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“Four Views on Hell” by William Crockett

Introduction

Life after death has always been of great interest to people. The only question most living human beings are preoccupied with is whether this life exists and if it does, whether there exists a separation between hell and heaven. Hell is traditionally regarded as a place where human souls suffer for their earthly sins. Lack of knowledge about this place and its overall existence is the main source of fear people usually have for hell. The book “Four Views on Hell” by William Crockett elucidates this issue presenting Bible scholar’s views on hell. This book gives a perfect idea about the doctrine of hell and about the biblical views on the place where humans are believed to get punished for their sins.

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Summary of the Book

Different Views on Hell

At large, the book presents views on hell which four Bible scholars keep to. These views are literal (expressed by John F. Walvoord), metaphorical (William V. Crockett), purgatorial (Zachary J, Hayes), and conditional (Clark H. Pinnock). Hayes presents a Catholic view of purgatory trying to argue with the fact that “purgatory is just another name for the interim state.” (Crockett, Gundry, Hayes, Walvoord 1997, 93) Pinncock, in his turn, believes that the wicked are subjected to destruction, rather than to tortures stating that “hell is not the beginning of a new immortal life in torment but the end of a life of rebellion.” (Crockett et al. 1997, 137) Walvoord presents a literary interpretation of hell most people tend to have. According to him, hell is a place where people are incessantly burning in fire. Finally, Crockett expresses an idea that all the descriptions of hell are metaphorical and people face eternal conscious punishment, rather than real burning and everlasting physical pain. He believes that improper interpretation of metaphors results in incorrect ideas about hell and misleads people are shaping their ideas about it. The book contains a detailed description of the four scholars’ ideas about hell, as well as criticism of their views.

Role of the Scholars’ Interaction in the Book

The scholars interact throughout the book and Crockett’s commentaries are the most numerous. However, their interaction is presented in terms of monologues and the discussion as such is absent. The scholars cannot respond to their critics, which creates an impression of an unfinished discussion. Nevertheless, they succeed in explaining their points of view clearly and concisely, but at this, the book does not name the best or the most verisimilar view on hell. It is rather that the views of four Bible scholars are offered for consideration, making the readers choose which of them they support or oppose. This is the main idea of the book realized through the scholars’ wrangling about their views on hell. The most striking thing about the book is that four scholars have different interpretations of Spiritual data, though, when it comes to doctrine, they recognize the Bible as authoritative.

Critical Interaction with the Author’s Work

The Main Goal of the Book

William Crockett is the editor of the book. The scholar himself is a professor of NT at Alliance Theological Seminary. He approaches the issue of hell from a Christian perspective. He presents a metaphorical view on hell, but he also allows credence to the views of other scholars. His metaphorical view consists in denying literary interpretation of biblical view on hell; he believes that such an interpretation of what hell looks like changes the idea about it. On whole, the book is objective, and Crockett never states that his point of view is the only one that is correct. He leaves the final decision to the readers who, after finishing the book, will be able to conclude which of the views seems the most verisimilar to them. Thus, the main goal of the book is to turn the readers’ attention to four views on hell presented in it; the readers are expected to evaluate the information presented in the book and to define which view is closer to their beliefs.

The Main Arguments Proposed by William Crockett

The main goal of Crockett, however, is to express his idea about the metaphorical understanding of hell, presenting the views of other Bible scholars as a comparison to his view. His main argument is that “The New Testament descriptions of heaven and hell are symbolic pictures, not itemized accounts of eschatological furniture.” (Crockett et al. 1997, 30) In other words, he states that what the Bible says about hell is symbolic, as well as the images that it presents. People know from the Bible that the wicked are doomed to eternally burning in fire, though the Bible does not state that this burning is real. Images of people burning in a fire can also be metaphorical; they may be used to evoke in people certain fear to act against moral values suggested by their religion because fire is commonly associated with burns and pain. According to Crockett, this burning consists of conscious suffering for the sins and amoral deeds people had committed while being alive. There are several ways in which he supports this argument.

According to Crockett, understanding the nature of hell is all about interpreting verses of the Bible correctly. Literary interpretation of these verses is misleading because it contains certain inconsistencies. First of all, he states that the literal understanding of hell is contradictory because darkness and fire, two features that are usually attributed to hell, cannot be present in the same place. Darkness means the absence of light, but light cannot be absent if the fire, which is believed to be all-around in hell, produces light. Secondly, he supports his idea with the fact that Satan and demons, which are believed to be burning in the fire in hell, lack material bodies, which deprives them of suffering from actual pain. Therefore, if they are unable to feel pain, then other people who were placed in hell cannot feel pain either. Their sufferings are emotional, rather than physical because they face all their earthly sins and are made to repent in these sins.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Author’s Arguments

The main strengths of Crockett’s arguments are plausibility and stringency. The examples by which he supports his argument are convincing. They make the reader find ways to oppose the argument and, if such ways are not found, to agree with his views. The matter is that people tend to believe in what they cannot argue with, and it is indeed hard to object that darkness and fire cannot exist simultaneously, for it would mean the absence of each of them. This makes Crockett’s argument stringent. The plausibility of his argument consists of vivid examples which are supplied to support it.

