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Four Views on Hell Paperback – December 24, 1996
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What do the Scriptures say hell is? John Walvoord argues that it is a literal place of smoke and flames. William Crockett defends a metaphorical view, punishment but not necessarily literal fire. Clark Pinnock presents conditional immortality - punishment but not forever. And Zachary Hayes explains the concept of purgatory.
From the Back Cover
Most contemporary Christians acknowledge the doctrine of hell, but they'd rather not think about how God punishes the wicked. The authors of Four Views on Hell meet this subject head-on with different views on what the Scriptures say. Is hell to be understood literally as a place of eternal smoke and flames? Or are such images simply metaphors for a real but different form of punishment? Is there such a thing as 'conditional immortality, ' in which God annihilates the souls of the wicked rather than punishing them endlessly? Is there a Purgatory, and if so, how does it fit into the picture? The interactive Counterpoints forum allows the reader to see the four views on hell---literal, metaphorical, conditional, and purgatorial---in interaction with each other. Each view in turn is presented, critiqued, and defended. This evenhanded approach is ideal for comparing and contrasting views in order to form a personal conclusion about one of Christianity's key doctrines. The Counterpoints series provides a forum for comparison and critique of different views on issues important to Christians. Counterpoints books address two categories: Church Life and Bible and Theology. Complete your library with other books in the Counterpoints series.
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John Walvoord was the president of Dallas Theological Seminary for 34 years and is a prolific dispensational writer. William Crockett is a retired Anglican minister and is Professor Emeritus of Vancouver School of Theology. Friar Zachary Hayes studied under Pope Benedict XVI and currently teaches at Catholic Theological in Chicago. Clark Pinnock is a noted evangelical author supporting open theism and is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at McMaster Divinity College.
The four viewpoints discussed include the Literal View by Dr. Walvoord, the Metaphorical View by Dr. Crockett, the Purgatorial View by Friar Hayes, and the Conditional View by Dr. Pinnock.
The Literal View is well designed discussing many philosophical issues while keeping Scripture and exegetical processes at the forefront of the argument. He states that of the hundreds of prophesies fulfilled in Scripture, the vast majority are literally fulfilled, and thus hell should be taken to be an eternal fiery existence.
The Metaphorical View takes a hard look at Scripture's apocalyptic writing and sees much figurative language. He says the Bible contradicts itself if the verbiage on hell is taken literally. Thus, he contends that it must be understood metaphorically.
The Purgatorial View bases the argument on tradition and states that Scripture was the seed in which God intended theology to grow. Hence, while he concedes purgatory has no real Scriptural support, that it is the rational outcropping based on theological development.
The Conditional View is the viewpoint of Annihilationism from an Evangelical stance. This is based mostly on philosophy and a dissatisfaction with the conflict between God's infinite mercy and love with eternal torment.
Of these four views, I found the Literal and Metaphorical views to be most convincing. The reason is that they stayed closer to the Bible and to Paul's teaching to not go beyond what is written. In my opinion, basing theology on tradition which contradicts itself frequently, and philosophy which changes rapidly, are contrary to my belief. Although, I do think the viewpoints from these two persuasions I disagree with are put forth exceedingly well and they make a good case for their arguments.
Overall, you will be hard-pressed to find the four viewpoints on hell put into writing in one place with such ability. The views I did not agree with made me think, and I felt the cases I did agree with were put forth with very good support.
My only critique would be with some of the critiques. I found a couple of the critques to be difficult because they either missed the mark (leaving out major aspects that needed critiquing), they were too harsh in their wording, or they claimed something wasn't covered in the main article when it was.
Despite this minor issue, I found Four Views on Hell to be one of the better books on this theology and would recommend it very highly.
1. The late John F. Walvoord defends a traditional literal and eternal view of hell. While I disagree with Walvoord's famous dispensationalist rapture position, his defense of Hell musters considerable scriptual support.
2. William Crockett argues an eternal but more metaphorical view of Hell. While somewhat vague, Crockett defends his position well with historical context and makes a plausible arguement.
3. The Catholic Zachary Hayes discusses the concept of Purgatory. As I believe other reviews have noted, the section was a little out of place. That said it was still interesting.
4. Clark Pinnock makes a forceful and interesting case for conditionalism, or in other words annilihationism. He combines some historical, philisophical, and scriptual support for the view. The scriptual view is perhaps surprisingly well put though there still seems some problems getting around Revelation if one takes some of the verses literally. Likewise, the philisophical view would be strong for some, though one of Walvoord's objections is also potentially a strong arguement against human philisophical objection depending on one's viewpoint.
Each of the other contributors writes a short response following a main section in the book.
Two views not advanced by any of the contributors were Universalism and reincarnation from a christian perspective. While I don't personally agree with either, they could have been some interesting sections. On the whole, my mind is open on the matter of Hell. I find Pinnock's view personally interesting but Walvoord and Crockett both have strong reasoning to back their approaches.
Overall an interesting book. The contributors generally stay polite while being very dedicated to their views.