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Thread: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    So, I started reading "Erasing Hell" by Francis Chan last night. You shouldn't always just read stuff you expect to agree with, right? A report.

    He starts off by saying that no matter how many "filters we sollicited to purify the words of this book, it's still fallible". So far, so good. But then continues: "Because of this, we have included many direct quotes from the Scripture. Read the Scriptures we've quoted as truth directly from the mouth of God".

    Wait a minute. "Read the Scriptures WE've quoted as truth directly from the mouth of God". No sir. We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, no selection will do. Only all of Scripture together will do, and then we must realize we are still interpreting, as are you, Mr. Chan.

    Then he continues and shares how he freaked out when his grandmother died, because, "according to what I knew of the Bible, she was headed for a life of never ending suffering". Well, I appreciate honesty, it's good to share where you are coming from when you approach a subject. Good! He also explains how through time, he changed his view on issues, because he understood the Bible better, later on. His point is, "we should not hang on to the idea of hell simply because it is what my tradition tells me to believe. And neither should you." Good!

    He then proceeds telling us that "God has the right to do WHATEVER He pleases". Yes, and? That has never given us the right to make up interpretations that contradict whe He revealed about Himself. Sounds very Calvinistic to me. Bad.
    He quotes Isaiah 55:9, God's ways are higher etc. So we must submit to them. Conveniently forgets that His ways are higher, because He forgives and we do not. Ever heard of context, Mr. Chan? Bad.

    Chapter 1, Does Everyone Go To Heaven? First question he wants to settle, "Do you want to believe in a God who shows his power by punishing non-Christians and who magnifies his mercy by blessing Christians forever?". Of course not, he rightly answers. But then he asks, "Could you"? Reason: he wants us to believe what the Bible says (good idea, unless it means, what HE thinks the Bible says).

    Then he starts of with a brief survey of universalism. Quotes Rob Bell as finding this view "compelling" and setting forth a "similar position". He then quotes from "Love Wins" and says that "Bell suggests that every single person will embrace Jesus". The quote is from page 107 where Bell also does a survey of views. So it would be equally honest for me to say that Chan supports universalism, and quote from his book where he describes it, as Chan stating that Bell does so.

    At this point, I got sick and laid down the book. Not sure if I can continue. If you quote the Scriptures out of context, quote an author out of context, and all of that in the first couple of pages of your book, you might want to try again.

    Think I'll stick with The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment
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    Host Book, Movie & CE forums Ryan Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Sounds interesting, can we get a review of that one?
    ...just my $.02.
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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    Sounds interesting, can we get a review of that one?
    Thought I had written one but that must have been BC. I'll give it a shot, Ryan.
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    Senior Member Paul DeBaufer's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Thank you Hans for throwing yourself on that grenade for us. I am not surprised by anything you report, especially the proof texting and defense of Calvinism.
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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Looks like he is going to be in Holland, and at a Wesleyan church. Tho't it would be a reformed or Christian Reformed (lot of them in this area, & w/commentary that he seems somewhat Calvinistic ...), as this came in an email re local happenings (as reported by Mlive):

    http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapi...rings_ans.html

    Incidentally, his daughter will be singing. First we heard of her.
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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Chapter 2

    Chan does a good job citing early Jewish views on Hell. While he applaudes Bell for seeking a historically correct construct. Chan then moves forward showing through adeqate sources where Bell is mistaken in his construct whereby gehenna is a reference to the local garbage dump. Chan shows that this reference actually comes from the thirteenth century and itself formed around a comparison with a place of torment. He shows where there is no actual evidence to show that the Hinnon Valley had actually been used as a dump. But rather how it had been referenced in scripture as a place of idolatrous worship and child sacrifice, it would be referred to as the valley of slaughter.

    He Performs a short yet effective excercise where he quotes verses replacing the word gehenna with the word garbage dump. Clearly the verses become so contextually compromised as to make little or no sense.

    I've read Rob Bell's book, Chan treats him fairly and honestly. While he does set the record straight, he does not over reach.
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    While he does set the record straight, he does not over reach.
    In my view, Rob's book simply is no study on hell. If Chan wanted to set something straight, he'd had to tackle "The Fire That Consumes".
    But I can't read a book that distorts so whatever he'd write, it would have been lost on me.

    I may try it again, but I'm first reading T.N. Wright's Justification. The writing style alone is a breath of fresh air.
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    Host Book, Movie & CE forums Ryan Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    Chapter 2

    Chan does a good job citing early Jewish views on Hell. While he applaudes Bell for seeking a historically correct construct. Chan then moves forward showing through adeqate sources where Bell is mistaken in his construct whereby gehenna is a reference to the local garbage dump. Chan shows that this reference actually comes from the thirteenth century and itself formed around a comparison with a place of torment. He shows where there is no actual evidence to show that the Hinnon Valley had actually been used as a dump. But rather how it had been referenced in scripture as a place of idolatrous worship and child sacrifice, it would be referred to as the valley of slaughter.

    He Performs a short yet effective excercise where he quotes verses replacing the word gehenna with the word garbage dump. Clearly the verses become so contextually compromised as to make little or no sense.

    I've read Rob Bell's book, Chan treats him fairly and honestly. While he does set the record straight, he does not over reach.
    I read Bell's book and perhaps I simply read into it from my knowledge of the subject, but I wouldn't think the explanation you provide above would in any way contradict or change the usage and meaning of Gahenna.

