by Francis Chan
Francis Chan, former pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, along with Professor Preston Sprinkle, give a response to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. It’s much more than this though, as Chan takes a sobering biblical look at one of the most difficult truths of the Bible, hell, and uncovers the even deeper issue of humility.
Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle make a great team. With Chan’s urgent, down-to-earth tone and Sprinkle’s careful research, the book establishes biblical and extrabiblical knowledge on hell, showing that God is very clear on the matter. There’s no beautifying the subject here: hell is real and people are going.
But Chan, the ever compassionate pastor, is thoughtful here. He nearly pleads with the reader to consider the implications: these are not doctrines we’re talking about, he says, but destinies. He opens a chapter by saying that as he writes in Starbucks, there are people he is watching that very well may end up in hell. It is a sickening thought that compels him, and us, to action. Chan is so desperately sincere in pulling us out of an academic debate and into a human discussion.
By far the best chapter in the book is Chapter 6, when Chan tackles Romans 9. The way Chan conveys God’s absolute sovereignty is humbling: he shakes us out of our arrogant tendency to make God fit a categorical box. Here he tackles even the massacres of the Old Testament and some of the more confusing passages about God’s wrath. It is a moment in the book where Chan can slow down, consider what the Bible is really saying, and look us point blank in the face to consider the same. It’s a haunting way to close out the book.
There have been some common complaints against the book, such as a sometimes shallow pop treatment of the subject, long endnotes, and a disconnect between believing there is a hell and being “okay” with it. Often Chan will express his sentiment about removing hell from the Bible and feeling sick about it, which some have remarked as the opposite of real humility. I find this to be untrue: doesn’t everyone feel this way about hell? Aren’t there more than a few things we wish Jesus didn’t say?
The only thing desired here is a longer book. The endnotes are helpful but do end up inflating the pages; it would not have hurt for a few more thoughts on the matter. Chan has an endlessly readable voice and would have fared better spending more time on some of the harder issues.
Many will be queasy about the subject but Chan and Sprinkle give a fair, uncompromising, biblical look into hell that will, if anything, motivate you to action. This is not a “fire and brimstone” warning, but a passionate work that could only empower you to more grace. Chan is unapologetic as he speaks truth; he is both diligent and desperate about the issue, as we should be.
“This is not just about doctrines; it’s about destinies. And if you’re reading this book and wrestling with what the Bible says about hell, you cannot let this be a mere academic exercise.” (72)
“Hell is for real. Am I?” (108)
“… we must come to a place where we can let God be God. We need to surrender our perceived right to determine what is just and humbly recognize that God alone gets to decide how He is going to deal with people.” (131)