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Peter T Chattaway

Hellbound?

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Link to our thread on Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008).

Link to our thread on the current debate over Rob Bell's book Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.

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New Documentary Brings Hell Debate to the Big Screen

Kevin Miller, best known for co-writing the controversial Ben Stein vehicle "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," takes on hell in an upcoming documentary that goes into production this summer.

Press release, March 18

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From the website:

Hell. The final frontier of free will. A shadowy abode choked with eggy, sulphurous fumes; the stench of blackened, bubbling flesh and screams of agony from souls trapped forever in a lake of fire, tortured by a worm that dieth not. A vision made all the more terrifying by the fact that God--the only being who could possibly save us from such a fate--is the one who consigns us there instead.

Such horrific depictions of hell have gripped humanity for centuries. But the traditional view of hell--Infernalism--also presents us with a dilemma: If God is our pure, all-loving Creator, how can he allow (presumably) billions of sinners to suffer for eternity? To many people, it seems like we can have a good God or we can have hell, but we can't have both.

While recent challenges to the traditional view of hell are grabbing headlines, people have been grappling with this dilemma for centuries. Some simply resign themselves to the mystery, hoping the logic of damnation will be revealed in the life to come. Others suggest alternate views, such as Annihilationism (the souls of the damned are extinguished upon death), Universalism (everyone goes to heaven) and various positions in between. Still others become so frustrated that they finally walk away from Christianity altogether.

Is it possible we've got hell wrong? Or are recent challenges to the traditional view a vain attempt to avoid the inevitable? Blending provocative interviews with the narrator's personal journey, "Hellbound?" is a feature-length documentary that seeks to discover why we are so bound to the idea of hell and what our beliefs about hell reveal about how we perceive God, the Bible and, ultimately, ourselves.

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The production moves back to the Pacific Northwest:

"To me, hell is just the tip of the iceberg," says Miller. "I know that's a horrible analogy, seeing as hell is traditionally associated with flames. But the point is, we don't arrive at a position on hell in a vacuum. It's always influenced by how we perceive God, the Bible, justice, freedom and, ultimately, ourselves. So even though many people claim they're merely taking what the Bible says about hell at face value, there's a lot more going on than you would think. I'm eager to get to the bottom of that interpretation process. In other words, why are we so bound to the idea of hell?"

To aid Miller in his exploration of these ideas, on this leg of the shoot he will interview a number of personalities in BC's Lower Mainland and in the Portland/Salem area of Oregon. Some of the names include Regent College professor John Stackhouse, Jr., Abbotsford author Brad Jersak, University of the Fraser Valley professor Ron Dart, Orthodox Archbishop Lazar Puhalo and William Paul Young, bestselling author of "The Shack." . . .

Just for the record, Puhalo is a not uncontroversial figure in Orthodox circles here.

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This is a few months old now, but I just came across it recently. The guy in the middle is Hellbound? director Kevin Miller, and the other two guys will be among the film's interviewees.

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I just discovered that the director Kevin Miller was (is?) the editor for some books written by a Christian author/scholar/pastor named Brad Jersak. Several years ago he wrote a book about the subject, and is now speaking about it on different podcasts ect. I have little doubt that the documentary will spend some time with him, and that his book helped to inspire the idea for the film. I can't imagine that Kevin Miller and Jersak haven't had some in depth discussions on the matter off camera as well as on.

What he has to say is incredibly interesting and informative, as can be heard from the podcasts. I'm looking forward to seeing how the film handles his view compared to others that are out there.

Anyhow the podcast links. The first one especially really resonated with where I'm at in my understanding of Gods character and the atonement, even compared to my understanding five or ten years ago.

www.enjoyinggodpodcast.com/Episode Pages/episode007.html

http://www.beyondtheboxpodcast.com/2011/10/her-gates-will-never-be-shut-with-brad-jersak-part-1/

http://www.beyondtheboxpodcast.com/2011/10/her-gates-will-never-be-shut-with-brad-jersak-part-2/

Edited by Attica

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Hellbound is progressively moving towards a fall release.