    I'm not aware of anyone who reads Gahenna as referring literally to the physical location, but merely what it represents. When I talk about it, I use phrases like "God's burn barrel" or "the place for useless things."

    It became the garbage dump of Jerusalem specifically because of the previous idolatry - it was worthy of no other uses. Even the idea of the Valley of Slaughter doesn't negate a possible annihilationism reading, which is really the crux of the disagreement between the two books.
    ...just my $.02.
    Thanks Hans Deventer, Jim Chabot, Paul DeBaufer, Todd Erickson - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    In my view, Rob's book simply is no study on hell. If Chan wanted to set something straight, he'd had to tackle "The Fire That Consumes".
    I agree, I didn't see Rob's book as a study on Hell either, he did a fair amount of speculation on what it could be. I'm finding Chan's approach refreshing because he is bringing some of this speculation back to scripture, history and archeology.

    Personally I've never heard of "The Fire That Consumes", I suppose that Chan's goal is to provide a scriptural basis for agreement or disagreement with Bell's quite popular speculation. So far he is doing a good job. My reading of Rob's book left me wondering just how accurate his speculation might be, something appeared to be "off" yet I had to conclude that I may have been filtering this through the lens of so many sermons over the years.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    But I can't read a book that distorts so whatever he'd write, it would have been lost on me.
    I haven't noticed any distortion, I would be interested to know if there are some specific provable assertions to this. No offense is intended, but your initial take revealed much more about your prejudice than any distortion by Chan. My take is that Chan treats Rob Bell fairly and objectively.
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

    Garrison Keillor

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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    I read Bell's book and perhaps I simply read into it from my knowledge of the subject, but I wouldn't think the explanation you provide above would in any way contradict or change the usage and meaning of Gahenna.

    I'm not aware of anyone who reads Gahenna as referring literally to the physical location, but merely what it represents. When I talk about it, I use phrases like "God's burn barrel" or "the place for useless things."

    It became the garbage dump of Jerusalem specifically because of the previous idolatry - it was worthy of no other uses. Even the idea of the Valley of Slaughter doesn't negate a possible annihilationism reading, which is really the crux of the disagreement between the two books.
    I wouldn't expect that my explanation would in and of itself be compelling. It's just a book review and only my take on it.

    I will say that Chan has convinced me that the "garbage dump" reading of gehenna is more likely than not to be erroneous. I would at this point require something of substance to consider it.

    Out of curiosity I did a did a google search to satiate my curiosity. Using the words "gehenna garbage dump" revealed a whole gaggle of pages asserting that this just isn't the case. No archeological evidence, and the origin of the tale begins in the thirteenth century. I did find one forum where someone attributed the story to Origen, but could find nothing showing that Origen had made reference to a garbage dump at that location. Plenty of pages outlining the similarities between Origen and Bell, but no garbage dump.

    This really appears to be an old wives tale. Love to hear if there is something compelling, but for now I don't see anything.
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

    Garrison Keillor

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Bell is asking questions, Jim, more than anything else. The interesting thing is that people get all fired up because questions are being asked.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    I haven't noticed any distortion, I would be interested to know if there are some specific provable assertions to this. No offense is intended, but your initial take revealed much more about your prejudice than any distortion by Chan. My take is that Chan treats Rob Bell fairly and objectively.
    As I wrote before in this thread:
    "Then he (Chan) starts of with a brief survey of universalism. Quotes Rob Bell as finding this view "compelling" and setting forth a "similar position". He then quotes from "Love Wins" and says that "Bell suggests that every single person will embrace Jesus". The quote is from Love Wins page 107 where Bell also does a survey of views. So it would be equally honest for me to say that Chan supports universalism, and quote from his book where he describes it, as Chan stating that Bell does so."
    A serious misrepresentation, if any.
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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Bell is asking questions, Jim, more than anything else. The interesting thing is that people get all fired up because questions are being asked.
    Not sure of whom you refer to here. I read Bell's book, I've defended him as a "hopeful universalist" and I've encouraged other to read his book before commenting on what it says. I'm not all fired up, just not sold on the concept that Bell forms in his book. Chan doesn't appear to be fired up either, he is exploring a subject.

    Yes you are correct, Bell is asking questions, however it is pretty clear that he forms a statement and a concept with the questions he asks. The "only asking questions" train of thought is not entirely valid.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    As I wrote before in this thread:
    "Then he (Chan) starts of with a brief survey of universalism. Quotes Rob Bell as finding this view "compelling" and setting forth a "similar position". He then quotes from "Love Wins" and says that "Bell suggests that every single person will embrace Jesus". The quote is from Love Wins page 107 where Bell also does a survey of views. So it would be equally honest for me to say that Chan supports universalism, and quote from his book where he describes it, as Chan stating that Bell does so."
    A serious misrepresentation, if any.
    Sorry, I have read the book. I don't see a misrepresentation here at all. I love Bell's concept, I wish that it were true. But that is beside the point. Chan is fair to Bell, your simile fails here. I can honestly say that "Bell suggests that every single person will embrace Jesus", I've read his book, overall he does say this.

