At the request of a brother and follower of this blog, I am going to undertake the task of doing a book review on the book Hell Under Fire by General Editors Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson. The Subtitle of the book is Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment. This book is a compilation of articles written by the following contributors as their articles/chapters appear in the book:
Introduction by the General Editors
Chapter 1 – R. Albert Mohler Jr. on Modern Theology: The Disappearance of Hell
Chapter 2 – Daniel I. Block on The Old Testament on Hell
Chapter 3 – Robert W. Yarbrough on Jesus on Hell
Chapter 4 – Douglas J. Moo on Paul on Hell
Chapter 5 – Gregory K. Beale on The Revelation on Hell
Chapter 6 – Christopher W. Morgan on Biblical Theology: Three Pictures of Hell
Chapter 7 – Robert A. Peterson on Systematic Theology: Three Vantage Points of Hell
Chapter 8 – J. I. Packer on Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved?
Chapter 9 – Christopher W. Morgan on Annihilationism: Will the Unsaved Be Punished Forever?
Chapter 10 – Sinclair B Ferguson on Pastoral Theology: The Preacher and Hell
Conclusion by the General Editors
We all come to Christian works with some sort of bent or tradition that we adhere to. It is hard to set aside our presuppositions and moorings to be totally objective when doing reviews of other works. I acknowledge that and I fully expect to be taken to task over my own presuppositions as they surface throughout this review. I will try to minimize them but not apologize for them. With your input and sound biblical reasoning, I am open to the truth of the Word of God as found in the Bible. I encourage you to engage with me in “iron sharpening iron.”
My bent right now is toward challenging the traditional thought of an eternal punishment for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ during this life. I have moved through Dispensational beliefs to Reformed beliefs and now beyond any system of belief to seeking the truth of the Bible, and as much as possible, devoid of traditional beliefs stemming from the organization of the Roman Catholic church in / around the period of 500 AD to the present traditions of Protestantism as born out of the Reformation.
To be transparent, I am a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY where I lived for 2 years as I finished my MDiv in Theology. One of the contributors, Al Mohler, was my Sunday School teacher for one of my years there. My family and I attended, but never joined, Highview Baptist Church (East Campus) and were nominally active in ministry there. I have been the solo/senior pastor of three churches, one each in Colorado, Illinois, and Utah. I have a very strong burden for the truth of God and have no time any more for anyone who will not openly and honestly desire to search the Scriptures with an open mind, seeking God’s truth, not a denomination’s “truth.” I will be happy to answer questions you may have about my past or my beliefs but do not want to take up more space here, possibly obscuring the review itself.
Now to begin the review itself.
The General Editors waste no time in getting right to their belief about hell. Four paragraphs in they state that hell is under fire, and it is under fire from those WITHIN the church, whereas most previous attacks came from without. Then they expose their feelings on these attacks. They say there are two main attacks, or as they put it, ABERRATIONS: universalism and annihilationism. Without any substantiation, they begin by using charged words rather than stating a problem, engaging the facts on both sides, and coming to a conclusion based on the facts in evidence. This, I believe, sets the tone for much of the rest of the book. Most, if not all, of the authors have substantial positions to defend. By this I mean, they have established ministries that they receive their livelihoods from, which can, but not always, lead to a coloring of opinions on doctrinal positions. I am not indicting any of them specifically, but will let their writings speak for themselves.
On page 12, the second page of the introduction, they state that “the contributors to this volume are united in affirming the historic Christian doctrine regarding the final destiny of the unsaved: They will suffer everlasting conscious punishment away from the joyous presence of God.” (emphasis mine) Now, I agree that this position is both historic and believed by Christians for many years. What I want to challenge is the notion connoted by historic Christian doctrine that that was the only belief, or the most predominant belief in Christian history stemming from the Apostles of Christ, through the early church fathers leading up to the council at Constantinople in 553 AD.
The next part of this review will focus on Chapter 1, Al Mohler’s chapter which, as the introduction by the general editors states, “laments the departure of many people, including evangelicals, from historic Christian teaching concerning hell.”
Until next time, God’s blessings to you.