The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Book:Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

I bought this book thinking it was ok, but it seems it was written in response to Rob Bells book Love wins.
I read the introduction and the start of chapter 1. But i sensed fear inside me. I can’t read it. No doubt he will try and convince us of the reality of hell. i am only just learning about universalism and i don’t want a book telling me it’s a heresy. I’m reminded of luther and calvin who despite their belief in hell condemned Heritics to death. Now that sounds really heritical to me. If i know God loves all it encourages me to love all even my enemies. If i believed in hell i would be gloating over their suffering to come. horrible doctrine. It’s inhuman.

There is something about the subject of hell that makes me feel all creapy and scared. Believing in the glorious gospel brings peace to my heart and joy when i think of God’s wonderful plan for humankind. If hell exists then, i can’t love him. But God is love. How blessed Christian children are to be born into a family that brings them up to fear the Lord. Does God love some people more than others. What about all the poor children who live in a home that is hell for them. What about the children who are born into another religion that teaches them that christianity is false. People look at Christianity and are turned off God. Even i myself am turned off by todays christianity. What chance has anyone got of finding the truth when the church isn’'t a light but a blight. God is good, can the same Jesus that had children come to him and sit on his knees, turn billions of children away and say well you had your chance, can’t save you now. The victorious gospel has to be true, if it isn’t i wish i had never been born.

I know how you feel brother. I can only say that I have the utmost faith that EU/UR or whatever we may choose to call it is certainly true. It answers so many questions that for it not to be true would just… well… be stupid if I may be so frank.

Concerning Erasing Hell… yeah it is a book written as a counter-repsonse to Love Wins. I can understand why you would not want to take in that kind of information as it pushes the idea of ECT. On the flip-side though, I think it is good to read that kind of material because I guarantee there are many who will read it and will accept Francis Chan’s book as next-to-gospel. They could come to you with issues this guy has brought up and it would be good to know where the author is coming from so you can know the issues and address them if/when people challenge your belief.

And right now issues with the church its stance on ECT is depressing. All we can do is help get the message out there to people who will listen. At least that is what I am doing. So many people leave Christianity because of the belief in ECT or become Christians because they believe in God but convert out of fear. This is just wrong and needs to be resolved. The church will get it right eventually. I personally am doing all I can on and offline… and perhaps not enough.

You said something that I whole-heartedly agree with. Today’s “Christianity” is something that should turn off most people. It is a terrible thing. Only when you actually KNOW that God is a God of love… that God IS Love. Then Christianity becomes something I take pride in and can openly admit to being a believer, where as before I was ashamed to admit I believed. Not anymore.

I don’t like Francis Chan’s preaching. He is, unfortunately, an excellent writer and speaker, and he eloquently puts the brothers and sisters under condemnation (imo). I believe he means well, but he’s just wrong headed in so many ways.

Don’t you ever wonder why these guys waste their time refuting Bell’s book? Well, of course, Bell’s book is wildly popular, and that’s a big reason – obviously. But lets face it. While it’s a good book, “Love Wins” is hardly the pinnacle of the blessed hope oeuvre. Why don’t they refute Robin Parry’s work, or Thomas Talbott, or George MacDonald, for pity’s sake? Why pick on “Love Wins”, which is clearly simplified for the casual reader?

And . . . you certainly don’t have to feel obligated to read the book just because you’ve bought it. If I had bought it, I guess I’d probably read it, only for the reasons 1Cor15:22 points out, and if any of my brothers and sisters (locally) read it, I WILL download and read it, too, but otherwise, I don’t anticipate picking it up. I’ve already read a couple of Chan’s books and that’s enough for me. I think he’s sincere, but kind of lost in the way at the moment. If he really wanted to evaluate the truth or falsity of UR, he’d read a more heavy-weight book instead of picking on “Love Wins.”

