Book Review: Four Views on Hell

Four Views on Hell: Second Edition (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)


As you know, I’m a big fan of the Counterpoint series, and I had (somewhat) recently purchased the Four Views on hell. However, recently I saw the updated second edition on Netgalley. This review is for the second edition. After I read the original, I’ll make a few comments on it as well.

My Rating -Put it on the list

Level – Medium length, get’s mildly technical, but overall fairly easy.

As the title say, the book argues four thoughts on hell. Well, really it is three views of hell, and another who goes on a tangent. All authors believe that hell is real, that it is punishment, and that it is the place that those whom die without the knowledge of Christ are destined to go.

Denny Burk argues for the ‘traditional’ view of hell, i.e., that it is a place of eternal punishment. John G. Stackhouse, Jr. argues for ‘annihilationism’ or that those punished in hell will eventually destroyed. They will cease to exist and therefore not receive eternal punishment. Robin A. Perry argues for a Christian Universalism, a term I’m more familiar with is universal reconciliation – that Christ will eventually reconcile all to him, even those in hell. Jerry L. Walls also takes what he calls the ‘traditional’ view, which is purgatory. As far as hell goes, he more or less aligns with Burk, in that it is everlasting conscious torment, but that few people will eventually end up there. Most will end up in purgatory, and then head to heaven.

Eternal punishment is probably the most widespread belief among Christians today and throughout history. Burk’s basic argument is that God’s goodness is so infinite compared to us, that our sin (against God) likewise needs to be punished infinitely.  Burk makes strong arguments, but where he really shines is in his responses to the other authors.

Annihilationism, as Stackhouse points out, dates back as far as the early church fathers, including Origen. He basic premise is that through Christ, we have eternal life, but in sin, we only have death and destruction. Stackhouse probably uses the most Biblical proofs for his argument including the ‘Lake of Fire’ in Revelation.

Universalism seems to be more based on hope than on extensive Biblical texts. The idea that God saves even those in hell and that all will eventually be saved is something all Christians should hope for. I certainly do, I just do not see it in the Bible. He focuses most on the morality of eternal punishment (or how it isn’t) and the verses that say things such as, ‘takes away the sins of the world.’

Purgatory is an interesting chapter. Walls believes in eternal torment, but that most will not experience it. Instead, they will go to purgatory and then enter heaven. He argues, somewhat convincingly, that purgatory is the only answer to questions the Bible leaves open about what happens after death and beliefs in heaven and hell. The chapter is a good primer on Purgatory, but as you read it, as well as his response articles, you are left wondering, ‘why are you here?’ He seems to be only tangentially related and possibly should have been in a different book all together. Maybe something about what happens after death, or even one on heaven, or something along those lines. This is really more on the editors, but he does seem out of place.

My Thoughts
As I said earlier, I hope for universal reconciliation. I just do not think it is the case. I generally land somewhere in between (or rather, go back and forth) eternal punishment and annihilationism, often more to the latter as I see more Biblical support for the idea. I won’t list this as a must read, due to the tangent on purgatory, but for anyone willing to challenge themselves and learn about the different views on Hell, this is a book you should put on your list.



Professional ReaderI received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

My Rating – If You Are Looking for Something

Level – Quick, easy read

Arthur Dent is trying to stop bulldozers from demolishing his house when his friend Ford Perfect stops by and convinces him to go to the pub instead. Perfect then finds out that the entire planet Earth is about to be destroyed. Turns out Perfect is a writer for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. This means he was able to save them two of them by catching a lift before the planet was destroyed. They then begin a journey of mishaps and characters, including the Galaxy President.

My Thoughts
This book is extremely popular, but I just couldn’t get quite into it. It is the opening book of a series, but I doubt I will continue on. Adams style is fast paced and laced with jokes and puns. It is entertaining enough, something just didn’t sit right with me. It’s gets a little trippy there towards the end, which belies it’s conception in the late 70s.

