Handbook to Hell


Hortus Deliciarum - Hell (Hölle) Artist: Herrad von Landsberg (c. 1180)

Dear readers,

Christian History magazine is now considering putting together a sort of handbook, resource guide, or annotated bibliography on the history of Christian thought about hell. This should aid the research of folks whose interest in the topic has been stirred by Rob Bell‘s Love Wins, which has the Christian blogosphere buzzing and as of this writing sits as www.amazon.com’s  #16 book.

So next to my desk is an ample box of books on hell, and many more will arrive soon through interlibrary loan–because when I started searching the online catalogues of Twin Cities’ consortium of theological schools, I discovered an interesting thing: most local library copies of most books on this topic are now marked as “out.” This is no coincidence. It’s amazing how much influence a single book (e.g. Bell’s) can have in stirring up conversation and research on a single topic!

So for now, this post comes in the form of a request: Oh erudite reader, what Christian thinkers, movements, books, articles, must we not fail to consult in constructing our proposed “Handbook on the History of Hell in Christian Thought”? I look forward to hearing from many of you.

Yours in the hope of heaven,

Chris

8 responses to “Handbook to Hell

  1. Another interesting angle would be the mention of hell in hymnology. Certainly can’t think of any worship songs that mention judgment! Isaac Watts is a good source:

    May I with those for ever dwell
    Who here were my delight!
    While sinners, banished down to hell,
    No more offend my sight.

  2. How about some of the Eastern Greek Orthodox fathers.

  3. The Christian Humanist Podcast did an episode on Literary Hell a while back. A quick search on iTunes should turn that up.

  4. You would certainly want to include some mention of G. K. Chesterton, though I’m not sure exactly where to point you since his thoughts on the subject were, as always, scattered across many works. I’d include his poen ‘The Aristocrat’:

    The Devil is a gentleman, and asks you down to stay
    At his little place at What’sitsname (it isn’t far away).
    They say the sport is splendid; there is always something new,
    And fairy scenes, and fearful feats that none but he can do;
    He can shoot the feathered cherubs if they fly on the estate,
    Or fish for Father Neptune with the mermaids for a bait;
    He scaled amid the staggering stars that precipice, the sky,
    And blew his trumpet above heaven, and got by mastery
    The starry crown of God Himself, and shoved it on the shelf;
    But the Devil is a gentleman, and doesn’t brag himself.

    O blind your eyes and break your heart and hack your hand away,
    And lose your love and shave your head; but do not go to stay
    At the little place in What’sitsname where folks are rich and clever;
    The golden and the goodly house, where things grow worse for ever;
    There are things you need not know of, though you live and die in vain,
    There are souls more sick of pleasure than you are sick of pain;
    There is a game of April Fool that’s played behind its door,
    Where the fool remains for ever and the April comes no more,
    Where the splendour of the daylight grows drearier than the dark,
    And life droops like a vulture that once was such a lark:
    And that is the Blue Devil that once was the Blue Bird;
    For the Devil is a gentleman, and doesn’t keep his word.

  5. Your idea of researching Christian History Magazine on the topic of hell gave me the idea to search the topic of hell in all the Christian History Magazine in my Logos Bible Software. There were 791 hits in 454 articles. That was a great idea of yours, thanks.

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