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Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You've Been Taught about God's Wrath and Judgment Paperback – August 23, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fear of hell has been instrumental in gaining converts to Christianity, Baker asserts in this critique of traditional assumptions about a punishing torment awaiting sinners and non-believers after death. Assistant professor and coordinator of the peace studies program at Messiah College, Baker argues for a kinder, gentler image of the afterlife that better comports with the supposed nature and intentions of a gracious and loving God. One result is that the book includes refreshing ways of thinking about how justice might be reconciled with forgiveness. It frequently relies, however, on popular Christian assumptions about God and a nutshell "message of the Bible" that not every reader may agree with. This is odd because Baker discusses biblical texts that challenge reductionist assertions. While the book's conclusions are intriguing and sometimes convincing, Baker's vehicle for pursuing and communicating them through annoying anecdotes and exchanges with three individuals cheapens an otherwise sophisticated argument. This should be a useful book for Christians struggling to reconcile Jesus's sacrifice and a loving God with the place of punishment and the necessity for justice.
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Review

"This should be a useful book for Christians struggling to reconcile JesusÂ' sacrifice and a loving God with the place of punishment and the necessity for justice."--Publishers Weekly, Religion Bookline, June 30, 2010

"A lively, thoughtful and accessible rethinking of one of the most disturbing notions in Christian theology, the prospect of eternal damnation. Put this book on your 'must read' list." John D. Caputo, Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, Syracuse University

"What I tried to do in my book The Last Word and the Word After That, Sharon Baker has done in Razing Hell - with more brevity, more levity, and probably with more clarity and accessibility too. Highly recommended." Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity (brianmclaren.net)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (August 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664236545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664236540
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Dave Arends on October 23, 2010
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As a Christian for more than 30 years, I have always had misgivings about the doctrine of Hell that I had been taught in church. Would a truly loving God, full of grace, really send the majority of his beloved creation to an eternity of torment? Is this really what the Bible teaches? Sharon Baker hits these questions head on in a very accessible writing style while maintaining integrity of true scholarship. Her answers to these perplexing questions reveal the very heart of God, a heart of love for all the world while maintaining God's justice through restoration rather than vengeance. This is a beautiful book that has opened my eyes, restored my faith, and introduced me to a wonderful God I don't think I every really knew.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Paul Lawrence on March 1, 2011
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I've read the reviews that give this book only one star. It's too bad that those who feel compelled to publish a review slam a book and its author (!) merely because they disagree with it. Although many readers most likely do not agree with everything Razing Hell suggests, they hopefully have enough intellectual integrity, personal honesty, and theological acuity to recognize a good argument when they see one. In this book Sharon Baker tackles the biblical passages dealing with hell, eternity, wrath, judgment, and love with scholarly and knowledgeable hermeneutical good sense. In fact, one of the things I like most about this book is Baker's insistence on interpreting God's Word skillfully, taking into serious consideration the Greek and Hebrew, the historical and literary contexts, and the attempt to seek the meaning of the text according to what the people of that time and place might have heard and understood. If more pastors would employ such honest and informed methodological skills for their own hermeneutics, pulpits across the world might actually have more success winning souls to Christ. In fact, if pastors and parishioners took to heart the compassion and love of God as seen through the lens this book espouses, there would be fewer mean spirited, judgmental Christians in the world (including the "pastor" from Northville!).

If one reads Razing Hell carefully and with any shred of theological knowledge, it is obvious that Baker DOES hold to a sacrificial view of Jesus' death on the cross (while at the same time effectively critiquing penal and satisfaction models of atonement).
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Charles R. Colwell on October 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
Professor Baker unpacks this great and liberating truth with articulation, grace and humor dealing with such issues as atonement, God's wrath and judgement, justice and forgiveness. She pulls back and takes a careful look at the big picture of scripture which is incredibly helpful. She has systematically reframed the concept of hell in a way that powerfully points to God's great Love and Grace for us and for creation. This is wonderfully liberating work---long overdue! A great gift to the whole Christian community as well as to many of us who have struggled with the traditional view of hell for years. This book is a must. Bravo! Charles R. Colwell
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mark C. Hamilton on November 24, 2012
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Dr. Baker's book, "Razing Hell," ultimately presents the gospel or good news about God that too many miss: God is not like what many ancient and modern people have made him out to be; he is truly what Jesus revealed in his life and what Paul, prophets, and others reiterated throughout the books of the Bible. Is it not the kindness of God that brings about our change of heart and mind? It appears tremendously difficult for today's readers to see any God in the Bible that is not two-faced or with a split personality, bringing about repentance by threat. There's a pervasive "yes-but" picture of God that creates so many pictures of a hell. "Yes, God is right-doing, merciful and loving, BUT his justice demands that he torture any who reject his Son's offer of forgiveness." And worse, instead of applying the "eye for an eye," or "punishment fits the crime" retributive type justice that Western law tends to emulate, God is presented as giving eternal torture for people who may have never heard of his Son, Jesus, or whose only crime is being born a sinner. Taking from her biblical scholarship and presenting hope in a clear language for the everyday reader, Dr. Baker spells out from both from the Old and New Testaments the truth about God well contrasted from the human characteristics that are often attributed to him. And she raises Jesus as the definitive lens through which to see God's very nature in any part of the Bible. And on the way, she responds to the many questions about God and cherished Biblical doctrines of God and hell that stir doubt about God's character and Kingdom (or way of governing) that offer a reconciling, restorative justice for all.Read more ›
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Gene B. Chase on May 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
New Evangelicalism is the old Liberalism. That's an observation, not a criticism. Razing Hell, Dr. Sharon Baker's newest book--a non-academic one--fits that observation. Along with N T Wright, Brian McLaren, Doug Frank (A Gentler God) and Rob Bell (Love Wins) Baker lays a foundation for a new concern for social justice, and a new emphasis on salvation for living, not just salvation as a fire escape from hell when dying. (175 ff.) Paul Tillich (The Shaking of the Foundations, Chapter 19: You Are Accepted) said the same thing six decades ago. Bravo!

Baker has solved the problem of theodicy. (See especially 145-148.) That is a criticism. Leibniz, who coined the term "theodicy" 301 years ago brought into sharp focus the Gordian knot of how God's love, justice, and power relate, but the trilemma is as old as Job. God tells Job that God's ways are beyond knowing. The best that Leibniz can say is that we live in the "best of all possible worlds." Baker does Leibniz one better. She has cut the knot as follows: God is love, so God's justice must be restorative, not retributive. To quote Baker, she offers "a more hospitable hell" (164).

A more hospitable hell?!

Baker's hell actually looks like the Catholic purgatory, a tradition of "cleansing fire" which tradition extends at least 1500 years from Pope Gregory the Great to this past January 12th with Pope Benedict XVI, if not all the way back to I Corinthians 3:10-15. As C. S.
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