Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, Nigel Cameron

A hodge-podge of essays on universalism, including Powys, Wenham, Harmon, Helm, and Blocher. Among these, only Blocher's chapter is a standout.

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Excerpts

32 [Hart]

A love that continues to suffer rejection and separation for its object must be thought of as having failed, and omnipotence cannot fail in its purposes.

190 [Wenham]
I believe that endless torment is a hideous and unscriptural doctrine which has been a terrible burden on the mind of the church for many centuries and a terrible blot on her presentation of the gospel. I should indeed by happy if, before I die, I could help in sweeping it away.

Heaven or Hell, R. A. Torrey

Punchy little book with lots of great stories and testimonies. You can tell it belongs to an older generation- but not in a bad way. Although the style is a little dated, it would remain one of my top books to give an unbeliever due to small size, clear presentation of the gospel, great warnings and compelling stories. It points clearly to heaven and salvation in Christ by a renowned soul-winner. 

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Excerpts

p25

Unbelief in Jesus Christ is an appalling sin because of the dignity of the person Jesus Christ.

 

p26

An injury done to Jesus Christ is a sin of vastly greater magnitude than a sin done to man. A mule has rights, but its rights are unimportant when compared to the rights of a man. The law recognizes the rights of a mule, but the killing of a mule is not regarded as serious as the putting out of a man's eye. But the rights of man, even of the purest, noblest, greatest of men, paule into insignficance befor eht erights of the infinite God and His infiniite son, Jesus Christ

 

p33

I wish that I could believer that there was no hell. That is, I wish that I could believe that all men would repent and accept Christ, and that hell would therefore be unneccessary. Of course, if men persist in sin and persist in the rejection of Christ, it is right that there should be a hell.

 

34
I once honestly believed and taught that all men, and even the devil, would ultimately come to repentance, and that hell would one day cease to be. But I could not honestly reconcile this position with the teachings of Christ, and the apostles. I finally decided that I must either give up my Bible or give up my eternal hope.

36
One ounce of God's revelation is worth a hundred tons of man's speculation.

37
It is true that some scholarly ministers have given up belief in hell, but they never gave it up for reasons of Greek or New Testament scholarship. They gave it up for purely sentimental and speculative reasons. If a man goes to the New Testament to find out the truth and not to see how he can twist it into conformity with this speculations, he will find hell in the New Testament.

46
You will carry into the next world the desires that you build up here. Hell is the place where desire and passion exist in their highest potency, and where there is nothing to gratify them.

50-51
There is another expression used often in the Bible-- "Unto the ages of the ages." It is used in one book, eight times describing the existence of God and the duration of His reign, once referring to the duration of the blessedness of the righteous, and in every remaining instance of the punishment of the beast, the false prophet, and the unrepentance. it is the strongest known expression for absolute endlessness.

97
The third refuge of lies is universalism-- the belief that God is too good to condemn anyone, that there is no hell, and no future punishment for sin. How common a refuge is that today. When you urge people to come to Christ, they answer, "I believe in the mercy and goodness of God. I believe God is love and too good to condemn anyone. I don't believe in hell."

Two Views of Hell: A Biblical and Theological Dialogue, Edward Fudge and Robert Peterson

Not a terribly enjoyable book to read as neither Fudge's nor Peterson's writing is excellent, but very helpful for examining annihilationism. Fudge's argument seems strong drawing from the OT, but Peterson systematically destroys his arguments with attention to (especially NT) scripture. Highly recommended for anyone struggling with the view of annihilationism.

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Excerpts

83
As they began to read his [Fudge's] book and consider his case for annihiliationism, they came to class complaining of physical symptoms including headaches and churning stomachs. I gave them credit for not being dismissive but earnestly considering Fudge's arguments. When they were about halfway through Fudge's book, however, a great change came over them. Fear gave way to confidence, and even anger. The more closely they looked at Fudge's case for conditionalism, the less they were impressed. What had once seemed like a powerful case crumbled in their hands as they took apart one argument after another.

