Reviewed by John A. Lynn
Is fire actually a preservative?
Silly question? Well, isn’t that what the traditional doctrine of eternal torment really teaches?
The Fire That Consumes is an excellent book that provides a comprehensive look at this controversial subject. As the flyleaf says, the notion of conscious, unending torment for the wicked has long troubled the minds and hearts of many devout Christians. Most have presumed it to be the biblical teaching, and so not subject to question. The Christian Church in general has never given this subject thorough and open-minded study. The Fire That Consumes does just that. Its comprehensive scope, thorough research, and readable style commend it to scholar and lay person alike.
The book first asks, “What does the Bible actually teach about the end of the wicked?” Like the traditional view, it concludes that the Lake of Fire is final and irreversible. Unlike the traditional view, however, it finds the ultimate punishment to be “eternal destruction”—the wicked, once totally consumed, will cease to exist forever. A second question naturally follows: “If the Bible does not teach eternal, conscious torment, where did the idea come from and why is it so generally held in the Church?”
The Fire That Consumes searches through the centuries for the answer—and finds it in the pagan notion of immortal souls that crept into early Christian thinking.