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Bibliography on Hell (not the bibliography from hell)

2015 April 21
by Mike

Recently I taught a Bible class at our congregation on hell. Many were unaware that the Christian tradition has—faithfully, scripturally, prayerfully—come to various understandings of that topic. They know only the version that I heard a dozen times from the infamous Jimmy Allen sermon:

“Suppose this old world were made of solid steel. Put an ant on the equator and start him walking. He travels at the rapid pace of 1/17 of a mile an hour. This solid steel ball is 25,000 miles in circumference. How long would it take that ant to wear down a path a half inch deep? How long to completely wear the earth in half? Well, that’s not eternity. . . .”

When this message on “fire! fire! fire!” was over, well, no wonder so many of us lost sleep for months—all the words about grace notwithstanding.

But there are other ways faithful believers have thought of hell besides just “eternal, conscious torment.”

Here is the bibliography I gave the class for those who may be interested:

Baker, Sharon. Razing Hell.

Bell, Rob. Love Wins.

Butler, Joshua Ryan. The Skeletons in God’s Closet.

Fudge, Edward. The Fire That Consumes.

Jersak, Bradley. Her Gates Will Never Be Shut.

Lewis, C. S. The Great Divorce.

Middleton, J. Richard. A New Heaven and a New Earth.

Parry, Robin. The Evangelical Universalist.

Parry, Robin. Universal Salvation? The Current Debate.

Talbott, Thomas. The Inescapable Love of God.

Walls, Jerry. Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 8.08.02 AM

Wright, N. T. Surprised by Hope.

As an introduction, I’d suggest the 2012 documentary “Hellbound?” which is currently streaming on Netflix.

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Leslie Doke permalink
    April 21, 2015

    Was the documentary “Hellhound” or “Hellbound”? I could’ve swore you said “Hellbound” in class.

  2. April 21, 2015

    Ooops. Thanks, Leslie. Yes, it’s “Hellbound?” (Just changed it in the text.)

  3. Bruce Campbell permalink
    April 21, 2015

    Mike, is it fair to say that a recurring theme in the Bible is reward and punishment? Does the parable of the rich man and Lazarus give us any implications about the “afterlife”? How do we look at Matthew 25 from the vantage point of being saved by grace?
    Much love,
    Bruce

  4. John K. Wood permalink
    April 21, 2015

    Mike,

    Will you be writing more on this? Would love to read/hear your points.

    John

  5. Debbie Hamby permalink
    April 21, 2015

    Mike, I was wondering which of these books in the list is most reader-friendly and whether you have a personal favorite.
    Thanks,
    Debbie

  6. April 23, 2015

    Debbie – Thanks for asking. My personal fav is probably The Great Divorce. But one book that I think is accessible and asks the hard questions (about hell, judgment, and Holy War) is Skeletons in God’s Closet by one of the ministers at Imago Dei in Portland.

  7. April 23, 2015

    Bruce –

    1. Absolutely. I’ve wondered what it was like to hear the antiphonal voices between Gerizim and Ebal (in Deuteronomy). Of course, there are many surprises, like the times when God says he’s through with a people and he’s turning them over to punishment . . . only to receive them back after their repentance.

    2. To me, this story functions much like Dickens’ Christmas Carol. It is a three-part story—pre-death, death, and post-death—that speaks to the important Lukan theme of caring for the poor. I wouldn’t go much beyond that. Unfortunately, an old tradition pictures the rich man in hell. He isn’t. He’s in hades/Sheol/grave. That puts him “after-life.” But it would be (in the way we usually envision it) before judgment.

    3. I see a consistent thread in scripture of “faith(fulness) working through love.” Mt 25 seems consistent with that. (And even here, how we envision the judgment imposed depends on how we understand hell.)

  8. David permalink
    May 12, 2015

    Edward Fudge and his book, “The Fire that Consumes,” changed my thinking on the subject of Hell many years ago. He became a friend after I moved to Katy. He is such a sweet man, I could not imagine why many in the church where I preached considered him controversial! 🙂 He has also written and preached on the subject of grace. I described him in our church newsletter as “he preached grace before it was cool!”

  9. May 29, 2015

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