Discussing
Francis Chan beats the hell into Rob Bell

Steven Koster

Adam
June 23, 2011

Thanks for the review. I have added this one to my list of books to read.

Rick
June 23, 2011

I saw his promo video for his book a few weeks ago and am looking forward to hearing what he has to say.  Thank you for this review.  (By the way, hearing from the BTGMI people at Synod this year was very inspiring!)<br>Peace,<br>Rick Pinckney

Greg Richter
June 23, 2011

I'm thankful Francis Chan is standing up for what's right. I know Rob Bell is trying to bring people into the kingdom by trying not to offend them, and that is admirable in a way, but being all things to all men does not include being in error. Chan's book Crazy Love was a needed challenge to me that I'm still trying to live up to.<br>[email protected]

David Fowlie
June 23, 2011

This whole debate over Hell (and Heaven) is very interesting. While I understand the reason for it, it can take away from how we should be living our lives right now. I bought Bell's book, but I'm interesed in Chan's perspective too.

Donny
June 23, 2011

I really appreciate Chan and all he's done over the years.<br>([email protected])

Renskekorf
June 23, 2011

I was struck by your comment that Chan offered directness and clarity on the subject of Hell----is this possible when the scriptures themselves offer no such thing.  Reny Korf

Keri
June 23, 2011

This book is certainly the buzz right now.  I appreciate Chan's laying out of the Biblical truth in this book. But, I do find it somewhat odd that this is more or less a direct response to Bell.  Couldn't a book about hell be written without noting Bell?  I mean, not everyone has heard of this controversy (really, not everyone has) and not everyone is looking to debate universalism.  I have a great respect and appreciation for Chan's methods of delivery. His words are practical and meaningful, and I do look forward to reading this book.

Steve
June 23, 2011

Hey I am excited to read this book. I'm a big Bell and Chan fan but Bell's book threw me, yet also awakened questions that needed to be asked. I expected Chan's take (he was, after all, a speaker at last year's Desiring God's conference in Minne) but I don't necessarily like it. I'm not sure the verdict is settled on this issue... <br><br><br>my email: [email protected]

ricardov63
June 23, 2011

This is an interesting discussion.  Thanks for making us aware of it!

Dean Roberts
June 23, 2011

I can't wait to get my hands on this book... as I've said in my article on Francis Chan ( <a href="http://deanroberts.net/theology/thoughts-on-hell-by-francis-chan/" rel="nofollow">http://deanroberts.net/theolog...</a> ) I haven't read Rob Bell's book either... so I look forward to reading both of them in parallel. <br><br><a href="http://deanroberts.net" rel="nofollow">http://deanroberts.net</a>

Zulatis
June 23, 2011

This is going to be a great reading to me.  I can't wait to have it in my hands.

Nathan Williams
June 23, 2011

Great review and I am excited about Chan's book when it comes out!

Joe Stricklin
June 23, 2011

I would love to receive a copy of the book. I'm glad to see someone who has a relatively public platform speaking out about Rob Bell's heresy. The Scriptures teach that in the last days there will be subtle deceptions that would deceive the very elect if possible. I believe Rob Bells teachings about hell and universalism as whole is one of those end time deceptions. My e-mail address is [email protected]

