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Four Views on Hell: Second Edition (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) Paperback – March 8, 2016
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Recent years have seen much controversy regarding a unified Christian doctrine of hell: Do we go to heaven or hell when we die? Or do we cease to exist? Are believers and unbelievers ultimately saved by grace in the end?
By focusing on recent theological arguments, Four Views on Hell: Second Edition highlights why the church still needs to wrestle with the doctrine of hell.
In the fair-minded and engaging Counterpoints format, four leading scholars introduce us to the current views on eternal judgment, with particular attention given to the new voices that have entered the debate.
Contributors and views include:
- Denny Burk – representing a principle of Eternal Conscious Torment
- John Stackhouse – representing a principle of Annihilationism (Conditional Immortality)
- Robin Parry – representing a principle of Universalism (Ultimate Reconciliation)
- Jerry Walls – representing a principle of Purgatory
Preston Sprinkle concludes the discussion by evaluating each view, noting significant points of exchange between the essayists. The interactive nature of the volume allows the reader to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each view and come to an informed conclusion.
BONUS CONTENT: Includes entire first edition of Four Views on Hell to help readers grasp the history of the discussion and how it has developed over the last twenty years.
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From the Publisher
Leading biblical scholars discuss urgent topics of theology, the Bible, and the church.
Celebrated Editors and Contributors
Wayne Grudem (PhD, University of Cambridge; DD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is distinguished Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary and the author of the bestselling Systematic Theology.
Mark L. Strauss
Mark L. Strauss (Ph.D., Aberdeen) is University Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary San Diego, where he has served since 1993. He is the author of various books and articles including commentaries on Mark's Gospel in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Series (2014) and Expositors Bible Commentary (2010).
Dr. Preston Sprinkle has a Ph.D. from Aberdeen University (Scotland). He is a New York Times bestselling author. His books include Erasing Hell and Living in a Gray World.
William Lane Craig
William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University.
Complete your library with other books in the Counterpoints series!
The Bible has long served as the standard for Christian practice, yet believers still disagree on how some biblical passages should be interpreted and applied.
The Counterpoints series presents a comparison and critique of scholarly views regarding topics important to Christians that are both fair-minded and respectful of the biblical text. Each volume is a one-stop reference that allows readers to evaluate the different positions of a specific issue and form their own, educated opinion.
|Four Views on Christian Spirituality||Four Views on the Apostle Paul||Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment||Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy||Four Views on the Historical Adam|
|Editor||Bruce A. Demarest||Michael F. Bird||Alan P. Stanley||J. Merrick & Stephen M. Garrett||Ardel B. Caneday & Matthew Barrett|
About the Author
- Publisher : Zondervan Academic; Second edition (March 8, 2016)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0310516463
- ISBN-13 : 978-0310516460
- Item Weight : 7.7 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.1 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #457,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The four contributors of this book have been asked to present their position on the nature of hell, not debating the existence of hell, but rather trying answer the question, “What is hell like?” (11-12) Danny Burke starts the discussion by arguing that hell is a place of never-ending conscious torment, which is considered the traditional stance of the Evangelical Church. Then John Stackhouse follows with his argument that hell is a place of “terminal punishment,” a position otherwise known as “conditionalism” or “annihilationism.” The third view, universalism, defended by Robin Parry, is one that believes that “in the end God will reconcile all people to himself through Christ” (101). Finally, Jerry Walls subjoins the traditional view by arguing that believers must be fully sanctified before being permitted into heaven. Consequently, those that have received atonement before death, but have not yet undergone sanctification, will be granted a purgatory for their complete sanctification.
Sprinkle lays out this book with each contributor given a chapter to present their view along with other contributors’ responses; however, it may be warranted to speculate how generic the prompt that he gave them was. In the introduction he writes, “Now more than ever, Christians want to know what the Bible really says about hell” (11). This statement would indicate that the reader should expect a more systematic course of eschatology, which only Burk provides. However logically the others present their case, they rely heavily on a historical and philosophical method of theology, which ultimately steers their case away from the Bible.
Early on in the historical-theological approach presented by Parry, he provides a rather extensive list of religious figures who purportedly endorsed universalism, including the Clement of Alexandria, Pamphilus, the Basil of Caesarea, and St. Augustine just to name a few. Parry then states, “My point in listing these folks is simply to highlight that universalism is an ancient Christian view that arises from impulses deep within Christian theology itself” (102). However, rather than leaning on the “impulses” of prior historical figures, the reader is probably expecting a more systematic defense of universalism. Nevertheless, Parry directly says he will not deliver such an essay in his chapter, in the first two sentences of the section, “Madness in the Method” (102). Similarly, Walls engages Scripture only five times in his essay.
