“If my two-year-old son runs out into the street, is it unloving to warn him of the destruction coming in the form of a Chevy 4×4?”
This is the first of several questions that Chan asks in chapter four of his book, Erasing Hell, to demonstrate that warning people about hell is a loving thing to do. The problem I have with Chan’s analogies is that if we were to apply them to the doctrine of eternal torment, then we would end up with God as a very villainous, untrustworthy character.
If eternal torment could be compared to a Chevy 4×4, then God is a hit-and-run serial killer. After all, in the eternal torment theology, God doesn’t “accidentally” assign people to hell. In the eternal torment theology, God writes the names of people who trust Him in a book, and when the person dies and their name isn’t in the book, they are thrown into the Lake of Fire.* Furthermore, someone who is killed in a hit-and-run isn’t continually killed for eternity, they are killed once and then lights out. We have to use our imaginations to accommodate the “eternal” portion of the doctrine. So we’ll say that the hit-and-run driver has the supernatural ability to restore life, and he uses this ability to continually drive his Chevy 4×4 over Chan’s two-year-old son, bring him back to life, run him over again, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
Now, as if this were not bad enough, we still haven’t covered the most flawed aspect of this analogy. Chan wants people to trust the driver – the one bringing the destruction. Chan asks in the final pages of the book, “Do you know Him? Are you secure in Him? In love with Him?” and “Turn to God. Embrace Him. Trust Him. Put your faith in Him.”
I ask Chan, if it is true that God is worth knowing, if it is true that He is a source of security and love, if it is true that God is One who is worthy of trust and doesn’t disappoint faith, then won’t this always be true of God, even if a person dies without believing it to be true? I expect that Chan and others who defend the doctrine of eternal torment would answer this with an emphatic NO. Chan says we “choose or reject God.”
There is much more to be said about that, but for today, how does choosing or rejecting God fit the analogy? If you choose the driver, he won’t run you over. If you reject the driver, he will run you over. Does that make sense? I hope not. This is a twisted version of the Good News that does not honor God.
Chan writes, “Do you know Him? Are you secure in Him? In love with Him?” and “Turn to God. Embrace Him. Trust Him. Put your faith in Him.” A different perspective from scripture sheds new light on what seems to be (the way Chan words it) salvation that depends on us:
“…this is the life [aionios], that they may KNOW Thee, the only true God, and [the Son] whom [the Father] didst send – Jesus Christ…”
(SECURE) – “He is able also to save [panteles – “all complete, entire”] those who draw near to God through Him, He [pantote – “at all times”] lives to make intercession for them.”
“God is LOVE.” “LOVE never fails.”
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on [Jesus] the [avon – “punishment for iniquity”] of us all.” “The goodness of God leads you to [metanoia – “change of mind” or TURN].”
(EMBRACE) “…and [the prodigal son] being yet far distant, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and having ran he fell upon his neck and kissed him…”
(TRUST) “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means!”
“Because we know that a man is not justified by works of The Written Law, but by the FAITH of Yeshua The Messiah, we also believe in Yeshua The Messiah, that we should be made right by the FAITH of The Messiah, and not by the works of The Written Law, because no one is made right by the works of The Written Law.”
* Regarding the Lake of Fire – Many Christians believe hell = Lake of Fire, even though in Revelation, death and hell (Hades) are thrown into the lake of fire, and this entire process (that is, death and Hades being thrown into the lake of fire) is called the second death.
Next blog in this series: Why Chan Can’t Erase Hell: A Good Dose of Interpretive Humility