Jamesggilmore
June 23, 2011

<i>He then challenges those who would disown a God who would not make the same choices they would. God is God, and you are not.</i><br><br>I don't think that gets him off the hook there, simply presenting God as completely inconceivable (which is true in a broad sense); God continually talks about God's character throughout the Bible, and God's character is presented as consistent. God continually compares God's relationship with us to our most essential and archetypal relationships with one another—God is the best possible parent to us, God's children, or God is the best possible spouse to us, God's beloved.<br><br>Much of the evangelical portrayal of God runs counter to these metaphors. If a father tortured his daughter (or handed his daughter over to someone else for the purpose of their being tortured) because she had disobeyed her father—and particularly if she had disobeyed out of ignorance—there is no possible justification we'd accept for that father calling him- or herself a "good father." We'd call Child Protective Services to take that little girl away. Good parents, loving parents, do not torture their children. Discipline, sure—but only with the mind of making the child better. The "eternal conscious torture" of Hell is no disciplinary process.<br><br>If a little boy's love for his mother was based on the fact that she had threatened to beat the living snot out of him if he didn't love her enough and believe certain things about her, but he'd loved her enough believed certain things about her and she thus didn't beat the living snot out of him, we wouldn't call that little boy's love an authentic love. We'd call that mother coercive and manipulative at best, and a loathsome sadist at worse—and, again, we'd probably call Child Protective Services. Good parents, loving parents, give their children reasons to love them that don't involve not carrying out threats to hurt their children.<br><br>I feel like it's a bit of a cop-out to say "well, God is God and we're not" when faced with the fact that the evangelicals' characterization of God is completely incompatible with—in fact, the opposite of—the chief metaphors God uses to describe God's self and God's relationship with us throughout the Scripture. (The Calvinists' portrayal is even <i>worse</i> in suggesting that there are some people out there that God just doesn't love enough to even try to save.) The evangelicals' vision makes God into an arbitrary, capricious character at best, and a sadist at worst. That God can't be authentically worshiped or authentically loved, only feared and appeased. "Of course I love you more than anyone else! Now please don't hit me!" is the kind of response we'd expect out of the spouse of a batterer—not the spouse of someone who really loves them.<br><br>But I think that Chen is, in some way, right: If that's who God is, then that's who God is. If God's character is such that the metaphors of a "good parent" and a "good spouse" are completely inapplicable to our relationship with God, and if God really is the kind of parent who would subject their child to eternal torture if they didn't have enough faith in their heart, or the kind of husband who would beat his wife if she didn't tell him every day that she loved him—then that's who God is, and there's nothing we human beings can do to change that.<br><br>But I don't know that I could honestly call that "Good News"—"Gospel"—for anyone.

Jonathan Downie
June 23, 2011

I have to disagree with jamesggilmore here. For me, the Bible makes it clear that it is not about God sending people to Hell but about them rejecting Him and, as a result, choosing Hell. Think of it like a Father telling His son that if He goes swimming without water wings in the sea, He will drown. Whose fault is it then if the son consequently drowns because He did exactly what his father said not to?<br><br>God says clearly, "Hell is real but I have provided you an escape route, take it." If we choose not to, it is not God's fault when we land there. If you read through God's dealings with the Israelites, especially in the words of the prophets and the Mosaic covenant, you see exactly this emphasis.

Rickd
June 23, 2011

James, I think there is a misunderstanding here. We were all born in sin, separated from God. You make a common assumption that we are all born children of God. This is a theologically flawed belief responsible for much bad theology. “To them that receive him He gives the right to become the Children who were born not of water but of blood.“ That’s when we “receive the spirit of adoption and cry Abba, Father”. God desperately wants to adopt us as children and rescue the human race who were born under a sentence of death. God is not “a father who tortures his daughter because she had disobeyed her father—and particularly if she had disobeyed out of ignorance.” God took the natural consequences of her sin upon Himself and suffered the torture so that she may be released. I’m not sure where you are drawing these fractured metaphors from. If God is for us, who can be against us? As it says in Ephesians, we were born spiritually dead and “were by nature the children of wrath.”  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” We don’t understand hell, but one thing God tells us, it was never ever created for man. God nowhere is seen as a mother who threatens to “beat the living snot out of him if he didn't love her enough and believe certain things about her” Nor do any reputable evangelical or reformed teachers take a position like that. This is not the “evangelical portrayal of God.” Once we are His children, nothing can separate us from His love and nothing can snatch us out of His hand. Rob fills his book with straw men that don’t exist.  God is not “the kind of parent who would subject their child to eternal torture if they didn't have enough faith (enough?) in their heart, or the kind of husband who would beat his wife if she didn't tell him every day that she loved him”. I am not sure where you are getting that from but it is not the Bible and it is not evangelicals or reformed theologians.. I know this site is associated with reformed theology, where are the reformed theologians or neo calvinists who will respond to these charges?

JCarpenter
June 23, 2011

Just finished reading Bell's _Love Wins, and will give it a re-read. I especially appreciated his take on the Prodigal Son story, with the focus not on the sons---one who didn't feel worthy of the father's love, the other who felt overly-worthy yet ignored---both missing the point that it's not about them, their do's or don'ts, their faith or lack of it, but that it's about the father's love and grace.<br>Coincidentally heard this past Sun. Rev. James Buchanan at 4thPresbyterian in Chicago preach on the wideness of God's mercy, echoing pretty much Bell's argument: "I'd hope that grace is not so fragile that it can't stand up to lack of faith."