Blessings and love,

Hey Paul

Can I just second what Cindy and 1Cor1522 have said. If *Erasing Hell *upsets you, don’t read it. But actually, a better plan would be to read it and realise that its arguments in favour of hell are not very compelling. I haven’t read it myself, but I have read quite a few reviews of it, and the consensus seems to be that it is weak and unconvincing, and doesn’t really address all the strongest Biblical arguments in favour of UR.

As Cindy correctly points out, if Francis Chan really wanted to put forward a convincing case against UR, he’d have to take on the dynamic duo of Thomas Talbott and Robin Parry, whose books are highly scriptural and utterly persuasive.

UR is the *only *coherent way to resolve the tension that exists in scripture. It is the only theological worldview which truly does justice to the Biblical truth that God is love. And it is the only view which really speaks to our hearts. I am 100% convinced UR is true, and nothing Francis Chan or anybody else says will make me waver from that belief.

Oh, and just a word about heresy, Paul. Don’t worry about it! Following in the footsteps of Tom Talbott, I do not worry at all if some people call me a heretic for my UR beliefs. Who are they to judge?



After I stomped hard all over Rob’s LW to give it an honest shakedown, I bought Francis’ book in order to review it for the site (as his book was the first main rebuttal to Rob on the published market), but I never got around to reading it. Just too many other things to be doing. And based on his utterly inaccurate (but very popular and typical) use of Rom 9 in his promotional video, I rather doubt he’ll be more accurate critiquing Rob (and universalism in general) than I am. :wink:

Also, what I heard from people on site back when EH was released, who bothered to read it, it was very lightweight when it came to critique, although it had some good things to say about God’s persistent love that we would naturally agree with, too. (I suspected at the time, and still do, that Francis Chan was doing some public penance for his book Crazy Love which by all accounts doesn’t bother to talk much about the non-elect, leaving over the strong impression that he meant such an amazing astounding persistent salvific love to be for everybody. :mrgreen: )

A friend who I had been sharing UR with bought it and gave it to me after he read it. He saw several things that bothered him in Chan’s approach. For one, Chan relies heavily on Enoch as support for interpreting what Jesus said concerning Hinnom Valley as affirming ECT. Of course, the reason Chan had to do this is because ECT is not supported in the Old Testament. And if one looks at what is actually said in Enoch, it too does not clearly support ECT, but rather supports a kind of indefinitely long suffering in the life to come, not endless.

Well anyhow, if you don’t want to read Chan, don’t. When I was coming to believe in UR I purposefully read much anti-UR pro-ECT material in an effort to counter the draw I was feeling towards UR. But the more I studied such, the more I saw how weak the arguments and scriptural support was for ECT or against UR. It actually helped me move from being a hopeful Universalist to a a Convinced Universalist. But that’s just me. I’ve done the same when studying other subjects.

Overall Chan’s book is weak, very weak in it’s support for ECT, imo.

Jason, where is your post about Love Wins?

I understand that Bell is really not a UR like we are. I’ve heard something about Bell teaching a second, or third CHANCE. Whereas, we believe in as many “chances” are are required to finally save all.

Try ["The Prodigal Gospel of Rob Bell" (aka JRP's long review))

Also yes, Rob Bell is a closet Universalist… I mean Rob Bell is not a Universalist.

Thanks for the link! I really like the fact that on this board people of very different views about critical doctrines can be cordial toward one another. The administrators really did a good job of setting things up here.

Well, he is (in how his doctrines add up) but he doesn’t think he is. But his publishers think he is, and they (maybe along with him) promoted the hell out of his work (so to speak :mrgreen:) along that line last year.

This has not led to an excessive amount of clarity in regard to what he’s doing. :wink:

Thanks for providing the link, 1Cor. :smiley:

I do have a lot to say in favor of Rob Bell, too: obviously I’m in general agreement with the thrust of his book, and I very much appreciate how his book is anchored in orthodox Christology and evangelism. The latter half of his book is much better than the first half, where he has a tendency to cheat badly against his opponents. I don’t blame Calvs and Arms for wanting to jump up and down on him.