    This is all pretty much a sidetrack, I'm much more interested in seeing if Chan provides a good foundation for his views. While he is countering Bell, there is no need to make Rob the focus here.
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

    Garrison Keillor

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    Not sure of whom you refer to here.
    To the general outcry his book created.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    I read Bell's book, I've defended him as a "hopeful universalist" and I've encouraged other to read his book before commenting on what it says.
    Very good!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot;135343Yes you are correct, Bell is asking questions, however it is pretty clear that he forms a statement and a concept with the questions he asks. The "only asking questions" train of thought is not entirely valid.[/quote

    Sure, his basic starting point is that the gospel isn't first and foremost about the question, how do we escape hell? But about good news now. Through which we'll have eternal life as well. Which, and that is of course the point, starts today.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    Sorry, I have read the book. I don't see a misrepresentation here at all. I love Bell's concept, I wish that it were true. But that is beside the point. Chan is fair to Bell, your simile fails here. I can honestly say that "Bell suggests that every single person will embrace Jesus", I've read his book, overall he does say this.
    I've read the book as well, and he doesn't. It is even obvious from the title. Love Wins, because it will even let you go to hell if you so want. Bell is definitely not a universalist. But, as I suppose we all do, he does hope that hell will be empty. You've gotta be heading for hell not to hope for that, I would say.

    And the context is clear. He quotes Bell where he is EXPLAINING universalism, and uses the quote to prove he SUPPORTS universalism. There is no other way around this. It is as simple as that, Jim.

    And I don't like people who do this, which means that I start to mistrust the author and the reading becomes a burden rather than a joy.
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    Senior Member Paul DeBaufer's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    I love Bell's concept, I wish that it were true. But that is beside the point. Chan is fair to Bell, your simile fails here. I can honestly say that "Bell suggests that every single person will embrace Jesus", I've read his book, overall he does say this.
    It seems to me that the Bible itself is suggestive of this in Isaiah 45:23,

    "23 By myself I have sworn,
    from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness
    a word that shall not return:
    ‘To me every knee shall bow,
    every tongue shall swear.’ "

    Which Paul quotes twice (Romans 14:11 & Philippians 2:10).
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    Host Book, Movie & CE forums Ryan Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    This really appears to be an old wives tale. Love to hear if there is something compelling, but for now I don't see anything.
    I'm not sure I'd go that far - there is evidence of a place of burning outside the city, even in Old Testament times. What's likely apochryphal is the concept of continuous burning. A lot of early Christian commentaries talked about Gahenna as the place the Romans kept constantly on fire (ironically, as a way of substantiating the idea of hell as eternal torment) - there really is no evidence of this.

    The image of gahenna as a place of suffering after death was well established long before Christ - and likely because of the idolatrous history of the area. I can't speak specifically to its purpose, but archaeology has uncovered a large array of broken pottery and other "trash" items on the site.

    The garbage part really isn't important. Gahenna as the name for the place bad people go when they die developed pretty late in the evolution of Jewish theology. For a long time there was just Sheol, the place of the dead. Eventually people decided it wasn't fair that everyone went to the same place, so they developed the concepts of Abraham's Bosom and Gahenna for the good and bad, respectively - places to wait for judgment.

    Gahenna isn't necessarily a scriptural concept at all - it's more a cultural touchstone that Jesus likely used because it was universally accepted as "a place you don't want to be."
    ...just my $.02.
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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Chapter 3:

    What did Jesus say about Hell? A very good question since he would know absolutely what the reality of Hell would look like. He says that this reality should be more than an academic exercise, it must change the way we live, we are dealing with reality. In my mind there is no doubt there.

    He now explores Jesus statements on Hell. He is using reasonably large selections and he ties them back in to the entire text. A few things become clear, Hell is punishment rather than purification, Hell is a place where people are not happy. At the same time there is some ambiguity whether Hell means never ending punishment or annihilation. Chan admits to an inner struggle to reconcile God's love with Jesus harsh words on Hell. In the end, he finds that the pursuit of truth must overshadow reconciliation. I agree, for to reconcile the mind of God is surely above our abilities.

    In the end Chan remains conflicted between the concepts of everlasting punishment and annihilation. While he leans heavily on the side whereby the experience of Hell is unending, he cannot be conclusive. He ends with a cautionary note that we shouldn't let this debate consume us to the point where we miss Christ's message. Amen to that!


    Chapter 4

    What Jesus followers say about Hell

    He begins with the observation that that Paul never uses the word Hell in his letters. While at the same time Paul refers to the fate of the wicked quite often using words such as "condemned", "judged", "perish", "destroy", "wrath" or "punish." Paul he says, speaks of the fate of the wicked more than he mentions forgiveness, heaven, or mercy combined. Paul appears convinced that the wicked will face a horrific fate.

    Quickly he explores the concept of Hell as detailed by Peter and Jude. It is in Peter's words perhaps that Dante was moved to write "inferno". While Jude he says reads like a medieval tract, intended to scare folks.

    Revelation of course gives us the most comprehensive view of what Hell will be like. It makes sense that Chan would spent some time working through this and he does.
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

    Garrison Keillor

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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    And the context is clear. He quotes Bell where he is EXPLAINING universalism, and uses the quote to prove he SUPPORTS universalism. There is no other way around this. It is as simple as that, Jim.

