Thursday, December 26, 2013

All You Want to Know About Hell by Steve Gregg

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware I would relish the chance to give a bad review in exchange for a free book. If I've failed to do so, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

I got this book mostly out of morbid curiosity. I've spent a lot of time studying the scripture and the afterlife, especially hell. Steve Gregg is a conservative bible teacher (and anyone who uses the term "bible teacher" is more conservative than conservative) and christian radio host. I suspected All You Want to Know About Hell would at least be amusing if nothing else.

It's a solid book. Gregg delves deeply into the scriptural and cultural background of hell in the Bible. He does so unabashedly and honestly. In a brave and rare move for conservative circles, Gregg acknowledges the scriptural validity not just of the traditional hell of eternal torment, but also for annihilationist perspective (that unrepentant souls will cease to exist) and even to evangelical universalism (that ultimately all people will be redeemed).

The first third of the book is the strongest section, providing historical and cultural explanations for the development of the concept of hell, providing the reader with all the information they need to begin an exploration. The second two thirds of the book are in depth representations and rebuttals of each theory. Gregg claims to be undecided and writes responsibly about each one. Perhaps the traditional view gets a tougher treatment than the others, but based on the force of history, probably deservedly so.

The book is well organized, but the writing is a bit difficult. There is a lot of fallback to Calvinist logicisms that frankly bore the heck out of me and will be difficult for less-experienced readers to work through. Still, I will recommend at least the first section to anyone struggling with how to explain and understand hell. It's a valuable resource for the Church, especially for evangelicalism.

It is very basic. The book lacks in-depth treatments of immortality, wrath, and punishment, all necessary for a complete dialogue about hell. The three theories are a bit too concrete and I really did not see my personal perspective represented in any of them, still it is an immanently worthy primer for embarking on the study beyond the traditional definitions of afterlife.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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