175
When he bore the penalty of our sins, it was as the sinless substitute,  whose own life merited the exact opposite of God's wrath. In light of such considerations it is not surprising that Jesus could have borne on the cross what sinful, rebellious human beings can only bear in hell forever. In other words, because of the infinite dignity of Christ's person, his sufferings, though finite in duration, were of infinite weight on the scales of divine justice (much as his righteousness, though displayed during his incarnation over a finite period, is of infinite weight). As God incarnate, Jesus was capable of suffering in six hours on the cross what we can suffer only over an infinite period of time.

180
In other words, according to Fudge hell is penal suffering followed by the ultimate punishment, annihilation. But this is exactly where the problem creeps in. When this view of hell is affixed to the end of the biblical scenario of last things, annihilation does not constitute the ultimate punishment. rather annihilation would constitute the end of the punishment. It would mean relief for the wicked in hell who are suffering for their sins.

Human Destiny, Sir Robert Anderson

Although not always theologically astute, the author, the Assistant Commission of Scotland Yard, has a knack for keen insight and excellent phrasing. For a unique viewpoint it is highly recommended.

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Excerpts

 

But will these teachers tell us how men can be reconciled who refuse the reconciliation; how sinners can be saved who reject the Saviour; how the lost can be restored who trample under foot the propitiation? It is these very truths which make the sinner's doom irreversible and hopeless.

In the classical use of the word, to destroy a thing is to do it irreparable injury, to unfit it permanently for the purpose for which it was intended. Its meaning as used of a person may be illustrated by a quotation which ought to be familiar to all who speak the English tongue-" No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his freehold or liberties or free customs, or be outlawed or exiled or any otherwise destroyed, but by lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." According to Magna Charta, then, to drive a man from his home, to deprive him of his property, or to shut him up in prison, is to destroy him. The thought that we would convey by ruin our ancestors expressed by destroy. The word, therefore, may be fitly used to describe the doom of the wicked, whatever that doom may be.

The "everlasting fire" is not to be the Devil's kingdom. It will be his prison, not his palace. Amidst so much that is doubtful, this at least is sure. "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow," in heaven, earth, and hell ; every tongue shall own Him Lord. "All things shall be subdued unto Him." Not until "He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power" will He deliver up the kingdom to the Father. Every creature in the universe shall be in absolute subjection to Almighty God. The underworld is not to be a scene of Satanic carnival.
There is no spot in all the Queen's dominions in which the reign of order is so supreme as in a prison. So shall it be in hell.
Strange it is that they who are most emphatic in asserting that God must give salvation to all men in the next world, are precisely those who dismiss as fanaticism the truth that He gives salvation here and now to those who seek Him.

Reasonable Damnation: Jonathan Edwards, Bruce Davidson

A short article summarizing Edwards' logic concerning hell and its eternity of punishments. For a short article, you could hardly do better, although being a summary it lacks the depth and biblical grounding of Edwards' own sermons.

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Excerpts

52
For Edwards, the more horrific and severe the punishment the brighter the sheen on the sword of divine recompense shines. The unimaginable awesomeness of the punishment suits the awesome majesty of an offended king as great as God. Thus the same people who during life made light of God and did not honor his majesty will be instruments in the exaltation of that majesty in the end. By a majestic display of wrath, God gets back the majesty he has been refused. Edwards sees a kind of poetic justice in God's using an awesome punishment in the afterlife to inspire the awe that men refused to show in life.

48
The doctrine of eternal punishment he approached in the same spirit. In doing so he based his arguments on natural reason as well as Scriptural revelation and never asked his listeners to accept the doctrine of hell with unthinking faith.

49
Obviously human misery is not unbearable for God to behold, because the plain fact is that God does allow plenty of it to exist in the world. As Gerstner paraphrases Edwards: "Empirical facts settle one point indisputably: God and creature-pain are not mutually exclusive." If a merciful God cannot bear eternal misery, then the same characteristic would surely argue against lesser degrees of misery as well.

50
Unfortunately we are not as keen when it comes to perceiving the ugliness of most sins. Edwards notes that we are more shocked by the idea of hell than we are by the disregard and contempt men regularly show toward the majesty of God: "Doth it seem to thee incredible, that God should be so utterly regardless of the sinner's welfare, as to sink him into an infinite abyss of misery? Is this shocking to thee? And is it not at all shocking to thee, that thou shouldst be so utterly regardless as thou hast been of the honour and glory of the infinite God?"

