Book Review: Hell Under Fire - Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment

    10.24.18 | Book Review by Loren Benson

    Our society often welcomes warnings of objective dangers: “The bridge is out ahead. Detour right.” We value educated medical warnings: “If you don’t stop smoking, it will kill you. So stop.”  We speculate about how some action will affect our environment or economy. We’re quick to warn about terrorist threats.

    But what about spiritual matters? Matters of God, our souls, and the afterlife? Is fear an appropriate motivator in such matters? 

    Jesus knew there was something to fear: spending eternity in hell. He told his disciples,

    If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:43-48)

    Elsewhere, Jesus said,

    I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes,I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:4-5)

    Jesus exhorts us to fear hell. And he warns us to fear God, who has the power to cast us into hell.

    I will be putting a new book on the Lending Library cart this SundayHell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert A. Peterson is a persuasive and clear presentation of the orthodox position of hell as to its reality, eternality and inclusion of conscious suffering. The book has a reliable line up of scholars such as Al Mohler on Modern Theology: The Disappearance of Hell, G.K. Beale on The Revelation on Hell, Douglas Moo on Paul on Helland J.I. Packer on Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? The contributors are biblically focused and unequivocal in their faithful defense of the historic position of hell. As these authors present the Biblical doctrine of hell they expose the inaccurate and unfounded claims of universalism and annihilationism.

     I liked Al Mohler’s words when it comes to the consequences of redefining or explaining hell away:

     …No doctrine stands alone. Each doctrine is embedded in a system of theological conviction and expression. Take out the doctrine of hell, and the entire shape of Christian theology is inevitably altered…

    Morgan, associate professor of theology at California Baptist University in Riverside, California, and Peterson, professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, Missouri, have edited a thoroughly biblical, sobering, and incisive work on a doctrine that is increasingly contested.

     Here are the chapters with contributors:

    1. Modern Theology: The Disappearance of Hell (R. 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)