Hell and Divine Goodness: A Philosophical-Theological Inquiry

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.

Title:

Hell and Divine Goodness: A Philosophical-Theological Inquiry

Author:

James S. Spiegel

Publisher:

Cascade Books (an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers)

Publication Date: 

May 14, 2019

Format:

Paperback

Length:

148 pages

OVERVIEW

“This earthly life,” James Spiegel writes in his introduction, “is going to end for you, me, and everyone we know. So what comes next?” Christianity has always maintained there is an afterlife either in heaven or hell, and those who reject Christ go to hell. But throughout church history, theologians have argued about what happens in hell:

  • Traditionalists argue that people suffer in hell for all eternity
  • Universalists argue no one goes to hell, or if they do it’s only for a short time
  • Conditionalists (or annihilationists) argue people suffer in hell until their souls disintegrate

Since Augustine, most Christians have held the first view, but Spiegel notes each one apparently has Bible verses that support it, and plenty of early Christians believed the other two options. He unpacks the Scripture verses each group cites to support their view and considers how each one holds up to logical and philosophical inquiry. Ultimately, he argues that all things considered, conditionalism has the most support.

Hell is a hard concept to swallow, no matter how you analyze it. Spiegel makes it clear throughout this book that no view perfectly answers every question we have about hell, but we can see which view has the least weaknesses and best fits Christian theology. He does an excellent job of balancing those two realities, ultimately making a clear argument that conditionalism provides better answers than the other views.

Some readers may be annoyed that Spiegel focuses more on philosophical arguments than on Scriptural support for each view, but ultimately this makes sense. As Jerry L. Walls notes in his endorsement for the book, many scholars have already made exegetical arguments for conditionalism, unpacking Scripture to show how it fits the Bible’s ideas. Hell and Divine Goodness fills a gap in scholarly discussions, showing how conditionalism stands up to philosophical as well as Biblical arguments.

An intelligent, highly readable study on hell and why Christians should reconsider their views on eternal damnation.

ASSESSMENT

Rating (1 to 5 stars)

5 stars

Intended Audience

Philosophy students and scholars interested in philosophical examinations of Christians’ three major views of Hell.

Christian Impact

This book will give scholars and students food for thought as they consider which view of hell has the most Biblical and philosophical support. Even readers who don’t ultimately agree with Spiegel will find it helps them better understand the questions that any view on hell needs to answer.

About Cecelia Carey

The Evangelical Church Library Association, founded in 1970, is a fellowship of Christian churches, schools, and individuals.

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