As a city planner, I did appreciate the first bulldozer crew telling Dent that there had been a meeting, he must have just missed it, that decided to demolish his home for a highway. The once on board the spaceship, Dent and Perfect are told that Earth is being destroyed for a highway and that there was a meeting they must have missed.

Also, all I could picture for Zaphod Beeblebrox was Zapp Brannigen. So much so that I assumed maybe the latter was based on the former, but apparently not. Perhaps that made it a little more entertaining for me. I’d say if you are looking for something to read, maybe on the beach for at the airport/on the plane, this is probably a good choice. It is short, simple and kind of goofy, and if you end up liking it more than I did, you can look forward to four or five more books.

Reading Guide to Hosea 3

I am continuing on with my series on reading the minor prophets. See my cheat sheet for the minor prophets, Intro to HoseaHosea 1, and Hosea 2. My recommended way to use this guide is to go read Hosea 3, come back here look through the post, then basically read them side by side, reading through the verse and checking here if there is something you find confusing.

This is a short chapter, but 4 is long and I had planned to have something up yesterday, so I’ll stick with just 3 for now. It is an odd chapter, with many strange phrases and old language/measurements. Plus, James Montgomery Boice calls this the greatest chapter in the Bible. So, no pressure.

Chapter 3
First off, who are we talk about here? Is the focus on ‘again‘ as in returning to Gomer or is it another adulterous wife? Boice and the NAC tend to lean to the former, while Tyndale and WBC say no, it is a new wife. Boice argues that he is buying back one whom has left him for another, as Christ does with his blood. WBC argues that this doesn’t make sense and because in Christ we are a new creation and are a new bride in a eschatological sense. I tend to agree with this logic as well. This is in fact a second wife. However, the implications drawn from the rest of the chapter are the same.

1. Raisin Cakes – raisins were thought to be aphrodisiacs in the ANE. It is also possible that they were associated with cultic temple worship, including temple prostitutes (WBC).

2. He buys here, this would be the bride price (also leading credence to the new wife theory). In the ANE you essentially purchased your wife from her father as she was his property and will now be yours.

Female slaves typically cost about 30 shekels. So, Hosea didn’t quite have the money, as he pays 15 shekels of coins and about 15 shekels worth of barley. A homer was about 6 bushels and a lethech was about 3. Either way, the equivalent is 30 pieces of silver, the same price that was put on Christ’s life.

3. Assuming a new wife, and either an adulterous one or a prostitute (see my earlier explanation), this would be strange to her. She was purchased, but told not to have sex for many days with either him or any other men. Likewise, Hosea will abstain (so will I also be to you).

4. Sacrifice or pillar – two important items of  worship
Ephod – garment worn by priest during divination
Household gold/Teraphim – pagan items that were consulted for divination
The sacrifice and Ephod are orthodox, the pillar and teraphim are ‘abominably pagan’ (WBC). Israel was guilty of syncretism, mixing pagan and true beliefs. They will soon have neither as Hosea’s wife will be with neither him nor another.

5. Future restoration of Israel and the (new) Covenant people. Even though they have sinned and turned from Yahweh, in the end, He will accept them with love and they will seek Him and the Davidic King that is Christ on the Throne.

Hosea, Joel: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary)
The Minor Prophets: Hosea-Jonah (Expositional Commentary) (Volume 1)
Hosea (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)
Hosea-Jonah, Volume 31 (Word Biblical Commentary)

Book Review: Lathe of Heaven

The Lathe Of Heaven – –  Ursula K. Le Guin

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Moderate read, short

Sometime in the future a man is caught using someone else’s pharmacy card for access to sleeping pills. He is evaluated and sent to a psychologist and sleep specialist to whom he reveals that he is afraid to dream. He hesitates but eventually admits his fear is due to the fact that his dreams change waking life. Not only does it change real life, but it changes all reality. If he goes to sleep and there are seven billion people in the world and dreams there are now only one billion, for everyone left, there will only have been a billion people for some time.

