Friday, April 3, 2015

Book review: Erasing Hell

I am finally writing a review of sorts on the book Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle as promised in one of my early posts called “Erasing Hell: What a great idea”* (see link below). I read the book back in the days of my intense study on final judgment when a defender of hell suggested it as a solution to my concerns.

I actually like Francis Chan from what I can discern about him. He seems very sincere and passionate and wants to be humble. The introduction in the book was so familiar, like something I could have written. It gave me hope he would present a biblical, well thought-out study on the subject. In fact, the first part of the book does give some good, basic information on the doctrine of hell and the passages commonly associated with that subject.

I was pleased that he came to the same conclusion as I did about the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Namely, that “...this passage doesn't refer to the final state of the wicked – only to a temporary state where the wicked await judgment.” 2 So, that parable does not teach about 'hell' (like Mr. Chan's friend and contemporary Mark Driscoll preaches) and that Hades is not the same as Gehenna - unfortunately, both words are translated as hell in many translations.

He discusses and makes a long and thorough case against universalism and Rob Bell. He also addresses annihilationism (a general term encompassing those who believe that the lake of fire will ultimately destroy the wicked) but does not shoot it down like he does with universalism. I was pleased that he gave credence to that view.

However, as he came to his conclusions, the annihilist view was completely forgotten. He concluded that the traditional doctrine of eternal torment in a place he continually called 'hell' was the only biblical truth he could endorse.

That is not only frustrating, but baffling! Mr. Chan goes through the trouble to give us the facts about final judgment, but then turns his back on a legitimate view of judgment as if he demonstrated it was false. Which he didn't!

They state in the book, “At times, Jesus seems to imply that hell won't last very long. 'Fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell,' Jesus says (Matt. 10:28). Destroy, not burn forever. This language of destruction is common not only in Jesus' words but also throughout Paul's letters.” (emphasis is Chan's) 3

They also write: “In almost every passage where Jesus mentions hell, he doesn't explicitly say that it will last forever. He speaks of torment, and we get the impression that hell is terrible, that it's a place to be avoided at all costs, but He doesn't clearly tell us how long it will last.” 4

Francis himself admits,“The debate about hell's duration is much more complex than I first assumed. While I lean heavily on the side that says it is everlasting, I am not ready to claim that with complete certainty. I encourage you to continue researching...” 5 So, bless his heart, he confesses that, for him, he realizes there is no certainty in eternal torment. Why are we not then teaching this? I did continue researching and the weight of Scripture has not come down on the side of eternal torment! That we would all take Francis Chan's advice on this point!

I have written over 40 posts on this subjects, but if you were to ask me where to go for 'further research' without the hours and hours of study (although I recommend this), I would send you to the following website, which I found recently (March 2015):

So, back to Erasing Hell. There is some good information in there, but just like any bit of information, if you have 90% truth and 10% error (or deceit) then you have an untrustworthy body of information.

I believe Chan's prayer in his introduction. He wants God's truth. I prayed almost the same prayer myself every time I sought to study the subject. The important part of seeking the truth in these extremely unclear areas is to realize that it is foolishness to claim absolute conclusions. Who can say, “I have figured out God's ways in the Judgment and this is how He will do things...”?

I am uncertain exactly how God will execute judgment on the world, but I have become increasingly confident that eternal torment is not part of God's ways or character. My goal is to bring this subject into the light of Scripture to be examined and scrutinized because the implications of eternal torment are, in my opinion, too great to accept without careful and labored attention.

The fact is, those who hold to conditionalism or annihilationism believe in 'hell' (although I don't choose to use that unbiblical word). It is the nature of hell that is on trial. It is our human traditions that are on trial. In other words, conditionalists are not trying to erase hell. To imply that they are is an erroneous view and, frankly, deceitful. By throwing annihilationism in with universalism (which I have seen repeatedly) robs believers of valuable information in forming their Scriptural world view. In this way, it is a shame that Erasing Hell was not more forthcoming and honest. As with many mainstream (approved) evangelical books, it had an agenda.

Wouldn't I love to sit down for coffee with Francis and have some hours of conversation on this topic, among others. As a sister and brother in Christ, getting to the heart of it all. Somehow, I think under all the political and peer pressure, past all the traditional contemporaries breathing down his back, deep down he senses something isn't right with eternal torment.

And he wouldn't be alone. Chan's co-author on this very book has changed his views from traditional to conditional.
"Hell is a crucial topic, especially for evangelicals. And it needs to be revisited. Rethinking Hell is doing the church a great service by stirring discussion and forcing us to read what the Bible says about Hell."  - Preston Sprinkle, co-author of Erasing Hell6

2 Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity and the things we made up, Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle, published by David C Cook, Colorado Springs, CO., p. 80, 89.
3 Chan and Preston, p. 79.
4 Chan and Preston, p. 81.
5 Chan and Preston, p. 86.


  1. What foolishness: the reason hell is eternal is because the sinner that dies in their sin, can never repent and stop sinning long enough to pay for them. The sinner in hell continues to sin and blaspheme. Regardless of whether you think it is in Gods character, it doesnt change the fact if Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever, and he will punish those who reject him, he will punish them forever, without time. Youre fooling yourself if you believe otherwise.

  2. Hello Fred, thank you for your comment. I would recommend that you go back to the link in my post that takes you to and you will find a challenge at the top of the page. If you honestly study out this topic with Scripture as your authority, you will find the case for eternal torment very weak next to conditionalism. For example, you wrote, "the sinner that dies in their sin can never repent and stop sinning long enough to pay for them. The sinner in hell continues to sin and blaspheme." I don't mean any disrespect, but the Bible doesn't say any of that. It is not biblical information, but perhaps human logic. The Bible does say, "Fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna." The point of the above post is to demonstrate in yet another way that annihilationism is a valid biblical view, with even more Scripture support than the eternal torment doctrine. Be cautious of what you stand behind with all your heart and soul. Stand behind Jesus, yes. But be careful to take a stand on such a doctrine as 'hell' when there is very solid biblical evidence that the lake of fire is the place of the destruction of all sin and evil. Do you think God will allow sin to continue in eternity? No, He has ordained to make an end of sin. (Dan.9:24). Also, if I have said anything in my posts that is not supported by the Bible, please point that out as I am seeking to follow Scripture alone. Blessings, Theresa (Col. 1:9)


I understand this is a difficult subject and there are different views from folks who all value God's inspired word. I value your feedback, corrections and questions. Please leave a comment!