A while back, Chan’s book came up on another forum where we were discussing Universalism (I’ve pulled material from there before to post here). At that time, only one chapter was available online for free, and I noticed that Chan’s exegesis is exceedingly sloppy, and I caught at least two blatant contradictions in the bit of his work that I read.

The first was with regard to “all” in I Corinthians 15:22. There are three conflicting arguments here. First he argues that “all” there refers to a whole bunch, but not everyone–that is, it’s a hyperbolic use of “all” in the same way that Paul’s Gospel had gone out to “all the world.” That, I suppose, is fine (although consistency would demand that he allow that some do not “die in Adam” for that to be the case!). What is not fine is that he then proceeds to argue that “all” means “all kinds”–that is, the Calvinist construct of “all without distinction” or “believers of all types.” As if one contradiction weren’t enough, he also argues that Paul means to say “all believers”–that is, all without exception within the category of believers. So, is it “all” used hyperbolically to mean “a whole bunch but not everyone,” used literally to mean “all kinds of” believers, or used literally to mean, “the whole category of believers”? Apparently, it doesn’t matter to Chan, so long as it emphatically doesn’t mean what it actually says–“all.”

The second was with regard to Bell’s question (taken from I Timothy 2:4, which declares God’s desire for the salvation of all), “Does God get what God wants?” This contradiction is a bit easier to spot. First he argues (again) that “all” should not be taken to really mean “all,” and, therefore, God DOES get what God wants, but God does not really want all people to be saved. Then he argues that “want” refers more to emotional desire than an active, intentional will to bring something to pass, and thus, God does not get what He “wants.” Which is it? For Chan, again, it doesn’t matter, so long as it’s not what the verse actually says: that God actively desires the salvation of all people.

He also has a tendency (again, throughout the chapter that I read) to conflate the idea of judgment/condemnation with the idea of irredeemable Hell. Here I’m not sure if it’s that he’s misrepresenting Universalists by suggesting that we don’t believe in a judgment or Hell at all, or if he’s seeing an understood “everlasting” every time “judgment” pops up in Scripture. Regardless, it’s either a strawman fallacy or shoddy exegesis once again, and this is just one chapter!

The book, along with his others, came up for free on the Amazon Kindle Store recently and I grabbed them, so I may work my way through the rest of it. Honestly, though, I don’t expect much improvement. He’s shown an abundant willingness to disregard everything except his main goal: to invalidate Universalism by any means possible, logic and sound exegesis be damned (so to speak).

Like I said on FB . . . I’ve read a couple of other books by Chan; that was enough for me. Seems sincere enough – well meaning . . . it’s hard to dislike a sincere brother, but I’m not interested in having him as a teacher.

That chapter was actually my first exposure to him. I had never heard of him until Erasing Hell. On a more positive note regarding the book, I was very impressed that he was willing to differentiate between the various sorts of Universalism (dogmatic, hopeful, non-Christian/pluralistic–although those three do not constitute an exhaustive list, they are sufficient for a brief discussion). I really appreciated that he characterized Christian Universalists as Christians who take the Bible seriously and really believe that the Bible teaches Universalism; that in itself is a vast improvement over the appraisal we so often receive from the broader Evangelical world.

Paul said:-

Hi Paul
I haven’t read the book and probably wont. Sometimes you’ve got to be in a strong frame of mind to do these things especially when you consider that generally we are surrounded constantly by non-universalist thinking.

I know about the fear you mention as over the years, before coming to UR, I would feel it on many occasions (and still do sometimes) when exposed to beliefs that were, I felt, counter to the positive gospel (and I came from an Annihilationist background not ECT)

All that said I think UR is like suddenly seeing the world in colour when you thought there was only black and white. It’s very hard to be happy again with only a black and white world and to be convinced that colour doesn’t exist.

Perfect Love casts out fear - fear is a weapon of the Adversary.

So keep positive my friend and spend time reading the positive stuff (always checking it’s validity of course)

God bless S