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.

Summary
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

Summary
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.

Commentaries
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

Summary
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 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777609/

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.’

Commentaries
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)