Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thoughts on Erasing Hell

I realize this blog has become a book blog and a very occasional one at that. For those of you who are not fond of books, I apologize. It seems that they are the main intellectual stimuli I have been receiving lately. Someday I may get back to writing about other topics. In the meantime, let me tell you about the most recent book that provoked my thinking:

Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle was a difficult book to read. I would like to think that God gives an infinite number of chances to turn to Him, but the Bible is clear that opportunity ends when we die, after which we will face judgment. For many, judgment leads to hell. Erasing Hell reminded me of this bitter truth. Its teaching was not new to me – I’d learned it all along as I grew up – but it reminded me that I am not God and my human mind will never fully comprehend Him.

Reading about hell brought many questions to my mind. For instance, how can there be no mourning in heaven (Revelation 21:4) when people we love are being tortured in hell? And why does effective evangelism seem to be the opposite of what it should be? The reality of hell creates an urgency that would inspire a type of evangelism that is more suited to alarming announcements to crowds on street corners (“Get out of that burning building now!”) than to quiet chats in homes, but the “turn or burn” style of evangelism is usually much less effective than the slower, personal method of one-on-one friendship evangelism. Why does God change hearts so slowly?

I will never completely understand God, but I know Him well enough that I know I can trust Him and take Him at His word. As Chan & Sprinkle say in Erasing Hell, “The One who invented justice . . . knows perfectly what the unbeliever deserves.” And “. . . the New Testament writers don’t have the same allergic reaction to hell that I do. Perhaps they had a view of God that is much bigger than mine. A view of God that takes Him at His word and doesn’t try to make Him fit our own moral standards and human sentimentality.”

I am glad I am not God. I don’t want that kind of responsibility. But I also cannot bear to think too deeply about many of the people I love spending eternity in hell. All I can do is pray for them and follow God’s direction as faithfully as I can.