This review appeared in the Jul-Sep 2013 vol. 170 no. 3 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Hell: An Exhaustive Look at a Burning IssueWestBowPress, Bloomington, IN July 9, 2012
Woodcock is professor of Bible emeritus at Nyack College. In this book, he attempts to present a biblical and historical defense of the traditional view of hell as a place of “endless, conscious, physical and spiritual torment” (p. 5). He interacts with modifications of this view, as well as annihilationism, or conditional immortality, and universalism.
The book is divided into five sections. In the first, the author examines the language used in the Old Testament for the destiny of the wicked as well as the testimonies of ancient Jewish literature. Section two studies the words used in the New Testament for the place of punishment. Then the third section treats the New Testament rationale for judgment. In section four, Woodcook surveys the Christian tradition, arguing that the traditional view is the dominant, majority view in history. A concluding section examines major arguments against the traditional view of hell and deals with several key practical, ministerial implications. An entire chapter responds to Brian McLaren.
The author rejects universalism, postmortem salvation, religious pluralism, and purgatory based upon the teachings of Scripture and the Christian tradition. He dismisses any significance to the possibility of degrees of punishment and asserts that soul sleep is not relevant. He does not take a position on the salvation of infants who die nor those who have never heard. Of the former he believes the Scripture is silent (p. 586). Of the latter he “considers it wise for us not to speculate over the situation concerning which we can do nothing after a person has died” (p. 591). Annihilationism, on the other hand, is rejected: “If the Word of God teaches eternal punishment, then all other considerations are irrelevant” (p. 598).
This book is a helpful resource for the arguments in favor of hell as a place of eternal, conscious, embodied torment. It presents the biblical language, historical arguments, and major challenges in clear and readable style. The major drawback to the book is the price. An ebook version is available from the publisher for $3.99.
—Glenn R. Kreider