He essentially creates a parallel reality and new timeline that even changes the people’s past. The twist comes when the doctor becomes aware of the change, due to be present during the dreaming. The man suspects the doctor is using his dreams to change the world and seeks the help of an attorney. The rest of the story is his struggle in the changing world while dealing with the doctor. I’ll leave it there so as not to spoil any of the story.

My Thoughts
This book is crazy, and is probably the only fiction book I’ve ever read that had be flipping back and rereading parts. I found this book so entertaining that I put off catching up on Game of Thrones and stayed up late one night to finish it. As always, there are some unintentionally humorous moments that come from a book written decades ago that takes place in the ‘future’ that is in our current past. There is major fear that in 2002 there would be over seven billion people on earth. This would lead to overcrowding, food shortages, and environmental disaster. There were only three billion people at the time, and almost 40 year prior, it had been two billion, so the idea that we’d more than double in the next 40 was probably inconceivable. Here is an interesting article to get a context on the time in which the book was written –

Anyone looking for some good fiction to read this summer must get this book. If you are interested in things like dreams or alternate time realities, you’ll certainly enjoy this book.

Reading Guide to Hosea 2

I am continuing on with my series on reading the minor prophets. See my cheat sheet for the minor prophets, Intro to Hosea and Hosea 1. My recommended way to use this guide is to go read Hosea 2, come back here look through the post, then basically read them side by side, reading through the verse and checking here if there is something you find confusing. Note I am using the Chapter breaks that take what is verse 2:1-2 in some versions and makes it verses 1:10-11. 

Chapter 2
2. Rebuke your mother, for she has lost the right to be called wife and mother. This chapter starts of with the voice of an ‘aggrieved husband and father, speaking as plaintiff before the court at first addressing his children’ – WBC.

5. The other lovers are Baal. This continues the marriage/covenant metaphor, so Israel becomes unfaithful to Yahweh.

7. Though she seeks others, she does not find and does not get what she wants. Therefore, she decided to return (the Hebrew word implies repentance) to her original lover, the to whom she has been unfaithful.

9-13. Retribution comes, the punishment for apostasy. Israel worshiped Baal, believing their agricultural blessing came from him. The used the bounty and gold/silver that Yahweh blessed them with as offerings to him. They did not know that it was Yahweh all along. So he will take from them. He will take back the blessings. Not only that, he will curse/destroy their vineyards and fig trees. They will be exposed (no longer protected) and no one will rescue them.

14-15. In a twist, Yahweh decides he will seduce(romance) her. The valley has the meaning of punishment. Instead, He will make it a place of hope. The metaphor in these verses is that the will be as new loves, after God had brought out of Egypt and into the wilderness. They loved Yahweh, and worshiped him only.

16-21. The day of the Lord, this alludes to the future day of the Victory of Yahweh and the restoration of Israel. The will once again ‘call on the name of the Lord’. The will no longer look to Baal. There will be new covenant in that day. There will eventually be no more war or danger and the people shall rest at ease.

22-23. They will again be provided for with crops and bounty – wine and grains. Jezreel will not have the punishment connotation but will mean it’s true (Hebrew) meaning, Yahweh sows. He will restore the land to Israel. As they call on Yahweh as Lord, they will be blessed and will be His People. Therefor, ‘No Mercy’ and ‘Not My People’ will be destroyed and removed – as in they will not longer exist, because now, they He will say ‘You are my people’ and they will say ‘You are out God.’

Hosea, Joel: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary)
The Minor Prophets: Hosea-Jonah (Expositional Commentary) (Volume 1)
Hosea (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)
Hosea-Jonah, Volume 31 (Word Biblical Commentary)

Book Review: The Year Without a Purchase

The Year without a Purchase: One Family’s Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting – Scott Dannemiller

My Rating Put it on the List – if you struggle with spending/consumerism, Probably Not Worth Your Time – if you don’t

Level Short, easy.

