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Rethinking Hell
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by William Crockett, Zachary J. Hayes, Clark H. Pinnock and John F Walvoord
Four Views on Hell (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1996.  190p.)

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I picked up this volume on one of my international trips from South Africa.  I got this book on a trip to Euless, Texas, (Dallas area) in 2007, while there for an international conference related to my cultural research work.

This book is a volume in the series Counterpoints:  Exploring Theology.  Crockett is the Series Editor.  The historical background provided by each of these authors in their articles is very helpful to provide a perspective on the variety of views of afterlife, judgement and punishment in the history of the Christian tradition.

Catholic and Protestant
This book is notable in that it includes one noted Roman Catholic scholar, Zachary Hayes, among the expected Protestant scholars.  I found Hayes' essay very helpful in understanding the Catholic concept of Purgatory.  His historical analysis and theological construction of the doctrine from that historical base were helpful to understand how this doctrine developed.

Hayes is very well-read in Protestant theology and terminology and adds a refreshing dimension to this dialogue.  Each author gives a response to each of the other authors' essay.

This dialogue format has been used in other recent topic series by publishers and is a very effective way for the reader to see the differences and similarities of views and easily understand some of the major options seen by various thinkers or schools of thought.

In this set of ideas, I found the most creative and thoughtful to be Pinnock and Hayes.  Walvoord is more cautious and stays close to his Reformed roots, while Pinnock enjoys the adventure of exploration.  I was not familiar with Crockett before reading this, but was impressed with his thinking.  I will leave the details for you to discover, so won't detail the specifics of their views here.

Pinnock is a thoughtful writer, who has an incisive awareness of the contents of scripture.  I have read other works by Pinnock, and find his style and openness to discovery refreshing and encouraging.  Pinnock is more of a theologian, cautious of the way we use reason and aware of the role of assumptions.

There are some differences between the authors on how they treat scripture or how they understand it to be authoritative.  The discussion takes into account the historical perspectives, which will help the less initiated reader see the cultural aspects of this question.

This is not your stock Sunday School rehash of medieval syncretism of Celtic or Germanic cultural myths that is so commonly passed off as Christian and even biblical in popular Christianity.  In considering possibilities about punishment or accountability for moral decisions, these thinkers likewise do not simply toss around simplistic rule-breaking concepts of sin and punishment.

I was glad to see how seriously they took the questions of moral responsibility and justice or fairness in considering the reasonableness of possibilities.

You will find this stimulating.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[txt] God, Heaven and Human Knowledge
[reviews] Justice and Vengeance in Dante's Medieval World
[TXT] Principalities and Powers:  Notes On Demonic Hierarchies

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Read and first reading notes written 24 June 2007
Review written and posted on Thoughts and Resources 19 November 2008
Reviewed on Amazon 3 March 2009
Last edited here 8 May 2009

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2008 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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