New Research Posted: Exodus Evidence

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding the biblical Exodus. It ranges from spurious accounts of Mount Sinai being located in Saudi Arabia all the way to a complete dismissal as Hebrew mythology. In the Biblical narrative we have an enduring tradition that forms the basis for the majority of the world’s monotheistic religion. It deserves more respect than a dismissive waving of the postmodern hand or the wild irresponsible claims by untrained glory hounds. It may seem an incredible tale. Indeed the Bible records that the Israelites supernaturally received water from a rock and daily manna from the sky. Incredible as this is, protesting a lack of pottery is to not respect what the text says. This is, after all, an account of God’s work, not a secular history. However, we do have evidence. We should perceive the account to have historic and linguistic verisimilitude. Through archeological, historical, etymological and geographic research one can by logical induction discern that the Biblical text reflects historical veracity not legendary fabrication.

The Exodus account and wilderness journey is foundational to the truth claims of Judaism and Christianity. For the believer, it is not merely the inerrancy doctrine at stake; it is the character and deity of Jesus Christ.  Jesus boldly proclaimed “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died (John 6:49). Clearly, Jesus affirmed the exodus account as true history.  This creates a challenge for the Christian researcher because there is probably no other Biblical narrative more frequently undermined other than the Genesis creation account. Even amongst sincere believers there are conflicting theories being offered. Some are shamefully staged, while others are misguided. I contend that the Exodus account was a real event occurring in 1446 BC, that it can be inferred circumstantially in Egyptian records, and that the most plausible biblically consistent route is across the y’m su’p (reed sea) and down the western coast of the Sinai Peninsula into the mid-southern Sinai to the holy mountain and back up the Eastern side of the Sinai toward Kadesh-barnea and the Promised Land.

Please look to the top bar on this website and you will find a drop down menu Exodus Research with each section of my research. You may be surprised along the way but our journey through the desert will be a fruitful one. The evidence for the Exodus is not the typical pottery shards and bones yet it is compelling nonetheless.

Presuppositional Apologetics

This essay will attempt to demonstrate that the presuppositional apologetic method is a potent posture yet falls short as a methodology for comprehensibly demonstrating the legitimacy of the Christian worldview. Presuppositional apologetics is a systematic defense of Christian theism based on the assumption of certain basic propositions. While it is often associated with fideism which is placing faith above reason, not all presuppositionalists are fideists.[1] In fact, the presuppositonalist would argue that reason itself proves God’s existence. The apologist simply assumes the truth of Christianity to varying degrees and argues from that platform. This varies from a fideistic position that non-Christians are so corrupted by their sin nature that they are incapable of responding to evidence to a more modest position that belief in God is properly basic. The rationale offered by presuppositionalists is that everyone presupposes basic premises which define their worldview. It is certainly true that some beliefs such as the law of non-contradiction must be presupposed for rational discourse to be possible. Accordingly, this is known as a properly basic belief. Philosopher Alvin Plantinga has convincingly argued that belief in God can also be held as properly basic.[2] The different presuppositional approaches all share this epistemological foundation yet vary on issues of truth, scope of human depravity and use of evidence.

Norman Geisler delineates four main approaches based on their means of establishing truth: revelational, rational, systematic consistency and practical presuppositionalism.[3] The revelational approach championed by Cornelius Van Til is perhaps the most well-known and also the most fideistic. He boldly proclaimed, “that all reasoning is, in the nature of the case, circular reasoning.”[4] This style presupposes the authority of scripture and also that those who do not hold this presupposition are incapable of even basic reasoning.Greg Bahnsen is advocate and teacher of Van Til’s method. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries is another modern day practitioner of this Van Tilian style.[5] Here is James discussing the topic:

Rational presuppositionalism is a less strident variant employed by Gordon Clark and Carl F. H. Henry that allows that the secular mind still can use logic and reason. The test for truth is the law of non-contradiction.[6] John Carnell and Gordon Lewis pioneered a method, systematic consistency, which uses the rational approach with the additional qualifications that it must take account of all knowledge and meet man’s basic needs.[7] The style most open to non-believers is the practical approach in the style of Francis Schaeffer who set about demonstrating that all other worldviews are not livable in a consistent fashion.[8] These approaches share the assumption of Biblical revelation yet vary on discerning truth and the scope of unregenerate depravity. There seems to be valid thinking behind each variety and I maintain respect for the respective apologists even if I do not entirely agree with all of their methodology.