Title pretty much sums it up.
Dannemiller comes to a realization that he and his wife and children have too much junk. They think back to their missionary days in Guatemala and how happy they were with very little. They decide to not spend any money other than what they had to, with a few exceptions, over the upcoming year. They allowed for essentials, groceries and bills, but then no more things. For gifts, they decided they would have to be homemade or an ‘experience.’

Chronicling the year, he writes humorously about the ups and downs of their challenge – from kids birthday parties, major holidays, and even learning how to sew and repair (darn?) socks. In the end, he realizes he doesn’t even miss the money, and in fact, didn’t believe his wife when she showed him how much they had saved. Shockingly, his children never even new of the challenge. They made a decision not to tell them what was happening, and in the end, with gifts of experience instead of junk or the next new toy, they were just as happy (or happier) as before.

My Thoughts
As Erasmus wrote (technically, this has be mistranslated to English): When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes. Except I’d replace clothes with fishing gear/tackle. My point being, me and Mrs. MMT don’t really buy a whole lot. There were certainly times we wanted to, but we either didn’t have the money, were paying off debt, saving for a house, or saving for a baby. Now, it is just kind of the way we are. She has always been big on experiences and travels over material things. In fact, we’ve never even given each other anniversary gifts, choosing instead to take a four or five day getaway.

That being said, the book is a good reminder of the perils of consumerism. Dannemiller does a good job with his research in pointing out the amount the average American spends and wastes in a year. Now, if you are on the hedonic treadmill of buy, and buy, and buy, this book is for you. It is almost a how-to in it’s insightfulness. The author is quite funny, though his shtick can get a bit old or too frequent.

This book is published by a Christian publishing company, and he does speak broadly of his reasons being based on his faith. However, it isn’t exclusively for Christians, and I don’t mean that in the Christiany way of universal truth or whatever. With the exception of the epigraphs being verses from the Bible, there isn’t much religiousosity to it. That’s not a criticism of him. My point is a review a good bit of Christian living and Theology books, and this is not that. It really is about a guy trying not to buy things, and is a good example for anyone who struggles with budgeting.


Professional Reader*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reading Guide to Hosea 1

I am continuing on with my series on reading the minor prophets. See my cheat sheet for the minor prophets and my Intro to Hosea. My reccomended way to use this guide is to go read Hosea 1, come back here look through the post, then basically read them side by side, reading through the verse and checking here if there is something you find confusing. Note I am using the Chapter breaks that take what is verse 2:1-2 in some versions and makes it verses 1:10-11. 

Chapter 1
2. Many variants exist here for the whom he is told to marry. Version will say promiscuous, adulterous or possible unfaithful, or as in the ESV, wife of whoredom, or you’ll see prostitute. The word in the Hebrew means promiscuous. The NAC helpfully points out, that there is very little difference in a promiscuous woman and prostitute in these times. Women had no way to work or make money to support themselves, so either she is promiscuous and lives off the support and ‘gifts of her lovers’, or she is directly paid to have sex. Either way, she is breaking covenant vows as well as receiving money for sex. WBC takes this as symbolism, in that all are promiscuous, living in unfaithful company. This is why the children are likewise called promiscuous. I tend to agree with the NAC that he married an ‘immoral woman’. One who was known to be promiscuous before the marriage and one Hosea may have suspected would be so after marriage as well.
The children obviously are not prostitutes, but, if not symbolic, they are possible out of wedlock, or likely, at least for the second two, illegitimate children of other men, during her marriage to Hosea.

4. Jezreel was a place and valley that may have stuck in the minds of Israelite as a place where there was bloodshed. Specifically that which Jehu was commanded to do in Kings. Why would his house then be punished? NAC translate the sentence to be – God will bring the bloodshed of Jezreel to the house of Jehu. Not necessarily for what Jehu did, but what he and his household failed to learn from the commands and actions.

6. While Jezreel doesn’t necessarily mean anything (possibly God sows), the second child is given a name of meaning. The name Lo-Ruhamah means ‘no compassion/mercy. ‘

7. Judah will be saved from destruction, but not through soldiers or war, for some as of yet unspecified reason.

8. Not sure why we are given this detail. Children were typically weaned at roughly three years old. This is perhaps to give us an understanding of the length of time of the prophecy.