Jamesggilmore
June 23, 2011

<i>Think of it like a Father telling His son that if He goes swimming without water wings in the sea, He will drown. Whose fault is it then if the son consequently drowns because He did exactly what his father said not to?</i><br><br>Except that in this case, the son's never actually met his father, and gets the "wear water wings" message not directly from his father, but from a letter his father mailed him over two thousand years ago that can't be verified in any way to have actually come from his father, because he had a whole bunch of people write parts of it for him, and which suggests in other places that he should wear a lifejacket instead.<br><br>Additionally, he's also receiving 50 other letters of varying age from 50 other people who also claim to be his father, who suggest different things than water wings.<br><br>And there's a large group of people who claim to have a message for the son from his father, telling the son that not only is he supposed to wear water wings, but he's also not allowed to wear flippers, swim trunks, or goggles, because if he does the water wings won't work.<br><br>And regardless of whether the son wants to go swimming in the sea at all, he's continually being pushed out further and further onto the plank, all the while receiving all of these hundred conflicting messages.<br>And instead of drowning in the sea and having it be over right away, the son would be condemned to an eternity of continually being eaten by sharks while unable to breathe.<br><br>Oh, and the father also has a rescue boat and lifeguard training, and could rescue his son from the sea at any time—a sea which was dug out and filled by the same father whose son is now receiving a hundred conflicting messages and nothing clear.<br><br>So assuming you're not going to challenge my extension of the metaphor at work here, at what point in all of this do we suggest that because there are a thousand different things the father was completely capable of doing to ensure that his son didn't drown, the fact that he didn't do them <i>might</i> mean that he really doesn't care all that much about his son?<br><br>I believe—I <i>have</i> to believe—that our heavenly Parent is more loving than the father in your metaphor... because if God isn't more loving than that, if God really is the rather arbitrary (or, worse, powerless) father in your metaphor, then the Gospel is like the living dog they found in the rubble after the Japanese earthquake. It was heartwarming and joyful to find the dog, but you'd have rather not had the earthquake—and the multiple dead bodies you've still got to dig out from underneath that rubble—in the first place.

Jamesggilmore
June 23, 2011

So you're arguing that God doesn't love everyone—that there are some people God loves enough to call God's children, but that everyone else, despite having been created in God's image and with the breath of God in their lungs, just isn't loved <i>quite</i> enough by God to make God want to sacrifice God's son for them. That "for God so loved the world" thing <i>really</i> should have an asterisk after it, pointing out that there are a whole lot of people out there that God doesn't <i>really</i> love enough to call God's children.<br><br>Please tell me this: If it's so theologically clear to you that there are a whole bunch of people—in fact, if the evangelicals are right, the vast majority of all the human beings that have ever lived—that God doesn't <i>really</i> love, then why should we waste our time loving them? Sure, God tells us to love everyone, but then in your model, God doesn't love everyone—so who's to say that when God tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, God doesn't <i>really</i> mean it in the same sense that "God so loved the world," that we should only love <i>some</i> of our neighbors as ourselves, while we're free to treat the other ones like crap?<br><br>Moreover, even if one accepts your argument that God can't be considered <i>all of our</i> parent but can only be said to have adopted <i>some</i> of us, that still doesn't get your version of God off the hook.<br><br>What would we say about someone who saw a thousand people drowning and had a boat that could rescue each and every one of them—but decided instead to only pick 50 or 100 of their favorite people and leave the rest to drown? <br><br>What would we say about someone who saw a train full of children on their way to the Nazi concentration camps, and knowingly had the ability to divert the entire train over to Allied-held territory and give them a home for the rest of their lives in his mansion without any danger at all—but instead of doing that just stopped the train for a few minutes, picked a few hundred of his favorite kids that he wanted to adopt, and let the rest go on to the gas chamber?<br><br>In both of those cases, we would suggest that that person—who knew they had the power to save all from certain death, but only chose to save a few of their favorites—was not a good person. In fact, we'd probably suggest that the <i>absolute best</i> possible interpretation of that person's moral quality was that they were capricious and arbitrary.<br><br>If nothing else, if someone were audacious enough to suggest that the person in question <i>really really loved</i> the people they could have saved but instead left to drown or the kids they could have rescued but let go off to the gas chambers, the one who made that suggestion would be seen as a complete fool.

NIblett
June 23, 2011

I am interested in reading what Chan has to say, but I will be honest, to many christians are treating these characters like different teams to support. Both Bell and Chan are men seeking God with all their heart and after reading love wins, although I could see where people were seeing universalism, I saw a man just being honest. The fact that he then gets called a 'heretic' as one person has said below (and then goes all 'left behind' on us) just frustrates me. <br><br>I like the 'God is God, and you are not' thought for that is the truth and both Chan and Bell are not God on this subject, and nor is anyone else who thinks they can use the same verses that these men have both approached to scare people or ignore the reality of Hell - whatever it looks like, lets be honest the only manipulators here are those that use hell to get people into church.. God is Love and Love Wins, even if love winning is people rejecting God and stepping into hell, for love still wins because love is free will. So yeh, if the books going, I wouldn't mind a copy of it :) <br><br>•Disclaimer - I do not think my view is more right than any other persons, but I think that we are called to love God and love people, not judge but discern, two very different attitudes.

