On my to-read list for this year is a book called Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray which Westminster Books has on sale for only $5! The very mention of the word depression can be rather off putting to many – especially Christians. You might ask, “How can a Christian be depressed?” What many Christians don’t realize is that a number of famous Christians battled with depression like Martyn Lloyd Jones and according to a recent study about 70% of pastors struggle with is as well.
This book is not about clinical depression (which is another issue) but spiritual depression. The kind of depression that more Christians get than want to admit to both by those who experience it and those who don’t.
This book can really be read by any Christian whether or not you have or are experiencing spiritual depression.
Here are some endorsements for Christians Get Depressed Too:
“David Murray has written the most helpful, concise, and pastoral Christian treatment of this subject that I have encountered. If you have friends or family members who have experienced depression; if you have experienced depression; or if you want to know how to minister effectively to those who have, then you need to read this book.”
— Guy Waters, Associate Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi; Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America
“If I felt depressed, Christians Get Depressed Too is the first place I would turn. If I had a family or church member fighting depression, it is the first book I would hand out… If you fight depression, read and re-read this usable, balanced, and timely book; if you don’t fight depression, read it to be informed how to relate to your friends that do, and give a copy to each of them.”— Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
Westminster Books has this on sale for only $5!
If you pay attention to them, the very combination of the words ‘hell under fire‘ should make you pause and think. I suppose that was the intent of the publisher when they came up with the title. Well – it worked. What is ironic about the title Hell Under Fire is that fire is a word that Scripture uses to describe hell. I suppose the subtitle ‘Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment’ implies that the critical nature of modern scholarship towards the doctrine of hell is itself fiery. Do you see the picture forming here? Liberal modern scholarship is exacting its own fire on the traditional orthodox view of hell which includes the description of hell as fire. Is the picture getting clearer? Fire is being used to fight against fire.
Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert A. Peterson is a riveting and clear defense of the orthodox position of hell that it is real, eternal and will include conscious suffering. The book has a powerful line up of contributors such as Al Mohler on Modern Theology: The Disappearance of Hell, G.K. Beale on The Revelation on Hell, Douglas Moo on Paul on Hell and J.I. Packer on Universalism: Will Everyone Ultimately Be Saved? The contributors do not mince words in their faithful defense of the historic position of hell. It is not an exaggeration to say that as these authors present the Biblical doctrine of hell they expose the inaccurate and unfounded claims of universalism and annihilationism. Every chapter in this book is worth commenting on but the focus of this review will only be on a few of them.
From the outset Mohler’s words are spot on when it comes to the consequences of redefining hell:
…No doctrine stands alone. Each doctrine is embedded in a system of theological conviction and expression. Take out the doctrine of hell, and the entire shape of Christian theology is inevitably altered (p. 16).
In chapter two Daniel Block presents the Old Testament contribution to the doctrine of hell. Block admittedly states that the OT teaches very little on hell. Block seeks to answer four questions: (1) How does the OT refer to the abode of the dead?, (2) Who occupies the netherworld?, (3) What conditions greet those who enter the netherworld and (4) What evidence does the OT provide for the Christian doctrine of hell as eternal punishment (p. 44)? Most notably are OT passages such as Ezekiel 32:22-23, Isaiah 66:1-17 and Daniel 12:1-3. “Ezekiel offers the fullest description of the deceased in the netherworld in his oracles against the nations (p. 53).” Isaiah clearly shows a contrast between the eternal state of believers and unbelievers and Daniel 12 points to a time in the future when men will see their eternal fate (p. 62). In conclusion to the OT doctrine of hell Block states:
…the general tenor of the Old Testament seems to reflect a conviction that people continue to live even after they die. Logic would suggest that any belief in the resurrection would be based on this supposition…..It is difficult to imagine a doctrine of resurrection without an understanding of the continued existence of the person in some (spiritual) form after death (p. 58-59).
In chapter three Robert Yarbrough handles the passages in the New Testament where Jesus talks about hell. Yarbrough minces no words when it comes to attempts to alter the Biblical doctrine of hell:
The problem is that if Jesus spoke as frequently and directly about hell as Gospel writers claim, then it may not be the Christina message that we end up proclaiming if we modify his doctrine of posthumous existence….If the historic doctrine of hell is to be set aside, it is most of all Jesus’ teachings that must be neutralized (p. 71-72).
