4 Views on Hell

22 Dec

Four Views on Hell

I approached this book with slight trepidation as I thought it may well open up a bigger can of worms than I was prepared to deal with. However in many ways that can of worms had already been opened courtesy of other things.

The book take a look of 4 different theories on Hell and then the authors of each chapter then critique each other. I like this approach and find it helpful to have people responding to each other.

I’m going to try and summarise each chapter as I understand it, this will hopefully have the affect of helping me to commit them to memory and further work through this quandary.

1)The Literal View

This is the view that I guess I grew up with, I not sure how as I don’t remember ever hearing it taught on. Through some process of unconscious osmosis I was only really aware of this view and have struggled with its final assertions and have done since a young age without really being able to express or verbalise this.

The literal view expresses that Hell is a real place where those who ‘are not saved’ will endure fiery torment for eternity.

2)The Metaphorical View

I must admit to not fully grasping this one. The understanding I have from it is that the exact nature of Hell we cannot be sure of as the bible often using pictorial language and that of rabbinic hyperbole. I get that but I’m not sure where this view leaves us in terms of, to use crude language, who goes and who doesn’t.

3)The Purgatorial View

The start of this chapter is keen to differentiate between an interim period and a purgatorial period. This view suggests that there is a time and process of purification that takes place at the end of our earthly life. It suggests different lengths of time for people and seems to point to eventual universalism.

4)The Conditional View

This is that Hell is not an eternal state. It is I think the same as the Annihilation view, that after a time, probably as we see a new heaven and a new earth, al wickedness will be destroyed. It is helpfully summed up as ‘hell as closure and absolute death.’

Where does this leave me?

As I am not a theologian it isn’t useful or helpful for me to comment upon what is most closely biblical and has the exegetical high ground. It is only for me to say that I feel as I need to have done some thinking around this so as to be able to express a view however flawed this may be.

My only conclusion is that I have real difficulty with the literal view for a number of reasons that I wont go into fully. My views aren’t formed by a deep rooted study of scripture but is instead around what I know of I know and understand of the character of God. This is an area that I feel more confident that I know a little more about. I know God expressed in human form through Jesus to be loving and compassionate but also have an understanding of God’s justice. My want to express God’s love rather than wroth probably comes from the organisations I have worked for, people I have worked for and the people I have studied under.

I still don’t think I could give a coherent answer to my view but at least I have done some thinking. Perhaps in some circles that I mix this questioning of what I would call the evangelical traditional view will be seen as me being I a learning/questioning process, whereas in others people may have far more grave concerns. Whatever the case I felt as though I needed to do justice to some of my owns thoughts and concerns.

I know that Bart Campolo has suffered at the hands of some who hold the literal view as he seems to suggest universalism. Again I am not placed to comment upon this but I do worry about the lack of questioning that is allowed in some church traditions. They seem to hold control over their members rather than allowing people to own their view of God.

Well there we go, perhaps no more clear, but a bit more thought through. It’s been an important start to this journey and thinking that started off as a small boy and has grown and been re-stirred a number of time, in no small way by The Last Word and The Word After That by Brian McLaren. Some have said to me that they see this subject of little importance or of little interest. I can agree with the later as we will not have full revelation this side of physical death, however I think the views people and denominations hold have massive affects on the way in which mission and evangelism is done and lived out.


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