Overall the contributors are fair in their use of Christian jargon, defining lesser-known terms and terms that are used more broadly beyond an eschatological context. And though they use different models to present their argument, they all use a few of the same terms. For example, the Bible's use of the terms ʻôlām and aiônios are interpreted by Burk as meaning “everlasting” and “eternal” (25, 27), whereas Stackhouse translated them as “eternal,” “perpetual,” and “everlasting,” but suggests the interpretation is not intended to be literal (66-67). Finally, Parry primarily agrees with Stackhouse adding only that aiônios has the notion of being qualitative rather than quantitative (120-122).
Some more terms that are thoroughly defined throughout the book are “death” (69-70, 86-87, 93-94, 200) and Gehenna (11, 26-27, 63, 119-120). But, “sin” is a term that is used far more and yet remains without any proper care given to its biblical definition. Questions like “Is God the kind of God for whom this kind of punishment for sin would be necessary?” (21) and “Will God allow sin to thwart his purposes to beautify the cosmos?” (106), and a claim like “Christians are universalists about sin” (105), all assume a certain belief about sin. It would be foolish to attempt answering these questions without first defining the doctrine of sin, but few clear statements on sin are made in any of the essays.
No doubt credibility was considered during the selection of contributors; however only Burk and Walls write with an authoritative charisma. Conversely, Stackhouse and Parry start their arguments with the following statements: “I will content that this view best takes into account…” (62) and Christian universalism is a “viable Christian opinion” (101). They both continue their writing using phrases such as “I suggest” (65, 66), “it seems” (110), and “I would expect” (111). Eventually, Parry even writes, “I want now to offer … a view of hell I think compatible with the God of the gospel” (113). Finally, Stackhouse indicates their objective is humility when he says, “the other views, to be sure, can plausibly adduce certain Scriptures to their respective cases, and I certainly would want to allow for my own considerable limitations as a theologian” (62).
Even though Stackhouse and Parry intend to assume a position of humility in their arguments, they only damage their authority by conveying a sense of insecurity over the incomplete conception of their message. And while it is plausible that only one of the four views could be true, Burk and Walls both still speak rather definitively in defense of their own beliefs. This is the same way in which the apostles spoke about Jesus, his mission, and the kingdom (Luke 9:1-6). The forum initiated by Sprinkle for this book allowed all contributors the opportunity to speak with this same authority. Just as similarly as the apostles spoke about a message they knew would bring them persecution, Burk and Walls express in their writing trust and confidence in their positions amidst ostracism.
Even so, the debate between the contributors should be respected, as all rebuttals were communicated thoughtfully and without personal attacks. And although the bias between contributors is understood, Sprinkle honourably defers announcing his position until drawing his conclusion at the closing of the book.
Overall, Four Views on Hell is a relatively easy read for anyone who has a brief understanding of theological methods. Some of the exegesis and hermeneutical approaches will likely frustrate some readers; however, persisting onward to the full conclusion of the text is sure to challenge readers with new questions and deepen their understanding of beliefs contrary to their own.
"He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. (Rev. 22:11-12 NKJ)
In Hell the body and soul are destroyed, but their spirit continues on in its deadened state as the lost continue in their "filthiness" just like a drug addict in a self-destruction abyss forever.
Here is the argument for billions of people bubbling in lave FOREVER. The sin against each, the grasshopper, the puppy and the baby was the same ... pulling off its legs. Our reaction was different to each situation and varied due to the value of the one being sinned against. The argument is that since God is so holy, the result of billions of people bubbling in lave FOREVER is justified. I cringe that people make such justification. First this is NOT a biblical argument. The bible does not say that billions of people will bubble in lave BEAUSE God is so valuable. This is a argument from the writers mind, not God's. I tried to imagine God making this statement ..."Yes billions of people will bubble in lava forever because I am SO good and holy." Heresy I say ... heresy.
If you are already familiar with the positions Christians take on this issue, this book is unlikely to offer new insights. I was disappointed that so little attention was given by any of the contributors on the historical development of the doctrine of hell. This is, in my opinion, a significant shortcoming of the volume.
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Disadvantages of the format, where each scholar writes an essay supporting his position and the other three critique that essay - there isn't quite enough back-and-forth to get into some of the important details.
For example, the essay on "eternal conscious torment" had some pretty unconvincing strands of argument, claiming "clear" scriptural support from very "unclear" biblical texts (anyone trying to tell me the second half of Daniel says anything clear is going to struggle). Some of my questions were asked in the critiquing essays, but that is pretty much as far as the format could take them, so I couldn't establish whether my questions are critical holes in the position (my default position!), or simply me picking up on some poorly expressed argumentation.