It seems reasonable for believers to assume theism because the average Christian does not have time to master complicated philosophical arguments. However, trained apologists should be able to employ those arguments to provide warrant for the average believer. Yet some presuppositionalists fail to distinguish between belief in God and belief that God exists. Many presuppositionalists completely reject traditional apologetics as a futile concession to the skeptic’s methods.[9] Yet we all use the same rules of logic. A principle criticism offered by Geisler is that there is a confusion of epistemology and ontology. He writes,

The Christian fideist may very well be right about the fact that there is a God, but this begs the question unless he can tell how he knows this is the case. God may indeed have revealed himself to us through the Bible, but how do we know that the Bible is the Word of God?  [10]

Van Til did not seem to mind question begging. His style is tactically advantageous but it is unlikely to influence non-Christians. While it is true that men suppress the truth, evidential apologetics causes even hardened skeptics like Antony Flew to change their minds. Ultimately one should remember that Jesus and the apostles appealed to evidence, (Jn 2:23, 1 Cor. 15:3-7).

This essay has briefly summarized the presuppositional method and its four approaches. God’s existence and biblical revelation were defined as the basic foundation. The different styles were differentiated by the scope of their assumption and their test for truth. Critique was offered that the method strongly proclaims that Christianity is true but falls short of adequately explaining why it is true. A hybrid approach along the lines of Schaeffer’s technique in Escape From Reason and other works are worthy of further study. I must admit I am very interested in the ideas and techniques employed. It seems that there are some valuable tactics and truths in this method yet is not entirely convincing.

This site is powerful example of how the presuppositional method can be employed: Proof That God Exists

[1]Norman L. Geisler, Christian Apologetics, Includes Index. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), 47.

[2] Thomas Provenzola. “Apologetics, Reformed.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, by Ed Hindson, & Ergun Caner, ( Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 59.

[3]Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker reference library (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1999), 607.

[4]Cornelius Van Til and William Edgar, Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing     Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2003).

[5] White, James. Alpha and Omega Ministries. n.d. (accessed 10 08, 2010).

[6] Geisler, Baker, 607

[7] Geisler, Baker, 607

[8] Geisler, Baker, 607.

[9] Mark Coppenger. “Presuppositonalism.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, by Ed Hindson, & Ergun Caner, 401-404. (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 402

[10]Norman L. Geisler, Christian Apologetics. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), 61.

Movie Review: Transcendent Man …the despair of modern existence

I saw a really well made documentary film last weekend: Transcendent Man. It is a biographical sketch of visionary computer scientist and inventor Ray Kurzweil. The strength of the film is that shows the heart and soul of the man. Kurzweil is a bonafide genius, a fact which certainly comes through in the film, but overall he is still a profoundly tragic figure. He is extremely talented and successful. He has much to be grateful to God for. Yet he denies his creator (Rom 1:21). Many of you are aware of my recent research in the area of transhumanism as it interfaces with a Christian worldview. My argument is that the two are incompatible worldviews. Of course that research was speaking to bible believing Christians, I would write it differently to nonbelievers. If you do not have Christ, I suppose all you have to hope for is transhumanism. I believe it is a false hope (Heb. 9:27). However, whether you accept the authority of scripture or not, Ray Kurzweil’s tragic desperation is laid bare by this film.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1 Th. 4:13)

Modern man has no hope without God. Life is precious and yet fleeting (Jas. 4:14). Not only does Kurzweil believe that he can personally achieve immortality, he believes he can bring his dead father back to life using computer science. Having lost my own father to an untimely stroke in 2005, I certainly have empathy. My Dad was only 67 and I had hoped to garner much more of his wisdom. I spent most of my young adulthood in rebellion, now those years seem wasted. I would like to have them back but I know better. Ray doesn’t accept death. I suppose his own hype has gone to his head because he is determined to defeat it. He has collected all of his father’s writings with the audacious hope of recreating him from the raw data. Unfortunately, I am not exaggerating.