    And I don't like people who do this, which means that I start to mistrust the author and the reading becomes a burden rather than a joy.
    You are correct, the context is clear, you are judging a book by it's first chapter. You insist that Chan is taking Bell out of context while refusing Chan the opportunity to provide context. It's a double standard and there is nothing to get around, your own standard speaks against you.

    I'm sorry Hans, but I don't have either the capacity nor the desire to stay long with this sort of negativity. I'll be moving on without you here. Unless you would like to read the rest of the book.
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

    Garrison Keillor

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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    I'm not sure I'd go that far - there is evidence of a place of burning outside the city, even in Old Testament times.
    If you could provide a cite which would point me toward evidenciary claims, I would appreciate it. My searching thus far has proven to be barren. I tend to get somewhat entrenched after discovery the I've been misled.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    What's likely apochryphal is the concept of continuous burning. A lot of early Christian commentaries talked about Gahenna as the place the Romans kept constantly on fire (ironically, as a way of substantiating the idea of hell as eternal torment) - there really is no evidence of this.
    How early is early? I'm told that the earliest is in the thirteenth century. I'm not willing to call that early nor would I be moved to trust the veracity of a claim made at that late date.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    The image of gahenna as a place of suffering after death was well established long before Christ - and likely because of the idolatrous history of the area. I can't speak specifically to its purpose, but archaeology has uncovered a large array of broken pottery and other "trash" items on the site.
    Yes it is becoming apparent that the idolatrous history seems to be the moving factor, toward the use of the word "gehenna" to provoke the correct imagery. I would like to see a cite to information regarding what has been found there. Thus far I've not been able to find anything outside of a couple of commentaries who refer to this without annotation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    The garbage part really isn't important. Gahenna as the name for the place bad people go when they die developed pretty late in the evolution of Jewish theology. For a long time there was just Sheol, the place of the dead. Eventually people decided it wasn't fair that everyone went to the same place, so they developed the concepts of Abraham's Bosom and Gahenna for the good and bad, respectively - places to wait for judgment.
    Can't go with you on the thought that "people decided", I'm comfortable with progressive revelation, yet I insist that this is the product of inspiration. Jesus spoke of abraham's bosum, He had first hand knowledge.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    Gahenna isn't necessarily a scriptural concept at all - it's more a cultural touchstone that Jesus likely used because it was universally accepted as "a place you don't want to be."
    No problem with this.
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

    Garrison Keillor

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    In the end Chan remains conflicted between the concepts of everlasting punishment and annihilation. While he leans heavily on the side whereby the experience of Hell is unending, he cannot be conclusive. He ends with a cautionary note that we shouldn't let this debate consume us to the point where we miss Christ's message. Amen to that!
    If even Chan remains inconclusive, how come we Nazarenes are so conclusive? I'm getting more and more convinced that any serious study of the Scriptures leads to at least inconclusiveness.

    Myself, I think the issue is crucial for the character of God and hence indeed, Jesus' message. Do we believe in a God who us going to torture parts of humanity for all eternity, or one who will end the existence of those who refuse to believe?
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    Host Book, Movie & CE forums Ryan Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    Can't go with you on the thought that "people decided", I'm comfortable with progressive revelation, yet I insist that this is the product of inspiration. Jesus spoke of abraham's bosum, He had first hand knowledge.
    You have to "go with me there." It's just historical fact. There's no delineation of a division in Sheol in the OT anywhere. It's a development that arose during the intertestamental period and was taken as common belief in the time of Christ. He had to use those concepts to make sense to his audience, that doesn't give them scriptural credence.

    Jesus speaks of Abraham's Bosom only once, in a parable. His references to gahenna are never about gahenna, but about living in a way that welcomes the kingdom. They're always, "if you continue down this path, you're going to end up in a bad place," which is, in my opinion, the best thing we can say in regards to final destinations from scripture.

    Scripture provides us a guide to seek Christ and live in Christlike lives in the power of the Holy Spirit - the continual message to us is: if you continue in your own ways, you're going to end up in a bad place.

    If you look at the evolution of Jewish and then Christian beliefs about Hell, they move from the concrete to increasingly spiritual and metaphorical conceptions. I think this distracts us from the real "end" of resurrection and eternal life - ultimately it is those things which are important.

    My impression of Chan is that he starts with Hell as a place of eternal torment and finds evidence in scripture. My impression of Bell is that he begins with hopeful universalism and finds that scripture supports the idea that the only way we don't get to heaven is if we chose not to be there through our lives and actions.

    I don't think either of these is a terrible plan, nor are either indefensible. I'm just not sure either take seriously what scripture actually tells us (or, in this case, doesn't tell us). Almost every concrete things any of us believes about hell is a human, cultural development.

    Personally, I look at the scriptural witness and it says each and every one of us are either living into a kingdom of eternal life or we're living into a kingdom of death. I don't think we can really provide any scriptural specifics beyond that without making assumptions that aren't entirely supported by scripture.
    ...just my $.02.