52
It is indeed the only way for them to be useful at all to God, since they give no glory to him by choice in life—a point Edwards develops at length in his sermon Wicked Men Useful in Their Destruction Only. As the rational creatures closest to God himself in the hierarchy of creation, our "business is with God." A man who does not give any glory to God by serving him in life is not good for anything but to be passively useful in death. Edwards reasons that there are only two possibilities: to be actively useful, or to be passively useful. Just as a barren tree can be used only for firewood, disobedient men can only be fuel for a fire.

54
Furthermore, if men were not conscious that they were being punished, death would be no punishment at all but only release. In fact, since Job preferred annihilation to his own suffering, Edwards reasons that if a good man can suffer something worse than annihilation in his life, then the punishment of the wicked in the afterlife would have to be something much greater. Otherwise it would be a pathetic demonstration of justice for God to do less to the wicked than he allows his own saints to suffer in life.

Hell: Remembering the Awful Reality, 9Marks

A number of short articles on hell. Although many of the authors are great, including Hamilton, Naselli, and DeYoung, only Dever's short exhortation to Pastors is truly excellent.

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Excerpts

Jim Hamilton:

In sum, hell glorifies God because

  • it shows that he keeps his word;
  • it shows his infinite worth, lasting forever;
  • it demonstrates his power to subdue all who rebel against him;
  • it shows how unspeakably merciful he is to those who trust him;
  • it upholds the reality of love by visiting justice against those who reject God, who is love;
  • it vindicates all who suffered to hear or proclaim the truth of God’s word;
  • and it shows the enormity of what Jesus accomplished when he died to save all who would trust him from the hell they deserved. If there were no hell, there would be no need for the cross.

Mark Dever:

Pastors, don’t be lured into the culture’s standards of what to fear and not to fear. Don’t be fooled by the culture’s sneering at fear. They’re afraid, too. Instead, follow Jesus in warning others about the fearful future that awaits those who do not repent of their sins and trust in Christ.

Kevin DeYoung:

Obviously, it would be inaccurate to characterize Jesus and the apostles as nothing but sandwich-board fanatics with vacant stares screaming at people to repent or perish. It flattens the New Testament beyond recognition to make it one large tract about saving souls from hell. And yet, it would be closer to the truth to picture Jesus and the apostles (not to mention John the Baptist) passionately pleading with people to flee the wrath to come than it would be to imagine them laying out plans for cosmic renewal and helping people on their spiritual journeys.

A Kinder, Gentler Theology of Hell? Larry Pettegrew

A short and concise critique of annhilationism, Pettegrew hits all the salient points in an article that is biblically faithful and deals with presuppositions well. Includes good quotes from Shedd, Strong and Packer. Interacts with, among others, Pinnock and Talbott.

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Excerpts

But it is also certain that ongoing rebellion demands ongoing punishment, and there is no evidence in Scripture that a depraved person ever of his own initiative or power gives up his sinful autonomy. The evidence is actually to the contrary (Rev 9:20–21; 21:27; 22:15). No one can, in fact, repent of his sin without the grace of God, so there can be no repentance in hell. Strong observes, “Since we cannot measure the power of the depraved will to resist God, we cannot deny the possibility of endless sinning ... Not the punishing, but the non-punishing, would impugn his justice; for if it is just to punish sin at all, it is just to punish it as long as it exists.”

Quoting Shedd (Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy):
If sin is punishable and to be punished for only one thousand years, is it probable that one of the persons of the Trinity would submit to such an amazing humiliation as to become a worm of the dust, and undergo the awful passion of Calvary, in order to deliver his rebellious creature from a transient evil which is to be succeeded by billions of millenniums of happiness? A thousand years is indeed a long time, and a thousand years of suffering is indeed a great woe; but it shrinks to nothing in comparison with what is involved in the humiliation and agony of God incarnate.

The Beauty of Hell: Anselm on God’s Eternal Design, Frank Burch Brown

Interesting article on Anselm and hell from the perspective of beauty, but ultimately misreads Anselm.