The film lays bare the utter desperation and futility of modern man. Kurzweil is a naturalistic scientist and he does not appear to have any belief in a theistic God. Naturalism and materialism leave the scientist in a cold, hopeless, mechanical universe. I think Richard Dawkins has encapsulated it well, “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”[i] Atheists necessarily live in a constant state of cognitive dissonance. The internal conflict is that no matter how convincingly they might protest, the atheist cannot really live with the universe Dawkins describes. They leap into the infinite. This film Transcendent Man is a shining evidence of that.

Kurzweil is lashing out at the scientific determinism that leaves him so hopeless. He is embracing the irrational. Francis Schaeffer’s seminal work The Escape from Reason has an answer for transhumanism. Schaeffer wrote, “So man, being made in the image of God, was made to have a personal relationship with Him. Man’s relationship is upward and not merely downward. If you are dealing with twentieth-century people, this becomes a very crucial difference. Modern man sees his relationship downward to the animal and to the machine. The Bible rejects this view of who man is. On the side of personality you are related to God. You are not infinite but finite; nevertheless you are truly personal; you are created in the image of the personal God who exists.”[ii] It is especially poignant that he associated modern man to the animal and machine. Darwinism is the starting point in transhumanist thought. Despite his seemingly naïve optimism, Kurzweil’s worldview looks downward to the animal and then forward to the machine bypassing God altogether. His presupposition of naturalism limits his search for truth.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ec. 3:11)

Because God has written eternity into men’s hearts they instinctively seek the eternal. C.S. Lewis said it this way, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”[iii] Ray is not being irrational in seeking the infinite or the “upper story” as Francis Schaeffer put it. He is being irrational by denying his creator. I applaud this film for including criticisms of Ray’s ideas. Christianity was represented well by Dr. Chuck Missler and William Hurlbut M.D.. Those links tell you about the men, but I want to talk about what they said in the film.

Missler, a childhood computer prodigy himself, is a Bible teacher and lifelong student of prophecy. Missler offers Ray a salient word of correction, “God is who He is… And our challenge should be to know Him, not to try to create Him.”[iv] Missler believes we are on the precipice of the end times and I tend to agree with him but there is no guarantee it will be within my lifetime. Chuck contends that Kurzweil is going to run out of time. Perhaps he is correct?  Because when I ponder the extent to which man is violating the sanctity of life, I do not think the Lord will stand for it much longer. The other noteworthy Christian voice, Hurlbut, is also very impressive. He is a medical Doctor who serves on the Presidents’ bioethics commission. He argues that Kurzweil has vastly underestimated biological complexity. Kurzweil is an expert on the computational end not the biological. While we might have the number crunching ability in the near future, mapping the human brain is the limiting factor. It is being worked on. Yet even if the brain is reverse engineered, you are not your brain.  This is a fact Kurzweil doesn’t seem to get and it is because he begins with naturalism. A belief which ultimately reduces to materialism, the belief that matter and energy are fundamentally all that exist.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Pr 9:10)

While it is a widely held position by scientists, philosophical materialism is incoherent. In fact, the things that are most important to us don’t exist in the physical world, but they really do exist. Things like love, friendship, education, knowledge, ideas, virtues, morals and even scientific theories. All of those things are not physical. They are not made of atoms. It follows that whatever linking there might be between mental states like thoughts and feelings with biochemical brain-states, the connection is not identity. Brain-states have a specific location in the brain but mental states do not. Brain-states exist independent of a perceiver but mental states are not. In other words your brain chemistry may play a role in your thought life but chemistry is not your thoughts. Consciousness is something more than a physical process. Kurzweil would probably argue that it is a function of information but this is also incoherent.

He cannot explain the connection between the material and immaterial. Mental events cause physical events. For example, your mental decision to throw a ball causes it to fly. In a similar fashion, physical events cause mental events. You see a ball flying toward your face and become excited. Clearly there are laws that govern mind-body communication. Mental and physical events are related but distinct. Scientific materialism and naturalism cannot adequately explain this. This called the mind/body problem in philosophy. Kurzweil smuggles the immaterial in the back door as “information patterns” but his reasoning is incoherent because he cannot account for the connection. He starts from the wrong place. The only satisfactory explanation for the connection between the two is a theistic one. God sustains the coordination between mind and body (Col. 1:17). No matter how brilliant he is, no matter how accurate his calculations, Ray Kurzweil can never get the right answer because he started from the wrong beginning. Renowned philosopher Alvin Plantinga has put it this way, “If we don’t know that there is such a person as God, we don’t know the first thing (the most important thing) about ourselves, each other and our world. This is because… the most important truths about us and them, is that we have been created by the Lord, and utterly depend upon him for our continued existence.”[v] Indeed it is the most important thing, it is the beginning of all wisdom. One is lost with out it.

