The Weekly Hit List: February 27, 2015

RELEVANT Magazine published “Are We Missing Something Important About Prayer?” by Todd Billings, author of Rejoicing in Lament.

“‘For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace’ (Psalm 102:3).

“When my lips cried these words in a public prayer service, it felt like I was exposing a wound. I had just been diagnosed with a lethal, incurable cancer. My expected lifespan had been chopped by decades. The cancer had already burned through the inside of my bones—like a furnace.

“Lament is bringing our grief and our protest before the Almighty when life doesn’t make sense.

“Praying this Psalm of lament felt a bit like speaking a foreign language. As a young Christian, I had been taught that prayer consisted of ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. I found that structure helpful, and I still do. But there’s something missing: lament. Lament is not confession, and it can’t be reduced to bringing our petitions and supplications before God. Lament is bringing our grief and our protest before the Almighty when life doesn’t make sense.”

Read the entire article here.


Other Rejoicing in Lament Media:

Today marks the end of a two-week blog tour for Rejoicing in Lament by J. Todd Billings. A complete list of posts, and the giveaway winners announcement, are on the blog tour web site.

Rejoicing in Lament was quoted on the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries blog: “Remedy for Control.”

Dillon Thorton recommended Rejoicing in Lament.

Jordan Mark Stone recommended Rejoicing in Lament


Kingdom Conspiracy Media:

Scot McKnight spoke with a panel at Westminster Theological Centre about Kingdom Conspiracy.

Jon Beadle recommended Kingdom Conspiracy.

Scott Lencke reviewed Kingdom Conspiracy.

Scot McKnight wrote “A Robust Kingdom” on Jesus Creed.


Quick Hits:

Craig Detweiler, author of iGods, was interviewed by Warren Cole Smith for WORLD Magazine.

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory by Jerry L. Walls was reviewed on The Christian Humanist blog.

Miroslav Volf, author of A Public Faith, was quoted in USA Today.

Wendy VanderWal-Gritter, author of Generous Spaciousness, was interviewed on WikiGod Podcast.

Nicole Baker Fulgham, author of Educating All God’s Children, is speaking at Inhabit: Faithful Practice in the New Commons at the Seattle School of Theology & Psychology.

The Weekly Hit List: February 6, 2015

Jerry L. Walls, author of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, was interviewed by David Baggett for Moral Apologetics.

“Well, I was raised in Knockemstiff, Ohio, and ‘hellfire and damnation’ was often preached about in my little country church, especially during revivals. Listening to the sermons at Bethel Chapel, there was no doubt that issues of life and death were at stake in how one responded to the gospel.  I was converted at age 11 in response to a sermon on the text, ‘there is but one step between death and thee.’

“Several years later, I went to Princeton seminary, and many students as well as faculty were dubious about the idea of hell, and some rejected the afterlife altogether. The clash between my religious formation and my formal theological training was existentially riveting for me, and provoked me to think seriously about heaven and hell and whether there really are good reasons to believe in them or not. After graduating from Princeton, I went to Yale Divinity school, where I wrote a master’s thesis on hell, and I have been thinking and writing about these issues ever since!”

Read the entire interview here.


Rejoicing in Lament Media:

J. Todd Billings, author of Rejoicing in Lament, wrote “Lament: Self-Indulgent Whining, or Faithful Complaints?” for Reformation 21.

“As I spent more and more time in study and prayer with the Psalms I realized how often I had been ‘skipping over’ its sharp cries of grief, its protests to the Lord, its complaints about enemies. In a Christianity always seeking to be upbeat, centered on helping us to discover and fulfill our dreams, I had missed the centrality of lament: raw complaints and protests before the Lord.

“As a cancer patient whose life expectancy had likely been chopped off by decades, I felt grief and anger. But am I supposed to ‘bring those emotions to church,’ and risk being a complainer? The prayer of Psalm 102:23-24 was clear enough: ‘In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days. So I said: “Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days.”‘

“Apparently, God can handle our complaints.”

Read the entire article here.


In a new video, Todd Billings reminisced reminisced on how the community at Western Theological Seminary supported him during some of his darkest days.


Quick Hits:

Colossians (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) by Christopher R. Seitz was reviewed by Steve Bishop.

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory by Jerry L. Walls was mentioned by Patheos blogger Keith Parsons.


