Love Wins vs Erasing Hell: Does Everyone get to There?

Picture it.


 It’s up there.  It’s where angels are.  The streets are paved with gold.  There are mansions.  It is a place of pure white.  Here, there is no suffering, no pain.

All of our tears will be washed away.

 This idea is a beautiful image.  Stories of Heaven are told to children at funerals to help understand death, or when they lose a pet.  When we lose someone that is suffering for a long time, we use the phrase “they are in a better place”.  Why?  Not because people think that this place we live in is awful or unlivable, but because we know about this place called Heaven and what it is.  We know even in our best imagination, we can’t even describe this place.  If we read and believe the book of Revelation, we see a big feast, and a wedding.  We see dancing.  We see joy.

 This leads me to my first push back on some of the critics of Rob Bell.


When I have talked to people about Love Wins, one of the responses are things like this:

 “Does Rob Bell say there is no hell?” or

 “Is this the book about hell?”

 The blogosphere got into an uproar on his view on hell.  One side was concerned, one side defending. 

 As we were so vigorously defending, arguing, and questioning Bell’s view on Hell, we happened to miss an important fact.  It is also one Chan missed as well.

The largest chapter in Love Wins is the chapter on Heaven.  On the actual question and the idea of whatever you think about his view specifically on Hell, it is a small portion of the book.

 I need this paragraph to sit and resonate for you.  I also need to ask this question:  How much is the idea of Heaven thought of and talked about nowadays?

 Of all the discussion on defending what some have called “the doctrine of hell”, we missed Heaven.

 Apparently so did Chan.  He responds to everything Rob Bell says in Love Wins except this chapter. And to be fair, he probably had some good things to respond to.

 Bell starts us with an actual picture.  It’s a Cross going from one end to a beautiful city.  There are people walking across to go to the city.  Now the Cross is a bridge and it is the only way we can get into this city.  If you do not use this Cross, you will fall into this pit with no hope of getting out. 

 He then takes into some quite funny issues about the traditional idea of Heaven.  Things like wondering if there’s swimming in Heaven? Can you play sports in Heaven? And if you can’t, then how can this be Heaven?

 Chan on the other hand, approaches this like an elephant in the room.  He starts by asking the question, directly from page 21:

“Does everyone go to heaven?”

 From here he asks another “Do you want to believe in a God who shows His power by punishing non-Christians and who magnifies His mercy by blessing Christians forever?”

 This is an interesting question Chan asks.  Bell answers this by perhaps examining some ideas beyond our otherworldly view of what it is actually like and bringing it to a point of what it is suppose to be.

 He starts with The Rich Young Ruler.  He asks a question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The story in the Bible refers to Matthew 19: 16- 23 from Love Wins pages 26 -29.

 Bell goes on to tell the story.  Jesus breaks down the commandments.  If you want to enter life, then obey my commandments. 

Rich Young Ruler: “Which ones?”

 Bell brings up a good point.  There are 613 commandments in the first 5 books of the Bible.  But Jesus says “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honour your father and mother, and love your neighbour as yourself.”

 “All these I have kept.  What do I still lack?”

 Jesus: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”.

 Bell then asks if Jesus missed an evangelistic opportunity.  How on earth does this become a conversation about wealth and treasures and not salvation?  Bell has a point.  There are many times Jesus could have used some good old church evangelistic training.

 However, there are many ways to look at this story.  One way is to continue to read the story and follow the disciple’s questions after, which is interesting, because they actually gave up everything to follow Jesus. Which Jesus answers “I am the renewal of all things”.

 Bell however introduces the concepts of eras, periods of time, and Aion.  Aion is a Greek word that has multiple meanings, but in summary it’s a combination of the current world and a world to come.

 Now early in Chan’s book, we are introduced to Bell’s Love Wins as a response, specifically to the idea of Universalism, which we will discuss later.  Chan doesn’t spend a lot of time discussing the ages until much later, but we will see there is a great difference in interpretation throughout the book.

