Rob Bell’s recent best-selling book, Love Wins, sparked huge controversy inside and outside the evangelical church, questioning if people actually go to hell.
And once the hip, outspoken pastor jimmied open the latch of orthodoxy, a tidal wave of criticism and heated debate poured in—on TV, on the Internet, and from other pulpits, calling Bell everything from a universalist to a heretic and even a hero. (One pastor even lost his job after supporting Bell.)
Now three follow-up books—fast tracked by Christian publishers to capitalize on the still-percolating Love Wins buzz—are joining the critical fray. Most prominent among them is Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up by Francis Chan, also an evangelical pastor-author who’s quickly rising in the same ecclesiastical circles that Bell orbits.
Erasing Hell today sits at #7 on Amazon’s Christian Living category; #47 overall after its release last week. (The other two critiques—God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News is Better than Love Wins and Hell Is Real (but I Hate to Admit It)—release Aug. 1.)
Chan said that Love Wins upset a lot of his notions about hell and even led to sleepless nights over the issue—so he set out to study the theology of hell for himself.
In an extensive interview with ChristianityToday.com, Chan acknowledged that “maybe this was an opportunity to soften my stance on hell. I was hoping to find that in Scripture. And so when I didn't it find it, it made me even more sick to my stomach.”
Chan, also the author of best-selling titles Forgotten God and Crazy Love, observed that “we have tried to block [hell] out of our minds. Yet because it's written about so often in Scripture, I think God does want it on the forefront.”
Decidedly not in the camp of Christians who harshly went after Bell and Love Wins, Chan made it clear that "I really love Rob Bell. While he spurred on my thinking, [Erasing Hell] was not meant to be an attack on him. In my conversation with him, [Bell] said, ‘I don't mean to be the final word on any of this. I’m hoping that others will continue the discussion.’ And so I guess that's what I’m doing.”