The film is now being promoted at various festivals including the upcoming Wild Goose Festival. The film's website has a blog full of relevant thought and conversation.

Also in this regard Christian Post has an article on the film and the related subject matter.

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Hey Attica,

I won't pretend to have read through all of this, but after a quick perusing, I would say that what I've been trying to say this whole time is that my "reformed leanings" or whatever you want to call it, is precisely because it provides the theological "tools," so to speak, for the kind of inclusivism that is outlined above. If grace precedes faith, then there is room for non-normative means of salvation, and, yes, we can hope that all men will be saved in Christ (something that I think we as Christians ought to hope for with Balthasar).

But if faith is not first a gift--if His grace is something one must activate of his/her own autonomous will as if a work--I think we're all in trouble. :)

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Hey Attica,

I won't pretend to have read through all of this, but after a quick perusing, I would say that what I've been trying to say this whole time is that my "reformed leanings" or whatever you want to call it, is precisely because it provides the theological "tools," so to speak, for the kind of inclusivism that is outlined above. If grace precedes faith, then there is room for non-normative means of salvation, and, yes, we can hope that all men will be saved in Christ (something that I think we as Christians ought to hope for with Balthasar).

But if faith is not first a gift--if His grace is something one must activate of his/her own autonomous will as if a work--I think we're all in trouble. smile.png

Hi Nicholas.

Yes we as Christians are often coming from different upbringings and using different theological tools and wordings to try and explain ourselves. That is why it is good for us to have these discussions, even if we occasionally step on each others toes. Like many human interactions when talked through we often find that the "toe step" wasn't as drastic as we had before supposed. The truth of the matter is that the words we use to try and explain our concepts sometimes have different meanings to others. Your usage of the words "gift of faith" had a very different meaning to me earlier than what you've described above. That's why I had posted. I have friends who have trusted in Christ, but yet have been tormented by a belief that they have not been "given" salvation and are therefore not the "elect".

I agree with you that grace precedes faith, but I would venture to say that God's grace is working in the world to bring all of humanity to him.... not just the "chosen frozen" as you've called it. In my way of explanation the "elect" are those of us who have quit "kicking against the goads" and have responded to this grace.

In my understanding Romans is clear that this grace superabounds to everyone who has died in Adam..... that's all of humanity. God's grace superabounds over any sin that we could ever even consider. God's working in (and I'd also say through) his creation to bring everyone to him, they just don't know it yet. So it's an interactive gift.... it's freely given to all, but must be accepted. One can reject the gift, but the Bible says that love never gives up in its trying. So then where does that leave humanity? scratchchin.gif

I'm glad that you were so courteous in your responses, and I hope that I have shown the same.

Edited by Attica

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A new trailer is up at I-tunes.

Also of possible interest, the Director/Producer of the documentary has written his own response to a famous evangelical leader's response to the recent Colorado tragedy.

This part really caught my eye. I wonder how often this is the case.

"That's because two summers ago I had the opportunity to spend a lovely afternoon with him on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as part of a documentary on which I was working. My experience of Jerry that day led me to believe he is far smarter and far more compassionate than his remarks imply."

Edited by Attica

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Wow. The original peice he is responding to is full of a lot of holes in the logic he is applying. And seems woefully ignorant of history to boot.

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The film is starting to hit theatres.

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Attica wrote:

: The film is starting to hit theatres.

I think so far it has just had isolated screenings at festivals etc. The actual release starts September 21 -- or at any rate, my own review is embargoed until then. (It opens in Canada October 12.)

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Attica wrote:

: The film is starting to hit theatres.

I think so far it has just had isolated screenings at festivals etc. The actual release starts September 21 -- or at any rate, my own review is embargoed until then. (It opens in Canada October 12.)

They have had some theatre openings with Q+A's in Nashville and such like. Possibly that's just one time events though, not sure. By the way Peter I think you know Kevin through Kindlings Muse Canada, as well as some of the people interviewed for the film, no? Did you manage to interview him or discuss the subject with any of them? I've chatted a little with Kevin through E-mail and am quite looking forward to seeing the film.

