Ever read something you know you disagree with but still can’t help but admire the actual argument presented? That’s how I felt about Robin Parry’s presentation in the second edition of Four Views on Hell. Parry is an editor with Wipf & Stock Publishers (who published both Rethinking Books through their subsidiaries Cascade and Pickwick), and a friend of the Rethinking Hell project. Like John Stackhouse, he’s appeared twice on the podcast (here and the second as part of our series with Chris Date and the contributors to Four Views) and he was one of the plenary speakers at the second Rethinking Hell conference at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena in 2015 (that lecture is available on the conference DVD set). But of the four presentations in Four Views, I am inclined to say that Parry’s is the best in the sense of a well argued, compelling case. This isn’t to say I think he’s right, but simply that of the four authors, Parry has plead his case for universal reconciliation better than the other authors did for their views.
John Stackhouse has been a faithful friend to Rethinking Hell. He has appeared on our podcast twice (Episode 3, and Episode 86). He wrote the foreward to the first Rethinking Hell book, Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism (Eugene: Cascade, 2014), and was a plenary speaker at the first Rethinking Hell conference in 2014 (that address was printed in our second book, A Consuming Passion: Essays in Honor of Edward Fudge. Eugene: Pickwick, 2015.). So Rethinking Hell contributors were pleased to hear he had been tapped on the shoulder to contribute to the second edition of Four Views on Hell.
In the discussion of hell, Denny Burk has a very significant advantage; his interpretation is the majority opinion. What cannot be disputed in this discussion is that over the course of 2000 years of Church history the majority (though of course not all) of Christian theological writing has presented that those who reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ will experience eternal conscious torment (ECT) in hell. But one of the things which becomes apparent in reading Denny Burk’s chapter in Four Views on Hell (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 ((Many thanks to Zondervan for providing copies of this book to Rethinking Hell contributors.)) – for a chance to win a copy enter here) is that the scriptural basis for this view being the majority is far more flimsy than this view’s advocates would have us believe. Even though John Stackhouse, Robin Parry, and Preston Sprinkle pointed out several problems (there will be considerable overlap below) there is still much in Burk’s presentation to be covered. ((The same can be said of the other contributions which will be reviewed in the near future))
Hell is on a lot of people’s radars these days. We here are obviously not the only ones rethinking hell. Rob Bell’s Love Wins brought the discussion to the popular level. Love it or hate it, Love Wins got people talking.
Another, more recent book has many talking again. Joshua Ryan Butler (pastor of local and global outreach at Imago Dei Community in Portland) has recently published The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War. The book covers more than just the doctrine of hell/final punishment, but for our purposes, I will only address the first part, in which Butler examines the topic of hell (look for responses to parts 2 & 3 on my own blog). Joshua was kind enough to supply me with a free copy to review (two, in fact. One will be given away through my own blog, so stay tuned if you want to dive into this yourself). After two attempts to get the book to me and over a month of frustration, it finally arrived. Read more about A Response to Joshua Ryan Butler’s The Skeletons in God’s Closet …