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Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment Paperback – November 29, 2004
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From the Back Cover
Of all the teachings of Christianity, the doctrine of hell is easily the most troubling, so much so that in recent years the church has been quietly tucking it away. Rarely mentioned anymore in the pulpit, it has faded through disuse among evangelicals and been attacked by liberal theologians. Hell is no longer only the target of those outside the church. Today, a disturbing number of professing Christians question it as well. Perhaps more than at any other time in history, hell is under fire. The implications of the historic view of hell make the popular alternatives, annihilationism and universalism, seem extremely appealing. But the bottom line is still God's Word. What does the Old Testament reveal about hell? What does Paul the apostle have to say, or the book of Revelation? Most important, what does Jesus, the ultimate expression of God's love, teach us about God's wrath? Upholding the authority of Scripture, the different authors in Hell Under Fire explore a complex topic from various angles. R. Albert Mohler Jr. provides a historical, theological, and cultural overview of 'The Disappearance of Hell.' Christopher Morgan draws on the New Testament to offer three pictures of hell as punishment, destruction, and banishment. J. I. Packer compares universalism with the traditional understanding of hell, Morgan does the same with annihilationism, and Sinclair Ferguson considers how the reality of hell ought to influence preaching. These examples offer some idea of this volume's scope and thoroughness. Hell may be under fire, but its own flames cannot be quenched by popular opinion. This book helps us gain a biblical perspective on what hell is and why we cannot afford to ignore it. And it offers us a better understanding of the One who longs for all people to escape judgment and obtain eternal life through Jesus Christ.
About the Author
Christopher W. Morgan is professor of theology and dean of the School of Christian Ministries at California Baptist University in Riverside, California. Author/editor of ten books and a teaching pastor of Helendale Community Church, he and and his wife, Shelley, have been married for twenty years and live in Helendale, California.
Robert A. Peterson is Professor of Systematic Theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He is author or editor of twenty books, including Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ (Crossway, 2012), Our Secure Salvation: Preservation and Apostasy (P&R Publishing, 2009), and, co-edited with Christopher Morgan, Hell Under Fire (Zondervan, 2004).
Gregory K. Beale (PhD, University of Cambridge) is J. Gresham Machen Chair of New Testatment, Proferssor of New Testament and Bible Theology at Wheaton College Graduate School.
Daniel I. Block (D.Phil, University of Liverpool) is Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College.
Sinclair B. Ferguson (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is a professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.
R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology. Described by Time magazine as the "reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement," Dr. Mohler can be heard on The Briefing, a daily podcast which analyzes news and events from a Christian worldview. He also writes a popular commentary on moral, cultural, and theological issues at albertmohler.com. He and his wife live in Louisville, Kentucky.
Douglas J. Moo (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is the Kenneth T. Wessner Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. His work centers on understanding the text of the New Testament and its application today. He has written extensively in several commentary series, including the NIV Application Commentary, Pillar Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentary, and the New International Commentary on the New Testament.
J. I. Packer (DPhil, Oxford University) is a member of the board of governors and professor of theology at Regent College.
Robert W. Yarbrough (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is chair and professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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Top Customer Reviews
1. Modern theology: the disappearance of Hell (Albert Mohler Jr)
2. The old Testament on Hell (Daniel I. Block)
3. Jesus on Hell (Robert W. Yarbrough)
4. Paul on Hell (Douglas J. Moo)
5. The Revelation on Hell (Gregory K. Beale)
6. Biblical Theology: Three Pictures of Hell (Christopher W. Morgan)
7. Systematic Theology: Three Vantage Points of Hell (Robert A. Peterson)
8. Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately be saved? (J. I. Packer)
9. Annihilationism: Will the Unsaved Be Punished Forever? (Christopher W. Morgan)
10. Pastoral Theology: The Preacher and Hell (Sinclair. B. Ferguson)
As one may conjecture based on this (I couldn't see the table of contents when ordering), this book is diffuse, with repetition of material by different chapters. For someone seriously concerned (and not confident) about the truth of the matter on this issue, like me, there have been some irritating moments in reading, because certain Scripture and issues would be, in a given chapter, passed over very quickly, which would not happen if the book was more focused in is content / organization. Another aspect of the broad scope of the book is that it deals with history and philosophical and emotional objections to the traditional view, whereas I was looking mainly for biblical exegesis. I'll just give some feedback about the chapters on Scripture vis-a-vis the argument against annihilationism
Bock's "Old Testament on Hell" - He says that "We find hints of the netherworld and the afterlife as a place/time of eternal torment (in contrast to a beatific afterlife for the righteous) as we know it from the New Testament in only two Old Testament texts: Isaiah 66:24 and Daniel 12:2" (59). But in proceeding to discuss these two passages, Bock does not argue for the traditional view at all, does not deal with annihilationist arguments, but just asserts his view! I'm not at all faulting Bock's intelligence or scholarship here; it seems to me, rather, that he simply wasn't thinking about arguing against annihilationism when he wrote this, but was giving a more general informative article on the Old Testament's view of the netherworld.