Edited by Attica

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Attica wrote:

: By the way Peter I think you know Kevin through Kindlings Muse Canada, as well as some of the people interviewed for the film, no?

I knew him before that, actually; in fact, I recommended Kevin when Kindlings Muse Canada was looking for panelists. At the moment, I can think of only two other people in the film who I've actually encountered in person (Ron Dart, who I interviewed for BC Christian News back when that publication existed; and David Bruce, founder of Hollywood Jesus), though there are a couple other British Columbians in the film, as well (including an Eastern Orthodox interviewee who has a very, er, colourful reputation in local Orthodox circles).

: Did you manage to interview him or discuss the subject with any of them?

I've interviewed Kevin before, but not in conjunction with this movie -- yet.

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Christianity Today is not impressed:

You know a documentary about Christian faith is in trouble when it begins with film clips of and interviews with people from Westboro Baptist, the infamous hate-filled fundamentalist church in Topeka, Kansas. . . .

There was a near complete absence of professional theologians—and this in a documentary about theology. We hear from pastors, writers, speakers, and, yes, one biblical scholar (who doesn't believe in a literal hell, but only the hell we make for ourselves when we don't listen to God in our lives), and one conservative theologian who discusses something extraneous. Two cheers for including populist writers and speakers, because they do have a better way with words. And so we hear from people like Brian McClaren and Kevin Young, William Young and Mark Driscoll. But while a lot of the talking heads talk lot about what the church has and hasn't taught through the centuries, not one church historian was interviewed.

We hear a lot about the place of hell in the Bible, but only one biblical scholar addresses the topic, and then from only one side of the debate. We hear lots of speculation about the place of hell in Christian doctrine, and not one systematic theologian addresses the topic. We hear much about the "fear" and the "controlling" nature of the institutional church (which is said to promote the doctrine of hell to protect its power), and not one sociologist of religion makes an appearance.

In juxtaposing Westboro Baptist protesters and an angry Mark Driscoll with calm universalists, the film suggests that those who believe in hell as conscious eternal torment are basically tormented themselves: fearful and judgmental. It never seems to have occurred to the filmmaker that there are thoughtful, careful, irenic evangelicals who believe in hell and may have some pretty strong reasons for doing so. . . .

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Christianity Today is not impressed:

You know a documentary about Christian faith is in trouble when it begins with film clips of and interviews with people from Westboro Baptist, the infamous hate-filled fundamentalist church in Topeka, Kansas. . . .

There was a near complete absence of professional theologians—and this in a documentary about theology. We hear from pastors, writers, speakers, and, yes, one biblical scholar (who doesn't believe in a literal hell, but only the hell we make for ourselves when we don't listen to God in our lives), and one conservative theologian who discusses something extraneous. Two cheers for including populist writers and speakers, because they do have a better way with words. And so we hear from people like Brian McClaren and Kevin Young, William Young and Mark Driscoll. But while a lot of the talking heads talk lot about what the church has and hasn't taught through the centuries, not one church historian was interviewed.

We hear a lot about the place of hell in the Bible, but only one biblical scholar addresses the topic, and then from only one side of the debate. We hear lots of speculation about the place of hell in Christian doctrine, and not one systematic theologian addresses the topic. We hear much about the "fear" and the "controlling" nature of the institutional church (which is said to promote the doctrine of hell to protect its power), and not one sociologist of religion makes an appearance.

In juxtaposing Westboro Baptist protesters and an angry Mark Driscoll with calm universalists, the film suggests that those who believe in hell as conscious eternal torment are basically tormented themselves: fearful and judgmental. It never seems to have occurred to the filmmaker that there are thoughtful, careful, irenic evangelicals who believe in hell and may have some pretty strong reasons for doing so. . . .

As to the lack of "professional theologians": I consider myself a professional theologian. My seminary training was designed to produce theologians who would take their theological glasses into the church. In fact, for many people in the church, their pastor is their resident theologian. No doubt what the reviewer meant was academic theologians. I think the film may have profited from more of those, but then again, would that have made the film more of an ivory tower kind of discussion?

