Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review of Julie Ferwerda's Raising Hell

Here's my review of Julie Ferwerda's new book on

Finally, permission to think for ourselves!

For too long most Christians have been told the Bible they hold in their hands is inerrant, miraculously preserved, and its pronouncements should be accepted without question. Any doubts about the Bible's major teachings are interpreted as "liberal" bias or "heresy." Julie Ferwerda, in Raising Hell: Christianity's Most Controversial Doctrine Put Under Fire, reveals why these assumptions are grossly misplaced.

On the issue of hell, Julie brilliantly weaves the case for believers to think for themselves and honestly investigate this controversial doctrine. One that, for many of us, clashes with our sense of reason and experience with God's love. If you have a high view of scripture and you've ever openly (or secretly) questioned the concept of eternal conscious punishment, this book is a must read. It traces Julie's sincere quest for biblically affirming answers about the afterlife based on objective scholarship.

Our modern Bible is the product of centuries of institutional and theological interpretations that may or may not be accurate. What Julie does is show us how important it is to understand what a Bible passage originally meant. If we don't, we are not honoring the Bible but dishonoring it. Julie's conclusion is the modern church, through mistranslations and misinterpretations, reads hell into the Bible, rather than derives it from the original meaning. When we read the Bible with a "Hebrew lens," we discover the modern concept of hell is foreign, she says. As she clearly argues, she's not the first person to come to this conclusion. The notion of everlasting torment was not a widely held view for centuries--including among early Church fathers--until the Western (Catholic) Church took root.

Having taken the same journey as Julie's, I especially appreciate this courageously written book that helps readers think critically while maintaining their faith. Far from advocating an easy believism, Julie's Christian Universalist take on the hereafter doesn't belittle God's judgment, but puts it into the context of a consistently loving God. Without an air of superiority (that some Universalists may have), Julie uses both heart and head to make her case. You will enjoy her personal vignettes and appreciate her in-depth biblical research (Part 4 alone, the Resources for sound Bible study are worth the price of admission). Whether you welcome such a message or find it unsettling, Julie will give you a smooth ride and let you come to your own conclusion.


Battersea Boy said...

It's a real shame Julie couldn't get her book published and has therefore resorted to the self-publishing world of the Kindle.

Robin said...

Good review of an amazing book. So please with her writing. We must teach our children Hebrew culture & how to use Greek and Hebrew lexicons!

Michael Camp said...


I assume you mean "traditional publishing." Yes it is ashame her book can't reach a wider audience, but the word is still getting out! Thanks for commenting.

Yes, we need to teach people how to read the Bible contextually.

Randy said...

Not to worry Battersea Boy, this book will get out. Anything wanted by billions of people as much as an alternative to certain death and punishment will someday soar.