Yarbrough first walks through the Gospels to see what Jesus actually said concerning hell. It is clear that Jesus said too much about its reality, eternality and conscious unending punishment to pass it off as temporary and merely used as a scare tactic. Throughout his chapter Yarbrough interacts a lot with Edward W. Fudge, noted annihilationist. Yarbrough honestly engages Fudge’s argument of several passages presenting Fudge’s position is his own words. Fudge believes that while hell is real it will only be the experience of some for a short period of time (p. 77-78) and that “the traditionalist notion of everlasting torment in hell springs directly from that non-biblical teaching (p. 83).” That non-biblical teaching is Greek Platonic philosophy. After addressing the second claim Yarbrough responds by saying,
To demonstrate Plato’s influence it would be helpful to see at least a fair number of patristic authorities explicitly adducing Plato to help ground their interpretation of Jesus’ teaching on hell. To my knowledge no one has produced such a study…..If our aim is to be faithful to Scripture, we must face what Jesus’ teachings have been understood to assert by most biblical interpreters over many centuries, cutting across a wide assortment of confessional and denominational settings…..the frequent first move of discrediting the historical view by accusing it of early and Platonic origin lacks credible basis (p. 87).
In chapter four Douglas Moo deals with Paul on hell. This is perhaps the strongest chapter in the book. From Romans 1:18-2:11 Moo wonderfully points out that,
“Death,” “condemnation,” “wrath,” and the :curse” a;; descend on human beings as a result of Adam’s sin. Human beings are, therefore, already in a state of “perishing.” This condition is fixed forever for those who do not respond to God’s grace in Christ and the work of his spirit. But it is also clear that the condition that follows final judgment is an intensified form of what unbelievers now experience (p. 93).
Moo’s statement here points to what he calls an “inaugurated eschatology” of judgment. People come to death as already condemned because of our relationship to Adam (p. 94; Rom. 5:12-21). Moo also aptly notes that “Paul and his readers assumed the doctrine of hell as so basic that he did not need to provide extensive evidence for it (p. 95).” Moo addresses passages like I Cor. 15:20-28,Rom. 5:18, Col. 1:20 and 2 Thess. 1:8-9. Moo’s conclusion on Paul’s doctrine of hell is that he “presents the judgment that comes on the wicked as the necessary response of a holy and entirely just God. For Paul, the doctrine of hell is a necessary corollary of the divine nature (p. 109).
In chapter six Christopher Morgan looks at the doctrine of hell from a biblical theology stand point in the New Testament. He looks at three picture of hell in Scripture:
- Punishment is frequently portrayed as retribution, judgment, suffering, and torment by fire.
- Destruction is often described as perishing, death, or the second death.
- Banishment is commonly pictured as separation from the kingdom of God, exclusion from the presence of God, or being cut off from something living (p. 136)
Morgan bear out these three pictures in a number of ways. First, he walks briefly through every book and writer in the NT and touches on their passages on hell. Then he fleshes out the three pictures of hell from the NT. Finally, he concludes by interpreting these three central pictures of hell. Morgan states that these pictures characterize hell as eternal (p. 148). They also “interweave with biblical portraits of God” as Judge, warrior and King (p. 149-50). Also, the three pictures of hell “flow naturally from biblical portraits of sin,” they “also appear to illustrate the biblical doctrine of the atonement,” they “stand in contrast with biblical portraits of salvation,” and they also “stand in contrast with biblical portraits of the kingdom of heaven (p. 150).”
In chapters eight and nine J.I. Packer and Christopher Morgan address the positions of universalism and annihilationism respectively. Packer point out that “most universalists concede that universalism is not clearly taught in the Bible (p. 171).” However, “it is argued that the biblical revelation of God’s love to his world entails a universal salvific intention, that is, a purpose of saving everybody, and that sooner or later God must achieve that purpose (p. 171).” For annihilationism, or as it is preferred to be called, conditionalism, Morgan defines it as “the belief that God has created all human beings only potentially immortal. Upon being united to Christ, believers partake in the divine nature and receive immortality. Unbelievers never receive this capacity to live forever and ultimately cease to exist (p. 196).” Perhaps the best argument against this view is found in Revelation 20:15 which reads, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (p. 218).”
