A tricky book to write, challenging to the reader

The Road to Hell (David Pawson)

BOOK REVIEW. 255 pages, Publisher Anchor Recordings LTD Copyright 2007, 2011, 2014.

The Road to Hell ends with the words, “on which sober note we conclude our study”. David Pawson’s The Road to Hell does have that kind of tone at times: it can sober one up.

The Road to Hell challenges one to avoid the dangers of hell as well as comforting one with thoughts of heaven and grace if one keeps the faith. Pawson is adamant, however. Getting to heaven is not by ‘cheap grace’ where one can do as they please while still being under God’s grace, but by continuing in the faith, not disowning Jesus, and renouncing one’s sins.

Hell is a step away with complacency, but Pawson in his gentle manner encourages due diligence in the faith, although a small few of his statements may seem blunt if not preachy, however, one gets the impression in that there are not as many words to always deliver eloquently such an urgent message to Christians and non-believers.

Two-thirds of The Road to Hell is Pawson’s argument for defending the doctrine of hell in an increasingly watered-down approach to the subject in the church.

His raison d etre to restore proper doctrine is not obvious in the text. Several well-written chapters are interesting, though: historical views on hell and how these have influenced the contemporary church, the early church’s view of hell, biblical data on hell and how to read it, and the implications of believing and not believing in hell, with imagined descriptions of heaven and the pit.

Much detail describes the ‘ins and outs’ of after world theology. It is interesting that ‘hades’ is often wrongly defined as hell and Pawson elaborates fascinatingly on what happens to the body after death. This study is not a workbook as such where one is prompted to keep notes. But one should think, pause, and reflect.

The second third of the book is devoted to relevant Bible passages on the subject. Pawson expounds these passages for further reflection. These ten scripture studies are of reasonable length some shorter than others, in total about one hundred pages. Here, ‘difficult’ passages are tackled well and convincingly argued, such as the parable of the sheep and the goats and the dying man on the cross, who died with Jesus.

Pawson draws out cogently the arguments around these passages and other ones, while coming down on a satisfying conclusion.

Pawson claims that a seldomly seen ‘reality’ in scripture is that many of the passages about hell are directed to Jesus’ disciples so to avoid it themselves and not be counted with the fallen. In that vein, Pawson is directing his book towards Christians.

While short on imagination, The Road to Hell is no fantasy and challenges and inspires one to keep on applying a God-pleasing lifestyle because, as Pawson advises from scripture, “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” A risky book to write but challenges this reader to the core and certainly more than worthwhile.

Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers.

 

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