Steven Koster
June 23, 2011

You raise some difficult and painful questions. I think part of Chan's answer in the book is there is a point where we don't understand easily, but the fault is our brokenness, not God's character. <br><br>It is part of the scriptural witness both that he is the best parent ever, AND that some people will reject him anyway. <br><br>I think Chan would challenge your metaphor first in substance that everyone has met God in general revelation and are without excuse for their rejection of him (Romans 1:19-20)<br><br>And then he would challenge the assumption that God should behave in ways of justice that you demand. Chan dwells a bit on Paul's "what if" thought experiment in Romans 9:22ff--what if the potter makes vessels he intends to destroy, if only to emphasize the grace to those he doesn't? God doesn't necessessarily behave that way, but he *could* and still be the best parent ever. <br><br>"14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." "<br><br>That's why Chan's key point is we love a God who is not easy to understand, but the limitations are on us, not God.

Rickd
June 23, 2011

James, you believe you have God over a barrel. Either He saves every living human being or according to your theological accounting He is a heartless devil. I did not say that God does not love all equally. He does. God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son. I am not a 5 point Calvinist, I believe His sacrifice was sufficient for all. Yet...the paradox is all are not saved. As Jesus said of some, “ye are of your father, the devil”. There are those who for whatever reason will not get into the boat, will not accept forgiveness, will not accept fatherhood, who value their independence above all else. Like John Milton’s Lucifer, they would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven. That is the tragedy. You sound like the character Paul uses to pose theological questions in Romans Chapter 9. Again, where are the calvinists from Calvin College? I did not go to seminary, I am pentecostal in practice, where are the theologians? I miss you guys.

Jacob Marlowe
June 23, 2011

It's comforting to see that there are still Christians with a backbone to speak out against heresy. The truth is not subjectable to one's opinion, but is absolute. It is available to those who seek Christ passionately, and follow Him with diligence. Everyone knows that deep down, once you peel away the layers, the motivation for people's so-called truth can only be one of two things: God-centered or self-centered. As John Piper put it in one of his sermons, "Who is at the bottom? Who is the fountain of your joy?"

Steven Koster
June 23, 2011

Here's a followup thought: in this video <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vggzqXzEvZ0" rel="nofollow">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...</a> NT Wright talks about hell in the context of the full picture of the New Creation--heaven and earth coming together in the fullness of God's presence. Some who have rejected God now will continue to do so. <br><br>This context is what I had in mind when I cricized Chan above for dealing with hell seperately from other biblical notions of eternal life.  It's the greatest weakness of the book. <br><br>I can't speak for Chan, but I suspect he would actually agree with Wright. I just wish that was clearer in the book.

Rickd
June 23, 2011

Sometimes I believe N.T. Wright is so believable because he sounds so reasonable and British when he makes assertions. I have not read Chan’s book yet and will do so in the next week. I would probably also appreciate additional perspective on how we progressively make ourselves fit for hell by the daily self-willed rejection of Grace. However, Jesus clearly describes his angels at the judgment time separating sheep from goats, picturing a place where the fire is not quenched, where there is great thirst and the final disposition of the irredeemably sinful into the lake of fire. N.T. Wright prefers to describe something he says is “more sober”. In whose estimation? He states that “hell is what happens when” we witness” “the progressive shrinking of human life” or “colluding with your own progressive dehumanization”. He believes the biblical language is too “vivid and terrifying”. But those are the words Jesus used. As much as we would prefer it, asserting that this language is purely poetic does not make it so. We may enjoy Michaelangelo’s vision of heaven, his vision of a restored earth, but to reject his depictions of the terrors of hell based on the words of Jesus is arbitrary.