I ask you to join me in prayer for Ray Kurzweil and all the lost transhumanists who instinctively know that there is more to life than blind pitiless indifference. Pray that they will come to realize there really is a God who is there and that he can be known. Christians do not need to fear death. Only through the Lord Jesus Christ can we exclaim,
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”(1 Co. 15:5)

[i]Richard Dawkins, “God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, November, 1995, p. 85.

[ii]Francis A. Schaeffer, The Escape from Reason in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer : A Christian Worldview. (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1982).

[iii] C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity, (NY: Harper Collins, 1980), 137.

[iv] Chuck Missler quoted from “Transcendent Man Film Trailer” 2:00 (accessed March 17, 2011).

[v] Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (accessed March 17, 2011).

Book Critique: Four Views On Hell

(With all of the hubbub over Rob Bell’s recent heresy, I thought a review of this book might be helpful. I think this book is an excellent resource for a thinking Christian to thoroughly examine the issue)


The purpose of this article is to critique Four Views On Hell, a book written by four theologians representing their respective views namely: literal, metaphorical, purgatorial, and conditional. This presentation will first give a summary of the book, and then offer several key points of analysis. The first point of analysis will be each author’s theological perspective and background because it serves as their interpretive lens. This naturally leads to examining the scriptural evidence for each view and how the author interprets it. While scripture is the ultimate arbiter, arguments offered from logic and emotion will be examined as well. Finally, criticism will be offered on the basis of exegesis and rational coherence. This critique will attempt to show that the book leads one to accept eternal punishment as the most coherent biblical position, while the biblical descriptions of hell are more likely metaphors for a larger reality.

Brief Summary

The four views literal, metaphorical, purgatorial, and conditional are represented by John F. Walvoord, William Crockett, Zachary J. Hayes, and Clark H. Pinnock respectively. Each author contributed a chapter followed by responses from the other three. This makes for a very lively and useful book as each view is well argued and subjected to thoughtful criticism. Walvoord makes a strong case for a literal everlasting hell with actual fire. His exegetical work concerning the eternal nature of hell based on the term aionios is convincing. He remarks, “If exegesis is the final factor, eternal punishment is the only proper conclusion.”[1] While Crockett stresses that hell is an existential reality, he argues against claiming exacting knowledge concerning its nature. He stresses, “the Scriptures do teach about a real hell, a place of frightful judgment.”[2] Still yet, he argues that the literal view makes the Bible say too much and compares it to the Egyptian topographers of the underworld.  He presents a compelling argument for the metaphoric view, emphasizing the use of conflicting language, “how can hell be literal fire when it is also described as darkness?”[3] This point is reiterated ad nauseum against the literal view in several responses throughout the book. The organization of the book is interesting in that the further one reads the more speculative the argumentation and the less scriptural the basis. The slope is slippery indeed.

Hayes argues for an interim state which he believes is rooted in the redemptive work of Christ. His position on hell proper is obfuscated by his argument for purgatory. He bases a lot of his argumentation on history and tradition, which is not surprising as it is its only real grounding. He also petitions a humanistic sense of fairness, an emotional appeal which he shares with the next alternative. Pinnock’s case is based more on a negative argument against the classical view than evidence for his own. Accordingly, he exaggerates the traditional view at the outset. He contends one is asked to believe that God “endlessly tortures sinners by the million, sinners who perish because the Father decided not to elect them to salvation, though he could have done so, and whose torments are supposed to gladden the hearts of believers in heaven.”[4] He argues forcefully that eternal torment is sadistic, vindictive and unjust. It is not befitting of God’s character. He proposes annihilationism or “conditional immortality” as a preferable alternative.

