I've held to the traditional doctrine of hell as unending conscious punishment for as long as I can remember. But, like C.S. Lewis, I've also always hated the idea and wished reality was actually something different. Ever since Rob Bell released his book questioning the traditional doctrine of hell, it seems the struggle with what the Bible teaches about hell has become more and more apparent. While I've always felt more inclined toward the traditional view, I've been surprised in the last couple years to discover how much biblical evidence there actually is for conditional immortality.
Steve Gregg wrestles with these questions in his new book ALL YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT HELL. The book looks at three different perspectives on the doctrine of hell, and what is interesting is that he shows how those that hold to these views arrived at them because they genuinely believe the Bible clearly teaches them. The three views are the traditional view, conditional immortality, and Christian universalism. He presents us with some very difficult questions that we have to deal with if we hold to the traditional view, though not condemning it because it has been a major teaching of the church for centuries and many biblical texts can be read to point that way. But, he also shows that many texts that are taken to definitively teach the traditional view aren't as clear as we've been led to believe. This is where the evidence for conditional immortality comes in, and it is interesting. Finally, Gregg elaborates on a view called Christian or Evangelical Universalism. This view is distinct from straight universalism in that faith in Christ is the requirement for anyone's redemption. The difference is in the belief that God allows all people the opportunity post-death to respond in faith. In this way, hell is a means to burning away the evil in human hearts until they see their need for Jesus. This view is obviously the most hopeful, but I think it has the least evidence in its favor.
I'm not as definitively sure about the traditional view as I once was. This book does a good job presenting the evidence as well as the most common counterarguments for each of the views. It also does a great job of striving to show Jesus as the loving defining image of God and his character. The author doesn't present one view as definitive over the others, but humble wrestles with the implications of each.
Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson through BookSneeze