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

3.9 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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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: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #683,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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If you have been questioning the idea of "eternal conscious torment" in hell expressed in the Statements of Faith adopted by most Evangelical churches, then this book should definitely be on your reading list. Ms. Baker approaches universal reconciliation in a way that the other books I've read do not. You will find it hard to defend the current majority opinion after reading this.

Every Christian should also read Hope Beyond Hell by Gerry Beauchemin. Besides presenting overwhelming Scriptural evidence to support universal reconciliation, this book will make you fall ever more deeply in love with the creator who loves all His children with an unimaginable passion.

IMHO, the best defense of universal reconciliation of all is found in The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbot. The closely reasoned logic is almost as inescapable as the Love Talbot attributes to God.

There are many other good books on this subject, but if you start with these you will find something for every reader. You will find yourself dropping to your knees in wondrous adoration of the breadth and depth and height of God's love for us.
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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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