Episode 11: Hellbound? with Kevin Miller

Kevin Miller joins Rethinking Hell contributor Chris Date to discuss hell and his most recent documentary, “Hellbound?”

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  • Roy

    Great interview! Love Miller’s passion and jolting views. Some great questions there and now I’m hankering to see a formal debate between a universalist and an annhilationist! Seriously, not sure how accessible he is – but would love to hear an interview with Rob Bell at some point too :) .

    Chris, at one stage it will be really fantastic to hear the gospel message from an annhilationist perspective addressing some of those questions re: penal substitution.

    As someone who’s struggling through some of the violence passages – particularly in the OT – that was an interesting twist: thinking that men made up ‘God sanctioned violence’ while they were making their edits while in captivity in Babylon. Not sure if this is beyond the scope of this podcast, but would like to hear more on this … perhaps another debate :-) .

    Anyway – fantastic episode Chris & Kevin!

    • Chris Date

      Thanks, Roy! I, too, want to see a formal debate between a conditionalist and a universalist. I’m sure one of us here at RH will write about penal substitution, and that, Kevin’s understanding, of the OT texts.

    • “Hellbound?” is now available for pre-order on DVD in case anyone is interested: http://www.hellboundthemovie.com/shop/

  • His orthodoxy sounds like he’s slipping into heretical views.

    • Chris Date

      I’m perhaps a little more hesitant to use the term “heresy” than others, but I definitely have some concerns. His denial of the judicial nature of God’s punishment; his denial of the penal, substitutionary nature of the atonement; his seeming denial even of the basic truthfulness of much of Scripture… All of these deeply concern me.

      • He seems to have “HIS” view of God, instead of what the scriptures clearly teach, seems like idolatry. If he denies the heart of the gospel, which it seems he is, than he has a different gospel. Its not meant as an insult. its what I heard.

        • Chris Date

          I didn’t take it as an insult, and am not arguing with you :)

        • If I’m a heretic then so is nearly every Christian prior to
          Augustine, none of whom embraced the idea of penal substitution, and few
          of whom had a primarily judicial understanding of the atonement.
          These folks also happened to canonize Scripture, write the creeds, and essentially define Christian orthodoxy.

          • Roy

            Kevin – would you mind outlining the doctrine of inspiration and how you see it? And most importantly why you see it the way you do?

          • I’m highly influenced by the work of Rene Girard and other mimetic theorists who see the Bible as a “text in travail” between myth, which seeks to mask the scapegoating mechanism that lies at the heart of human culture, and gospel, which seeks to expose it.

          • @facebook-642391210:disqus I think that it might be difficult to establish that no one embraced the notion of “penal-substitution” before Augustine but your point is well-taken that we take much for granted today (and, in fact, blend quite a few theories of atonement in our “penal-substitution” view).

          • I would say it’s quite well established that the idea of penal substitution didn’t really come into vogue until Anselm published Cur deus homo in 1098. Prior to that you get the ransom view and the moral influence view. There was a substitutionary element to some articulations of the ransom view, but no sense that Jesus died in order to satisfy the wrath of God.

          • @Kevin OK, I was reluctantly acquiescing in pre-Augustinian, and now you are asserting pre-Anselmian. Why didn’t you just state pre-Anselmian before?

            Perhaps we have a false dichotomy as well. Penal-substitution includes the notion of ransom but leaves unspecified to whom the ransom was paid. (At least, as I have heard it articulated).–AZ

  • The Remonstrant

    Unfortunately, Mr. Miller’s thoughts regarding what does or does not — or rather, what should or should not — constitute final punishment is (1) not focused, and (2) primarily philosophically driven. Miller presents the listener with scattered reflections of the nature of divine love, human free will, opposition to the penal satisfaction theory of atonement, appeal to non-violent atonement theology, broad brush strokes regarding difference of theological thought in the East and West wings of the church regarding the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross, the question of whether or not “hell” serves a retributive function, forensic categories, &c. While these are all important issues to consider, sadly, Miller misses the boat.

    Atonement theories and philosophizing aside, the issue is this: Where does the weight of biblical evidence lead us with reference to the end of the lost?: (a) eternal conscious torment (traditionalism), (b) the possibility of eventual universal reconciliation of all humankind (universalism), or (c) the ultimate destruction of the lost (annihilationism)? In other words, the good old-fashioned question must be asked, however naive it appears to some: What does the Bible say?

    I believe the issue must be decided by a careful — even tedious — examination of the Scriptures, comprising the entire canon. A cumulative case based on careful exegesis, not rapid-fire proof-texting, or a handful of ambiguous passages (especially if the texts in dispute happen to be found in an apocalyptic writing, such as, say, inthe Apocalypse/Revelation). Exegesis is key; our philosophizing cannot and ought not serve as the determinative factor in arriving at a sound conclusion regarding the nature of final punishment.

    With this in mind, it is interesting to see those of unique — even contradicting — theological/soteriological persuasions (i.e., Calvinists and Arminians) uniting in their affirmation of the ultimate extinction of the lost. Unless or until universalists can mount a compelling exegetical case for their position (which I am convinced at present they cannot*), then philosophical speculations notwithstanding, we are back in the playing field with (a) the traditional view of future punishment for the lost as eternal life in conscious suffering, and (c), the annihilationist perspective.


    * See conditionalist I. Howard Marshall’s essay addressing “evangelical” universalist Thomas Talbott’s case for the eventual restoration of all humanity (according to the principle of divine perseverance) in ‘Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate’ (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), “The New Testament Does Not Teach Universal Salvation”, pp. 55-76. I had read this volume some years back. I heartily recommend this title if only for Marshall’s essay alone (open theist John E. Sanders’ chapter is also worthy of consideration: “A Freewill Theist’s Response to Talbott’s Universalism”).

    • Before we can calculate the “weight of biblical evidence,” we need to come to some kind of agreement on essentials, such as what the Bible actually is and how best to read it in light of that determination. For example, we need to agree upon a theory of inspiration, which will help us understand the mix of anthropology and theology in the text, because this will have a huge effect on how we approach and interpret the evidence. We all begin with a set of a priori philosophical/theological assumptions in this matter. What I’m doing is questioning the validity of certain assumptions regarding what the Bible is and how best to read it.

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