Tackling the Thorny Issue of Hell

Back in February of 2011, the blogosphere erupted in response to a book challenging the traditionally accepted view of Hell. Social media outlets quickly blew up as well. All sorts of people were coming out of the woodwork to debate and defend a topic which might not normally receive a lot of attention.

Twitter was aflame with words like “universalism” and “annihilationism.” Theological terms regarding eternity were being discussed openly on a medium usually reserved for much more trivial concerns. It seemed that, even if momentarily, Hell had gone mainstream.

Opportunities to discuss issues of eternal consequence, while the general public’s interest is piqued, are rare. With all of the increased discussion, people generally want to know, “What exactly does the Bible say about Hell? How are these passages interpreted? And what are commonly accepted orthodox views?”

Logos has many resources available to help not only solidify your personal stance, but to prepare you for such discussions.

One thoughtful resource can be found in the Contemporary Issues Collection (7 vols.) In Hell: A Hard Look at a Hard QuestionAnglican priest and Archdeacon of Frankston, David Powys dissects the New Testament passages in regards to the fate of the unrighteous.

Powys divides his research into three parts:

  • Historical survey:
    In this section, Powys discusses the perspectives of church fathers like Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine of Hippo. Then he turns the microscope on the pre-reformation era’s views on eternity.
  • Jewish thought and Greco-Roman influence:
    Here Powys dissects Old Testament beliefs about judgment and the afterlife. He then uses the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha to examine how the Hasmonean era affected Jewish thought and rabbinic tradition. This is followed up by looking at both Roman influence and Pharisaical tradition.
  • New Testament passages:
    Looking closely at the Synoptic Gospels, Paul’s epistles, and Johannine literature, Powys interprets the New Testament’s passages dealing with the fate of the unrighteous.

At 508 pages, this book is the largest in the Contemporary Issues Collection. This collection comes with six other titles to help you tackle hot button contemporary issues from a biblical perspective. Whether you are looking for a resources regarding feminism, Christian political involvement, deistic sovereignty, Israel, or a scriptural view of law and justice, The Contemporary Issues Collection will help. And it is currently for sale on Pre-Pub for less than $.05 a page!

If you are looking for more resources dealing with the subject of Hell, Logos has you covered. Other helpful titles dealing with this hot button issue include:

Ultimately, public interest in discussions about Christian topics—even the thorny ones—is a win. Any opportunity to discuss a topic that leads back to the Gospel is positive. With Logos you can follow Paul’s admonition to “be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV)

What other Logos resources have helped you in your studies on the topic of Hell? Leave us a comment and tell us about them!

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6 Responses to “Tackling the Thorny Issue of Hell”

  1. Dan July 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    So let’s say hell is indeed a real “place” or state of being… what if instead of unconverted sinners either suffering eternal torment or inhalation (i.e. Fudge) The Father ends up redeeming everyone from eternal damnation through the life, death, resurrection of Jesus? What if the blood of the eternal Son is indeed able to cleans away all the sin of every human being who has ever been conceived, currently lives or ever will be conceived? What if God does indeed fulfill to the uttermost the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones? Just wondering.

    • Dan July 16, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

      “inhalation” is supposed to be “annihilation”… auto spell check strikes again!

    • Don July 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

      What if what Jesus and the rest of the Bible teaches about Hell is not true? What if there really isn’t a need for the Great Commission? What if we come up with other unbiblical possibilities? Seems like Rob Bell’s teaching gets around way way more than it should.

    • Steve Goode July 21, 2011 at 10:39 am #

      Since you are quoting Rob Bell’s doctrine I thought I would respond.

      The Hebrew word sheol is found sixty-five times in the Old Testament. Thirty-one times it is translated “hell,” thirty-one times “grave,” and three times it is translated “the pit.” In the New Testament the corresponding word in the Greek is hades. Ten times we find the word translated “hell”.

      This emphasis on the names of hell runs counter to Rob Bell’s claim that it means no more than garbage dump. To place the garbage dump into context we must refer back to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Dan 3:29) In this story the king decreed if anyone spoke evil of God that they would be torn limb from limb and their house made into garbage dump. One of the most humiliating and mortifying things that could ever happen to a Jew in that culture was to have their home made a place of waste and refuse. To suffer such indignation would also require for the person to be alive or existing to suffer that humiliation.

      Bell also claims how infrequent hell is mentioned in different context when it is apparent that the Bible is communicating to us the importance of being aware of hell. Why would Jesus make it a point to tell the story of the rich man and Lazarus in such great detail unless there was an important lesson to learn? The annihilationist claims allegory when the answer is right there in front of them. The answer isn’t cryptic. Jesus is teaching us that money and riches won’t keep you out of hell! Turn to Jesus who is the only way to avoid eternal, irreversible punishment! (John 14:6)

  2. Dawn Korotko July 17, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    I wanted to comment on the points of asking whether or not we need apologetics since things, like hell, are clearly taken as fact in Scripture.
    I think we need experts and apologetics because our society has become so diverse in knowledge and skill and very different from what it was when Scripture was written. The words may be translated but we don’t always understand what those words would have meant to someone listening. As a simple example – take the word “Father”. We’re taught to pray “Our Father” but, at the time Christ taught it, the Father of a family had absolute authority over the other members. He could put a member of the family to death and not have to answer to law because of it. His decisions were not questioned and his word was final. We do not consider a father in the same way and, perhaps, we tend to focus more on the care and concern than the authority of the office.
    We may understand the words in Scripture but we may not understand them the right way. This is why we need those who have studied and pursued apologetics. To help us comprehend, not what we read, but what the original listeners would have understood the words to mean.
    And, aside from all that, remember 1Peter 3:15 which, to paraphrase, includes the instruction to be always ready to give a man an answer defending the faith

  3. Brad Cooke July 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Does God burn sinners forever? What sin, no matter how greivous, is worth an eternity of live, torturous punishment?? This doctrine of an eternally burning ‘hell’ is inspired from the devil himself.