January 12, 2015

A New Book on a Hot Topic

by Clint Archer

I didn’t realize my new book on Hell had hit the shelves until Tim Challies mentioned it on his blog.VGTH

Why a book on Hell? Interesting story:

Apparently some market research found that a trending topic is non-fiction “afterlife tourism” or first person narratives of people who claimed to have been to Heaven or Hell. This egregious genre is one of my pet publishing peeves (for evidence, see my review Heaven is for Real…Well Duh!) When my agent was approached by a secular publisher (Sterling Ethos, New York) looking for a book compatible with that genre, we instead pitched the idea of a non-fiction, biblical explanation of Hell framed in the first person of the Rich Man in Hades whom Jesus mentioned in his parable in Luke 16. Sterling loved the idea and the journey began. In keeping with the after-life tourism theme it is titled A Visitor’s Guide to Hell.

I should warn those who intend to read the book: though this sobering topic must never be treated flippantly, anyone who knows me understands that I can’t even preach a funeral sermon without using levity. This bugs some people, and I understand that. But I think in this book I avoid being glib while still being myself.

Also readers should bear in mind that this is not written only to an Evangelical market but is intended to be evangelistic. My intention was that the book could be given to an unbeliever, who would find it engaging enough to complete and be exposed to a clear explanation of the gospel.

Here is a snippet from the introduction, followed by the table of contents…

Raising Hell

Let’s face it: Hell is not a topic most people like to talk about, blog about, or teach their children about. The very word “Hell” is classified as a soap-in-the-mouth cussword in many homes. As kids we frustrated the tattletales by skirting the taboo word with a typographical code phrase: “Go to H. E. double hockey sticks!” Like sex and hemorrhoids, Hell is a topic unmentionable in polite company.

So why write a book about it? Why raise Hell?

Theologians and Proctologists

The reason to mention the unmentionable is simple: because a desire to avoid unpleasantness isn’t a good enough reason to avoid thinking. We don’t enjoy thinking about our digestive tracts, but we are all really glad there are textbooks on proctology. When we need to face the reality of trouble brewing in our nether regions, we know some expert has gallantly ventured into that course of study on our behalf. Rather than ignore the topic of Hell, we should embrace the information we have at our disposal, particularly teachings provided in the Bible- however disconcerting they may prove.

If Hell is not real, then it behooves us to explore why so many people in the world today and in centuries past believed in it. Why does humanity need Hell?

If, on the other hand, Hell is real then ignoring it is not only futile, but also foolish. It is unimaginably dangerous to sip the opiate of ignorance rather than face the proffered cure. Avoiding the subject in the hope that it is mere myth is the worst high-stakes gamble a person could ever make, akin to playing Russian roulette with one’s eternal destiny.

We Agree to a Degree

Almost every ancient religion in mankind’s history has acknowledged the existence of a place or state of punishment for those who find themselves at odds with their religion’s credo.

The consistency of this punitive concept is astonishing. This sounds like the start of a joke, but just imagine a Jewish rabbi, a Protestant pastor, a Catholic priest, a Muslim imam, a Hindu guru, and a Celtic druid agreeing on a single religious doctrine. Hell would be your best bet at finding common ground.

Religions tend to be mutually exclusive in their belief systems. Until postmodernism popularized relative thinking, everyone in history understood that not all religions could be correct. If souls spend eternity in an underworld like Hades, then they cannot also be annihilated, and simultaneously sent to a euphoric spirit realm, while being reincarnated as a rodent, and yet burning in Hell. Either they are all wrong, and there is an option no one has ever thought of, or one is right and the rest are not.

.

Introduction:

Raising Hell

chapter 1

What the… ? Surprised by Hell

chapter 2

Why Hell? A Brief History of Eternity

chapter 3

To Hell and Back: Who Has the T-Shirt?

chapter 4

Downtown Abyss: Learning the Lay of the Land

chapter 5

The Gated Community: Hell’s Population

chapter 6

Dead-End Streets: How to Go to Hell

chapter 7

The Great Escape: Rescued from Hell

chapter 8

Off the Beaten Track: Heaven

Conclusion:

Unhappily Ever After

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Robert Sakovich

    Sounds like a good start…I hope that many will read this and become informed as to the truth of Hell.