This Just In: Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory by Jerry L. Walls

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things That Matter Most
by Jerry L. Walls


“Walls may not tell us everything we would like to know about what happens after death, but he tells us what we need to know and much of what we want to know, and does it with style and verve. This book clearly explains why heaven and hell are crucial if human existence is to be fully meaningful, and it even gives an account of purgatory that should be acceptable to Protestants. This is a wonderful book that inspires hope by clearly showing what God’s love for humanity means for us.”
C. Stephen Evans, University Professor, Baylor University

Will heaven be boring? How can a good and loving God send people to hell? Is there such a place as purgatory? If so, why is it necessary, if we’re saved by grace?

Questions about the afterlife abound. Given what is at stake, they are the most important questions we will ever consider. Recent years have seen a surge of Christian books written by people claiming to have received a glimpse of the afterlife, and numerous books, films, and TV shows have apocalyptic or postapocalyptic themes. Jerry Walls, a dynamic writer and expert on the afterlife, distills his academic writing on heaven, hell, and purgatory to offer clear biblical, theological, and philosophical grounding for thinking about these issues. He provides an ecumenical account of purgatory that is compatible with Protestant theology and defends the doctrine of eternal hell. Walls shows that the Christian vision of the afterlife illumines the deepest and most important issues of our lives, changing the way we think about happiness, personal identity, morality, and the very meaning of life.


Jerry L. Walls (PhD, University of Notre Dame), a world-class expert on the afterlife and a sought-after speaker, has written for Christianity Today, First Things, and Christian Century. He has appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation and in the documentary film Hellbound. Walls, professor of philosophy and scholar in residence at Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas, is the coauthor of Why I Am Not a Calvinist and the Christianity Today Book Award Winner Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality. He has authored or edited a dozen books, including a trilogy on the afterlife–Hell: The Logic of Damnation, Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation, and Heaven: The Logic of Eternal Joy–and is a senior speaking fellow for the Morris Institute for Human Values.


Praise for Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory:

“No one in our time has worked more diligently to understand heaven, hell, purgatory, and the related cluster of issues than has Jerry Walls. And no one is more talented than he at expressing in vivid, accessible prose the conclusions of top-level scholarship. This book will answer an entire handful of the Big Questions and deserves a wide readership indeed.”
John G. Stackhouse Jr., Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture, Regent College, Vancouver

“Jerry Walls has spent much of his academic career providing an account of the Christian story of the afterlife from a rigorous, analytic-philosophical perspective. He has subjected the doctrines of heaven, hell, and purgatory to careful and ingenious scrutiny. He has also considered questions about the grounds for morality. In this book he condenses much of this research into one accessible volume that deals with all these issues as well as the problems of evil they raise and the question of personal identity beyond the grave. It is a terrific resource that will be of use to all those for whom such things are pressing theological and existential concerns.”

Oliver Crisp, professor of systematic theology, Fuller Theological Seminary

“Jerry Walls has written a book that should be read by anyone interested in the personal, philosophical, or religious significance of death and whether it is reasonable to believe that there is life after death. I wager that there is no living philosopher who has thought more deeply or written with such clear, engaging prose about the prospects of a Christian philosophy of death and afterlife.”
Charles Taliaferro, professor of philosophy, St. Olaf College

“Jerry Walls offers an insightful, accessible defense of heaven, hell, and purgatory. Though still unpersuaded about the latter, I would urge the reading of this book, first, for the important theological and philosophical insights it affords concerning hell (the realm of the illusory triumph of the creature’s will) and heaven (the new, transformed—though still physical—earth and heaven that are permeated by God’s presence and blessing); indeed, much wisdom on these doctrines alone is to be found herein. Second, concerning purgatory, Protestants have a unique opportunity to more fully understand the arguments for and then to properly assess the merits (!) of this doctrine. The book is sure to generate much lively discussion and deepened understanding.”
Paul Copan, Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University

“Never resorting to overbearing jargon or convoluted arguments, Walls provides readers with insights that are clear, concise, and penetrating. He sorts through the various stances on a number of issues related to the afterlife in a way that is respectful and courteous. This book, which makes the afterlife as solid and as real as this life—not stiff, sentimental, or founded upon fear—will be a more than welcome addition to a Christian’s library.”
Devin Brown, author of A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis

“Jerry Walls shows once again that on the four last things—death, judgment, hell, and heaven—he is by far the most thoughtful evangelical philosopher. His mastery of Scripture, historical theology, and the philosophical literature is unmatched.”
Francis J. Beckwith, professor of philosophy and church-state studies, Baylor University

The Weekly Hit List: January 30, 2015

Ronald J. Sider, author of Nonviolent Action (February 2015), was interviewed in Plough Quarterly.

