Portuguese Translation

I just got word that translation on a Portuguese edition of Is There Anything Good About Hell? has begun by a Brazilian pastor and his network. I am humbled and thankful! More info to come in the months ahead.

Cyril of Alexandria on the Motivation of Hell

Part of my morning exercises over the last year is reading through Cyril of Alexandria’s commentary on John (not that I always get to it daily). Cyril, like most other Early Church Fathers, was quick to speak about eternal punishment. In his commentary on John 8:21, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin,” Cyril notes that Jesus is speaking warning here in order to graciously turn people away from hell.

For to die unredeemed, yet laden with the weight of sin, to whom is it any doubt where this will conduct the soul of man? For deep Hades will, I deem, receive such an one, and he will continue in great darkness, yea he will inhabit fire and flames, with reason numbered among those of whom it has been said by Prophet’s voice, Their worm shall not die neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be for a sight to all flesh. Whereof that they may escape the trial, Christ kept manifoldly calling them to a speedy turning away from their wonted unbelief, saying not only that He should leave them and go away, but also of necessity putting before them how great misfortune they will thence undergo.Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel according to S. John, vol. 1 (Oxford; London: James Parker & Co.; Rivingtons, 1874), 580.

Top 5: Understanding Hell

So you want to understand hell better? Assuming you have already read Is There Anything Good About Hell? these are my top five recommendations. I have purposefully chosen a mix of five books that will capture some of the breadth of the doctrine of eternal punishment. Some of these excel in biblical exegesis and defense of the doctrine, while others provide the foundational logic and presuppositional philosophy necessary in rightly comprehending this most sober subject. Honorable mention goes to Blanchard's Whatever Happened to Hell?

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Brooks on Hell: Oh, bless Christ! Oh, kiss Christ!

Thomas Brooks is one of the greatest theologians of hell in Christian history. He remarks in “The Golden Key to Open Hidden Treasures,” that contemplating hell results in a greater love and appreciation for Christ:

If there be a hell, then, Christians, spend your days in admiring and in being greatly affected with the transcendent love of Christ, in undergoing hellish punishments in our steads. Oh pray, pray hard that you ‘may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of that love of Christ which passeth knowledge,’ Eph. 3:18, 19,—of that love of Christ that put him upon these corporeal and spiritual sufferings which were so exceeding great, acute, extreme, universal and continual, and all to save us from wrath to come, 1 Thes. 1:10. Christ’s outward and inward miseries, sorrows, and sufferings are not to be paralleled, and therefore Christians have the more cause to lose themselves in the contemplation of his matchless love. Oh, bless Christ! oh, kiss Christ! oh, embrace Christ! oh, welcome Christ! oh, cleave to Christ! oh, follow Christ! oh, walk with Christ! oh, long for Christ! who for your sakes hath undergone insupportable wrath and most hellish torments,Continue reading

Free Ch. 6 Download: Woe to Those Who Harm

Chapter 6, “Woe to Those Who Harm,” is now available as a free download. The chapter argues that given evil, a full defence of the image of God in man, especially of the vulnerable, requires an eternal hell.

The chapter begins,

The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.G. K. Chesterton
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Making Sense of Hell, Robert Golding

An excellent Reformed investigation into some philosophical challenges universalists make about hell. Recommended in particular for its explanation of the loss of the goodness/image of God in the reprobate. Weakened a little by speculation about a infinite regression away from God of those in hell, which is not necessary to explain the justice of hell nor does it match the best biblical data.

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Excerpts

Intro
D. A. Carson showed that hell is one of eight possible motivations for accepting the Gospel.5 Tim Keller whittled it down to one of six. Both place it first on the list. Historically, it has played a large role in convincing people of their need for Christ. Today, we are losing our doctrine of hell, and Carson and Keller intimate that we are losing conversions with it. If we care about the lost, we must take care to articulate not just what we are inviting them to in Christ, but what we are inviting them away from. Hell is real, eternal, and it makes sense, despite what some philosophers say.
1.2
N. T. Wright suggests that those in hell “exist in an ex-human state … [and] become at last, by their own effective choice, beings that once were human but now are not, creatures that have ceased to bear the divine image at all.” While I avoid the question of the imago Dei in the reprobate and I take pause with the moniker “ex-human,” I do suggest that those in hell are in some sort of (mysterious as it may be) less-than-human state.
1.4
To answer this question, we can imagine a psychopathic child abuser. Though he has a body, we are more apt to call him “monster” than “man.” However, on earth this man might still have qualities that his mother finds lovable.45 Though he abuses all other people, he still buys his mother flowers on Mother’s Day. Even if this is the one good thing he ever does in his life, there is still something to point to and say, “human.” At this point we must remember that a description of humanness is that which properly participates in God’s created order. We are human insofar as we relate to God in the way that we should. In this case, the human activity of the man (that is, buying his mother flowers) is human because it fulfills (though woefully in part) the fifth commandment. Furthermore, this human activity is only possible by God’s common grace that simultaneously restrains the man’s evil impulses to do something different on Mother’s Day (which would have precluded his buying flowers) and also enables him to do something that is (again, only at an infinitesimal level) in accord with the Scriptures, since he is honoring his mother.
1.5
In all that has been said, it seems that there is reason to conclude that there is enough of a radical distinction between the beings of the saints in heaven and the reprobate in hell (though they are both corporeal humans) that the word “human” does not sufficiently capture the range between them.49 As we turn to make some defenses against universalism, this distinction will go a long way in rebutting some intuitive attacks against the traditional view of hell. This is because we are not talking about the same human undergoing torment in hell that is enjoying God’s blessedness in heaven. J. I. Packer put it this way: “One not only becomes desperately miserable; one is steadily being dehumanized. Richard Baxter was right to formulate the alternatives as ‘A Saint—or a Brute.’”
Conclusion
It is my hope and prayer that this article will strengthen the resolve of gospel preachers, whoever they may be, to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) which includes eternal damnation for those who reject it. First, I have attempted to present a picture of the reprobate in hell that comports with a just dispensation of God’s wrath as depicted in Scripture. I have sought to show that the reprobate are so hellish that any fond feelings for them (as the universalists seek to evoke) are misplaced. The second part of this paper used that conception to negate intuitive arguments against eternal hell as a place that would mar the saints’ felicity due to their loved ones being there, as well as the notion that eternal hell does not fit finite sins. The hellish nature of the reprobate would not detract from the saints’ felicity because the goodness of their loved ones would not be in hell; since only the evil remains, eternal destruction is fitting. The final part of this paper aimed to present a logical possibility for the necessity of eternal hell, building on the conception of those who inhabit it. If it provided a possible explanation that is in accordance with Scripture, the universalist claim that eternal hell is necessarily illogical would be refuted.

Top 3: Exodus Resources

This top three has little to do with hell--at least specifically. I am preaching through the book of Exodus, and its been wonderful growing in my knowledge of the degree to which Exodus, its language, and its themes, impact the rest of the scriptures. It's truly remarkable. So I present a top three resources on the book of Exodus with a particular view to seeing some themes and connections you may not have seen before.

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Reformation21 Review of “Crux, Mors, Inferi” by Renihan

Reformation21 has published my review of Samuel Renihan’s “Crux, Mors, Inferi”. It begins

Samuel Renihan has recently published an excellent book on the doctrine of the descent of Christ into hell. His thesis—that Christ descended to hell on the Sabbath, as stated in the ancient creeds—is one with which I was in agreement prior to reading it. What surprised me was how helpful it was devotionally.

Please check out the review: https://www.reformation21.org/blog/crux-mors-inferi and consider purchasing the book.