“Hellbound?” is a documentary that came out on DVD earlier this year. It’s directed by Canadian, Kevin Miller (@kevinmillerxi, and focuses on the way Americans view hell, and the issues surrounding it.
About one third considers what society generally thinks about hell; another third on sensible Christian perspectives on hell; and a further third looks at extreme views of hell from various people. Throughout it also touches on related issues like:
- how Christians interpret the Bible
- how Christians handle disagreement
- religious tradition & authority
- punishment, violence & fear
I think all these issues are worth exploring, even hell itself, because:
- Jesus talks about Gehenna (traditionally translated Hell) more than anyone else in the Bible, so it’s something we need to take very seriously.
- According to the Australian Communities Report 2012 by Olive Tree & McCrindle Research, Hell is one the top 10 reasons people reject Christianity, so we want to make sure we understand it and articulate it carefully.
- John Dickson and Greg Clarke, in their book 666 And All That, point out that eschatology [theology about the end times] and ethics are intertwined. Put simply, it’s not just about the future but relates to how we live our lives now.
Hellbound features a wide range of people: Mark Driscoll, Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung, Ray Comfort, Peter Kreeft, Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, Frank Schaeffer, Jerry Walls, Brian McLaren, and about 20 others. It tries to give each view a reasonable amount of airtime, although obviously, it’s hard to get that balance exactly right.
Because of the diversity of views expressed, I don’t think anyone can watch it and agree with everything; there will be at least some bits that you will find confronting and offensive. Having said that, I think there are some excellent bits (like Robin Parry’s interview) and even though I’ve studied this topic a lot over recent years, it still raised points I hadn’t considered before.
Some have criticised the inclusion of the angry Westboro Baptists, but I think that because their views have gotten media attention, they represent one of the views non-Christians think Christians hold. It’s something that needs to be addressed, even if the majority of Christians don’t speak and act like them.
So overall, I think it’s definitely worth watching and is guaranteed to be thought-provoking. It’s on a topic that I think has been neglected and often misunderstood. For what it’s worth, so far my Christian friends who have watched it have described it as anywhere between “interesting” and “awesome” - some are even eager to watch it a second time!
It’s had quite a few endorsements, particularly noteworthy are:
"substantive and evenhanded” - New York Times
"…stimulating documentary on the hot topic of eternal damnation…” - Justin Chang, Variety
"With clarity and conviction, notable Christian voices speak to one of the most controversial topics of the day. Their arguments are thoughtful and compelling. “Hellbound?” deserves careful consideration. Your time will be well spent viewing it.”- Tony Campolo
Robin Parry (Gregory MacDonald) also wrote an excellent review.
Thomas Talbott & Richard Beck are also in the DVD extras