“Leading Christians have lent moral backing to military action against the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS), citing the Just War doctrine. Christian pacifists, meanwhile, have struggled to suggest convincing alternatives at a time when preaching nonviolence can seem naïve, even heartless. But does the Just War tradition give its adherents a blank check in such a situation?

“We turned to Ron Sider, founder of Evangelicals for Social Action and a dean among Christian pacifists, who lately has been talking about a truce with Just War Christians – while challenging all of us to go beyond easy answers.”

Read the rest of “Does ISIS Prove Nonviolence Wrong?: Making Peace with Just Warriors: An Interview with Ron Sider” here.


Ronald Sider also wrote “What Christian Ethics Demands, But Most Christians Have Yet to Seriously Try” for Sojourners.


Kingdom Conspiracy Media:

Evangelicals for Social Action reviewed Kingdom Conspiracy.

Midwest Book Review reviewed Kingdom Conspiracy.

Richard Heyduck reviewed Kingdom Conspiracy.

Scot McKnight wrote “Kingdom of God, Politics, and Romans 13.”


Quick Hits:

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory by Jerry L. Walls was reviewed by Nick Peters.

Craig Detweiler, author of iGods, was featured in a Calvin College Chimes article.


Every Theology Needs Purgatory (an Excerpt from Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory by Jerry L. Walls)

The following is an excerpt from chapter four of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things That Matter Most  (February 2015) by Jerry L. Walls.


So here are the basic facts every theology needs to account for. First, heaven is a place of total perfection, full of light, beauty, and goodness. Nothing impure or unclean can enter there (Rev. 21:27). To enter heaven, we must be completely holy. The book of Hebrews urges us to “pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14 NRSV).

Notice a couple things about this holiness. In the first place, it is necessary to see the Lord. It is not optional nor merely a recommendation for “super saints” that the rest of us can ignore. Moreover, even though the persons to whom the author is writing are Christians, he does not assume they are already holy in the sense he has in mind. That is why he urges them to pursue holiness. It is essential to see the Lord, but they do not already possess it, at least not fully.

To use a classic theological term, those in heaven must be fully perfect in character in such a way that they are “impeccable,” which means they can no longer sin. Doing evil must be impossible for the redeemed in heaven.

Now here is the second basic fact. The great majority of persons—all, according to many theological traditions—are far from perfect when they die. This is true despite the fact that they are justified, forgiven by God, and restored to a right relationship with him. And it is true despite the fact that they have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and made a new creation in Christ. Indeed, this is true even on the assumption that everyone has made at least some progress in the pursuit of holiness, some more than others. The obvious fact remains that most are not completely holy, let alone impeccable, when they die.

So, in brief, here is the question. What do we say about the second of these facts in light of the first fact? Well, there are broadly three possibilities. First, we could say that anyone who is less than fully perfect when he or she dies is lost and goes to hell. Second, we could say that God will instantly perfect us at the moment of death as an act of sovereign grace. He could simply zap us and thereby perfect us. Third, we could say that God will continue the sanctification process after death with our free cooperation until we are fully and completely perfect.

We can rule out the first option rather quickly. It has been held by some Christians but is a tiny minority view, and I shall not consider it any further. The real contest is between options 2 and 3. Option 2 is the view held by most Protestants, and option 3 is held by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and a minority of Protestants.

But either way we go on this matter, we have to have some sort of doctrine of purgatory. Consider this quote from John Fletcher, an Anglican theologian of the eighteenth century: “If we understand by purgatory, the manner in which souls, still polluted with the remains of sin, are, or may be purged from those remains, that they may see a holy God, and dwell with him forever; the question, Which is the true purgatory? is by no means frivolous: for it is the grand inquiry, How shall I be eternally saved? proposed in different expressions.” Fletcher’s point is that every system of theology must have an account of how we are “purged” from the remains of sin.