 For the amount of time Bell spent on Heaven, I think Chan missed a mark in not responding to Bell’s, or even stating his own view on Heaven.  Chan is famous for such books like Crazy Love and Forgotten God.  Books that help paint a picture of God and Heaven.  Although I liked the ideas of Bell’s Heaven on Earth, and he painted a beautiful picture of it, talking about how eternal life begins now, our choices and what we do now.  And painting an actual picture of Heaven is too simple to paint something so beautiful.  I think Bell was understated on the actual place called Heaven.  Here is an example from page 58-59.

 To summarize, sometimes when Jesus used the word “heaven”, he was simply referring to God, using the name of God.

Second, sometimes when Jesus spoke of Heaven, he was referring to the future coming together of Heaven and Earth in what life calls the age to come.

And third, (and this is where things get really, really interesting) when Jesus talked about Heaven, he was talking about our present eternal, intense, real experiences of joy, peace, and love in this life, this side of the age to come.  Heaven for Jesus wasn’t “someday”.  It was a present reality.

 While I am in complete agreement with Bell that eternal life starts now, I was struck with a thought.  I did a quick word count on the words Eternal, Hell and Heaven.  The word Eternal occurs in the KJV Bible 47 times.  Hell 54 times. The word Heaven: 583 times.  We can debate for years how the language actually looks on all of it, but here is my question:

 How much do we know or think about the actual place Heaven?

 Because Jesus did talk about it.  It wasn’t just a replacement for God.  He did take it seriously.

 For all of the studies we have done to ensure that there is place of eternal punishment and suffering, and the discussion of who is “in” and who is “out”, we have reduced this thought of the place called Heaven into an exclusive country club that those with special privileges and the right amount of award points can get in.  All the while, missing the beautiful verses and word pictures in the Bible about this place called Heaven.  And the intent God has for ALL OF US to be there.

 The experience of Heaven is here to taste, sense, touch, and smell.  How brilliant for Bell on helping us to at least start thinking of painting that picture.

 How sad is it that Chan doesn’t pick up the paint brush.

Agree or Disagree: The reasons people you are interested in dating might not respond.

Here’s my theory.

If guys do not respond to email, phone call, Facebook, they really are not interested.

If girls do not respond to email, phone call. Facebook, they might still be interested. They sometimes are seeing if the guy is REALLY  interested.


Love Wins vs Erasing Hell: Gandhi and The Grandma

We begin our first look at Love Wins vs Erasing Hell by looking at the concept behind both.

Rob Bell begins the same way he begins his video, he starts with the story of an art show at his church.  One of the pieces had a quote from Gandhi.  Someone had put a piece of paper in it that said “Reality Check.  Gandhi is in Hell.”

Francis Chan starts us off sharing one of his saddest days.  The day his grandma passed away.  According to what the Bible says, he knew that his grandma was off to never ending suffering.

It is here that I think we need to take a step back.  The reason we are discussing the fate of Gandhi and Grandma.  They passed away.

The topic of death is a serious topic.  It’s not one of great comfort.  The very word causes an instant reaction.  Now add a person you know in front of it.

Mother died.

Father died.

Uncle died.

Spouse died.

Best Friend died.

Those sentences have an impact on you in a different way.

Now think of these sentences.  You might read these in the news.

Terrorist dead.

Killer dead.

Rapist dead.

Tyrant dead.

That might have caused a different reaction to you.  Both are similar in that there is an emotion to it.  The significant difference depended on the situation.  Now why is that different?

Could it be how the person lived their life?  Does that not impact you and the people around you?  Of course it does!  And that’s where we remove the simplicity of the whole issue.

There are many groups that focus and support those that are in grief.  Studies have shown there are phases and steps of grief.  For example, the Kubler-Ross model says there are 5 stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  There is no set timeline on when this is complete.  There may be some that know this from personal experience.

Chan consistently points out in the book to let God be God.

Here’s an interesting story.  Jesus (who Chan would agree is God) had a friend named Lazarus die.  If we go with the formula of knowing Jesus gets you into heaven, Lazarus is there.

Jesus could have said “no big deal.  He’s in Heaven.  I’ll see him in heaven” and continue on with His ministry.  But He didn’t.  He went back to a place where people were throwing rocks at Him to be with His friends.