9. The third child is also given a symbolic mean. Lo-Ammi means ‘not my children.’

10-11. Seems to contradict the oracle of the third child. Not my children, then assurance of the children. This actually follows many prophets actions in that there will be immediate punishment, followed by restoration with God as the covenant people. This is a reminder of that covenant and promise of future blessings. Instead of Jezreel meaning the coming destruction, as in v. 4, it will be remembered due to a ‘Day of the Lord’ type event where enemies of Israel are destroyed, either literally or metaphorically. That is, it will go from having a name like ‘Pearl Harbor’ to being ‘Normandy/D-Day.’

Hosea, Joel: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary)
The Minor Prophets: Hosea-Jonah (Expositional Commentary) (Volume 1)
Hosea (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)
Hosea-Jonah, Volume 31 (Word Biblical Commentary)

Wayne Grudem and Trump

If you are a Christian Theology nerd, internet theologian, or follow the intersection of Evangelical (whatever the hell that even means anymore) and Political, you have probably heard about Wayne Grudem’s endorsement of Trump, call him the morally good choice. I’m not even sure where to start. I read this last Friday night and was honestly very saddened. I’m a huge fan of Grudem. His Systematic Theology text was the first I ever read; really the first of any kind of theology I had ever attempted to study. His book was the gateway to my study of theology that has had a profound effect on my life today (including leading me to become a pretend theologian).

It’s not even that I disagree with all of his points. While I believe his thesis is wrong – Trump being the moral choice – he mentions other policies and outcomes that I support. I think two things bother me most about his article.

First, his lack of originality. His article more or less reads like straight up FoxNews or Tea Party talking points. I am always highly skeptical of anyone who agrees 100% point-for-point with any institution or political party. Maybe that’s a bit much, a little too cynical, but I certainly do not know anyone personally who aligns perfectly with the whole of one political stance (though, I suppose, to be fair to Grudem, the people closest to this tend to be the Tea Party types). When someone does this, it seems they are not thinking for themselves, but instead are reiterating what they have been told to say.

The second major issue is the weight that Grudem carries and the amount of credibly that seems to lend to Trump. He is the general editor of the massive (and massively popular) ESV Study Bible, he is co-founder and former president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, and he was also chair of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (likely the best broadly evangelical seminary in America). My point is, he’s kind of a big deal. However, as you’ll see below, his is not the only view from evangelicals. Furthermore, and what is the most concerning to me, his view is not the outright, perfect Biblical view. Someone of his stature making this statement would cause some to believe that Trump must be the correct Biblical or Theological choice, which he most certainly is not.

Alright, with all that said, I’ve already gone longer than originally intended. There is just so much wrong with this, including the fact, as many have pointed out, that he disagreed with most of his own points almost 20 years ago when discussing Bill Clinton. This seems to come from such a political and personal viewpoint, couched as the Evangelical and Theological view, and because it bothers me so, I am removing his book from my recommendation for building your theological library  and replacing it with Erickson’s Christian Theology.

If you disagree with Trump, but still can’t bring yourself to vote for Clinton, check out Russell Moore’s thoughts, which get a little more support here.

Responses to Grudem:
“Make no mistake: if we follow Professor Grudem’s advice we will lose this election and lose all moral authority to say character counts in the White House.”
What Grudem should have said.
Why Grudem is wrong.
“Grudem’s article makes no space for uncertainty, no room for dissent, and uses definitive, dogmatic language.”
An Answer to Grudem.
Is Grudem Right?

I wanted to be fair and post a few articles that side with Grudem. Problem is, I couldn’t find any. I literally searched “support for wayne grudem’s position on trump.” If any of my dozen or so followers has seen anything, please let me know.

I’ll end with this bit of satire and a reminder for Christians out there to really think and pray about the upcoming election. Talk to your friends, elders, pastor, or people you respect at church. Think seriously about the impact on our nation, of course, but also (and more importantly on us and how we are viewed) on the voice of Evangelical Christianity – a voice we hope is representative of Christ Himself.



