The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever
“Is the fear of God merely an Old-Testament doctrine? Does hell glorify God? Will we party with Stalin in heaven? What about Bill Maher? For answers to such questions, this thought-provoking, bracing corrective to the soapy bromides of recent volumes on this subject may be just the ticket. And have we mentioned that it’s entertaining and encouraging?”
– Eric Metaxas, New York Times Best-selling author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Plus Stephen Baldwin (actor), Drew Dyck, (Leadership Jrnl)
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Description & Excerpts..SHARE..
It’s become a modern question because of the traditional doctrine: How can God be both loving and wrathful?
In The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever, Thor Ramsey (an author, pastor, and comedian…but don’t let that fool you) tackles this question by probing deeper. Avoiding the caricatures of God as either a Frankenstein out to crush you or a Santa Claus ready to grant your every wish (as long as you’ve been really, really good), he asks, “What changes about God if this traditional understanding of the doctrine of hell changes?” As it turns out, everything changes.
If you think a God without hell is more loving, this book will surprise you. While many believe that by eliminating hell they’re getting a new and improved God, this new thinking is more troubling than the old doctrine itself. The new doctrine of hell being sold today is only good news at the most superficial level, leaving us with a wrath-less God who tolerates evils that make even the average atheist cringe.
What if hell itself is good news about God? What if hell highlights everything we find glorious about God? What if the loss of hell leaves the world with a smaller God? Discover why the church needs a new and different breed of hellfire-and-brimstone preacher in the pulpit today. If you can’t imagine how the doctrine of hell could ever make you say, “Praise God,” this book (often funny, but deadly serious) lays out the biblical vision.
Table of Contents
Introduction: WHAT DO WE REALLY LOSE IF HELL FREEZES OVER? (Or Why Hell Is a Good Idea)
One: WE LOSE THE FEAR OF GOD (Death Is Actually Not Your Biggest Problem)
Two: WE LOSE THE HOLINESS OF GOD (In All Its Old-Fashioned, Bible-Thumping Scariness)
Three: WE LOSE THE GOSPEL OF GOD (The Gospel Is Not About Escaping Hell, Though this Is Highly Recommended)
Four: WE LOSE THE LOVE OF GOD (A Love Way Better than an Infinite Hug)
Afterword: THE WORST FUNERAL EVER (Not That the Sandwiches Weren’t Delicious)
Appendix A: A is for Annihilationism
Appendix B: A Word to Pastors about Preaching the Doctrine of Hell
About the Author
Thor Ramsey is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, speaker, vertebrate, biped, and stand-up comic, in that order.
endorsements & reviews..SHARE..
“Is the fear of God merely an Old-Testament doctrine? Does hell glorify God? Will we party with Pol Pot, Vlad the Impaler, Stalin, the Marquis de Sade, and Satan in heaven? And what about Bill Maher? For answers to these and other questions, this thought-provoking, bracing corrective to the soapy bromides of recent volumes on this subject may be just the ticket. And have we mentioned that it’s entertaining and encouraging?”
Eric Metaxas, New York Times Best-selling author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
“The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever is also one of the wisest. This book is crammed with hilarious quips (“Where do Universalists tell people to go when they’re angry?”), but the message is deadly serious. Losing the doctrine of hell isn’t trivial. It means losing truth, righteousness, and grace. Ultimately it means losing God. Thor’s book uses humor to disarm readers just enough to deliver this crucial and timely message.”
Drew Dyck is managing editor of Leadership Journal, a Christianity Today publication, and author of Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying (Thomas Nelson)
“Praise God for Thor! The end must be getting near as Christians are actually getting funny. After a few pages, you’ll realize this ain’t your grandma’s book about hell… but she’d love it just the same. Because it’s only funny in the right places.”
Stephen Baldwin, actor, author, radio host
“The author is insightful in his teaching while he is building a biblical case for hell.”
The title of this book prevails upon the reader to open it up and see what this is all about. It’s daring. I mean encouraging and hell are in the same sentence! It kind of reminds me of the old fundamentalist preachers my husband sometimes impersonates. With a big, starchy smile on his face, he says, “You’re going to hell!” But of course, Thor Ramsey is not that man. He seems to bring back some of the edge we remember from the Old English Puritans, however, he is comedic and succinct. Ramsey’s mission is to convince the reader that hell glorifies God.
While very evangelistic, the book is also a polemic of sorts against the shift in evangelical thinking on hell. He confronts the books that have been written to suggest hell doesn’t exist, the prosperity pastors who promote a “non-judgmental Santa-god,” as well as those who may just be too embarrassed to bring up the whole hell-thing. The book is broken down to teach that without the doctrine of eternal hell, “we will suffer the loss of the fear of God, the loss of a holy God, the loss of an extravagantly loving God, and the loss of God’s wisdom in the cross” (18). The author does this in a mere 103 pages. And I have to tell you, I really did finish the book encouraged. The title is brilliant, and it just may be true!
At first I didn’t know how the whole pastor who does stand-up comedy was going to sit with me. I mean the guy is talking about hell. But he already had me laughing in his dedication: “Dedicating a book on hell is problematic. Which ex-girlfriend do you choose?” And yet Ramsey’s sense of humor in no way compromises the holiness of God in the book. I think that the mordant remarks peppered throughout the book actually helped take away that stereotype of the fundamentalist pastor that my husband imitates so well.