Critical Interaction With Author’s Work

No one disputes that the literal view is the dominant classical Christian position but they all acknowledge it has fallen out of favor. Walvoord was the president of Dallas Theological Seminary from 1952 to 1986 and is described as “a committed and profound dispensationalist.”[5] While he died in 2001, he was a long time champion of biblical inerrancy writing, “the Bible never affirms to be true something that is actually not true.” [6] Accordingly he strongly favors an objective hermeneutic rooted in the authors intent for the passage. A particular strength of his chapter is discussion of the Greek term aionios. It is correctly rendered “eternal” and is used to describe the punishment of the wicked seven times (Matt. 18:8; 25:41,46; Mark 3:29; 2 Thess. 1:9; Heb 6:2; Jude 7).[7] This line of reasoning is especially powerful because the same word is used to describe eternal life for the believer (Matt 25:46, Mk. 10:30; John 3:15; 4:36; 5:39; Acts 13:48; Rom 2:7; 5:21; 6:23). It seems that to argue against eternal punishment is to argue against eternal life for those in Christ. The collateral damage to biblical doctrine is just too great to try to obfuscate the meaning of aionios. It is quite telling that Hayes and Pinnock do not attempt to do so.

The weakness in Walvoord’s view is that in his zeal he can resort to a wooden literalism. He acknowledges that hell is described as total darkness and attributes it to mental anguish. Yet he then argues for literal flames and fire but does not attempt to reconcile how literal fire can occur in total darkness. Crocket makes a point of this in his rebuttal and garners favor for his view.  Hayes discusses the alleged dichotomy between theology and exegesis and points to Walvoord’s presuppositions. Pinnock derides literalism yet makes a valid point in that eschatological passages are in often analogical language.

William Crockett is professor of New Testament at Alliance Theological Seminary which specializes in missions.[8] His background as an evangelical biblical scholar makes him particularly suited to interpreting the text in light of its ancient Near Eastern background. He points to rabbinic hyperbole which Jesus certainly employed on many occasions (Lk. 14:26; Mat 5:29; Mk. 6:23, 11:23) and argues that the descriptions of hell are similar. He provides a plethora of examples from canonical and non-canonical works. He makes a convincing argument that the Bible uses metaphors and figurative language and that insistence on literal flames and fire is unwarranted. While he insists that a literal view is so distasteful that even its proponents dare not preach it, he admirably concludes, “Yet of this they are certain: God will forever punish those who walk in paths of wickedness.”[9] Is literal fire a necessary belief?

Walvoord objects the metaphoric view challenges traditional ideas about the accuracy and inerrancy of scripture. He also criticizes it a non-literal interpretation of prophecy. Yet the descriptions can still be accurate as metaphors. We are talking about the afterlife. Perhaps there simply is no direct earthly analogy? Hayes makes a cogent point in that “to speak of a metaphor in its self to make no judgment about the reality or unreality of the object spoken about.”[10] Hayes also points out that if it is the case that the description are metaphors, then the “literal” reading is in fact the metaphoric one. Pinnock mischaracterizes Crockett’s view saying it accuses the literal view of sadism.[11] Actually, Pinnock is the one making that charge. He asks if Crockett has solved anything as if it were simply a riddle. Pinnock is arguing from humanism and emotion. The truth is objective; it is not available to improve upon based on one’s feelings.

Anticipating the slippery slope, Crockett also handles annihilationism in a rather decisive manner. It is the view that the wicked simply pass out of existence rather than endure eternal torment. First he examines the metaphysical argument from “harmony in the cosmos”, which asks if it is reasonable to believe that after God restores creation the damned souls still suffer in a far excluded corner. While conceding it is a reasonable argument, he concludes it is more coherent with universalism than annihilationism. He argues that annihilationists must deal with the Hellenistic concept of an eternal soul which was widely accepted in Jesus day. It is not enough to simply stand on the vagueness of the Old Testament concept. He also points out the inconsistency of interpreting Luke16:19-31 as a temporary place of suffering. If their moral argument is that God would not torment, this is incoherent. He either does or does not. In addition, they do not handle texts which speak to different levels of punishment (Luke 12:47-48; Matt 11:24). Finally, he points out that it is not valid exegesis to seek possible meanings that fit ones preconceived view instead of the meaning that fits the historical context. The first century worldview would have required an explicit correction if the Gospel writers wanted to teach annihilationism, but they did not do so. But eventually new ideas, time and tradition can change a worldview