Paul Miller
June 23, 2011

I believe after reading your comments, jamesggilmore, that you believe that we are not sinful.  That we are innocent, and that God, the creator of the universe, is punishing us for a crime that we did not commit.  The Bible is very clear in describing the human condition.  We all turn our backs to God and want to go our own way.  This started with Adam in the garden, he was given one rule and he broke it, he wanted to do his own thing.  God wants something better from us, he wants us to be like Him, He wants to shape us into the image of Himself, to have compassion and to show love for one another, and to love Him with all our heart, our mind and our soul.  Does this describe what you see in man?  One does not need to look very far to see the depravity of man.  Even when we do good, without Him, it is 'filthy rags', we do it for our own glory.God made us to show His glory, not ours, and in that we partake in His glory, his goodness.  We all deserve hell, I deserve hell, I have nothing in me that is good outside of God, yet God extends grace to me, grace being free, forgiveness for my misdeeds, for my selfish pride.  He reaches out His hand to me to pull me out of the pit, how do I respond?  Do I take it?You talk as if we are innocent children being punished by a hateful father.  We are far from innocent, and yet even a hateful father that does beat his children is given Gods forgiveness if he reaches out to Him.  Wouldn't we all like there to be no Hell?  What kind of a God allows the evil selfish pride of man into His sight?  Hell is where we will be turned over to ourselves and all that we are.  Maybe you have a better picture of man; I do not.You say that the message from the Bible is unclear, I disagree.  If anything over years of studying, it becomes more and more unified in it's message.  And that is the beauty of it all, written by the hands of many men, from different continents, over many years, and it's message is clear.

Mark Ashcroft
June 23, 2011

Praise God for Francis Chan!

Saint Stewart
June 23, 2011

Finally. A strong voice in opposition to Mr. Bell's. <br><br>God is just, and He loves us all, but if we fail to follow Him or His rules, then it is on our heads when we receive the punishment we get. There can be no fence sitting. It's time to choose a side. He who has an ear, let him hear...

Thaddeusjwilliams
June 24, 2011

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJk-HxMTbmQ&amp;feature=youtube_gdata_player" rel="nofollow">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...</a><br><br>Great review! For those interested, another full length book response to Bell's Love Wins was released on June 1st with Rodopi Press (New York/Amsterdam). It's called Love, Freedom, and Evil: Does Authentic Love Require Free Will? You can find out more at <a href="http://www.lovefreedomandevil.com" rel="nofollow">www.lovefreedomandevil.com</a> or watch the promo video at the link above. <br><br>Blessings!

Jamesggilmore
June 24, 2011

I don't think I have God over a barrel at all; God does what God does. However, I do think that those who hold to evangelical or Calvinist theologies need to account for the apparent incompatibility between the parts of the Bible that strongly suggest that God loves the whole world and every human being, and their much more limited view of salvation. <br><br>Quite frankly, I really don't <i>want</i> to believe in the Calvinist/evangelical vision of God; I once shared that vision, but have since decided that I don't think I can remain sane in a world where that God is God. This is not, as some conservatives would claim of those who reject their version of God, because I don't want an outside force making moral claims on me; in the way I've come to understand God, God claims the very lives of those who follow God in calling them to devote themselves to God's causes and God's love on earth. Rather, it's because I didn't think I could truly <i>love</i> a vision of God that picks and chooses who God is going to love; any love I had was always tempered with the fear that at any moment, God could turn on me and decide I was one of the people God <i>doesn't</i> really love, or my own heart would change and I'd lose what little faith I had and doom myself to eternal conscious torture. (Even those who believe in the "perseverance of the saints" don't reject the idea that someone could "backslide"—in their view, such a person was simply never a saint to begin with.)<br>But I should be clear: I'm not a universalist, by any stretch of the imagination. Universalism is just as much a denial of human will and human conscience as Calvinism, to my mind; it's just predestination without the messiness of "single" or "double" attached. I do think there are people out there—perhaps many people—who, when confronted by a perfectly loving, perfectly just God who is willing to forgive everything they've done wrong and love them unconditionally and totally for who they are, will reject that because of their own selfishness or their own pride. In Scripture, both God and Hell are described in terms of fire; I think there's something to that. For those who know Christ (whether or not they know Christ's name), the fire is a refiner's fire, cutting down to the core and preserving what is good; for them, the fire frees their true self from the impurities that surround it. For those who reject Christ's love, the fire only burns them.In other words, I think that at the end we'll all be in God's presence. To those who know Christ in their hearts, God's presence will be rapture and elation; to those who reject Christ, God's presence will be torture, and the option of Hell will be available—not to endure the eternal conscious torture the evangelicals present, but to get <i>away</i> from the torture of God's presence and into a world where that presence is not seen. I think that world would more along the lines of C.S. Lewis's banal and gray city than Dante's Inferno; it would be a world of apathy and lifelessness, not fire and brimstone.<br><br>But I think, with Lewis, that the gates of hell are locked from the <i>inside</i>, not the outside—that those who are there <i>choose to be there</i>, by hardening their hearts toward God in various ways. I suppose I'm with Spencer Burke in believing that the Heavenly Kingdom is "opt-out" rather than "opt-in." For just a few examples, I think that those who hate another person or group to the point where they cannot <i>possibly</i> accept living in the Kingdom of Heaven with them, will choose Hell simply because the one(s) they hate (isn't/aren't) there, and those who spend their lives greedily hoarding every possession they can get their hands on will reject a Heavenly Kingdom in which everything belongs to God and everyone gives and shares freely with one another, instead choosing a Hell where they can say "these things are mine and mine alone." <br><br>But, to go back to my original point, I can't help but believe in a God who loves everyone and eagerly desires for everyone to be reconciled to God and live in God's eternal Kingdom, and I can't accept a God who tells people that because they didn't believe the right things on earth—particularly given that the messengers of those things are so abysmally bad—they are doomed to an eternity of conscious torture. Maybe that is because I don't want to believe in the evangelicals' or Reformed version of God; I'll freely own that. Maybe it is entirely personal, and I'm interpreting everything entirely wrong. But I don't think I could love a God who would condemn so many of the people I love to an eternity of conscious torture simply because their encounters with Christianity (aside from me, I sincerely hope) have been the finger pointed at them with judgment, the preaching of intolerance, or the sneer of unequivocal hate.

