Modern Debates: A Bibliography
SINCE THE 19TH CENTURY, and particularly in recent decades, discussions of hell have mushroomed. Which perspectives will prove most influential is yet to be seen. To help you explore the biblical and theological issues at stake in the current debates over eternal punishment, we’ve gathered a selection of books on hell and eschatology (the doctrine of the last things, including the return of Christ, the Last Judgment, resurrection, and the eternal destiny of human beings) written from a wide variety of viewpoints.
Christian History does not necessarily endorse the perspectives in these books.
• Hilarion Algeyev, Christ the Conqueror of Hell (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009). This book by a Russian Orthodox archbishop looks at the early church fathers’ understanding of Christ’s “Harrowing of Hell” (1 Peter 3:1821) and argues that this event opened the way for the salvation of all human beings.
• Philip C. Almond, Heaven and Hell in Enlightenment England (Cambridge University, 1994). Examines changing ideas of heaven and hell in English thought from 16501750.
• Samuele Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? (Biblical Perspective, 1998). A Seventh Day Adventist theologian challenges the traditional idea that humans have immortal souls. Foreword by Clark Pinnock.
• Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved? With a Short Discourse on Hell (Ignatius Press, 1988). Balthasar was one of the most influential Catholic theologians of the 20th century, though his views on salvation and hell are controversial. His notable contribution to the debate was his theology of Holy Saturday. After his death of the cross, Christ, in solidarity with sinful humanity, descended into hell and experienced utter rejection by God—the full eternal punishment for the sin of all people. Balthasar is careful to leave open the possibility that someone can resist the offer of salvation and be eternally lost, but he believes that Christians are commanded to hope that all will eventually repent and find forgiveness.
• William Barclay, A Spiritual Autobiography (Eerdmans, 1975). Barclay’s New Testament commentaries for laypeople have had many evangelical readers. He says in his Spiritual Autobiography, “I am a convinced universalist. I believe that in the end all men will be gathered into the love of God,” and explains his thought process in coming to this position.
• Karl Barth, God Here and Now (Rout ledge, 2003) and Dogmatics in Outline (Harper, 1959). In Barth’s theology, Christ is the elect one, and all are elect and reconciled in him; he is also the condemned one, bearing the punishment for the sin of all people. Christ suffered hell in order to triumph over it. Yet Barth was not a universalist. To pronounce dogatically on either side of this issue, he believed, would be to place limits on the freedom of God: “The proclamation of the Church must make allowance for this freedom of grace. . . . a grace which automatically would ultimately have to embrace each and every one would certainly not be free grace. It surely would not be God’s grace. But would it be God’s free grace if we could absolutely deny that it could do that? Has Christ been sacrificed only for our sins? Has he not, according to 1 John 2:2, been sacrificed for the whole world? (God Here and Now)
• Rob Bell, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne, 2011). Bell’s highly controversial book raising questions about the traditional under standing of heaven and hell echoes many themes debated in previous centuries of the church. His book has already prompted a number of responses, including Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle (David C. Cook, 2011) and God Wins by Mark Galli, a former editor of Christian History magazine (Tyndale, 2011).
• Alan E. Bernstein, The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds (Cornell, 1993). With sections on ancient Greece and Rome, ancient Judaism, the New Testament, and early Christianity, this “history of hell” traces the develop ment of ideas about death, justice, and eternal punishment.
• Harry Blamires, Knowing the Truth about Heaven and Hell: Our Choices and Where They Lead Us, edited by Peter Kreeft and J. I. Packer (Servant Books, 1988). British theologian and novelist Blamires was a student and later friend of C. S. Lewis.
• John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? (Evangelical, 1993). Defense of the traditional view of hell against universalism and annihilationism. Foreword by J. I. Packer.
• Donald G. Bloesch, The Last Things (InterVarsity, 2004). A theological exploration of biblical themes of the kingdom of God, the second coming of Christ, angels, the Last Judgment, the millennium, resurrection, purgatory, hell, and heaven. Bloesch interprets hell as a “sanatorium for sick, incurable souls” but rejects universalism. He claims a “reverent agnosticism” regarding the eternal fate of the wicked.
• Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds., The Last Things: Biblical & Theological Perspectives on Eschatology (Eerdmans, 2002). Various ecumenical views on the significance of Christian eschatology for the contemporary church.
• Emil Brunner, Eternal Hope (Green wood Press, 1954, 1972). Brunner was a Swiss Protestant pastor and one of the leading neoorthodox theologians of the 20th century. He accepts the seeming paradox in Scripture between the final judgment of the wicked and the hope of universal redemption, concluding that what the Word confronts us with is a personal challenge: “We must listen to the voice which speaks of world judgment as to the voice of God Him self, in order that we may fear Him; we must listen to the voice which speaks of universal redemption as to the voice of God Himself, in order that we may love Him.”
• Harry Buis, The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1957). A Reformed defense of the traditional view of eternal punishment, including a historical survey from the bibli cal through post-Reformation periods.
Jonathan M. Butler, Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling: Heaven and Hell in American Revivalism, 1870-1920 (Carlson, 1991). A study of how the imagery of hell and heaven was used by revivalist preachers during America’s great awakenings.
Nigel M. de S. Cameron, ed., Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell (Bak er, 1992). Written by evangelical authors from a variety of perspectives, the essays touch on universalism, conditional immortality, the atonement, the problem of evil, hell, and historical debates.
Piero Camporesi, The Fear of Hell: Images of Damnation and Salvation in Early Modern Europe (Penn State Univ. Press, 1991). Scholarly study of the vivid imagery of hell in the writings of 16th- and 17th-century Italian preachers and theologians. The second part of the book deals with images of the Eucharist.
D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Zondervan, 1996). One chapter address es the popularity of annihilationism and other alternative views of hell.
John Casey, After Lives: A Guide to Heaven, Hell & Purgatory (Oxford University Press, 2009). A Cambridge scholar’s guide to views of the afterlife in different centuries, cultures, and religions.
• J. Cooper, Body, Soul and the Life Everlasting (Eerdmans, 1989). A critically acclaimed study of human nature and destiny that defends “holistic dualism.”
• William Crockett, ed., Four Views on Hell (Zondervan, 1992). Four theologians debate four different views of hell: literal (a physical place with eternal fire), metaphorical (eternal punishment, but not literal fire), purgatorial (purification after death), and conditional (annihilationism).
• William Crockett & James Sigountos, eds., Through No Fault of Their Own? (Baker, 1991). Essays by evangelical scholars taking various approaches to the question of the eternal fate of those who have never heard the gospel.
• Larry Dixon, The Other Side of the Good News: Confronting the Contemporary Challenges to Jesus’ Teaching on Hell (Victor Books, 1992). A defense of the traditional doctrine of hell against the major alternatives of universalism, annihiltionism, and postmortem conversion. Foreword by J. I. Packer.
• Ajith Fernando, Crucial Questions about Hell (Crossway, 1994). Examines biblical texts to answer a variety of questions about hell from a conservative evangelical perspective. Foreword by J. I. Packer.
• LeRoy E. Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, 2 vols. (Review & Herald, 1965). A survey of conditionalist views throughout history by a Seventh Day Adventist minister. Clark Pinnock called it “a classic defense of conditionalism.”
• Edward Fudge, The Fire That Consumes: The Biblical Case for Conditional Immortality (Providential, 1982). Widely praised and influential book arguing that the traditional view of hell as eternal conscious torment is unbiblical, and defending the conditionalist view.
• Edward William Fudge and Robert A. Peterson, Two Views of Hell: A Biblical & Theological Debate (In terVarsity, 2000). A dialogue on hell between two evangelical theologians, with Fudge defending the conditionalist view and Peterson defending the traditional view.
• Daniel P. Fuller, The Unity of the Bible: Unfolding God’s Plan For Humanity (Zondervan, 1992). Fuller is a professor emeritus of hermeneutics and son of Charles E. Fuller, cofounder of Fuller Theological Seminary. Includes a chapter on “The Justness of an Eternal Hell.”
