Saturday, April 16, 2016

Four Views on Hell by Burk, Stackhouse, Parry and Walls

I have read some books on hell recently that I found disturbing. While the concept of hell has always been a part of Christian theology, exactly what that term means has been debated. This book helped clarify the four major, or current, views on hell. This edition is written by different authors and contains a new entry from the original edition because of the change in popular concepts about hell. There is a growing belief in annihilation among evangelicals, the concept of Christian universalism is gaining ground, and Protestants have been looking at the traditional Catholic view.

Arguing for the traditional view is Denny Burk. He is a Professor of Biblical Studies and the director of the Center for Gospel and Culture at Boyce College. Annihilation, or terminal punishment, is covered by John Stackhouse Jr. He is the Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies and Dean of Faculty Development at Crandall University in New Brunswick. Robin Parry defends the Christian universalism, or ultimate reconciliation, view. He has a PhD from the University of Gloucestershire and serves as the commissioning editor for Wipf and Stock Publishers. Jerry Walls, Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University, assumes a traditional view of hell but also holds that Christians will undergo a time of sanctification after death and before being resurrected.

Each author presents his case and then the others have short articles of rebuttle.

I was raised with the traditional view of hell in the framework of Reformed faith. I appreciated Burk's emphasis on a high view of God in defending the traditional view. He argues that our aversion to the traditional view of hell reveals a diminished concept of God. I was least impressed with the argument for a type of purgatory. Walls writes, “...there is little explicit biblical support for the doctrine.” (152) His defense comes as a “natural implication of things that are clearly taught in Scripture.” (152)

Preston Sprinkle, the general editor, thinks Parry's argument for Christian universalism a “game-changer.” He does not agree with the view but feels Parry has done a good job of bringing into the arena of biblical exegesis and theology a view of hell traditionally thought to be heretical. (197)

I recommend this book to those who want to understand the various views of hell and the arguments behind them. I found none of the arguments to be ultimately conclusive. As is the case with many theological concepts, we humans are trying to comprehend something from an infinite God with our finite comprehending abilities. The articles did help me think more deeply about the various views and helped me understand why some hold views I consider to be outside of evangelical belief. This book would be best read and discussed with others, I think.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Zondervan, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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