In the final chapter of the book Sinclair Ferguson offers some concluding pastoral remarks. Ferguson admits honestly that the very thought of an eternal hell of suffering for people is “emotionally intolerable (p. 220).” However, we must grapple with the reality that “hell exists; this is the testimony of the Scriptures, of the apostles, and of the Lord Jesus himself (p. 220).” Ferguson calls preachers of the Word to preach at least four things about hell from Scripture:
- Hell is real.
- Hell is vividly described in the pages of the New Testament.
- Hell, though prepared for the devil and his angels, is shared by real human beings.
- Most important, in expounding and teaching the biblical teaching on hell, we must emphasize that there is a way of salvation (p. 226-28).
His final words provide the preacher of the Word with great encouragement as we preach the biblical doctrine of hell:
Hell is at the end of the day the darkness outside; dense like a black hole, it is the place of cosmic waste. Who can contemplate this for long? Who, indeed, is sufficient for these things? The question is surely rhetorical. None of us is sufficient. But our sufficiency is to be found in Christ, the Savior, the Perfect Man, the Redeemer, the Judge. We must constantly remind ourselves that it is the Savior who spoke clearly of the dark side of eternity. To be faithful to him, so must we (p. 237).
Hell Under Fire is a much needed corrective to much of the teaching within evangelicalism today on the doctrine of hell. This book needs to be read by every pastor and student of the Word. Read this book with Bible in hand and allow the Word of God to shape your heart and mind on the doctrine of hell.
The Sword of the Lord publication was founded by John R. Rice and has been around for over 80 years. John R. Rice has been a staple name among fundamentalists as a result of his evangelistic preaching and proliferation of books and other various publications. Rice has a long family history stretching all the way back to before the Civil War. Rice moved among the great evangelists and fundamentalists of his day including Bob Jones Sr., William Bell Riley, Stephen Paine and J. Frank Norris.
Most, if not all, of the Rice family members followed the family tradition of ministry save one – Andrew Himes. Andrew is the self proclaimed black sheep of the Rice family. Though he grew up with his grandfather John R. Rice and the other Rice family members, Andrew left the family fold when he went to college in an effort to find what he felt he had never found in the God of his family.
Since the funeral of John r. Rice in 1980, Andrew has been on a thirty year journey “back” to God. In an effort to understand his family heritage better Himes began to dig deep. The result is his new book The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family. His digging took him all the way back to before the Civil War with the migration of the Scots-Irish immigrants during the early half of the 18th century. Himes felt that in order to better understand the fundamentalist roots of his family he had to go all the way back to the beginning. He states:
My intention is to explore the roots of Fundamentalism in America in a critical, thoughtful, and honest way, using the history of my own family of Baptist fundamentalists as a rich source of insight (p. v).
In the second part of the book Himes painstakingly documents minute details about the early American history of the Rice family. Throughout the book Himes beautifully weaves his own history in the Rice family with that of the entire Rice family. Reaching all the way back to the transition from the 16th to 17th century, Himes gives a short history of how the Rice family wove their way through some of the most major historical movements in American history and how they played a role in some of the most influential events that shaped the American religious, social and political landscape.
Historically, Himes points out that the Rice family came from what might have otherwise been thought of as an unlikely mix. He states:
The children of the English Puritans and the children of the Scots-Irish Presbyterians in the south found common ground in the struggle to create a new democratic republic and oppose a monarchy that was working at cross-purposes to the evident will of God. The roots of the 20th century American fundamentalism can be discerned in the confluence of these two streams of immigration, culture, and history. A unique American expression of evangelical Christianity emerged – profoundly democratic, anti-royalist and anti-clerical, militant and missional, convinced that Gods was on the side of Americans (p. 29).
