I have been reading the book called “What the Hell” by Jackson Baer, off and on in my spare time for some time now. The author gave it to me freely, asking me to read it in hopes to change my mind about heaven and hell, and told me that in the process I could write a review about it. At first I was actually kind of nervous, I have never written a review for an author that I have spoken to, let alone one that has been so cordial and polite to me, in spite of differing views. So I wondered how I would be able to write a review about a book if in the end I still did not agree with the man; as I would be forced to speak out against him and that is not a position that I would enjoy. You see, it is no longer a matter of debate so much as it is a critique of work, my views on literature has usually been that of artwork. However, now I am having to transition into viewing books as scholarly works, particularly with right and wrong being addressed given the nature of the topic. I think I will miss the artwork view I had as a child. So as you can see, it was with some apprehension that I began this book.
To start with, the book is easy to follow, a fairly light read being that it is not overly burdened with scholarly tangents, laced with confusing words, and the type of book that spends 10 or 20 pages just to describe one word. It is much more to the point then that and flows rather smoothly. Also Baer does something that I genuinely think we are in desperate need of in these times; he asks questions. It is my belief that one cannot ask too many questions, and I only wish that the American population, as well as that of the church was far more inquisitive.
Now with all these things being said, I have a few bones to pick. In fact, I have many, too many to cover in a review. So I will pick a few, and try to sum it up from there, even make it a two part review. The book essentially can be summed up with “Why would a loving God send people He says He loves to be punished and tortured forever…that is just cruel, not loving.” I tried to keep an open mind about this matter, but I find it difficult knowing full well that I have offended a perfectly and eternally righteous God, and indeed deserve to be in Hell forever (making grace and forgiveness all the sweeter and richer!)
I would like to say, that our view of right and wrong, is often times skewed, wrong, or not in proportion to the way the Lord sees things. As a Christian we are to learn right and wrong in from His eyes, as much as we can being what and who we are, and forget looking through our own. He makes the laws, He dictates what is right and what is wrong and we have no say so; it is arrogance to imagine that we can. And I feel that this book is pushing that line.
In Baer’s book, it states that Hell is not eternal. He goes through a lot of work to prove this. So I would like to ask about this verse; Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life. (ASV) Baer tries to tell me that eternal doesn’t mean eternal when it comes to Hell. Well, I can conclude that eternal doesn’t mean eternal with heaven then too, if that’s the case. I would like to make a proposition; if Heaven is eternal, then so is Hell. If I didn’t know better, it would almost seem like Jackson Baer was calling Jesus a liar. However, I don’t imagine that is the case, as I truly want to believe that it is a misguided misunderstanding.
On page 59, Baer asks “What kind of glory would God get from tormenting His creation for all of eternity?” I personally am a bit offended by this, for it casts an incredibly negative light on a perfectly just and eternally righteous and holy God. It’s pretty simple…may I make another proposition? We DESERVE to be punished for eternity. But this is why the gospel is so offensive and is rejected by so many.
Baer uses analogies that are often emotionally driven….and not the most theologically accurate. Take for example page 60, “If you could prevent people from falling in this hole, wouldn’t you go to any length possible to make it impossible for any other person to die in this hole?” He wrote this in reference to hell and is suggesting that people innocently fall in this hole. I would like to make a proposition; God is perfectly righteous, and we are incredibly evil by nature, and so eternal hell is perfectly just.
I could go on all day, in fact I think I could possibly right a book as an answer to this book, but I think it best not to. For conclusion of part 1 of this review, it has been honestly painful to read one the most theologically flawed books that I have ever read. I do not recommend this book to anyone, it has no redeeming qualities. I do think perhaps Jackson Baer as a writer may turn out to be a decent one, but with heretical views and beliefs, I have no interest in every purchasing any of his books. If the few points that I hit on are not enough, I will try to provide a much longer and more exhaustive, though not complete, list of problems with this book at a later date. If this review comes across as rushed and in a hurry, it’s because it is. I had hoped to get it out a few months ago and I would like to apologize about that to everyone. In the mean time, I hope that you found this review helpful and as always God bless.