After reviewing Erasing Hell I decided to read Rob Bell's Love Wins, the book that prompted EH to being with. Yes, I know. Backwards... but having done so in that order I can completely empathize with EH's authors' motivation to write their book: Love Wins is a mess!
I appreciated Mr. Bell's passion for his subject and his obvious compassionate desire that no one would end up in hell. Unfortunately, that is all I found to appreciate in the book.
There was a lot to take issue with, especially when you consider how relatively short the book was. Here are the most glaring problems that made me (literally) say "yikes!"
* Blatant cherry-picking of verses out of relevant context
* Flagrant bending/ stretching of interpretations and translations
* Shoddy research scholarship (historical, lingual, etc.)
* Mis-representation of sources (Origen may have written some convenient quotes, but he also argued for complete celibacy even within marriage to the point of castrating himself... representing his opinions as sound and a base for modern faith is a bit of a stretch, don't you think?)
* Straw Man arguments
* Unnecessary and inappropriate insults and slams against other believers
* Unrelated and unhelpful tangents that are assumed or implied to support the point of the chapter
* The raising of extensive, poorly structured questions intended to weaken support for those who believe in hell/ judgment that do not align with a Biblical mindset in any way and are completely inappropriate for anyone with a basic knowledge of the gospel
* Select application of theology only where it suits the purpose of the book (Best example - free will. God loves us enough to let us choose what we want, but somehow it will be impossible for people to ultimately choose hell?)
It is clear from his anecdotes that Mr. Bell has dealt with more than his share of wounded Christians - and that he is one himself. I respect his frustrations over the failings of followers of Christ; selfishness, lack of compassion (and apparently basic social graces) can be horribly painful to endure from those we most expect to be loving. They do not, however, provide justification for manipulating or rewriting the Bible to say what you wanted to hear.
As a commenter pointed out after my Erasing Hell review, there is certainly room for debate on this subject. But no honest or substantive debate could possibly be based on the weak, disingenuous and wishful-thinking argument Mr. Bell has chosen to lay out.