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Erasing Hell, Love Wins, and beauty

August 5, 2011

THIS is a great review and insight into the spiritual battle in our day. Rob Bell wrote Love Wins, in which he puts forth a Christianity without a doctrine of hell (or a doctrine of hell that says there isn’t one). Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle respond with Erasing Hell. Trevin’s review should provoke some thinking on your part. Maybe a point for point refutation isn’t at all what’s needed. Maybe that’s deficient. Don’t get him wrong, Chan’s book is great. He raises a different question about apologetics and Christian testimony than Chan is trying to address. Here’s an excerpt:

Chan and Sprinkle have put forth a historically orthodox understanding of hell, demonstrating the biblical foundation for their views. But Bell challenges this understanding by seeking to appeal to a more beautiful vision of God. The tragedy of Love Wins is that the character of God as described by Bell isn’t, in the final instance, much more than a glorified vision of 21st century man.

The problem with the responses to Love Wins is that, while we are experts at critiquing Bell’s vision of God, we aren’t stepping up with a more compelling portrait of God’s magnificence. We are scribbling down our thoughts under Bell’s chalk drawing instead of taking up the paint brush and creating something that reflects the beauty of biblical truth.

We can write 50-page criticisms of The Shack. Meanwhile, men and women like William Young continue to craft great stories. We grasp the issues, but others grasp the medium.

Beyond that, we often appear pedantic in the grasping of these important issues. In the study of the communication arts, there is a part of the brain known as Brocha’s Area which acts like the gateway to whether people actually listen. Surprising or intriguing Brocha is one way to get that door to open – something that art in its many variations is capable of doing.

Erasing Hell is functional, but not beautiful. From a functional point of view, I recommend it. But I think we need to be pushed on the beautiful side of this equation as well. The gospel shouldn’t shut down our imagination, but rather fuel it and direct it toward the beauty that is inherent to the truth. We need more than analysis; we need artistry.

I’ve heard N. D. Wilson’s Notes from a Tilt-a-whirl gives it a go: beauty, wonder, and apologtetics all rolled up in one.

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