Recently, the Dutch translating of the book, ‘Erasing Hell’ by Francis Chan was issued by the publisher, Medema. The appearance of this book is a reaction to the controversial publication of “Love wins“, by Rob Bell. Francis Chan answers the question, “Is there a hell?” with a resounding “yes.” Now I need not tell the regular readers of this blog, what position GoedBericht.nl has taken concerning this topic, because there are many articles and blogs posted about this (and related items) on this site, for all to read. I need only to refer to the blog of last Saturday, under the title, “where their worm does not die,” in which I argued that scripture never speaks about hell, but about Gehenna, which is the valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem.
To avoid too much repetition, today and in the comings days, I would like to react only to a few aspects which Francis Chan presents. The writer begins with this story:
The saddest day of my life was the day I watched my grandmother die. When that EKG monitor flatlined, I freaked out. I absolutely lost it! According to what I knew of the Bible, she was headed for a life of never-ending suffering. I thought I would go crazy. I have never cried harder, and I don’t ever want to feel like that again. Since that day, I have tried not to think about it. It has been over twenty years.
Even as I write that paragraph, I feel sick. I would love to erase hell from the pages of Scripture.
How about you? Have you ever struggled with hell as I have?
Do you have any parents, siblings, cousins, or friends who, based on what you have been taught, will end up in hell? What a bone chilling thought.
Personally, I recognize this only too well! Even as a youngster, this already kept me awake. And later, as a teenager, I’ve been depressed for a long time because of this idea and the image of God that it implies. Antidepressants change nothing. If hell really exists and you realize this, it is impossible to ever be happy again, even for a moment. How can you be happy, when you know that loved ones and many others have to endure endless(!) suffering?! There is only one way to numb the pain and that is by not thinking about it.
In Chapter 3, Chan describes how he, while somewhere in the city he tries to enjoy a drink, realizes the following:
Within a radius of three yards are at least fifteen people who might end up in the suffering that currently occupies me a great deal. What must I do? (…) How can I believe what these passages say and yet, very calmly sit here?
And in chapter 4:
A lasting condition of suffering pain…
For everyone who does not love Jesus…
What really hurts me, while I write this, is the fact that in my life I hardly show that I really believe this. Every time when my thoughts go towards the future of the unbelievers, I push them away quickly, for them not to spoil my day.
If there is any evidence that the orthodox message is not an evangel (= good news, glad tiding), then it is such an outpouring of thoughts and feelings. Not the notion of judgment and correction are depressing, because, placed in a perspective of expectation, it is not only tolerable, but also meaningful. However, the doctrine of “hell and damnation” (even though it is not for yourself, but for others) literally means a HOPELESS “evangel” and, therefore, is no evangel.
It was not for nothing that Paul encouraged the Colossians to be steadfast, in heart and mind, and not to depart from “the EXPECTATION of the EVANGEL” (Col.1:23). A few verses before this (1:20), he had written how God, through the blood of the cross, makes peace and reconciles ALL to Him, whether those on the earth or those in the heavens. How much significance Paul’s encouragement takes on, when we realize that Christianity has not only, massively, deviated from the “expectation of the Evangel”, but even has, officially, called the reconciliation-of-all a heresy!
Translation: Peter Feddema