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Excerpts

332
By paying special attention to Anselm’s concern for beauty, order, harmony, symmetry, and so forth, we attain a new vantage point from which to understand, first, his theory of the Incarnation and, secondly, his largely implicit conception of the necessary beauty of hell.

337-338
But how can a person be sinful and yet be governed by God’s will, first in one way and then in another? And how does the consequent punishment serve the cause of beauty?
[Quoting Anselm] The answer is that [the transgressor sins] only under the will that permits it, and supreme wisdom redirects the very perversity of his will or action toward the order and beauty of the aforesaid universe. For the ready satisfaction for wrongdoing and the exaction of a penalty from him who does not give satisfaction– it being understood that God brings good out of evil in many ways– hold their own place in this universe and maintain the beauty of its order. If the divine wisdom did not add these requirements wherever wrongdoing tries to disturb right order, there would arise a certain ugliness [deformitas] derived from the violation of the beauty of the order, in the very universe which God ought to regulate, and God would seem to fail in his direction of the world. Now, since, both these things are unseemly [or unfitting, inconvenientia], and therefore impossible, every sin is necessarily followed either by satisfaction or by punishment.

338
Therefore, for the sake of the beauty and goodness of the universe, human beings must be punished, or else find someone else who will make satisfaction in their stead. Anselm argues, however, that it would be inappropriate for an angel to make satisfaction for them, of ever for someone to do so who belongs to a new and perfect human race, because then human beings of the race of Adam would be indebted to someone other than God; whereas humanity was made by God to be servants of him alone and to be equal in honor with the angels.

342
Presumably the beauty of such punishemnt would lie in the deeply satisfying (hence delightful) compensation it would make for what otherwise would be gross disorder in God’s design. And though it might seem that such extreme punishment would be at least disturbing to God, it obviously does fit with Anselm’s insinuation that God would be dishonored less by the destruction of all the worlds than by a sideways glance taken against God’s will.

343
Anselm explains this by observing that a creature’s sin dishonors God, in a manner of speaking, only be having a negative effect on the beauty and order of the universe and not on God himself. But in that case it is true, after all, that sin can do actual harm only to the created order; and because nothing in the universe is of infinite value in itself, any violation of that order is but a finite evil deserving strictly finite punishment.

345
Lastly, Anselm’s argument concerning God’s design unintentionally shows that unending punishment in hell would entail tragic loss, thereby frustrating God’s will eternally and forever defacing the beauty of God’s universe. Anselm repeatedly insists that the rational nature was created by God wo be blessed forever in the enjoyment of him.

348
What gives point and poignancy to Anselm’s treatise is not its orthodoxy as such, however; it is rather the wonderful rigor with which Anselm presses traditional views into an aesthetic-moral dimension and, in doing so, inadvertently reveals the tragic cosmic patters that is subtly woven into the classical image of damnation.

It portrays a vast region of perpetual loss such that God’s purpose must (paradoxically) be defeated with respect to the many who will be damned, in order to be fulfilled with respect to the few who will be saved.

Encyclopedia of Hell, Miriam Van Scott

Fascinating encyclopedia which surveys hell in history, world religions, literature, art and modern media. A very useful non-Christian source for a study (or the beginnings of a study) on hell, albeit too focused on pop culture.

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An Angry God? Eryl Davies

This short and hard-to-find book provides an excellent overview of the doctrines of wrath and hell. The chapters on wrath and judgment are especially good and the theology is generally excellent. My only criticism would be that the book seems very overview-ish and doesn’t flow terribly well as a singular work compared with perhaps the very best of the genre. I did find some references and quotes here that I come across nowhere else.

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Excerpts

70
More than one writer has drawn attention to the fact that there are more references in the Bible to the anger and wrath of God than there are to the love of God, and a careful reading of a concordance will quickly confirm this fact.

75
Does the glory of God’s perfections permeate their thinking and preaching, or are they in danger of reducing God in the eyes of their congregations to a benign and helpless grandfather figure?

78
In the words of the Puritan Samuel Bolton, ‘Sin is the practical-blasphemy of all the name of God. It is the dare of His justice, the rape of His mercy, the jeer of His patience, the slight of His power, the contempt of His love.’