He goes back and His friends are weeping and grieving.  And then there is this simple verse.

Jesus wept.

Chan argues that God can do whatever He wants, which we will dig into another blog, but here Jesus wept.  Then the Scriptures say raised Him from the dead.

What does this story tell me?  As much as we would like to speculate and/or simplify the whole idea of the afterlife by a sinner’s prayer, the way we leave Earth is significant.  It tells me that God is interested in what happens on Earth.  It also tells me that God looks far beyond a technicality and/or fire insurance.  And He takes grief seriously.

I think Bell attempts to bring that point out.  He does this by starting with an acknowledgement of questions about the idea of the sinner’s prayer.  He builds it by asking about the sinner’s prayer.  Then he goes on to ask about the fate of the fifteen year old atheist, or a new baby.  Then brings it to the way we live life here having an impact. (Pg 4-6)

Chan, for his part recognizes the seriousness of the discussion.  He admits early that he was “scared to death” about writing a book about hell.  He actually goes as far as encouraging people to “weep, pray and fast” over this topic.  “Because we can’t be wrong.”  So to give him credit, he is taking his position seriously.

Overall, I think Christianity has not been great with dealing specifically with grief and loss.  Bell and Chan for that matter seemed married and focused more on the doctrine of a Heaven and a Hell, more than the personal impact of the actual loss of a close one.  Chan in his seriousness focused on souls not people.

I think the idea of an eternal place or afterlife is a natural comfort for people.  It’s a place of hope to see people we have lost again.  Or for those who are in pain and had a season or lifetime of sickness, they get to go to a place where the pain goes away.  For those who have lost people to unspeakable evils, the idea of the evildoers getting what they rightly deserve.  There’s that saying “there’s a special place in hell for those people”. I think the emotions of the issue outweigh the issue of exact doctrine.  Particularly when we are speculating about what we think exactly happens.

Bell and Chan take us in the next chapters into their concepts of Heaven and who is in.  That’s where we will go next.

Agree or Disagree: Providence Road Baptist Church defending Pastor Charles Worley

Providence Road Baptist Church is the Church Pastor Charles Worley.

Who’s Charles Worley?

He’s the Pastor who said this.

While most were angered, Providence Road Baptist Church stood behind him.

Here’s the article.

NC Congregation Defends Pastor’s Sermon on ‘Getting Rid’ of Homosexuals

If this was your Spiritual Leader, what would you say?

Intro to Blog Series: Love Wins vs Erasing Hell

You might remember this video that stirred up the controversy.

The quote I would like to highlight is:

“What you believe about Heaven and Hell is very important because what you believe about it says what you believe about God.”

Turns out, it was the only thing everyone could agree on this video.  We had a blog and a tweet stating “Farewell Rob Bell”.  We had interviewers challenging him.  One quote from Martin Bashar: “You’re Amending The Gospel So That It’s Palatable”

Enter Francis Chan.  He along with Preston Sparkle wrote a response book called Erasing Hell

His calm demeanour and reflective behaviour, and yes, a piano is trying to calm you down.  He also stresses the importance of this topic by stating: “We can’t afford to be wrong”.

The emotions of the debate have calmed down.  With that, I can now approach this discussion with some calmness and reflection.  And I now have the book Erasing Hell.

Both books (other than the notes) are 5 pages off, with Love Wins being a little bigger with 197 pages.  Also, both have 8 chapters with an introduction.  Erasing Hell includes a chapter from the book Forgotten God which Chan wrote.  So both are quick and easy reads.  That doesn’t mean there weren’t things to chew on.  It’s just a quick read.

I’m actually working on a review for a friend of mine who wanted a thorough review of Love Wins.  In doing this I couldn’t do the book justice by simple review.

When thinking about this, I felt it best to do it this way: I’ll break it down in a series of terms of comparisons to get a better definition of what both Chan and Bell are saying about the topic.  I’ll give my thoughts on those and where I agree, disagree or at points think there is points missing by both.

The breakdown will look like this:
1. Premise
2. Heaven
3. Hell
4. God/Universalism.
5. Conclusion
If you have read both, it might be interesting to see what you have to say.  If you have not, it would be interesting to see your response