The Other Side of the Good News, Confronting the Contemporary Challenges to Jesus’ Teaching on Hell. By Larry Dixon. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1992. 216 pp. Paper, $14.99.
This is a very timely book in a day when many doctrines within the evangelical community are being questioned. The eternal, conscious punishment of unbelievers in the lake of fire is not exempt from this speculation.
Larry Dixon has written a very up-to-date treatment of the doctrine of hell. He discusses three alternatives to the traditional view: universalism, annihilationism, and post mortem conversion.
Universalism states that all people will eventually get to heaven. This view is primarily defended by an appeal to God’s love. Dixon rightly points out that God has more than one attribute, including among others, holiness and righteousness. These attributes demand that God judge sin. The Bible clearly teaches that people who reject Christ will go to hell.
The most serious challenge to the traditional view of hell is annihilationism. Dixon does an excellent job of refuting the evidences posited for this view. It appears that the main evidence revolves around words translated destruction and perish. There are many passages that show that destruction andperish do not mean extinction, but ruin. The use of words like eternal and torment argue strongly for eternal, conscious punishment. Luke 16:19–31, whether a parable or not, teaches the idea of conscious punishment after death.
The author then reviews belief in post mortem conversion, which has no biblical evidence.
His chapter on Jesus’ view of hell is well done and has an excellent presentation of Luke 16:19–31. His last chapter deals with additional issues and questions that are related to the doctrine of eternal punishment.
The book is not without its weaknesses, however. There are some places that reflect the author’s views on Lordship Salvation and perseverance, but they are only mentioned in passing.
Dixon also holds to the metaphorical view of hell, which states that the flames may not be literal, but that the word fire conveys torment of some kind. It would have been helpful to see a discussion of the pros and cons of the literal versus the metaphorical view.
However, this is a great resource on the doctrine of hell and should be read by anyone interested in this issue.
R. Michael Duffy