The institutional juggernaut of Roman Catholicism did just that by conjecturing a place of intermediate punishment that held those not a peace with the church to endure punitive and refining suffering.[12] This became entrenched after The Council of Trent (1545–63) which affirmed that those who deny the doctrine of purgatory are “anathema,” accursed. This the theological tradition represented by Hayes, a retired teacher of theology at the Catholic Theological Union.[13] He argues that the idea of purifying fire was present in the biblical and extra biblical literature before the Catholic concept of purgatory came about. The non-canonical 2 Maccabees is his primary support. He leans heavy on tradition, citing Augustine who was concerned with the moral continuity from this life and the afterlife and Cyprian who was concerned about the destiny of Christians who recanted under persecution. While these are legitimate concerns, postulating an interim state as a way out of a dilemma based on a humanistic sense of fairness is unwarranted. The case gets even more tenuous as practices such as praying for dead are introduced. He appeals to who was then Cardinal (now Pope) Ratzinger who wrote that, “Purgatory means that there is some unresolved guilt in the person who has died. Hence there is suffering that continues to radiate because of this guilt.”[14] Yet one wonders what place the atonement of the cross finds in this theology.

He concedes that modern Catholic scholars acknowledge that “although there is no clear textual basis in Scripture for the later doctrine of purgatory, neither is there anything that is clearly contrary to that doctrine.”[15] This is quite revealing because it is not a valid way to argue for a claim. One could derive all sorts of fantastic musings that are not specifically denied. The Bible does not deny the existence of elves and faeries, should we believe in them? An argument from silence is never convincing and as Walvoord pointed out the scripture is not silent in this case (Rev. 20:10). While he fails to argue coherently, the verses he conceded against his position are quite convincing (Rom 3:28; Gal 2:21; Heb 9:27-28; Rev 22:11; Eph. 2:8-9) albeit not as exhaustive a list as Walvoord’s. Due to the vacuous scriptural support for purgatory he shifts the focus.

Employing the evasive tactic of “moving the goal posts down the field”, he quibbles that what is at stake is not the scriptures but the protestant problem with a works theology. However, in light of Ephesians 2:8-9, it is exactly the veracity of the scriptures at stake. It is simply fallacious to argue that purgatory is an interpretive matter. Purgatory is pure conjecture. In his discussion of grace he creates a false dichotomy between the Catholic conception of justification and grace with the protestant understanding of forensic justification. The Protestant doctrine of sanctification is analogous to the eastern patristic understanding of divination so he has made a category error. 1 John 3:2 says we will be like him when he appears not after an extended stay in purgatory. His attempt to shift the debate to justification and grace ultimately fails as it appears to be merely an obfuscation of the fact there is absolutely no scriptural warrant for the belief in purgatory. Yet, even so, the slope gets slipperier.

Pinnock was once a traditional evangelical, who began to question his faith and became an early proponent of open theism.[16] It is the controversial (some argue heretical) view which “holds that God grows, discovers things he did not know, and changes his mind.”[17] Prior to his demise, he was nearly ousted from the Evangelical Theological Society for his views. [18] In this book, he proposes annihilationism or conditional immortality as a preferable alternative. It is clear that Pinnock really dislikes the biblical teaching on hell. He seems to think because it is so unpopular, that scripture needs rescuing by means of a radical re-interpretation. One wonders if he believes that truth value is dependent on popularity. The doctrine of original sin is hardly a crowd pleaser yet remains a test of orthodoxy. He accuses traditionalists of holding an unbiblical anthropology, by posting immortality of the soul based on Greek belief. He cites 1 Tim 6:16 to argue that only God has immortality and that it is conditional for human beings. He believes God destroys the souls of the wicked in hell (Mat. 10:28). While Crockett addressed it earlier, the belief of the Pharisees and New Testament Christians was in the immortality of the soul. Pinnock does not provide adequate exegetical support for his contentions.

