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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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (August 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664236545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664236540
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 6.5 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

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This book isn't really about literally getting rid of the idea of hell as Robert Ingersoll or Richard Dawkins might.
Randal Rauser
She drives home the point that, indeed, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the father.
Paul Lawrence
If you're like me, you've struggled over the years to reconcile a view of "conscious eternal punishment" with a loving God.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Dave Arends on October 23, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Paul Lawrence on March 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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9 of 12 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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11 of 15 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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38 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Brian P. Adams on September 20, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like this book. I am a pastor and about to preach this Sunday on "Lazarus and the Rich Man." I am essentially a universalist (for a quality book on this topic, check out If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person (Plus)). So I was looking for a book that would help give me a better understanding of hell, and hopefully the ability to deconstruct the common view of eternal damnation. This book didn't help at all.

Baker starts out the book quoting from Lazarus and the Rich man about the "great chasm" that separates them, and she says that we must take the scriptures seriously when analyzing what hell really is - sounds good. However, she only mentions Lazarus and the Rich Man once in the rest of the book, in a list of scriptures that describe hell. She never makes any attempt to explain what this "great chasm" is, or to study the rest of the scriptures in this list. The only scripture about hell she actually deconstructs in any sense is the parable of the sheep and the goats, and the only thing I learned from the whole book about hell is that in the phrase "eternal punishment" used in the parable of the sheep and the goats, the word "eternal" actually means an age, a time period, and not forever.

She spends the rest of the book talking about three of her students and their questions about hell, and the ideas and opinions (with little specific biblical reference) that they share with one another.
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