On the view of most Protestants, this purging takes place in an instant, whereas for Roman Catholics and others, it requires an ongoing process that still requires time. But both views have a doctrine of “purgatory” in the sense that they provide an account of how the remains of sin are purged and we are made completely holy and impeccable in our character.


©2014 by Jerry L. Walls. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: November 7, 2014

Scot McKnight, author of Kingdom Conspiracy, was interviewed by Publishers Weekly.

“About a dozen years ago, Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament at North Park Seminary and the author of 24 books, was sitting in church and heard the pastor say some things about Jesus and the Jewish world that didn’t sound quite right. ‘We can do better than this,’ he thought.

“The kingdom mission, McKnight writes, is ‘the local church mission: evangelism, worship, catechesis (wisdom), fellowship (love), edification (advocacy), discipleship (nurture), gifts (Spirit unleashed).’

“By illuminating Jesus’ view of the kingdom, Kingdom Conspiracy fleshes out the ideas McKnight wrote about in The Jesus Creed: that the church must be all about loving God and neighbor, and that those simple principles are the foundation of a loving kingdom community.”

Read the entire interview here.



Drama of LivingThe Drama of Living by David Ford was recommended by Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books.

“With this release, Brazos shows themselves to be one of the most important presses in the North American religious publishing landscape.

“I’ve been waiting for this sequel to The Shape of Living for, oh, gee, maybe fifteen years.

“Subtle, nuanced, deep, beautiful without being flamboyant, this wise, thoughtful theologian has given us practical theology and a spirituality of life itself. It isn’t simple, but it is eloquent.”

Read the entire review here.


Quick Hits:

David Fitch continued his review of Kingdom Conspiracy by Scot McKnight.

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Stephen Shaffer.

Generous Spaciousness by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter was recommended by Joshua Torrey: “The must buy book of the month.”

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was discussed by Andrew Sullivan on The Dish.

Jerry L. Walls, author of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory (January 2015), was mentioned in Desert News National.

Kicking at the Darkness by Brian J. Walsh was mentioned in The Toronto Star.


Ebook Specials:

Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement by Ronald J. Sider is only $3.99 (80% off) from participating retailers through November 9.

The Weekly Hit List: October 31, 2014

Scot McKnight, author of Kingdom Conspiracy, was interviewed by Patheos blogger Zach Hoag.

“I have been thinking about and writing about kingdom for nearly twenty years now, and I first published something about kingdom at an extensive level in 1999 in A New Vision for Israel. At that time I was already connecting ‘kingdom’ to ‘Israel’ but I was in a historical mode and not much of a theological mode.

“As my life shifted into college student teaching, I began to think about that view of kingdom more and more theologically so that I could explain the significance of kingdom to students who were wondering why this term even mattered. I published a few observations about kingdom in this more theological mode in books like Embracing Grace, One.Life, and The King Jesus Gospel.

“But I wasn’t happy because (1) I wasn’t sorting out what I was seeing in the Bible comprehensively enough and (2) I was hearing an increasing use of this term in ways that bothered me because the uses were veering far from what the Bible means.

“So, there, that’s why I wrote this book: to set out my thoughts in the context of an increasing popularity of a term that was being used in ways significantly different than the Bible’s use.”

Read the entire interview, “Skinny Jeans, Ruffled Feathers, and Kingdom Mission,” here.


Other Kingdom Conspiracy Media:

Scot McKnight wrote “What Does Kingdom Mean?” on Jesus Creed.

David Fitch continued his review of Kingdom Conspiracy.

Matthew94 shared some highlights from Scot McKnight’s recent talk at Northeastern Seminary.


Brazos Press ECPA Cover Award:

iGods by Craig Detweiler won an Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Top Shelf Book Cover Award.

Congratulations to art director Paula Gibson for her input and direction on this excellent cover.

The 2014 Top Shelf Book Cover Awards were presented during a PUBu session held on October 21 at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.


Quick Hits:

Jerry L. Walls, author of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory (February 2015), was quoted in the Religion News Service article “Does purgatory have a prayer with Protestants?

Patheos blogger Ben Witherington began reviewing Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg. Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 are posted.

Kevin Schut, author of Of Games and God, was interviewed for WORLD Magazine article “Virtual games, real empathy.”