“The question they are raising is not “Is there a hell?” but “What is hell like?”
For most Christians, the nature of hell isn’t a topic that much time is given to consider. Why would we worry about a place and what it is like if we are not going there? Isn’t it enough to know that it is bad and that we need to tell other people to avoid this bad place?
Unfortunately, this naive thinking runs ramped in the church, on this and other theological topics. But that is what makes the Counterpoints book series amazing, and the Four Views On Hell so powerful. The four contributors to this book make it very clear, in a very plain way, that our belief about the nature of hell has real implications of our theology. And not just the heady, intellectual theology, but the gritty, application theology that requires that we put things into practice. All four of the contributors to the Four Views On Hell make it clear what the implications of their beliefs are.
Denny Burk, the advocate for the traditional view of hell, shows us how the doctrine of hell informs or displays our thoughts about God. Without a place for everlasting conscious torment, the holiness and justice of God are rejected. But God is holy. And He is just. Hell is proof of that for all of time. How can we believe any other way? Do we disrespect and disregard His sovereign holiness that much?
John Stackhouse believes differently. He argues for annihilationism, or as he calls it, terminal punishment. Stackhouse isn’t doing away with hell by having dinner eternally destroyed. Rather he believes that their punishment will consist of death and destruction. After that, they will cease to exist. If God is going to remove evil from the universe, how can it stay in a place called hell?
Robin Parry discusses his belief in Christian Universalism. This is not a belief that all roads lead to heaven. Larry affirms that Jesus is the only way to the Father, to heaven. What makes his afterlife view different is that the atoning work of Christ will still be able to save people from Hell. All people will be reconciled to their Creator, even after death. God doesn’t stop loving people once they’re in hell, does he? So why wouldn’t He work to save them still?
Jerry Walls does affirm the traditional view of hell but adds something that Burk does not. Namely, that there will be a purification time for believers before they make it to Heaven. Christians will go through Purgatory to be sanctified, a time of growth towards holiness, before entering into the presence of our Holy God. The idea of Purgatory may be traditionally Catholic, but Walls, as a Protestant, makes the argument that this will answer the question of what happens to imperfect believers after death.
Through the logical arguments and numerous Scriptures, these Four Views On Hell will each present their ideas, and refute the opinions of others. The question is, where will your view of Hell lie after reading this book?
“This book is designed to spur the reader into thinking more deeply about various Christians views on the afterlife, particularly the nature of hell…Bible-believing Christians must wrestle with these views and not just dismiss them out of hand.”
It is a difficult thing to hold your beliefs loosely and listen to the opinions of educated and informed individuals. It is even more so when you talk about theological beliefs. It is on these theological beliefs that we preach and teach, educate and discipline our children, evangelize and share about Jesus. It is on these beliefs that we hope and trust.
But when you read a book about different, Bible-based views about any theological opinion, you have to hold that belief loosely. There is a lot to learn, about our own beliefs and those beliefs that are held by other Christians. Ours may not be as right as we thought, and theirs not as wrong as we supposed.
Four Views On Hell was definitely eye opening for me. I have traditionally stayed away from any dialogues about hell, heaven and the afterlife. It seems to always lead to a violent, hate filled argument between “brothers” in Christ.
But this book was a wonderful example of healthy Christian dialogue, even thought these contributors do not agree at all. There is still a sense of respect for who they are as people, but still the conviction that they may be mistaken. For me, that was huge. I wish that more books and real life conversations could be like this book.
As for the content, I didn’t realize how “holey” the theology on Hell was. I thought it was a more iron-clad argument, but the Four Views On Hell proved otherwise. There are good reasons to believe in each argument, but also good reasons to avoid it. Each view is given time and space to make a well put together argument so that even the reader that has no foreknowledge about this topic will be educated and understand what is being discussed.
I must say that the Four Views On Hell is a wonderful start to the conversation about this particular doctrine in Christianity, not an end point. If readers do wish to start learning more, this is the place to begin, but they will have to go beyond this to the contributors own books for a more in-depth dialogue.
While I may not agree with some of the contributors on their views of the nature of Hell, I have to say that Four Views On Hell is a phenomenal book. Easy to read, clear in its intent, and respectful of all views; I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”