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