He argues philosophically on the metaphysical basis that an eternal state of dualism seems inferior to a complete renewal of creation. As previously pointed out, Crockett argued that this favors universalism more than annihilation. He also examines a few of the classic proof texts yet his explanations are largely unsatisfying and seem to be special pleading based on his a priori belief in annihilation. He fails to adequately address how annihilation could possibly address degrees of punishment inferred by some texts (Matt 10:15; Lk. 12:47-48). In addition, Revelation 14:11 is explicit enough against annihilationism, the words written prior by Crocket come to mind, just because an interpretation is possible does not make it exegetically sound. His greatest strength is that he argues forcefully that eternal torment is sadistic, vindictive and unjust. While ignoring Paul’s inspired arguments (Rom 3:5-6; 9:14 ff.), he contends it is not befitting of God’s character. He seems to agree with (then) atheist Antony Flew that if the traditional view is correct, then Christianity is not worth defending. He makes a strong case appealing to emotion and one’s sense of justice.

Walvoord astutely points out one’s opinions do not change truth.  He also reveals that in Pinnock’s treatment of proof texts he never discussed the relationship between Rev 19:20 and 20:10 which show that the Beast and False Prophet survive the millennium in the lake of fire. He also contends that because prophecy has been fulfilled literally in history, we should expect the same of eschatology. Crockett’s refutation of Pinnock is decisive. He convincingly asserts that because Pinnock finds it distasteful he is making up new theology. His point about the first century context in which Jesus confronted the Pharisees who believed in eternal torment is especially devastating to Pinnock. He points out that Pinnock has created a false dichotomy by mischaracterizing the metaphoric view as “taking the hell out of hell.” Pinnock’s arguments rely on emotional appeal to images of torture and fire, his emotive force is diminished by the metaphorical interpretation. Hell is distasteful and unpopular but it is undeniably real. His case is largely emotional albeit understandably so.


This paper offered a summary and analysis of the book Four Views On Hell. After offering a brief summary, the paper sought to illustrate its value for evaluating the different positions by examining each author’s theological background, scriptural support, and philosophical argumentation. The relationship between these points was shown and reflected in each of the four positions. It was determined that while the descriptions of flames need not be taken literally, they could indeed symbolize something far greater and the Bible clearly teaches an everlasting state of punishment for those who reject the gospel. In the end, this book is extremely valuable for refuting error and promoting a sense of urgency in evangelism.

[1] John F. Walvoord, Zachary J. Hayes, and Clark H. Pinnock. Four Views on Hell. ed. William Crockett (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996),  27.

[2] Crockett. Four Views. 49.

[3] Crockett. Four Views. 59.

[4] Crockett. Four Views. 136

[5] “John F. Walvoord: Theologian. Educator Author”, (accessed 02/24/2011).

[6]John F. Walvoord, What We Believe (Galaxie Software, 2007), 11.

[7]Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,(Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995, c1985), 31.

[8] “Crockett, William J.” ContributorID=CrockettW& QueryStringSite=Zondervan (accessed 02/24/2011)

[9] Crockett. Four Views. 59.

[10] Crockett. Four Views. 83.

[11] Crockett. Four Views. 87.

[12]L. Boettner. “Purgatory” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition ed. Walter A. Elwell, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 972.

[13] “Hayes, Zachary J.” US/Authors/Author.htm? ContributorID=HayesZ&QueryStringSite= zondervan (accessed 02/24/2011).

[14] Crockett. Four Views. 99.

[15] Crockett. Four Views. 107.

[16] Bob Allen. “Controversial theologian Clark Pinnock dies”. (accessed 02/24/2011).

[17] Millard J. Erickson, The Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology, Rev. ed., 1st Crossway ed. (Wheaton, ll.:Crossway Books, 2001), 144.

[18] Norman Geisler. “Why I Resigned From the Evangelical Theological Society” (accessed February 26, 2010).

Rob Bell on Hell

Much has been written about Rob Bell’s slippery slope to universalism. On a topic as emotionally charged as hell and eternal damnation, instead of offering my opinion I will defer to my Lord. Jesus told us, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14) I wonder what part of “few” Rob Bell can not understand?

Almost everything we know about hell in scripture comes directly from Jesus. It’s not an Old Testament doctrine. It seems as though God waited for one so good and so perfect to deliver the message that we would have to believe him. Anyone less and no one would believe it. That being said… Jesus also said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
(Matthew 10:28)

I highly recommend this response by Kevin DeYoung.