Of particular interest to readers, especially contemporary self-identified Fundamentalist, is the deep seeded involvement of the Rice family (and pre-fundamentalists for that matter) in the slave trade of the 1700′s. The Rice family moved from anti-slavery Tennessee to Missouri in order to live out their pro-slavery mindset and theology (p. 37). Eventually by the late 1800′s it seems the Rice’s removed themselves from the slave trade only because of the results of the Civil War (p. 78). However, while the Rice family may have been out of the slave trade, the racism that supported it would follow them for years to come.
Part three of the book deals with the pre-history of the Fundamentalism and role the Rice family played in shaping it. Himes traces a number of theological factors that he feels played a role in founding and moving early Fundamentalism forward amidst the rise of modernism.
First, premilliennialism was the eschatological view that shaped the way fundamentalist Christians engaged within the cultural evils of their day. Himes labors to show how historically new premillennial eschatology was compared to more historically received views like amillennialism. Himes fells that this kind of eschatology necessarily downplays the involvement of Christians in and concern for societal and cultural reform. He states,
Darby’s followers assumed that any attempt to reform society according to Christian principles was both fruitless and heretical. They believed the Kingdom of Heaven to be a literal place where God reigned on a literal golden throne and where Christians went to live for eternity after death (p. 106).
Therefore, according to Himes, this new eschatological view turned Christians away from seeking to bring cultural renewal through the gospel to focusing primarily on the fate of one’s soul. Himes attempts to note what he might call a fair distinction among premillennialists in this regard:
For many premillennialists, God was both an angry God and a God of love, a God intolerant of sin and eager to forgive. They believed Christians should be concerned both with social reform on earth and the fate of one’s soul in the afterlife. For the most extreme premillennialists, however, no other problem on earth truly mattered compared to saving souls from a literal and eternal hell – not poverty, injustice, hunger, inequality, ignorance, disease, slavery or war (p. 108).
Another notable foundational shaping factor to early fundamentalism was the rise of modernism and theological liberalism. While the fruit of the 16th and 17th century scientific revolution had produced great economic, social and cultural progress, it also had effects on Christianity and the interpretation of the Bible. Himes feels that the higher critical method of interpretation was actually a “broadening” of Biblical understanding (p. 115). This higher critical method influenced many Christians who were “more willing to accept new ideas that had emerged” from it and “tended to be more politically progressive, more attuned to the ‘social gospel,’ and more intent on the message of social justice they discern in the teaching and life of Jesus (p. 117).”
Perhaps the event that had the most notable negative impact on Christianity at this time was the Scopes Money Trial of 1925. The unfortunate results of this trial had a devastating blow on conservative Christianity. Himes notes:
Over the next several years many in the fundamentalist movement in America embarked on a sorrowful and indignant, half-century-long retreat from public life. Within a few years after the death of William Jennings Bryan, the view among fundamentalists had become more consolidated (173).
Part four addresses the beginning of Fundamentalism. With all of the blows conservative Christianity was dealt, it is from this that Fundamentalism as a movement emerged. It is within Fundamentalism that the Rice family is most remembered. It is on the heels of the Scopes Monkey Trial that “John R. Rice began his full-time career as a revival evangelist in 1926 (p. 174).” It was from his first church in Dallas, Texas that Rice rose to fame and eight years later, in 1934, founded The Sword of the Lord publication. While Rice was close friends with J. Frank Norris, noted famous fundamentalist preacher of the Southern states, it was the success Rice received from his new publication that eventually drove them to part ways (p. 194).
Interestingly enough, in the early days of Rice and The Sword of the Lord publication, Rice was close friends and ministry partners with Billy Graham. Rice and Graham met each other in 1940 at Wheaton and Rice became Graham’s mentor (p. 202). Though these two men enjoyed great success together, they eventually were driven apart as Graham would later join forces with what was known as the ‘new evangelicals’ and men like Carl F. Henry and Harold Ockenga through Graham’s new publication Christianity Today (p. 229-30). Despite much pleading with Rice, Graham was unable to convince him to remain ministry partners. That Graham was a public figure, his separation from Rice dealt a devastating blow to Fundamentalism and Rice’s famous publication, The Sword of the Lord. The fall out resulted in the subscription of The Sword to plunge from 106,000 to 66,000 (p. 230). “Fundamentalists themselves were back in the wilderness (p. 230).”