Book Review: Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

My Rating –Put it on the List

Level – Tough, dense, fairly long

Rodion (Rody) Románovich Raskolnikov is a poor college student in St. Petersburg  who decides to murder an old pawnbroker with an ax so that he can rob her. Things go awry when someone else is there and he has to kill them both. Though he believes he had the right to kill her, comparing himself to Napoleon, claiming that murder is alright if it serves a higher purpose, he becomes obsessed with his actions.  He goes into a near psychotic state, becoming not entirely sure of what is real and what isn’t.

His friend Razumikhin tries to help him, giving him work to do and visiting him, as well as calling on a doctor to see him. Meanwhile, me is suspected and interviewed about the murder. Additionally, his mother and sister are moving to the area for his sister to marry a wealthy man, all for him. The man will be able to help with pay for school as well as help him get set up with a job. During one of his frantic bouts, he sees a man get run over in the street and follows the crowd as the bring the body home, offering to pay for the funeral. He ends up meeting the man’s daughter, whom he falls in love with.

My Thoughts
Two things made this hard to read for me. For one, as always, I was using the Dover Thrift edition, which might not always be the best translation. Secondly, the Russian naming convention of calling them by first and last name but then alternately calling them by just one name, but a different one from the other two. It took me awhile to figure out Razumikhin and Dmitry Prokofyich Vrazumikhin was just one person.

I have the Dover Thrift (of course) which is the Constance Garnett translation. From what I’ve read, the best is Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation, though it seem a bit harder to find. Many others enjoy this version, newly released Crime and Punishment: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (this is also the version you’ll see if you follow Rodion on Twitter)

(Edit – I came across the naming custom in an article about War & Peace, which is had seen it prior to reading. You can read the whole article, but below are the main highlights)

The common rules are the further:

  • the full three-name form (for instance, Иван Иванович Петров, Ivan Ivanovich Petrov) is used in official documents only. Everyone in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus is supposed to have three names.
  • the form “first name + patronymic” (for instance, Иван Иванович, Ivan Ivanovich):
    • is the feature of official communication (for instance, students in schools and universities call their teachers in the form of “first name + patronymic” only);
    • may convey the speaker’s respect for the recipient. Historically patronymic was the feature of the royal dynasty only (Рюриковичи, Ruerikovichi)
  • the surname only (Петров, Petrov) is used in formal communications, but much more rare. One instance where it is used commonly is by school teachers towards their students. There’s some trend in informal Russian to call a recipient with his/her surname expressing the irony as well.
  • for informal communication two names are usually omitted and only the first name is used (for instance, Иван, Ivan). In the more informal registers, a diminutive(of which several can be formed from one name) is often used. In rural areas the patronymic name only (for instance, Петрович, Petrovich, Ивановна, Ivanovna) is used by aged people for informal communication between themselves, sometimes young people use such form expressing the irony.

The book started off slow, so if you are willing to power through the first 45 pages and cruise on past 70 pages, you’ll be good to go. Probably he most interesting and entertaining sections are his conversations with inspector Porfiry Petrovich. The whole book has many story lines, however almost all revolve around Rodion, so it is not too hard to follow. Towards the end of the book, you can see what is happening, but are still left wondering somewhat, about how everything will tie back together. It is a masterfully written story.

One of the most compelling parts of the book is Rodion’s inner turmoil. In this aspect, the story of his mind is written as almost a psychological thriller. Dostoyevsky also plums the depths of the broken and guilt ridden mind. Rodion is near manic in his despair and belief in himself. It is almost disturbing to read.

Anyone looking to break into Russian Literature, this is definitely a good place to start and a book to put on your list. At around 500 pages it is the shortest of the Russian heavy weights. I certainly plan to continue you on with more, though I’m torn between sticking with Dostoyevsky or moving on to Tolstoy. Either way, check back for a review in the future.