Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Latest Readings on Hell

Under the Ticker's new schedule, I'll still post about my readings for the next Building Blocks books, but do so in clusters. Here's the latest four.

Carl Johnson, Hell You Say! I didn’t realize it until I started reading – this is a tome by an evangelist whose main form of argument is, “here’s what the Bible says, deal with it” – no serious exegesis most of the time, just Bible quotes. Quotes from various authorities and alleged authorities are sometimes given, but almost always without references. The fire of hell is assumed to be literal, and that view is supported only by quoting a 1938 journal article which argues that there is such a thing as a fire than cannot be put out – white dwarf stars. So apparently hell is fueled the same way a white dwarf is (yet also by hydrogen gases, if I believe other people). But at least Johnson also reckons with hell as a state of shame, too. (But he doesn’t reconcile the contrary images of fire and darkness).

Jerry Walls, Hell: The Logic of Damnation. This is a darned good book that I wish I could have used. However, it turned out to be more of a philosophical defense with respect to hell than it was an exegetical book. There is one chapter about the nature of hell, and Walls speculates that it is much like I have supposed – something where deprivation occurs, where there is no music or beauty, and where love and friendship cannot thrive. But he also suggests that there might be some physical pain (even if not literal burning flames) and does not connect it to honor-shame.

Jonathan Kvanvig, The Problem of Hell. Interesting book that discusses philosophical problems with the traditional view of hell. Kvanvig ejects it and comes up with a view of hell as a place of slow (but not always inevitable or complete) annihilation. It doesn’t wash Scripturally in spite of his brief attempts to make it fit, but Kvanvig may have found my own model more tolerable. As it is, nothing here I could use.

Alan Bernstein, The Formation of Hell: This was clearly a fascinating tome about concepts of hell n Greece, Rome, Judaism, and the NT. Unfortunately I didn’t read much of it because it had literally nothing on my topic of concern – the nature of the flames, darkness, etc of hell. Bernstein apparently takes for granted that the images are literal and investigates no further.

That’s all for the latest set of books I was looking at. I won’t be getting more until next week sometime.


  1. Just my two cents...I think it would be worth giving arguments for annihilationism a second look. I know the material offered by Seventh-Day Adventists and the like has been weak. But annihilationism has been given some credence by context-minded scholars like the late F.F. Bruce. This is especially true now that scholars recognize a strong belief in annihilationism expressed by much intertestamental literature.

    Even Ben Witherington acknowledges the strengths of annihilationism:

  2. JPH, Has a serious NT scholar really tackled this subject or are the only serious treatments Philosophical?

  3. @pds: I'm still looking to find out.

  4. Have you read Death and the Afterlife by Dr. Robert Morey? Any good?

  5. @pds Too old to make it on my list for research.