof that was used for defining the scripture, i.e... EYE witness. He shows what views Jew’s of the day had as well as the Followers of Christ in the days after his death and resurrection. So why is this a dangerous Gospel? As a parent, if I saw my 6 year old son going outside to stand at midnight in the middle of the Highway should I look at him and ask him questions? “Why have you picked black instead of say Orange?” “Why this hour and not noon?” Or knowing that he was making a wrong decision I should be doing everything in my power to stop and flag him down. Bell in his typical fashion asks lots of questions and makes statements that can be taken in many different ways. Now as a (and I say this with as much modesty and pray as I can) longer term and grounded Christian, I can read his book in light of my knowledge of scripture. While a new believer can be sucked into the ‘emotions’ that he discussed in the book. Multiple times it comes down not to scripture, or even tradition, but to the ‘feeling’ or ‘emotion’ that it is unfair of God. While on the other hand in a very frank manner Chan states everything through the solid foundation of multiple scriptures. He challenges you to think not with your emotions and what you ‘feel’ should be God’s response but the truth of scripture and the words of Jesus and his Apostles. So by now you should be able to tell that Bell’s book I didn’t want to finish. At many times I was sick at the lack of clarity that I expected of a well known Pastor; while Chan’s book had me involved in the depth of church history and knee deep in scripture references and I couldn’t put it down! This is a conversation between scholars that has been going on for years, and I know will not be resolved by a blogger in Maryland. But there you have it. My 2 cents. Erasing Hell: Strongly recommend for purchase Love Wins: recommend reading to understand the ‘emotions’ behind this issue but not for its bias. Some additional resources:

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