US film questions the idea of eternal torment

19 October 2012


A DOCUMENTARY film that ques­tions a traditional under­stand­ing of hell has been released in the United States.

Hellbound?, directed by the Christian film-maker Kevin Miller, is described in promotional material as "a provocative, feature-length docu­mentary that looks at why we  are so bound to the idea of hell, and how our beliefs about hell affect the world we are creating today" (stills from the film below).

Mr Miller said that he decided to make the documentary after the megachurch pastor Rob Bell pro­voked the ire of many Evangelicals by questioning their received under­stand­ing of hell in his book Love Wins (Feature, 5 August 2011; News, 1 April 2011).

Hellbound? includes interviews with those who defend the view of hell as eternal punishment, such as the Calvinist pastor Mark Driscoll, and with those who question that view, such as Brian McLaren, the author and writer associated with the Emerging Church movement.

"Hellbound? is my attempt to get to the bottom of the current debate over hell. Why is it happening right now? And . . . why are Christians so hot and bothered about hell?", Mr Miller said.

He suggested that a battle was taking place between "universalists who argue that the Christian message should be reframed to include re­demption for anyone and everyone" and the Evangelical "Establish­ment", which "is holding the line on an exclusive gospel, where those who fail to pass the test of faith are con­demned to an eternity of torment and isolation from all that is good".

He continued: "While hell is the current flashpoint, I believe this debate is merely a warning tremor signalling a potential seismic shift in the religious landscape."

Dr Robin Parry, author of The Evangelical Universalist, which he wrote under the pseudonym Gregory MacDonald ( News, 18 Feb­ruary 2011), wrote on his blog that Hellbound? was "a beautifully made and fascinating introduction to a debate within the contemporary Church about the nature and duration of hell. . .

"The documentary is not a neutral guide that treats all views as equally plausible. It offers a clear critique of the traditional view of hell as eternal torment, and it recommends, at very least, an openness towards universal­ism as a neglected view within the tradition."

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