    • That’s the idea. Thanks Robert.

  • Pope of Geneva

    Hell is “preordained” for the non-elect – it’s real folks…

    Not mentioned in your fine book but Calvin’s Institutes go into some detail:

    “5. The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny; but it is greatly caviled at, especially by those who make prescience its cause. We, indeed, ascribe both prescience and predestination to God; but we say, that it is absurd to make the latter subordinate to the former
    (see chap. 22 sec. 1). When we attribute prescience to God, we mean that all things always were, and ever continue, under his eye; that to his knowledge there is no past or future, but all things are present, and indeed so present, that it is not merely the idea of them that is before him (as those objects are which we retain in our memory), but that he truly sees and contemplates them as actually under his immediate inspection. This prescience extends to the whole circuit of the world, and to all creatures.
    By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.”
    (Book III, Chap 21, Para.5)

    Cauvin – the Pope

    • Yeah, the book is written for a readership that could include unbelievers who are elect 😉

  • Johnny

    Why would Jesus warn in Matt.10 to ‘fear Him who can destroy body and soul in hell’ if actual destruction of the soul never actually takes place?

    • Good question. You should buy the book, I answer that. (Nutshell: the concept of “eternal destruction”)

  • MR

    Looking forward to reading this. Another good book on this topic is Francis Chan’s “Erasing He’ll.” It came out as a response to Rob Bell’s “Love Wins.”

    • Chan’s book is really worth reading. Bell’s…not so much. IMHO.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    Before it happens here, can I ask a general question? Why are comments often closed for a given article before hardly anything gets posted? I carefully composed–over the course of two days–what I was hoping would be a helpful response to someone’s sincere inquiry about the nature of the Gospel, and by the time I finally submitted it, the comments section had been closed. The opportunity to respond was almost measured in hours. Needless to say, it was distressing to see all my work flushed…especially on such a vital topic.

    Why does this happen?

    • Generally, the comment threads for a given post are open for a week. We close them after that because it’s very rare that discussion on a particular post remains on topic and helpful for more than that time. Also: troll protection. Closing the comments after a short time keeps the contributors from having to take up one of 200 conversations begun over the past 4 years any time anyone with an ax to grind decides he wants to grind it today.

      In cases in which threads are closed earlier than the seven-day mark, that’s usually because a moderator (usually the author of that particular post) has made a judgment call that the usefulness of the thread has run its course before seven days have passed.

      I think I know which thread you’re speaking about in this situation. I can’t comment with certainty on why it’s closed since I didn’t close it. But if I’m right about which one, there was no sincere inquiry about the nature of the Gospel on that thread, only a scoffer seeking to goad someone into sparring with him. That usually doesn’t go well for anyone. And so I bet another moderator closed the thread because he could see that coming.

      I’m sure what you wrote is helpful, and sometimes just the exercise of having to articulate those things brings the most benefit to our own souls. But hang onto it. You never know when someone will pop in asking those same questions. If they do, you’ll be ready.

      • 4Commencefiring4

        Your suspicion was actually what I began with, saying that even though I sensed that Lucy was holding the football once again, I’d play the fool once more anyhow.

  • Dave

    My 5 year old son has been enquiring about salvation over the Christmas period, and has been asking in recent weeks how he can “trust on Jesus” and “believe on Jesus”. I’ve spoken through the issues with him and believe he has came into a saving faith. One of his questions was about hell. One night he asked me to write down all the bad things about hell and all the good things about heaven. It was as though he needed a little pros and cons list :). I simply told him that all he needed to know about hell was that he must avoid it be use everyone there is sad, always crying and always in pain. My question is, how much, in your opinion, do you think we should discuss hell with young children? My son has been aware that hell exists for a long time but I’ve never been sure how much I should tell him at such a young age when he asks various questions.

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