Four Views on Hell (A Review)

Hell has become quite a hot topic in evangelical circles with some seeking to jettison the traditional understanding of hell and some seeking to defend it. Four Views on Hell edited by Preston Sprinkle with contributions by Denny Burk, John G. Stackhouse Jr., Robin Parry, and Jerry Walls, will help any reader understand the basic positions of those who identify as evangelical.

This is a new edition which replaces the previous edition on Hell in the Counterpoints series published by Zondervan. Like all volumes in the series each contributor presents an essay defending their understanding of the doctrine in question followed by interactions from the other contributors. Denny Burk in this volume presents a defense of hell as eternal conscious torment. John Stackhouse Jr. defends an annihilationist understanding of hell. Robin Parry espouses Christian universalism. Jerry Walls makes his case for Purgatory.

I might be biased in saying this but I believe that Burk does the best job in dealing with the biblical texts surrounding hell. His defense of his doctrine does not rely on the emotionally driven speculation some of the other authors lean into. Stackhouse also interacts with key biblical texts, however I remain unconvinced. Robin Parry’s chapter is complete rejection of anything resembling a biblical understanding of hell. His chapter is filled with speculation. I find his attempt to draw a comparison between the Trinity as a doctrine inferred from biblical texts and his understanding of universalism indefensible. Walls chapter doesn’t belong in this book for the primary reason is he is not addressing hell at all but rather is making a case for a Protestant doctrine of Purgatory. His work in this volume deals with Scripture the least of all.

Like all the books in this series Four Views on Hell is very informative on what others believe in regards to Christian doctrines. While I found several of the authors to be unconvincing and their basic hermeneutical principals troubling at times I do believe that this is a book that should be read by pastors and teachers. The reality is there is not the consensus we often think there is in our churches or denominations  and we must be aware the various views we will come across in our ministries.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html

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