Preaching to their own choirs

Rob Bell’s recent book “Love Wins” stirred up controversy mainly in Evangelical circles in the US, when he questioned the existence of hell. Other books have popped up in response. According to Ken Chitwood, blogging at Sacred Duty on, no matter which side the writers are on, they are pretty much preaching to their own choir.

For this reason, Bell’s book resonates more with the general public and less with the Evangelical faithful. Likewise, Chan’s book, and its compatriots, will do little to change public conclusions about God’s judgment and hell.When all is said and done, the majority of Americans will continue to question the doctrine of hell and instead believe in a God that is loving and nonjudgmental. Meanwhile, Evangelicals will, for the most part, persist to publicly frame heaven and hell in black-and-white terms even if they find the doctrine personally uncomfortable (as Chan openly confesses).

Chan’s book, and others like it, sought to comfort (and consolidate) their Evangelical base and settle the boat after Bell rocked it. To that end I believe they succeeded. However, in private conversations and wading through various blogs and forums I’ve noticed that no one is really changing their mind about the doctrine of hell. The Christians I know that believed in hell before Love Wins still believe in hell. They read Bell’s book and wanted to know how to counter it – Chan’s book, and the others, gave them the answer they were looking for. Still, Chan and the others hoped their books would persuade the doubtful about the reality of hell. Although Chan’s book is balanced, well written and matches Bell’s in pastoral intensity, featuring honest wrestling with the idea of hell and damnation for unbelievers and sinners, I believe it will do little to turn the wider culture on to the idea of hell or even sway the marginal milieu that question damnation after death.

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