Jeff Featherstone
June 24, 2011

There is a danger in this debate that unviersalism on the one hand and annhiliation vs hell on the other are being lumped together. They are two very separate issues. It is perfectly possible to have traditional biblical beliefs on salvation through Christ alone without any second chances after death but also to hold that, on careful study, the bible teaches that non-Christian cease to exist after the final judgement rather than being sent to hell. Well known evangelicals such as John Stott have leaned towards this position. It would be a major mistake to label people as liberals simply becuase they have genuinely different views about what the Bible teaches on hell.

JCarpenter
June 24, 2011

Hopefully the word "liberal" isn't being equated with "heretic."  There is a positive quality to the word.   :?)<br>Totally appreciate your point.

Rob T
June 24, 2011

yea, i was glad to see Chan's work here...  Although Keller has done some even better writing on the topic of hell in recent days.

Siarlys Jenkins
June 24, 2011

Jesus very clearly said that many who never gave their lives to him, never even heard of him, would be saved, because "inasmuch as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it unto me." Case closed. Universalism is Jesus's own teaching.

solid4JC
June 25, 2011

James -- I think you have just talked me out of believing in God ! Only kidding ! But are you sure you haven't talked yourself into humanism?

Jamesggilmore
June 25, 2011

Why would you suggest that? Do you really think there are no other possibilities than the evangelical/Reformed vision of God and humanism?

solid4JC
June 26, 2011

No James I believe there are many possible visions or mans versions of God, Hindu,Islam,  Animist &amp; many more false Gods that man thinking himself wise invents to let himself go his own way rather than the way of Jesus the Messiah. All humanist in that they put man before the Living God.

Sabreman
June 26, 2011

Speaking as an apologist for trinitarian theism and for the historical accuracy of the Gospels, as well as someone who has written his own little 100+ page book of notes on Rob's book:<br><br>There are definitely weaknesses to Rob's book, even humorously self-refuting and outright asinine things.<br><br>But a lot of the flak he has been taking from non-universalistic theologians and preachers is flat out mistaken, and practically libelous.<br><br>For example, anyone criticisng Rob for seeing hell as only now?--that person either hasn't read the book, or wasn't competent enough (or maybe just didn't care) to notice Rob insisting multiple times that hell is coming after death in the resurrection for people who insist on impenitently holding to their sins. He even goes so far as to contradict his own insistences elsewhere (about God eventually getting what He wants, namely to save all sinners from sin), to warn that some people may end up in hell permanently. Rob doesn't hide this in a sentence somewhere in the middle of the book. He starts talking about post-mortem punishment coming to sinners in chapter 2 (the heaven chapter!) and reinforces it emphatically at least once pretty much every chapter thereafter. Whatever else Rob is doing, he is not "erasing hell". He does (usually) teach that hell is not hopeless, because God is not hopeless. But that isn't the same thing as erasing hell. (For goodness' sake, he spends the majority of his chapter on hell talking about the example of the Rich Man suffering in hades post-mortem!--and why this is appropriate!)<br><br>Anyone wanting to seriously critique Rob either has to include this information, or they're only bearing false witness against their neighbor in order to condemn him. And maybe that's inadvertent--but then, that means they weren't competent enough to notice BLATANTLY OBVIOUS THINGS about Rob's book, and yet want to lecture other people on what he's doing wrong (much moreso on what the Bible supposedly teaches instead.)<br><br>Meanwhile, I haven't read an advance copy of Francis' book yet, but I've seen his video promo, which is basically a ten minute sermon anchored on deploying Isaiah 55:9--without once discussing the context of that verse (where God's ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.) I've seen a couple of advance reviews, too, including this one, where this theme is (unsurprisingly) repeated, so I'm going to guess it's important in the book, too.<br><br>My question is, does he at least talk about the context of that verse, and what God is saying (through Isaiah) to Israel and the nations about His thoughts and ways being higher than ours?<br><br>Because I'm very familiar with the context. And I have trouble believing that Francis Chan (or anyone else) is thinking of the context when they appeal to it for the purposes of trying to explain why God either doesn't persist in saving all sinners from sin or never even intended to try to do so in the first place.<br><br>(But like I said, I haven't read his book yet, so maybe Steven can report on whether Francis discusses that context? I can't help but be very curious about it. {g})<br><br>JRP