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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    If even Chan remains inconclusive, how come we Nazarenes are so conclusive? I'm getting more and more convinced that any serious study of the Scriptures leads to at least inconclusiveness.
    I'm not sure why we are conclusive, although I do think it is prudent. Myself I'm a little more conclusive than Chan, here's why. Chan finds three things as he explores. He finds passages which say that Hell is ever burning, the fire does not go out. He finds passages which speak of destruction, and he finds passages which speak of everlasting punishment. He does not find synthesis. One must admit that although the fire never goes out, this does not preclude destruction. The hapless soul vaporizes and the fire keeps burning, this fits in with the theory of destruction. On the other hand we have Jesus saying that some will go on to everlasting punishment, and this seems to be at odds with destruction. While I can't be 100% conclusive, I can come close enough for my own satisfaction. I don't see "destruction" as necessarily having an end, I don't see where it needs to be annihilation. One thing I have become certain of is that Hell has no redemptive qualities, Hell is permanent, it is final it is punishment, no one escapes. In this light I can see where destruction is compatible with everlasting punishment. Destruction need not cause someone to cease to exist, I believe that what is necessary and implicit in destruction is it's finality.

    So while I can agree that there is room to be inconclusive, the prudent stand is to warn folks of the worst. We surely don't want to be peddling false hope do we?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Myself, I think the issue is crucial for the character of God and hence indeed, Jesus' message. Do we believe in a God who us going to torture parts of humanity for all eternity, or one who will end the existence of those who refuse to believe?
    Here Chan's initial question comes into play. Do we want to believe in a God who will punish forever? Clearly here the answer would be a resounding "no" from both of us. But "can" we believe this? In my case the answer must be yes, otherwise I may create a God of my own desires. This would cut me adrift of the search for truth and I might miss God, I might not recognize Him. I cannot let that happen, not for myself, nor for others that I care about. I must be willing to believe anything about God, so long as it is true. As to what "kind" of God this is, it's not important to me, I love Him unconditionally, He created us and He loves us enough that He gave is only Son for us. All else pales in comparison, I can surely believe that God will punish the wicked for all of eternity. Jesus said that He would.
    -Jim

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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    You have to "go with me there." It's just historical fact. There's no delineation of a division in Sheol in the OT anywhere. It's a development that arose during the intertestamental period and was taken as common belief in the time of Christ. He had to use those concepts to make sense to his audience, that doesn't give them scriptural credence.

    Jesus speaks of Abraham's Bosom only once, in a parable. His references to gahenna are never about gahenna, but about living in a way that welcomes the kingdom. They're always, "if you continue down this path, you're going to end up in a bad place," which is, in my opinion, the best thing we can say in regards to final destinations from scripture
    Nope! Not going with you here, here's the main reason why;

    He had to use those concepts to make sense to his audience, that doesn't give them scriptural credence.
    Nope, not buying into this. He didn't have to do any such thing. While Jesus was human, it's important to remember that He is God. Moreso He tells us that He cannot do anything unless He first sees His Father in heaven do so. Jesus words are truthful, His way was/is to set us straight. He could have just simply sat down and said that their concepts of Heaven and Hell were all wrong, and then explain the deal. He didn't, rather he affirmed progressive revelation in this case.

    Yes you are correct, he only spoke once of Abraham's Bosom, that's enough for me. That was enough for Paul, and it was enough for the writers of the Apostles Creed. Is it a parable? Really? Sounds like a matter of fact truthful story to me, Jesus is specific, He names the servant. Of course it is debatable, but it isn't about scholarship or anything like that, we could both go out scholar shopping and come back with an army. Not worth debating to me, I'm good.
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

    Garrison Keillor

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    I'm not sure why we are conclusive, although I do think it is prudent. Myself I'm a little more conclusive than Chan, here's why. Chan finds three things as he explores. He finds passages which say that Hell is ever burning, the fire does not go out.
    A good study of the OT, where these statements derive from, would make clear that they do not speak of eternal burning, but rather of burning as long as needed to destroy. Nobody will stop the process. That is the point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    On the other hand we have Jesus saying that some will go on to everlasting punishment, and this seems to be at odds with destruction.
    Not quite. The result is everlasting in both cases.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    One thing I have become certain of is that Hell has no redemptive qualities, Hell is permanent, it is final it is punishment, no one escapes.
    Agreed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    In this light I can see where destruction is compatible with everlasting punishment. Destruction need not cause someone to cease to exist, I believe that what is necessary and implicit in destruction is it's finality.
    So while I can agree that there is room to be inconclusive, the prudent stand is to warn folks of the worst. We surely don't want to be peddling false hope do we?
    Nor do we want to have as an Article of Faith what isn't explicitly and beyond doubt taught in the Scriptures, do we? I would want to be prudent here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    Here Chan's initial question comes into play. Do we want to believe in a God who will punish forever? Clearly here the answer would be a resounding "no" from both of us. But "can" we believe this? In my case the answer must be yes, otherwise I may create a God of my own desires.
    This is where I disagree with Chan. The question suggests he cancels out the very idea that he might be mistaken. That's what I also didn't like about that chapter. As if his interpretation was infallible and simply "what the Bible says". So CAN I believe in something that isn't clearly taught in the Scriptures and would seriously damage the character of God as displayed everywhere else in the Scriptures? To ask the question is to answer it. No, I cannot.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    This would cut me adrift of the search for truth and I might miss God, I might not recognize Him. I cannot let that happen, not for myself, nor for others that I care about. I must be willing to believe anything about God, so long as it is true.
    Exactly! And not based on texts that point in different directions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    As to what "kind" of God this is, it's not important to me,
    We differ. It is the only thing that matters to me. For me, all the rest is irrelevant. I'm not in the "might makes right" camp. That borders way too close on Calvinism. It's the very point Arminius wanted to defend and caused him to break away from Calvinism: God's righteousness. In that respect I am completely Arminian.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    I love Him unconditionally, He created us and He loves us enough that He gave is only Son for us. All else pales in comparison, I can surely believe that God will punish the wicked for all of eternity. Jesus said that He would.
    I don't think He said so.