I always think it is a challenge to write in depth on an important doctrine in a mere 100 pages. I don’t want to buy and read a glorified outline that is missing reflective thought. While Ramsey doesn’t have the space to carry each of his points through the forest of literary beauty, there are many flowers that you can capture and preserve. The author is insightful in his teaching while he is building a biblical case for hell. I especially like how he brings up the proclivity that we often have to think that God needs our PR help.
As a side note, I learned that busses make good comedy material. It’s as if Ramsey just can’t help himself. Like a good stand-up guy, he weaves a seemingly random theme throughout the pages. Yes, busses. He begins in the dedication. There he moves on from the ex-girlfriend idea to dedicate the book to a long line of people worth it:
…to all the pastors who act like men, friends that stick…rock band members who read, rappers who preach, countrymen who think,…and lay people with discernment—especially those from Grand Rapids, Michigan who find grace disabled by sentimental views of a morally lax and complacent God who winks at evil and has about as much authoritative oomph as the public school system’s bus drivers, not that they don’t do the best they can to keep the little tyrants in order. May you all begin speaking about eternal punishment again with tenderness and clarity. Especially the bus drivers.
We get another comedic dose on p. 22, where Ramsey is giving his own rendition of the stereotypical fundamentalist preacher. He says that these pastors “gently instilled in the congregation a healthy fear of busses. ‘If you were hit by a bus walking home tonight (dramatic pause), do you know where you would spend eternity?’” He does make a good point that it is the fear of God that should occupy our thoughts more than death itself. Later, Ramsey astutely reminds us that our main concern should be loving God, not avoiding hell (56).
The bus gets another short cameo on p. 31, where we catch a lesson in what happens when the church doesn’t fear God. We preach a different Christ. “It’s the difference between Jesus dying for you or just giving up his seat on the bus for you.” Not so much comedic, but he plays the ball again.
Later, the author goes into a whole Keanu Reeves illustration under his subheading, “Hell and the Purgatorial Buss Pass” (51). As you can imagine the bus plays an even bigger descriptive role here. And just to finish us off, Ramsey ties that illustration into his closing (92).
For now on I will think of hell when I see a bus.
But again, I don’t want you to think that the comedic notes in the book take away from the seriousness of the author’s message. Ramsey doesn’t shy away from pressing the reader. He ends the book challenging us with the notion that our love for God should bear fruit. Our lifestyles shouldn’t cause fellow loved ones to wonder about our eternal life. He reminds us of the words of Jesus to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8). Then Ramsey pleas with us. If we believe the biblical doctrine of eternal hell to be true—and it is!—then it is cruel for us not to warn others whose lives do not bear the fruit of repentance.
I didn’t get into the details of how hell glorifies God, or of what we lose when we lose the doctrine of a biblical, eternal hell. That’s because I think you should read the book! I was encouraged by it, and the author wrote it for a broad audience. It also may be one of those books which you to buy an extra copy and mistakingly leave behind on your bus seat…
Aimee Byrd,Housewife Theologian
”Ramsey has great a done job defending the biblical teaching of hell.”
I guess it’s fine to do without Hell right? No. — That’s the main thesis of this book. How important is the doctrine of hell for a Christian? Quite important it seems. Ramsey has great a done job defending the biblical teaching of hell.
So why can’t we do away with this seemingly bad “PR” topic? Lots it seems. Four main things are lost to Christians (and even to non-Christians) who do not believe in the reality of hell. I will do a short summary of each of the chapters in the book.
We lose the fear of God. If hell isn’t real, then God doesn’t really hate sin. And if he doesn’t, then why should I be saved from sin?
We lose the holiness of God. Who have sinners truly offended? A truly infinitely holy God. Take out hell and you lose this important character of God. Ramsey also shows why, as Christians, we don’t just “hate the sin and love the sinner” (you have to read the book for it!).
We lose the gospel of God. Is being a Christian only about escaping hell? No! It’s much more than that. It shows how much God loved me despite my sins and willingly sent his Son to die and be resurrected for me. Take away hell, and there is no necessity of having Christ alone as our Savior.
We lose the love of God.This part deals with the more modern ideas of why Christians have to reject hell (e.g. Rob Bell’s book on hell). What they argue for is that the God who sends people to hell isn’t convincing enough, they need a God of love to convince them. What they have forgotten is how thoroughly sinful we really are. If God had waited for us to respond and then save us, he isn’t really that loving. But if God chooses to saves us from sure destruction while we will never turn to Him, that’s a truly loving God.
Lastly, an appendix to deal with annihilationism. Which is a short, good defense on why as Christians we should not believe in it. And a note to pastors on how to preach hell to your congregation.
What I found was good about this book was how the argument clearly showed the foolishness and danger in believing that Christians can actually remove hell and still have the essentials of the gospel intact. Ramsey shows that that is impossible. It was akin to how Machen showed that liberalism was not even remotely close to Christianity, and what the doctrines really meant.
One criticism about of the book was how Ramsey started the first one or two chapters rather casually. Too casually, I would suppose. I remember thinking that I would have changed some of them in a manner that would have brought out the seriousness of why Christians must believe in the doctrine of hell. Thankfully, that was the only time I had that thought, the rest of the book was great to read, engaging, and maintaining a seriousness to its tone without sound like a boring lecture.
This is a great book for all Christians to read. I doubt many would have thought about how important hell is to the Christian faith. After reading this, I doubt you would ever think in that same way.
Chris Ho in a 5-star review on Amazon