Sabreman
June 26, 2011

Steven: {{It is part of the scriptural witness both that he is the best parent ever, AND that some people will reject him anyway.}}<br><br>Rob agrees in LW. Does Francis mention this agreement?<br><br>Steven: {{I think Chan would challenge your metaphor first in substance that everyone has met God in general revelation and are without excuse for their rejection of him (Romans 1:19-20)}}<br><br>Rob agrees with that, too (although I don't recall offhand that he appeals to Romans 1:19-20 for it). Does Francis mention that?<br><br>Steven: {{God doesn't necessessarily behave that way, but he *could* and still be the best parent ever.}}<br><br>Rob does disagree that God could create children He intends to sacrificially destroy for the purpose of "emphasizing grace" to His other children, much moreso that God could do this and still be the best Father ever. But he has biblical reasons for believing that God doesn't behave that way (necessarily or otherwise.)<br><br>Steven: {{That's why Chan's key point is we love a God who is not easy to understand, but the limitations are on us, not God. }}<br><br>Rob agrees with that, too (even though that's not his key point). Does Francis mention that?<br><br>Rob's own key point is a strongly orthodox Christology, which he spends most of Chapter 6 promoting (and presenting with an evangelical call in that and Chapter 7, for people to put their faith in Christ for salvation from their sins). Does Francis mention that?<br><br>JRP

Sabreman
June 26, 2011

Steven: {{This context is what I had in mind when I cricized Chan above for dealing with hell seperately from other biblical notions of eternal life.  It's the greatest weakness of the book.}}<br><br>It's worth pointing out that Rob Bell, when dealing with hell (both in this life and in the next), does so in conjunction with biblical notions of life and death (including eternal life).

Gem
June 27, 2011

Paul seems to use that "unsearchable" argument to prove God's MERCY:<br><br> <blockquote>32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, <b>that He might have mercy on all.</b> <br> 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! <b>How unsearchable are His judgments</b> and His ways past finding out! <br>       34 “ For who has known the mind of the LORD?<br>      Or who has become His counselor?”<br>       35 “ Or who has first given to Him<br>      And it shall be repaid to him?”<br><br> 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.  Rom 11</blockquote>

