Zondervan’s “Counterpoints” series is a great series. It allows readers to learn about multiple views on an issue with each presented by a proponent of that view followed by responses from the other authors in the book who hold to different views on the same topic. This give and take allows strong representatives of the various views to have a small discussion for us to read and consider. Recently, Zondervan released an updated version of a previous book, Four Views on Hell, and I requested a copy from BookLook Bloggers to read and review.
The four views presented (with the author who presents it) are eternal conscious torment by Denny Burk (the traditional view), terminal punishment/annihilationism by John G. Stackhouse Jr., [Christian] universalism by Robin A. Parry, and a protestant understanding of purgatory by Jerry L. Walls. Preston M. Sprinkle provides an introduction and conclusion to the book.
I certainly feel I have a better understanding of the various views after reading the book. Each viewpoint is well presented, and the responses are very well done.
I do feel that Denny Burk’s responses were the least kind. It’s not that he was outright rude, but whereas the other authors seemed to try to find as much good as they could in the other contributors’ essays, Burk did so almost dismissively before jumping into his refutation of their views. Stackhouse, Parry, and Walls seemed much more generous in their responses to each other.
I also have to admit that the essay on purgatory seemed out of place in this volume. As Walls explains it, purgatory, from a protestant perspective, is strictly sanctifying, and is only for believers who are already destined for Heaven. Walls admits that his view on Hell is essentially a view of eternal conscious torment, if I understood him correctly, as it has the clearest Scriptural support and the longest tradition in the history of the Church. In his explanation, the other views on Hell would bear the burden of proof to overturn such a longstanding view. Perhaps purgatory was included in the book because some mistakenly associate it with Hell and punishment, but once it is explained, it seemed very out of place.
What I liked is that all the authors are clear that they believe that some aspect of Scripture supports their view. They are all Christians, all believe Jesus is the only way to God, and all turn to Scripture for support. None of the views are entirely devoid of Scriptural support, although some rely on Scripture more than others.
If you are looking for a balanced book to help you understand the various Christian viewpoints on Hell, this book, though far from exhaustive, is a great place to start.
*Note: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.