79
The holiness that even the angels posses is by comparison a feeble light of a matchstick on a dark country road compared with the blaze and light of the sun at midday.

81-82
Our Lord wept over Jerusalem, but it is a rare occurrence today for his people to weep in prayer for the vast multitudes of people who are speeding towards hell. Are we projecting our own heartlessness and indifference on to God?

85
This public, universal judgment will be the platform on which God will display to the whole world His glorious Person, including His fierce wrath, His strict justice and His amazing love. We must view the final judgment, then, as a necessary and glorious expression and vindication of the justice and wrath of God.

86
It is for the abundant comfort of the saints that Christ is appointed to be their judge . . . the same person who spilled his blood for them hath the determination of their state left with him…What matter of joy to them will it be at the last day, to lift up their eyes, and behold the person in whom the have trusted for salvation . . . and whose voice they have often heard inviting them to himself for protection and safety, coming to judge them.

96
The Scottish preacher, John Welch, felt this sense of responsibility greatly and spent at least eight to ten hours daily in prayer. Even in the middle of the night he would frequently rise to pray for his people.

102
Preaching on Matthew 8:11-12, C.H. Spurgeon quotes a minister who told his congregation, ‘If you do not love the Lord Jesus Christ you will be sent to that place which it is not polite to mention.’ Spurgeon gives us his opinion of this preacher:

He ought not to have been allowed to preach again, I am sure, if he could not use plain words. Now, if I saw that house on fire over there, do you think I would stand and say, ‘I believe the operation of combustion is proceeding yonder!’? No, I would call out ‘Fire! Fire!’ and then everyone would know what I meant. So, if the Bible says, ‘The children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness,’ am I to stand there and mince the matter at all? God forbid. We must speak the truth as it is written. It is a terrible truth, for it says ‘the children of the kingdom’ shall be cast out!

104
What emphasis is given to hell by present day evangelical ministers? How frequently do they preach on this subject? To refer to hell briefly or occasionally, or to talk about it in vague terms, is inadequate, for there is a wealth of biblical material on hell which must be preached if the whole counsel of God is to be declared.

109
‘They that would not come to Him to be saved’, remarks Matthew Henry, ‘must depart from Him to be damned. To depart from Christ is the very hell of hell; it is the foundation of all the misery of the damned, to be cut off from all hope of benefit from Christ and His meditation.’

114
Johnathan Edwards also stresses that the all-important feature of heaven and hell is God Himself. God makes hell and He is hell: ‘God will be the hell of one and the heaven of the other . . . ‘Tis the infinite almighty God that shall become the fire of the furnace’ and, figuratively speaking, the wrath of God is a consuming fire. When pressed to answer whether hell-fire is literal or figurative, he replies that the symbol is ‘very probably literal’,

118
Writing much later than Augustine, the Rev. E.H. Pusey, Professor of Hebrew at Oxford, expressed his exasperation in 1880 with the way people were playing fast and loose with the inspired words of Scripture: ‘They who deny that any of the words used of future punishment in Holy Scripture express eternity, would so well to consider, whether there is in any way, in which Almighty God could have expressed it, which they would have accepted, as meaning it!’

149, quoting John Murray
A conspicuous defect . . . is the absence of warning and of condemnation in evangelistic effort. The naturalistic temper of our age, united with its callousness, makes the doctrine of hell peculiarly uncongenial. It is more often the subject of crude jest than it is of solemn warning or foreboding. The supposed politeness of modern etiquette has too often succeeded in creating the sentiment that any serious reference to hell and damnation is not accordant with the canons of good taste. These evils have in many cases ensnared even the orthodox.

150
Johnathan Edward’s ‘strategy’ in preaching hell is helpful at this point. There is, he argues, a spiritual reality about hell tat can affect most unconverted people. The motivating principle of humans is self-interest, and matters concerning their welfare or doom are of the utmost importance to them. Being in their natural state, men and women cannot see God’s excellency, but they can most certainly hear His thunders.

153
Paradoxically, orthodoxy is both essential and inadequate, for the truth must also be felt by the preacher before he will be able to warn and exhort sinners effectively in other words, if the gospel is to be preached as God intends it, the essential qualities required are compassion coupled with a deep sense of urgency.