• Eileen Gardiner, Visions of Heaven and Hell Before Dante (Italica Press, 1989). A scholarly study of heaven and hell in early medieval literature.
• John H. Gerstner, Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell (Baker, 1980). Briefly summarizes the theology of heaven and hell of the theologian who preached the famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
• John H. Gerstner, Repent or Perish: With a Special Reference to the Conservative Attack on Hell (Soli Deo Gloria, 1990). Gerstner wrote Repent or Perish at the request of John H. White, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), to defend the traditional doctrine of hell against the rising popularity of annihilationism (or conditionalism) as articulated by Fudge and others.
• Paul Helm, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian (Ashgate, 2003). Essays by various scholars on the theology and philosophy of Edwards, including two chapters on hell.
• Paul Helm, The Last Things (Banner of Truth, 1989). A Reformed perspective on four “last things”: death, judgment, heaven, and hell.
• John Hick, Death and Eternal Life (Collins, 1976) and Evil and the God of Love (MacMillan, 1966). Once an evangelical, Hick is one of the most out spoken and controversial proponents of religious pluralism and universalism in the last century. He rejects hell as incompatible with a God of love and argues that after “a series of lives” all people will eventually be saved.
• Martha Himmelfarb, Tours of Hell: An Apocalyptic Form in Jewish and Christian Literature (Augsburg Fortress Press, 1985). A scholarly study of the literary tradition of “tours of hell” found in ancient and early medieval Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings.
• Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Eerdmans, 1979). Amillennialist eschatology by a Reformed theologian, who believes that the Bible teaches the eternal punishment of the lost.
• Philip E. Hughes, The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ (Eerdmans, 1989). Annihilationist perspective.
• Rebecca Price Janney, Who Goes There? A Cultural History of Heaven and Hell (Moody, 2009). Janney traces American beliefs about the after life from the Great Awakening through the 20th century.
• Kenneth S. Kantzer and Carl F.H. Henry, eds. Evangelical Affirmations (Zondervan, 1990). This book is a compilation of papers presented at the 1989 Consultation on Evangelical Affirmation, a gathering of nearly 700 evangelical scholars, theologians, and leaders cosponsored by the NAE and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. It includes an essay by evangelical theologian J. I. Packer, “Evangelicals and the Way of Salvation,” rejecting universalism and respectfully disagreeing with John Stott and other evangelicals who have advocated annihilationist views.
• Jonathan L. Kvanvig, The Problem of Hell (Oxford, 1993). Kvanvig’s philosophical approach outlines the major categories of thought related to hell, explaining the elements of the traditional “strong view” of hell as well as how alternative views differ.
• C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (1945), The Problem of Pain (1940), and The Screwtape Letters (1942). Unlike the universalist tendencies of his “master” George MacDonald, Lewis affirmed the reality of an eternal hell despite its distastefulness to modern sensibilities: “Some will not be redeemed. There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this.” He created new and enduring images of hell and evil in fictional works such as The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters. Rather than picturing a place of fiery torture, Lewis spoke of hell in terms of a state of becoming less and less a divine image bearing human being—a danger that is inherent in all of us. Moreover, hell is actually a reflection of God’s mercy in setting limits on the evil that creatures can do to themselves and to each other. Lewis placed the responsibility for hell squarely on the shoulders of humans who freely choose self will in rebellion against God: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it.”
• Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist (Cascade Books, 2006). This controversial book argues that one can remain true to Scripture and historic Christianity while believing that all people will eventually be saved.
• Bernard McGinn, ed., The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism (Continuum, 2000). This three-volume academic historical survey covers themes in apocalyptic literature from Judaism and early Christianity through the modern period.
• Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope (Harper & Row, 1967) and The Coming of God (Augsburg, 1996). This German Reformed theologian’s influential works on eschatology take “hope” as the beginning point of theology, specifically the hope we have in the resurrection of Christ and the vision of a new creation where “God will be all in all.” Moltmann sees Christ’s descent into hell and victory over it as the ground for hope in the ultimate restoration of all things.
• Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment (Zondervan, 2004). Contributors are evangelicals who support the traditional doctrine of hell as everlasting conscious punishment. The book is a response to rising challenges to this view within the church, particularly annihilationism and universalism.
• Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life (Catholic University of America Press, 1988, 2007). An internationally respected text by the current pope, Benedict XVI, dealing with Christ’s second coming, humans’ death and immortality, the intermediate state, resurrection, the Last Judgment, purgatory, heaven, and hell. About the latter he says: “The idea of eternal damnation, which had taken ever clearer shape in the Judaism of the century or two before Christ, has a firm place in the teaching of Jesus, as well as in the apostolic writings. Dogma takes its stand on solid ground when it speaks of the existence of hell and of the eternity of its punishments.”
• Jaroslav Pelikan, The Shape of Death: Life, Death, and Immortality in the Early Fathers (Greenwood Press, 1961). A leading church historian looks at themes of the nature of death, resurrection, and the immortality of the soul in Tatian, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Origen, and Irenaeus.
• Robert A. Peterson, Hell on Trial: the Case for Eternal Punishment (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1995). A conservative defense of the traditional doctrine of hell against annihilationism and universalism, including a survey of biblical texts and historical views.
• Clark H. Pinnock, A Wideness in God’s Mercy: The Finality of Jesus in a World of Religions (Zondervan, 1992). A controversial evangelical theologian best known for his support for “open theism,” Pinnock argues for an inclusivist attitude towards the unevangelized, arguing that salvation is through Christ alone but that some people who have never heard the gospel may be saved because of their response to the light they have. Pinnock also wrote a number of articles defending annihilationism/conditional immortality, including a chapter in Four Views on Hell.
• John R. Rice, Hell! What the Bible says about it (Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1945). “An exposition of the doctrine of eternal punishment in a burning hell for all the unsaved people of all ages” by a Baptist evangelist and found ing editor of the fundamentalist newspaper The Sword of the Lord.
• Geoffrey Rowell, Hell and the Victorians (Clarendon Press, 1974). A study of 19th-century theological controversies about eternal punishment and the afterlife.
• Hans Schwarz, Eschatology (Eerdmans, 2001). A comprehensive survey of Christian beliefs about the return of Christ, the Last Judgment, hell, heaven, and Christian hope.
• John Stott and David L. Edwards, Evangelical Essentials: A Liberal Evangelical Dialogue (InterVarsity, 1988). This book caused a stir when Stott, one of the most highly respected and influential evangelical leaders in the world, tentatively voiced his support for annihilationism as a biblical alternative to eternal conscious torment and wrote, “I cherish the hope that the majority of the human race will be saved.”
• Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney, Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell (Moody, 2010). Part of the series The Essential Edwards Collection, this volume seeks to reacquaint modern Christians with the eschatologically driven preaching and teaching of Edwards.
• Jerry Walls, Hell: The Logic of Damnation (Notre Dame, 1992). Approaching the topic from the perspective of philosophical theology, Walls argues that some traditional versions of the doctrine of hell are intellectually defensible and morally compatible with divine goodness, especially on the grounds of humans’ freedom to choose evil.
• Jerry Walls, ed., Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (Oxford, 2008). An essential reference book for anyone interested in this topic. The 700page volume includes chapters on hell, purgatory, universalism, and annihilationism.
• N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (HarperOne, 2008). Wright debunks popular thinking about the afterlife in order to reassert the heart of Christian hope: God’s renewal of the whole creation, launched by the resurrection of Christ. Though primarily a book about heaven, resurrection, and the new creation, Wright addresses the question of hell. Given the scant New Testament references, he warns against dogmatism on the topic but views the progress of sin as a dehumanizing process, until ultimately one who persists in rejecting grace ceases to reflect the image of God, and ceases to be human, passing “beyond hope and beyond pity.”
By Edwin Woodruff Tait, Jennifer Woodruff Tait, Chris Armstrong, Jennifer Trafton
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #100+ in 2011]
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