    And not to confuse things, but even when the Lord was totally clear in his judgement and the results, He's been known to change His mind (2 Kings 20, Jonah 3:10, Jeremiah 18:7-8). It might just be that the warning is not prophecy on what will happen no matter what, but words spoken to achieve metanoia, repentence and conversion. The fact that the various images are hard to harmonize tends to point us in that direction.

    So in general, I feel we need to be more careful than we are. Christ's words indicate that He is dead serious on the issue. There actually is a choice between life and death, this is no game. That much, I would say, is clear beyond doubt. The further we proceed, the less solid our Scriptural foundation becomes. Hence my initial question.
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    Host Book, Movie & CE forums Ryan Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    He could have just simply sat down and said that their concepts of Heaven and Hell were all wrong, and then explain the deal. He didn't, rather he affirmed progressive revelation in this case.
    It's not revelation. Sitting down and talking about heaven and hell gives credence to their importance. The scriptural tradition doesn't give either much importance at all - as physical places. There's no concept of hell in the OT at all - the concept developed culturally after spending a couple generations in Babylon, where the main religion talked of a duality of cosmic good and evil, with the world ending in a bath of purifying fire. To me, that's far too much of a coincidence.

    Jesus did sit down and tell them their concepts of heaven and hell were wrong. His entire ministry, every action, miracle, parable, teaching, etc was consciously and purposely to reform the expectation for the Kingdom of God. Heaven is the place where God reigns, the NT affirms that heaven will be united with Earth at the end, the full coming of the Kingdom. Those who choose to avoid that Kingdom are making a poor choice.
    ...just my $.02.
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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    A good study of the OT, where these statements derive from, would make clear that they do not speak of eternal burning, but rather of burning as long as needed to destroy. Nobody will stop the process. That is the point.
    Good point, I'll look into this a bit, although I don't want to get bogged down on it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Not quite. The result is everlasting in both cases.
    Exactly! This is why I take no more than a passing interest in the annihilation theory. Everlasting punishment works for me.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Nor do we want to have as an Article of Faith what isn't explicitly and beyond doubt taught in the Scriptures, do we? I would want to be prudent here.
    Two things; One is that the result is everlasting, there is no escape from this punishment. And secondly the evidence to support annihilation isn't strong enough to bring real doubt to our article.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    This is where I disagree with Chan. The question suggests he cancels out the very idea that he might be mistaken. That's what I also didn't like about that chapter. As if his interpretation was infallible and simply "what the Bible says". So CAN I believe in something that isn't clearly taught in the Scriptures and would seriously damage the character of God as displayed everywhere else in the Scriptures? To ask the question is to answer it. No, I cannot.
    Yes and this is where I disagree with you. I don't see Chan as ruling out the possibility that he may be wrong. Rather I see that he is recognizing the necessity of an open mind, and he recognizes the barriers that we erect. I'm with him on "what the bible says" While I am a fan of the quad, I'm pretty clear that it is scripture, then we search tradition to see how they viewed scripture, we then determine if tradition is reasonable, finally we have experience to confirm. Scripture is all we have in verifiable, concrete, unaltered and unassailable words from God. Nothing that is not contained therein shall mean a whole lot. I don't say this with any animus nor disdain, but honestly I believe that the "character of God" thing represents your preconceived prejudices. Chan's discoveries are plenty clear.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Exactly! And not based on texts that point in different directions.
    While the possibility must be acknowledged that they "may" point in different directions. It cannot be said that they actually do point differently. It just isn't so. You have said that the result is everlasting nevertheless. Perhaps Jesus thought along the same lines.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    We differ. It is the only thing that matters to me. For me, all the rest is irrelevant. I'm not in the "might makes right" camp. That borders way too close on Calvinism. It's the very point Arminius wanted to defend and caused him to break away from Calvinism: God's righteousness. In that respect I am completely Arminian.
    Not important! God is who He is and who He will be, our thoughts do not shape Him. He as much as said this when he says that His name is "I AM." Nothing to do with Calvinism, you do at times joust windmills. I realize that you have had a difficult time with Calvinists, enough so that you see them under every rock and behind every tree. Doesn't mean that they are really there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    I don't think He said so.
    I have worded this badly. I didn't mean to convey that it is God who does the punishing here, but rather that everlasting punishment will be the fate of the wicked.

    Mat 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    And not to confuse things, but even when the Lord was totally clear in his judgement and the results, He's been known to change His mind (2 Kings 20, Jonah 3:10, Jeremiah 18:7-8). It might just be that the warning is not prophecy on what will happen no matter what, but words spoken to achieve metanoia, repentence and conversion. The fact that the various images are hard to harmonize tends to point us in that direction.