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In other words, Crockett argues about common facts, which makes the reader believe in his convictions. It is possible to further develop his argument about the absence of material bodies in Satan and demons. According to the common belief, a soul, not a person, gets to hell or heaven after death. Souls are also immaterial this is why they are unable to feel pain. In addition, souls are believed to have remembrances, which makes it possible for them to go through emotional sufferings. The main weakness of Crockett’s argument is the one that all other arguments have – it cannot be proved. Nobody knows what hell looks like for nobody from living people has been there; it is impossible to have a view on something one has never seen with his/her own eyes. So, Crockett’s view on hell is convincing, but it is as verisimilar as any other argument for it lacks actual evidence.

Other Works Written on the Same Subject

It is hard to find any published reviews on “Four Views on Hell,” but many authors refer to this book in their works on the same subject. For instance, Carson in his “Gagging of God: Christianity confronts Pluralism” presents a discussion of “Four Views on Hell” showing the interaction between the scholars who present their views on hell. He summarizes the arguments proposed by the scholars and quotes Crockett’s responses to these arguments. He then compares the arguments with the views of other scholars on this subject. He uses “Four Views on Hell” as a basis for his discussion because the book presents different ideas about hell and allows comparing them.

“The Problem of Hell” by Jonathan L. Kvanvig is another book that deals with the subject of hell. In this book, the author tries to work out his approach to the existence of hell. The author uses the doctrine of hell to approach the problem of evil trying to define where the sufferings, which the souls go through in hell, lead. Among other works, there is “Passage through Hell: Modernist Descents, Medieval Underworlds” by David L. Pike, “The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds” by Alan E. Bernstein, “Maps of Heaven, Maps of Hell: Religious Terror as Memory from the Puritans to Stephen King” by Edward J. Ingebretsen, and others.

Appropriation of Ideas Conveyed in the Book

Lay leaders, pastors, and ordinary scholars may use the ideas presented in the book as the basis for further development of this subject. Some of the views presented in the book contradict common beliefs about hell. This may serve as a starting point to review these beliefs. History abounds with cases when even the wisest and most respectful people were mistaken in their beliefs. Traditional Christian views on hell may be questioned now because of the argument presented by William Crockett. This is in no way a display of disrespect towards the Christian religion; it is just that Crockett’s view is another possibility that should be considered.

His view on hell cannot be considered erroneous because there are no reliable counterarguments to it. Lay leaders and pastors can consider his view as possible and include it to their teachings about hell. Crockett’s convictions do not change common ideas about hell and do not deny its existence. They simply deal with one aspect which this issue involves. One thing that Crockett admits is that the souls suffer in hell. Only a person’s view on hell may influence his/her beliefs regarding how these souls suffer, namely physically or emotionally.

Conclusion

The book “Four Views on Hell” presents a description of literal, metaphorical, purgatorial, and conditional views on hell proposed by four Bible scholars. The metaphorical view suggested by William Crockett seems to be the most plausible. According to this view, the souls suffer in hell from emotional, rather than physical pain, which means that representation of their sufferings is metaphorical. Together with this view, the book’s editor, Crockett, proposes responses to the views of other scholars on hell. He allows the readers to compare these views and decide which of them they consider the most appropriate. The book organization allows contrasting and comparing these views, helping the author achieve his main purpose. Mostly, Crockett succeeds in convincing the reader of the plausibility of his view, but there remain questions on how the souls get to hell and what the purpose of their suffering is. If the purpose of making the souls suffer is to get repent from them, then it seems senseless for their sufferings to be eternal. Lastly, Crockett’s approach does not change the ideas about hell; it only alters the perceptions about the punishment the souls go through after getting there.

Bibliography

Crockett, William V., Gundry, Stanley N., Hayes, Zachary J., Walvoord, John, Pinnock, Clark H. Four Views on Hell. Zondervan, 1997.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 25). “Four Views on Hell” by William Crockett. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/four-views-on-hell-by-william-crockett/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 25). “Four Views on Hell” by William Crockett. https://studycorgi.com/four-views-on-hell-by-william-crockett/

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"“Four Views on Hell” by William Crockett." StudyCorgi, 25 Oct. 2021, studycorgi.com/four-views-on-hell-by-william-crockett/.

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StudyCorgi. "“Four Views on Hell” by William Crockett." October 25, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/four-views-on-hell-by-william-crockett/.

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