I shared yesterday that I have had a problem recently doing just about anything, including reading. I've had little desire to read, which is really abnormal for me. And so as I've begun to shake out of the cocoon of my acedia, I wanted to force myself to read a book. Any book. And so I went to my "books-on-deck" pile and grabbed the shortest book there. It happened to be a book on hell. Ironic. But at least it's The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever.
Thor Ramsey writes a book on hell that is clear and concise. This is the not a theological treatise on the subject, but it does deal with several of the theological arguments against eternal conscious punishment. But there is one part of his book that makes it different from many other books on this subject I have read. He is funny.
I know, it sounds weird to me as well. A book on hell that is humorous. It almost seems to me that if any book should avoid humor, it would be a book on the eternal torment of conscious souls. Don't you think? I honestly do not know where I fall on it. For some reason, I liked his humor. But I feel as though I shouldn't because of the topic. But maybe the humor is what kept me reading without become overly depressed because of the topic. Either way, it is funny. But it deals with a very important subject that is under attack these days.
If you are looking for a book on the descriptions of hell, you need to keep looking. But if you are looking for a book that argues for the reality and existence and purpose of hell, feel free to grab a copy and sit down with your cup of coffee for a good lesson. At the beginning of the book, he shares his premise on hell. It's shockingly accurate.
"When I began studying the doctrine of eternal punishment, I had this thought but I couldn't bring myself to say it out loud. It sounded absurd. It was too shocking to think, let alone say out loud. The thought was this: Hell glorifies God. I know. Exactly. It's the halitosis of theological thinking, but it is truth nonetheless. And that is the simple premise for this book: hell glorifies God" (16).
Obviously, this thought is going to raise many questions. But the one he seeks to answer in detail is how that can happen. How can eternal punishment of people glorify God? He says,
"Because belief in hell affirms the holiness of god and other such attributes of his, like truth, righteousness, justice, and grace. Why do you think superheroes steal their slogans from us? Truth. There is one true God; he is righteous in all he does and in who he is. God will bring justice to those who do not approve of him (which is the essence of sin) and who will not confess they have committed cosmic treason. There is justice for those who have been harmed by the unrepentant. And thanks be to God, there is grace for all us moral failures who turn to him in reverence, fear, and repentance. Grace is not the elimination of hell, and any idea that comforts people in their unrepentant state can in no way be loving, truthful, or gracious, and should be rejected (and this includes annihilationism)" (11-12).
Throughout the book, he argues that if we get rid of hell, we lose the fear of God, the holiness of God, the gospel of God, and the love of God. Yes, if we get rid of hell, we lose understanding the love of God (you're going to have to buy the book to read why that is so).
Despite the humor (or because of it - still don't know how I feel about it), The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever is a book you may want to pick up to read. It's short, but packed full of helpful insights. He concludes with these thoughts:
"If my view of eternal punishment turns out to be wrong, then I'll be surprised and delighted upon entering the afterlife. 'Hey, look, it's my favorite uncle from prison!' But if you die dis-believing the saving gospel and die believing you'll have another chance...what happens then if you're wrong? Not only is there no purgatorial bus ride. You will have missed the bus, period. All hope gone forever" (92).