    So in general, I feel we need to be more careful than we are. Christ's words indicate that He is dead serious on the issue. There actually is a choice between life and death, this is no game. That much, I would say, is clear beyond doubt. The further we proceed, the less solid our Scriptural foundation becomes. Hence my initial question.
    I can't comment on this for a couple of reasons. The first of which is open theism, I don't buy into much of it. While I can agree that there have been times when God has changed His mind, it is rare. All we will end up doing is to talk past each other on this, no interest on my part in doing so. Secondly, this talk on scriptural foundation and surety is premature, you haven't read the book, and this is a book review. I'm not going to get bogged down with this, my reason to read this book was in response to Rob Bell's book which left me uncomfortable. While Chan hasn't mentioned Bell since the very beginning, I'm feeling a little better grounded in this.
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

    Garrison Keillor

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Jim, can we strike a deal? I'll read Chan completely, and whatever more you want me to, if you read The Fire That Consumes. It is quite a book but in my view, totally worth the effort for the issue is serious, I think we both agree there. I've also written a short review on it, we could discuss the book there, in a similar chapter by chapter format.
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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    It's not revelation.
    Yes it is. You of course have a right to disagree, no problem there. But I will be the first to admit that my thought processes are pretty thoroughly modern, to which I make no apology. So if you seek to show me something here, you need to approach it through a modern lens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    Sitting down and talking about heaven and hell gives credence to their importance. The scriptural tradition doesn't give either much importance at all - as physical places. There's no concept of hell in the OT at all - the concept developed culturally after spending a couple generations in Babylon, where the main religion talked of a duality of cosmic good and evil, with the world ending in a bath of purifying fire. To me, that's far too much of a coincidence.
    Two things, first is the coincidence angle. When things become too much of a coincidence for me, I will leave the faith. Because then all of this becomes a man made religion of which I have no interest. You may not be able to understand my thought process, but it isn't changing. I've also lived long enough to watch the interpretation of recorded history change on quite a few things, I'm not a big fan of anyone who says that they have a good idea of a culture that existed centuries ago, people frequently get carried away with themselves on this.

    Second, I don't really care about that the concept of Hell is missing from the OT, it is present in the NT. It has been revealed and now we deal with the present reality. I don't really care how this was revealed to those in the intertestamental period, Jesus confirmation gives credence to it. The rest is a curiosity, nothing more.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    Jesus did sit down and tell them their concepts of heaven and hell were wrong. His entire ministry, every action, miracle, parable, teaching, etc was consciously and purposely to reform the expectation for the Kingdom of God. Heaven is the place where God reigns, the NT affirms that heaven will be united with Earth at the end, the full coming of the Kingdom. Those who choose to avoid that Kingdom are making a poor choice.
    Can't go with you there. I'm not a fan of this "kingdom" theology that has been brought forward in recent years. I realize that some of you guys are big into this, sorry but I'm not buying. I don't see this reflected in the NT at all. Sorry to be blunt, but we are speaking two different languages here.

    As far as heaven being united with earth, no, this is nothing more than speculative eschatology. The language in Revelation of the city could well be figurative. I got snookered by Hal Lindsay and the left behind crowd some thirty years ago. I won't be so easily fooled again by the latest chicanery of the reconciled creation theorists.
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Jim, can we strike a deal? I'll read Chan completely, and whatever more you want me to, if you read The Fire That Consumes. It is quite a book but in my view, totally worth the effort for the issue is serious, I think we both agree there. I've also written a short review on it, we could discuss the book there, in a similar chapter by chapter format.
    If time permits, then yes. I haven't read your review of it yet, but I'll start there. I don't want to be closed minded on this, I do wish to find truth as best I can. What unsettled me about Bell's book was the possibilities he explores. Not that I am against these possibilities, they are good news if true. While if they are not true then I would be guilty of giving someone false hope, that is something I never want to do. So my fall back position is usually the worst case scenario, I have no guilt when folks find out that things turn out better than I have promised.
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

    Garrison Keillor

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    Senior Member Cam Pence's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    ok i have had this book in my kindle for a while, so i took the last couple days and read it. First off, it really does read like Chan is writing in response to, what he believes is, Bell's promotion of universalism, but beyond that that he is trying to honestly research the subject. I haven't read Love Wins (not a Bell fan....writing style, not content which i have found in the past to be very helpful), however based on what I have heard Bell himself say and many who have read his book, that is not what he is advocating for. The book was pretty predictable in that it had most of what you would expect to see in a book advocating for an view of hell that is eternal torment. One thing i found is other than a possible misrepresentation of Bell's views, he did not seem overly concerned with attacking Bell so much as writing about what he believes concerning hell and why. Bells book was, no doubt, the catalyst, but based on some of the other books I have seen that are completely in response to Bell's book, Chan does not seem to care much about discrediting discrediting Bell as a pastor or theologian IMO. I don't think this is a bad book to read if one is looking to research all sides of the issue, however, this should be read in addition to more scholarly works done on the same subject and not instead of.
    "Love without holiness disintegrates into sentimentality. Personal integrity is lost. But holiness without love is not holiness at all. In spite of its label, it displays harshness, judgmentalism, a critical spirit, and all its capacity for discrimination end in nit-picking and divisiveness."-Mildred Bangs Wynkoop

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    If time permits, then yes.
    Ok. I will refrain from further responding to this book, till I read it. Trying to finish "Justification" by N.T. Wright first, and then on to Chan.
    Love the sinner, hate the sin? Love the sinner and hate your own sin! - Tony Campolo

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    Host Book, Movie & CE forums Ryan Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    Yes it is. You of course have a right to disagree, no problem there. But I will be the first to admit that my thought processes are pretty thoroughly modern, to which I make no apology. So if you seek to show me something here, you need to approach it through a modern lens.
    I guess I just don't understand where we draw the line between cultural influence and revelation?