Over time though, The Sword was able to regain their support and by 1970 they had over 130,000 subscribers (p. 257) and would later reach over 300,00 (p. 259). Rice was back in business. Despite fall out with Bob Jones Sr. (p. 260), Rice was able to make alliances with Jerry Falwell and became a shaping force behind the founding of the Moral Majority (p. 266).
At the end of Rice’s career he seemed to be torn over the mass separation that Fundamentalism had produced. During his last message in 1980, Rice preached from John 10:16 in which he reminded The Sword of the Lord conference listeners that Jesus had other sheep from other folds. Rice said,
The truth is there are a lot of other people who are God’s people and they’re my people too…..What about all those others, the people you don’t like very much? Do you love the people of God who don’t see things like you do? How about Billy Graham? I pray for him every day (p. 270).
As Himes has shown us, the Rice family has a long and deeply American history which touches some of America’s greatest political, social and religious aspects.
There are a few concluding thoughts I have on the book and Himes presentation of his family and Fundamentalism.
First, while some of the facts that Himes presents may not sit well with some ardent Fundamentalist supporters, they are true. They did own slaves and were supporters of segregation. No one is free of things they or their family has done and neither is Fundamentalism or the Rice family. Himes tries to bring both the bad and the good to light as it pertains to his family.
Second, while Rice does attempt to offer a balanced view of his family history, there is clearly a race agenda for Himes. In fact, the race issue appears in almost every chapter in the book. I assume that it would have been almost impossible for Himes not to do this because he was/is a strong defender of racial equality which began when he was 14 and has been a driving issue in his life (p. 40-41; 155-56). Himes fight for racial equality is definitely good but his families opposing view on it dominates his account of their history (p. 35-68; 156-62).
Third, while at times I was literally laughing at the descriptions of Fundamentalism as Himes experienced it (p. 8-15 – especially since much of it was true in my experience), at other times I was in total disagreement and even shocked at the inaccuracies. This inaccuracy is most clearly seen in the chapters called “Billy Sunday and the Premillennials” and “The Fundamentals“. In these two chapters Himes gives his summary of the modernist and conservative view of theology especially as it pertains to the doctrine of Scripture. Himes says,
The final list of canonical books was still being sharply disputed in the 16th century during the Reformation, and to this day Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox theologians disagree about the list. Most of the manuscripts that formed the basis of the Bible we have today date from the Middle Ages, and almost none of these were fully identical (p. 115).
That the books of the canon were still being “sharply disputed” during the Reformation is grossly exaggerated if not totally false. Sure, Luther thought the book of James was not inspired and other fringe groups/people disputed the authenticity of other books of the Bible. But the majority of the church recognized the 66 books of the Bible as inspired and authentic by the end of the 4th century as any Orthodox Church historian will attest to. There are other places within the pages of “The Fundamentals” that characteristics of both conservatives and liberals are inaccurately mixed and confused. In light of how well much of the research is done for most of the book this part is severely lacking. However, the way some things are worded causes me to think Himes has sympathies for modernists and liberals. Presenting facts is one thing, but how you present them can show your hand which I think is what Himes does.
Fourth, akin to Himes emphasis on the race issue, Himes greatly emphasizes the social involvement and non-involvement of the Rice family and Fundamentalism. Again, this coincides with Himes personal life journey of seeking to bring social reform where needed. Social reform is good but readers need to pay attention to Himes own life as a backdrop to how some of the Rice family history is presented.
Overall I enjoyed the book and learned a number of things about the Rice family, The Sword and Fundamentalism that I never knew. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of their Fundamentalist roots from one who both lived on the inside of the story but clearly writes as one on the outside looking in. This is not a primer on Fundamentalist history but rather a unique view on a unique family and movement from a genuinely unique person.
Thank you Andrew Himes for opening us to a part of Fundamentalist and American history that is perhaps sadly unknown to many within the movement and yet needs to be remembered and learned from.
You can purchase this book from Amazon or Himes site.
NOTE: This book was provided for free and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.