Yarbrough's "Jesus on Hell" - Yarbrough clearly takes it upon himself to argue against annihilationism, however in my opinion the argumentation is lacking. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion about the soundness of Yarbrough's anti-annihilationist arguments, but I think a less disputable point would be that the chapter was organized in such a way that little space was allocated to rebutting annihilationist exegetical arguments; and for a reader such as me, that's where I was itching. He for some reason spent 4 pages on the reliability of the gospels as testimonies to Jesus' words. 6 pages were given to rebutting Fudge's views on certain verses in the gospels.
Moo's "Paul on Hell" was a very good chapter; I don't have any gripes with Moo; unfortunately I think the main controversial verses in this dispute are not Pauline. Moo does however provide some considerations that he believes favor the traditional view.
Beale's "The Revelation on Hell" - this is an excellent chapter, and the main reason I'm still glad I bought this book. Beale is very rigorous exegetically, and he explicitly takes up the annihilationist position and argues against it by arguing about the Scriptural data and not appealing to intuitions or "it seems to me that..." This is the chapter that I'll continue to work through in my own studies on this issue.
Christopher Morgan's "Annihilationism..." chapter was very short on exegetical counter-arguments to annihilationist's arguments (most of the chapter is on history, and broader theological/philosophical issues). Two short paragraphs constitute the attack on annihilatonist views of "eternal" as it pertains to passages on hell, and two more paragraphs on the annihilationist view of "destruction."
The first essay was by Albert Mohler, and outlined the modern demise of the doctrine of hell from the 17th century onwards. His article outlines how hell began to be questioned in mainline denominations, gradually moving to a doctrine repellent to many in the church by the Victorian Era, and eventually being regarded as nothing more than a myth in the 20th century. Mohler then outlines how these attitudes have recently been entering even evangelical circles, with annihilationist leanings in the writings of such prominent theologians as John Wenham, John Stott, and of course, Clark Pinnock.
Following Mohler's historical review are four essays on the teaching of certain parts of the Scripture: Daniel Block on the Old Testament, Robert Yarborough on the teaching of Jesus, Douglas Moo on Paul's teaching and Gregory Beale on Revelation. Block's essay is an interesting read for those who are unacquainted with the way in which the Old Testament lays the backdrop for the teaching of Christ and the apostles on hell in terms of imagery, and I especially appreciated his discussion of the Netherworld, in the OT, and Daniel 12:1-3. The essay's by Yarborough and Moo met the high expectations I had of them from reading some of their previous works. Yarborough summarized the large amount of Gospel teaching on Hell very well, as well as including an interesting section refuting the charge that His teaching came from Plato, and concluding with a reflection on the teaching in light of September 11th, while Moo excelled in his discussion of Paul's teaching on the issue of eternal punishment and the justice of God (Paul never uses the term `hell'). Beale's essay was good, but was the most disappointing to the reviewer (all things are relative!), but still argued powerfully against the annihilationist teaching that is becoming ever more prevalent in evangelical circles.
The next two essays covered hell in Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology. Christopher Morgan (the only author the reviewer had not come across before, but whose two essays were not out of place in the book) commented briefly on the doctrine from each of the New Testament authors, concluding with a discussion of hell pictured as punishment, destruction and banishment. Robert Petersen (who has written on thee subject more fully elsewhere) presented a very interesting and rewarding paper on the theology from three vantage points: those of the trinity, human responsibility and divine sovereignty, and the `no' and `not yet' tension on the Bible.
Two essays followed on universalism (by J. I. Packer) and annihilationism (by Morgan again). Both essays were useful, and showed the flaws in these approaches according to the clear teaching of the Bible, though Morgan's is most useful in the context of modern evangelicalism as universalism is not really proposed by many serious theologians who label themselves as evangelicals. The final essay was, in this reviewer's opinion, the finest, with Sinclair Ferguson discussing the pastoral implications of the Biblical doctrine of hell. Ferguson's pastoral heart was obvious throughout as he wrestled with the reality of hell in preaching and evangelism, and his essay is the most important contribution of the volume I would say, as the other material is covered in other volumes elsewhere, though the reviewer has not come across another essay quite like Ferguson's.
Overall, a fine volume on a difficult topic, and perhaps the best summary the reviewer has read on the topic (though find also Robert Petersen's other books, and John Blanchard's `Whatever Happened to Hell'). As stated at the beginning, I hope Zondervan will continue to release more books in this series...perhaps Justification Under Fire may be a good one, edited by Don Carson!