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God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better than Love Wins
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2011
203 pp., $12.99
Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We've Made Up
David C. Cook, 2011
208 pp., $14.99
How to Talk About Hell
Rob Bell, as you may have heard, sympathizes with those who have left the church because of their discomfort with the doctrine of eternal punishment. Alas, he seems to lack sympathy for people still in the church who believe in a God who sends unbelievers to hell.
"How could that God be good?" Bell asks. "How could that God ever be trusted? How could the gospel be good news?"
Bell's critique has been a shot across the evangelical bow, sparking continuing discussion and a mini-publishing boom in response. Two books that answer Bell charitably and forcefully are God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better than Love Wins, by Mark Galli; and Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We've Made Up, by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle. Both books agree with Bell that our understanding of hell hinges on what we make of God's character.
Chan can relate to Bell's discomfort with the traditional doctrine. "I have been embarrassed by some of God's actions," Chan admits in Erasing Hell. "In my arrogance I believed I could make Him more attractive or palatable if I covered up some of His actions. So I neglected speaking on certain passages, or I would rush through certain statements God made in order to get to the ones I was comfortable with. The ones I knew others would like."
Galli, after counting 86 questions in just the first chapter of Love Wins, questions the fruitfulness of humans putting God in the dock. Christianity Today's senior managing editor reminds readers that
the really important question is not the question we ask God but the question he asks us … "Who do you say that I am?" The answer to that question is revealed on the cross. And until we embrace this answer, none of our questions even make sense, none of the questions raised in Love Wins can be properly addressed, and none of the answers the Bible supplies will satisfy. Until we comprehend who God is, all our questions are like chasing after the wind.
Chan, a pastor and author ...