Spotted this on the Apologetics 315 Twitter feed.
The purpose of this article is to critique Four Views On Hell, a book written by four theologians representing their respective views namely: literal, metaphorical, purgatorial, and conditional. This presentation will first give a summary of the book, and then offer several key points of analysis. The first point of analysis will be each author’s theological perspective and background because it serves as their interpretive lens. This naturally leads to examining the scriptural evidence for each view and how the author interprets it. While scripture is the ultimate arbiter, arguments offered from logic and emotion will be examined as well. Finally, criticism will be offered on the basis of exegesis and rational coherence. This critique will attempt to show that the book leads one to accept eternal punishment as the most coherent biblical position, while the biblical descriptions of hell are more likely metaphors for a larger reality.
The four views literal, metaphorical, purgatorial, and conditional are represented by John F. Walvoord, William Crockett, Zachary J. Hayes, and Clark H. Pinnock respectively. Each author contributed a chapter followed by responses from the other three. This makes for a very lively and useful book as each view is well argued and subjected to thoughtful criticism. Walvoord makes a strong case for a literal everlasting hell with actual fire. His exegetical work concerning the eternal nature of hell based on the term aionios is convincing. He remarks, “If exegesis is the final factor, eternal punishment is the only proper conclusion.” While Crockett stresses that hell is an existential reality, he argues against claiming exacting knowledge concerning its nature. He stresses, “the Scriptures do teach about a real hell, a place of frightful judgment.” Still yet, he argues that the literal view makes the Bible say too much and compares it to the Egyptian topographers of the underworld. He presents a compelling argument for the metaphoric view, emphasizing the use of conflicting language, “how can hell be literal fire when it is also described as darkness?” This point is reiterated ad nauseum against the literal view in several responses throughout the book. The organization of the book is interesting in that the further one reads the more speculative the argumentation and the less scriptural the basis. The slope is slippery indeed.
Hayes argues for an interim state which he believes is rooted in the redemptive work of Christ. His position on hell proper is obfuscated by his argument for purgatory. He bases a lot of his argumentation on history and tradition, which is not surprising as it is its only real grounding. He also petitions a humanistic sense of fairness, an emotional appeal which he shares with the next alternative. Pinnock’s case is based more on a negative argument against the classical view than evidence for his own. Accordingly, he exaggerates the traditional view at the outset. He contends one is asked to believe that God “endlessly tortures sinners by the million, sinners who perish because the Father decided not to elect them to salvation, though he could have done so, and whose torments are supposed to gladden the hearts of believers in heaven.” He argues forcefully that eternal torment is sadistic, vindictive and unjust. It is not befitting of God’s character. He proposes annihilationism or “conditional immortality” as a preferable alternative.
You can kind of see where Pinnock is similar to Rob Bell – he is being forced by his Calvinism into universalism in order to be fair. Molinists like me have no such pressures – if you’re going to Hell it’s your fault. If you’re going to heaven, you would NOT be going there if God didn’t do ALL the work. You just have to not resist him. You have a choice to resist or not. That’s it.
I love reading these Three/Four/Five view books. The whole series is good.