Review: Rethinking Hell

21998685The nature and duration of Hell have been a point of theological controversy for centuries. The majority of Christians today understand Hell as a place where, upon death, the unsaved are eternally damned to be tormented and punished day and night. This is a tough pill to swallow. More recently, with the work of Edward Fudge (though Fudge was certainly not the first to rethink these issues) and others, many Christians today have begun reconsidering the doctrine of Hell. The above-mentioned pill gets easier to swallow as opinions grow further and further from Christian orthodoxy. Still, for many, a balance of biblical and theological faithfulness has come to rest on a positioned known as Conditional Immortality (or Annihilationism).

Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism edited by Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, and Joshua W. Anderson brings together a fascinating collection of excerpts from well-respected evangelical thinkers concerning the nature of Hell and Conditional Immortality. The contributors of this volume include Edward W. Fudge, John R. W. Stott, Clark Pinnock, John W. Wenham, E. Earle Ellis, Anthony C. Thiselton, Roger E. Olson, Ben Witherington III, and much more. While it should be said that there is nothing presented in this volume that is inherently new, either by way of argument or article, the convenience of having such an exemplar roster of contributors under a single roof and the scope of material presented makes this volume indispensable to the ongoing conversation.

The book is comprised of six major sections: (1) Rethinking Hell, (2) Influential Defenses of Conditionalism, (3) Biblical Support for Conditionalism, (4) Philosophical Support for Conditionalism, (5) Historical Considerations, and (6) Conditionalism and Evangelicalism. These six sections provide a good sense of the overall scope of the book. Moreover, there are a number of standout articles in this volume that are worth mentioning, including, “New Testament Teaching on Hell” by E. Earle Ellis, “Claims about ‘Hell’ and Wrath” by Anthony C. Thiselton, and “Conditionalism in the Early Church” by LeRoy E. Froom. I could easily list more articles but these are definitely among the top three. The only hesitancy that I have with this volume, apart from not being fully persuaded by the Conditionalist claims, is the overstated identification with Evangelicalism. Many of these authors should not be considered as evangelicals. But, then again, what is the definition of evangelicalism today anyways?

Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism edited by Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, and Joshua W. Anderson is an excellent introduction to Conditionalism. The editors have brought together some of the most influential articles from some of the most well-respected contributors to the conversation. This is a volume that will challenge your understanding and make you think long and hard about your traditions. It presents an important conversation that needs to take place more often, and I believe that this book will help that need become a reality. It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Four Views on Hell

26309268The topic of Hell is easily one of the most theologically revealing conversations of our present day. Still, the landscape of the conversation has taken a slight shift from that of previous generations. It seems like now, more than ever, the traditional understanding of Hell is being thrown aside by a sizable percentage of evangelical Christians as they look to investigate its biblical veracity against other viable options. It is here that the reader will discover the usefulness of this much anticipated second edition of Four Views on Hell (edited by Preston Sprinkle) and its ability to function as an introductory entrance ramp onto the main stage of the conversation.

For this second edition, Zondervan has enlisted a new roster of contributors. This decision by the publisher, in my opinion, helpfully displays the conversational shift that has taken place since the first edition. The contributors include Denny Burk (traditional view), John G. Stackhouse Jr. (annihilationist view), Robin Parry (universalist view), and Jerry L. Walls (purgatory view). Those who are acquainted with the previous volumes in the Counterpoints series will be on familiar ground here. Each contributor has written a positive presentation defending their position (roughly 26 pages per essay), followed by a brief response from the other three contributors (roughly 5 pages per response). This interactive format does well to cultivate civility within the conversation and present each position for proper evaluation.

Each of the major essays included in this volume are unique in that all of the contributors offer explicit acknowledgement of the existence of Hell. Each contributor also claims the title “Evangelical” when constructing a framework for the conversation, but the actuality of such is debatable. Burk does well in grounding the traditional view in Scripture and spend the majority of the essay making exegetical observations of the key passages. Stackhouse shows that the arguments typically championed by the traditional view are not as “cut and dry” as some would like the think. His essay was certainly the most thought-provoking. Parry does well in presenting a Christocentric view of universalism, but fails, in my opinion, to provide sufficient biblical warrant for such convictions. Walls provides an exciting essay on purgatory from a protestant perspective, but like Parry, offers insufficient interaction with the biblical text.

This second edition of Four Views on Hell, edited by Preston Sprinkle and featuring all new contributors, is a book that will make you think long and hard. The topic of Hell doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Moreover, as unfortunate as it may be, I think it is safe to assume that the majority of Christians today have failed to think critically about many of the issues at hand when it comes to the nature and duration of Hell. I see the contribution of this volume encouraging positive change within that reality, and I am confident that the interaction that is presented therein will do well to guide that process towards a productive end—the reading and evaluation of the Scriptures. For that, this volume comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.