Kevin Miller, ed. Hellrazed? (Kimberley, BC: Kevin Miller XI Productions, 2017).
In 2012, filmmaker Kevin Miller released his documentary Hellbound?, a provocative and thought-provoking exploration of the doctrine of hell and how it impacts our understanding of Christian faith.
Like most documentarians, Miller had a point of view on the subject of his film. Hellbound? was concerned not only to challenge eternal conscious torment but to offer an alternative doctrine in its place: universalism. (In the film, universalism is understood to be the view that ultimately all people will be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ whether in this life or following a period of posthumous judgment in the next.)
While I am not a universalist by conviction, I quickly saw Hellbound? as an excellent catalyst for conversation on an important topic. So I was delighted when, in October 2012, Miller invited me to moderate a Q&A at a special screening of the film at the Cineplex in Edmonton. (You can read my review of the film here.)
Five years have passed since Hellbound? came out and in recognition of that anniversary, Miller has published a new edited volume of essays by an impressive list of contributors, some of whom appeared in the film and others who supported the film and/or have contributed to the ongoing conversation on hell. The list of contributors includes Frank Schaeffer, Brian Zahnd, Sharon Putt (nee Baker), Derek Flood, Michael Hardin, Robin Parry, and many more. (The book also includes a short essay by yours truly titled “Hell at Ground Zero.”) Miller asked the contributors to offer their reflections on Hellbound? and/or the way the conversation on hell as unfolded over the last five years.
The result is a diverse collection. For example, Archbishop Lazar Puhalo contributes a pithy two-page reflection titled “The True Gift of ‘Hellbound?'” while Andrew Klager offers a relatively dense and extensively footnoted thirty-page exploration of the doctrine of Apokatastasis in the Patristics. Eric Reitan’s essay argues that God’s infinite resourcefulness strongly supports the truth of universalism. Jackson Baer’s essay is a painful recounting of how he was fired from his job as a pastor because he came to accept universalism: “It felt like I was living through hell for not believing in hell.” (188) And in his delightful essay “Layering the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus,” Brad Jersak offers an intriguing reading of the famous parable of Luke 16.
I was particularly intrigued to read Kevin Miller’s introduction in which he reflects on the tendency we all have to balkanize into hostile in-group/out-group factions. And those who defend universalism are not exempt from this tendency. Miller candidly recalls that over time he became increasingly strident in defense of his views until some good friends “helped me see how my anger was manifesting itself, particularly online, turning me into the mirror image of the very things I was railing against.” (11) It is certainly ironic that one might end up cultivating bitter division while attempting to defend universal reconciliation! Surely there is a lesson here for us all.
The foreword to the book is written by the producer of Hellbound?, multi-millionaire Dave Krysko. He recalls of the film,
What it has done is contribute to a conversation about why we believe some ideas and not others, and it got people talking about faith and truth in a way that, hopefully, will make us better people.” (8)
The same can be said of this collection of essays. For anybody who benefited from Hellbound? and anybody who is simply interested in the ongoing debate on the nature of hell, Hellrazed? is a must-read.
You can purchase Hellrazed at Amazon.com.