Hell glorifies God—that is the premise of Thor Ramsey’s book The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever, the newest release from Cruciform Press. It is very encouraging to see a Christian publisher (who consistently aims at the general Christian audience) invest in a topic so essential to true Christianity. It is one thing to notice a few biblically-faithful publishers putting out academic defenses of the doctrine of hell (rare in itself), but it is another thing (and refreshing) to see diligent work put into the placing of such vital truth in the hands of the average person in the pew.
This book is refreshingly honest, and bold. In a day when too many publishers find it fashionable to waste paper and ink on so-called biblical treatments of hell (which are nothing more than pathetic regurgitations of old heresies), this book does not attempt to improve God’s reputation. As the author writes in his Introduction, “there is a swath of fashionable new preachers with a mission to clean up God’s nasty reputation as a bloodthirsty old clod. Unfortunately, in the process of doing God the big favor of helping his PR, they’re reinventing the doctrine of eternal punishment with a new and improved gospel. It’s gospel-riffic!” This book is a much-needed antidote to the plague of unbiblical teachings from famous, fashionable, and rich preachers who treat hell “like the Christian’s dirty little secret—the pock mark on the church’s history formed during its teenage years.”
How, exactly, does hell glorify God? That’s the question the author answers, both biblically and efficiently (a very easy 104 pages). In his four chapters, he draws our attention to four essential aspects of God-centered theology that are lost when the biblical doctrine of hell is neglected, or downright rejected. I will state them positively.
- Hell glorifies the fear of God. If the fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom (and it is) then losing the fear of God in any generation will only be disastrous. Faithful preaching on the doctrine of eternal punishment will rescue the pathetic state of the church from our Santa-god. “Contemporary preacher poets don’t scare people with the wrath of God anymore. They lure people into becoming Christians toothy promises of eternal life.” This is not to say that hellfire and brimstone preaching absent from the glories of God’s love is what is needed. Simply scaring people into heaven without truly presenting to them the glory of Christ, our Rescuer from the wrath of God, will not produce true conversions. But let’s face it. The average professing Christian today has “no idea how much danger they are in.”
- Hell glorifies the holiness of God. Changing the doctrine of hell requires first that we change God’s nature. “Eliminate hell and we eliminate something vital to God’s character, namely that God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), completely holy, infinitely pure and righteous (Hebrews 1:9), a God who will not let the guilty go unpunished (Exodus 34:7). Eliminating hell changes who God is. Removing hell doesn’t make God more loving. It makes him smaller, more like us.” And that’s the last thing we need!
- Hell glorifies the gospel of God. When preachers minimize, or distort, the biblical doctrine of eternal punishment they drain power out of the gospel. Without understanding the wrath of God against our sin what in the world are we even being saved from? Why do we even need a Savior? Hell glorifies God because hell glorifies the one and only Savior Jesus Christ who alone endured the wrath of God for us.
- Hell glorifies the love of God. Hell exalts the love of God by keeping it in balance with all of his other attributes, and within the boundaries of truth. Love rejoices in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6), that is, biblical truth is the pasture in which love grazes. Hell keeps God’s love from becoming squishy and self-centered. We need this because, “as sinners, we manage to bring a measure of corruption into everything we do. To a great extent, therefore, we love people because of what they bring to our lives. We love them because of how they make us feel. We get something out of loving them.” The doctrine of hell saves us from emotional and relational suicide.
The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever closes with much-needed and sound counsel to all believers to love professing Christians enough to express concern when the fruits of the Spirit are lacking, or absent, from their lives. Because hell is real, and hell is as awful as awful can be, we dare not neglect it, or fear another person’s response to its teaching more than we fear the God who created it for the devil and his angels.
This book is an important and valuable contribution to today’s collection of “theology for the average person in the pew.” I recommend you get a copy (paper or electronic), read it, and share it with others.