    We say that the NT's passive acceptance of slavery is a cultural condition, but it's passive acceptance of these cultural understandings of the afterlife are revelation? I'm just uncomfortable making those distinctions; it's why I try not to affirm anything I don't see clearly delineated in scripture.

    I don't have a problem with the modern conception of floating around on clouds and dancing with Jesus any more than I have a problem with the 1st century notion of Abraham's Bosom (again, so long as there is a bodily resurrection at the end of it). But I do have a heavy reservation calling either of those concepts revelation, simply because Jesus didn't contradict the cultural vision of an afterlife.

    My conclusion has always been that the actual experience of afterlife or eternity is so far removed from our current ability to comprehend that any specifics we choose to give are acceptable, so long as they fit within the vague, broad framework laid down in scripture. That's why I don't have a problem with any of these conceptions, so long as they aren't purported to be THE conception. I believe calling it revelation does that.

    Just trying to lay out where I'm coming from.
    ...just my $.02.
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    Senior Member Ryan Pugh's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    Can't go with you there. I'm not a fan of this "kingdom" theology that has been brought forward in recent years. I realize that some of you guys are big into this, sorry but I'm not buying. I don't see this reflected in the NT at all.
    Interesting.

    Our Father who is in heaven,
    Hallowed be Your name.
    'Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done,
    On earth as it is in heaven.
    It's really not a recent phenomena. The people of God waited for a King throughout the OT. Jesus was that King. And Jesus is that King, reigning over all creation.
    Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived. - Shane Claiborne
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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Pugh View Post
    It's really not a recent phenomena. The people of God waited for a King throughout the OT. Jesus was that King. And Jesus is that King, reigning over all creation.
    It was all that Jesus was proclaiming. But of course Protestantism has traditionally been much more interested in Paul's message than in Jesus.
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    Senior Member Lucas Finch's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    So, I read Love Wins right when it came out, and I thought it was great. I don't necessarily follow Bell on everything he says (and I really don't think that he actually says all that much, to be honest; he moreso asks questions and presents possibilities), but I like the questions that he asks and possibilities that he presents. I downloaded Erasing Hell to my Kindle almost as soon as it was released, but I wanted to read Wright's Surprised By Hope first. I finally finished Wright's book, so I started Chan's today. According to the meter on my Kindle, I am about 20% through it.

    I mostly liked Crazy Love (other than the overly Calvinistic parts), and Chan did a great job presenting at NYC2011, but thus far I am not digging this book. I'll finish it, but I suspect when I am done I will not find it very helpful. The one thing that has stuck out to me thus far is how out of context he takes Bell. In the actual text of the book, he'll say that Bell said something completely different than what the context of the quote from Bell's book actually was. Now, Chan will put an endnote along with it in which he says something along the lines of, "Rob Bell actually said such and such, but what he meant was such and such," but how many readers actually read the endnotes? I imagine that most people here probably do, but I do not think a large percentage of actual readers do. So I think that it is dishonest (probably unintentionally so, but dishonest nonetheless) for Chan to present Bell as believing one thing in the text of his book and only offering the clarification in the endnotes.
    If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
    Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:2

    So when the gospel is diminished to a question of whether or not a person will “get into heaven,” that reduces the good news to a ticket, a way to get past the bouncer and into the club. The good news is better than that.
    Rob Bell, Love Wins
    Thanks Hans Deventer, Ryan Scott, Todd Erickson - "thanks" for this post

  35. #35
    Senior Member Todd Erickson's Avatar

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    Re: Chan, Francis - Erasing Hell

    I read Erasing Hell because it was known that I was a Rob Bell fan and had really liked Love Wins (Which both he and Hipps have said is far more about asking questions than answering them...it's not meant to be a theological endpoint) and the people who were offended by the answers they found necessary in Love Wins wanted me to read Chan's rebuttal.

    I noted right off that Chan says "I'm not actually any expert on text, so I got this other guy to be my textual expert". The person who is his expert is essentially a Calvinist version of Ben Burch. This is not to cast aspersions on ben, but like Ben, he's young, he's only been doing this for 2 or 3 years as of the writing of the text, and that's his expert.

    So I'm already more than a little cautious.

    The readings of the verses used are almost entirely prooftexted. Widely using specific verses out of context to prove a broader point is something that I've grown up with, and have grown extremely allergic to, as it's an Eisegetical tool, rather than an exegetical one.

    Chan launches in, with his thesis for the book being that Bell's answers (from a book that was built to as questions, rather than answer any of them) were all wrong, and he's going to show you how.

    Increasingly, the book establishes that Love is whatever God says it is, and we can't question God. By the end of the book, I was absolutely furious. The definition of God that this man has, and what it allows him to permit and dismiss, are horrifying, and completely out of line with a Wesleyan approach to theology. I was literally angry for a week or two afterward when people asked me about it, especially when I knew that members of my church were taking this book reasonably as an answer and the truth about what Rob Bell was about.
    Thanks Hans Deventer - "thanks" for this post

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