I do agree that the film spends a bit too much time with Westboro and uses them in such a way to make their view of hell seem a bit extreme.

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Darrel Manson wrote:

: No doubt what the reviewer meant was academic theologians. I think the film may have profited from more of those, but then again, would that have made the film more of an ivory tower kind of discussion?

Yeah, I don't know that I agree with CT's call for more eggheads. As long as the basic points about church history etc. are more-or-less on-the-money, I don't think it matters much *who* makes them.

That being said, I do think the film could have found more "irenic" pro-hell types. I was actually impressed with how rational Mark Driscoll seemed in his interview, given what his reputation is... but then the film shows him preaching, and, yikes.

: I do agree that the film spends a bit too much time with Westboro and uses them in such a way to make their view of hell seem a bit extreme.

It's not just Westboro, per se, that is the focus there though, right? The Westboro types are interviewed while staging a demonstration on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and part of the film's "arc", if you will, is how we use talk of "hell" to make sense of terrorists etc., and whether universalists are prepared to say that even the Hitlers and bin Ladens of the world will end up in "heaven".

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And so the battle begins.

Frank Schaeffer responds to the Christianity today article. (warning - his comments are sure to piss some people off.)

But also of interest.... some of the folks interviewed in the film have made comments below Frank's article. I've copied and pasted a couple of them. By the way, I've read books from both of these guys and they are very wise, well researched, and supremely interested in being grounded in both Biblical and historical (mostly the very early church) Christianity.

Thanks Frank. It means a lot to me when someone as seasoned and profiled as you steps in to defend a very bright young Christian thinker who stumbles into the mean-spiritedness of the Evangelical Sanhedrin. I’m glad you blew the whistle on the shenanigans when the daggers came out. Just this morning I had a semi-major American Evangelical author / teacher tell in hushed tones that you are becoming his favorite blogger. I guess you say what many are thinking but too scared to say. “No professional theologians.” I guess I could send him my ‘Her Gates Will Never Be Shut’ but then again … why?

Anyway, your rants make a lot more sense to me when I see you coming to the defence of someone who’s receiving a sucker punch. Much appreciated.

Brad Jersak

Michael Hardin says.

Thanks Frank. I read the review and was miffed. Galli’s argument that no “professional theologians” were consulted was an insult to those of us in the film that may not be card carrying PhD’s (although many are) and who work outside the establishment of university and seminary settings (like McLaren and I). You are correct that Galli’s review is a hatchet job; worse yet is that it is from a so-called senior editor who does not take the time (as you rightly point out) to do a spell-check!

@Kris Schulenberg: Please know that Frank’s “venom” is directed at the arrogance of Mr. Galli. I also wanted to write a rebuttal of this review but felt that I would be too critical of Galli’s narrow minded bigotry, so held off. I’m glad that FS has the courage and spleen to do so. Kevin Miller has made an awesome movie; I expect more reviews in the style of Galli inasmuch as hard core conservative Evangelicals like Galli have too much of their wallets and social position invested in their Jesus-decentered mindset and not enough of their hearts and minds.

Edited by Attica

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I do agree that the film spends a bit too much time with Westboro and uses them in such a way to make their view of hell seem a bit extreme.
Haven't seen the film, but my understanding of the Westboro psychopaths is that despite all the very public fringe behavior and belief that their family is the only "true" church, their theology of hell as a place of conscious, eternal torment is totally mainstream. This would make the group an excellent subject for the film, imo. Edited by Greg P

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I do agree that the film spends a bit too much time with Westboro and uses them in such a way to make their view of hell seem a bit extreme.
Haven't seen the film, but my understanding of the Westboro psychopaths is that despite all the very public fringe behavior and belief that their family is the only "true" church, their theology of hell as a place of conscious, eternal torment is totally mainstream. This would make the group an excellent subject for the film, imo.

Greg. You might be interested in an interview with the filmmaker where he touches on his thoughts behind interviewing them here at the 19.10 mark.

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