Jamesggilmore
June 27, 2011

<i>You raise some difficult and painful questions. I think part of Chan's answer in the book is there is a point where we don't understand easily, but the fault is our brokenness, not God's character. </i><br><br>And if the brokenness of previous generations is responsible for those choosing against God now?<br><br><i>It is part of the scriptural witness both that he is the best parent ever, AND that some people will reject him anyway. </i><br>I don't dispute that; as my post (above/below, can't figure out how these things are ordered and they keep moving around) indicates, I'm not a universalist. But I do think that one has to <i>reject</i> God—that the doors of Hell are locked from the <i>inside</i>.<br><br><i>I think Chan would challenge your metaphor first in substance that everyone has met God in general revelation and are without excuse for their rejection of him</i><br><br>I find that notion extraordinarily problematic. Certainly I believe in general revelation, which convinces us of right and wrong—that killing, starvation, poverty, torture, hatred, etc. are wrong—but I don't think that general revelation offers anyone the opportunity to reject God, when it provides absolutely no specific information about God's character or even existence.<br><br><i>And then he would challenge the assumption that God should behave in ways of justice that you demand.</i><br><br>I'm not demanding that God act in any way; rather, I'm suggesting that a certain image of God held by a certain theological school of thought is incompatible with the images and metaphors God presents of God's-self, and God's relationships with humanity. If God acts in the way that evangelical and Reformed theology suggest, then that's really outside my control—but a God who is that capricious and arbitrary makes me want to shrink away and tense up in fear waiting for the next blow to be struck upon my brow, rather than embrace and draw close to in love.<br><br><i>Chan dwells a bit on Paul's "what if" thought experiment in Romans 9:22ff--what if the potter makes vessels he intends to destroy, if only to emphasize the grace to those he doesn't? God doesn't necessessarily behave that way, but he *could* and still be the best parent ever. </i><br><br>Best parent to whom? To the vessels God doesn't destroy, I suppose. But the destroyed vessels (which aren't really capable of conscious thought, which is why I'm not a huge fan of this metaphor) really don't feel as if the God who's just dashed them to pieces on the ground just to prove a point is really acting out of a whole lot of love for them. So again we're forced into a corner: Either God doesn't <i>really</i> love everyone (which would contradict a great deal of Scriptural witness suggesting otherwise), or God's way of showing that love is completely the opposite of any of the images of even <i>agape</i> love we humans, who are made in God's image, have in our minds and hearts from general revelation.<br>

Sabreman
June 27, 2011

Good point, Gem! Something very similar could be said in regard to Paul's deployment of the potter/clay, 'shall you answer back to God?' scripture citations back in chapter 9: he's quoting from a place in Isaiah where God is rebuking people who thought He had abandoned rebels after punishing them and would never save them from their sins and restore them.<br><br>Much to my not-surprise, this context never seem to be mentioned when that scripture gets cited at me against the hope of universal salvation. (I wonder if Francis talks about it in his book...?)

Sabreman
June 27, 2011

Would it help if I pointed out two things in context about those vessels fitted for destruction?<br><br>1.) The concept is deployed elsewhere in the Bible to describe the job or purpose of the vessels: some pour out destruction, some pour out blessing. This notion fits the prior contexts of Romans 9 very well, as well as fitting the contexts of Romans 11 very well (once Paul finishes his bridging topic in chapter 10).<br><br>2.) Or, if the potter/clay analogy is pressed, then the context (especially from where Paul is quoting in Isaiah a few verses earlier) would be that of a potter beating a faulty vessel down so he can reform it into what it ought to be.<br><br>(Considering that Paul was a Jewish rabbi, it's entirely possible he meant both applications!--especially since both contextually fit.)

Guest
June 28, 2011

Just found this review thanks to the Christian Post who quoted it<br><br><a href="http://www.christianpost.com/news/francis-chans-coming-book-on-hell-gets-reviewed-51561/" rel="nofollow">http://www.christianpost.com/n...</a>

Gene
July 2, 2011

James is hardly leaning to humanism.  We're human and we all read the scriptures through human lenses.  When the gospel (good news) tickels our ears we often hear that if it tickels our ears it's bad.  Wrong.  It tickles our ears to hear we have a creator who loves us.<br><br>Would you say the gospel was bitter when God removed the blinds which covered your eyes.  Did you embrace Christ becuase he scares the living bajeebess out of you or was it his kindness that led you to repentance.  <br><br>Too many Christians are not crticially thinking Chan seems to be no different in my opinion.  Is he careful to preach that Jesus did not die for all?  I sat under Macarthur (which Chan has a relationship to being assocaited with Dr. Bookman - my old bible class professor at the Masters').  Has Chan produced a video that Calvinists should be careful that God shows favoritism when scripture states he does not.  Chan is like most who (unlike James above) have great difficulty contemplating a real truth - we might be wrong about our views.  I for one read Talbott's book and think he made a GREAT defense of Universalsim.  And smarter men than me (like Calvin grad and Yale prof. Keith Derose) agree with Talbott; my point being they're not crazy.  People are just too scared to stand up to the moderen day sanhedrin.<br>

Seth-Gar
July 10, 2011

i stopped after rading the title. i dont know what side id say im on though ive read both books. but a "christian" who writes that as the title of their essay i want nothing to do with.

Busyjones
September 8, 2011

Wow, I thought I was the only person with the same view of God as fire. What you wrote about God's presence being a fire completely resonates with what I have concluded. - Maybe because of what I've read of C.S. Lewis. God is the same, and because of the condition of their hearts, people will view Him differently.

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