My Review of “Raising Hell” by Julie Ferwerda

25 06 2011

First of all, to anyone (especially any Christian) who has never heard of Christian Universalism: Please do not be scared by the name! Please consider reading this book and learning about the God of Love who never fails! If you are tired, frustrated, and scared, wondering about the fate of yourself, your loved ones, or humanity in general, I highly recommend you check this book out. If you have a truly open mind, you may find yourself overjoyed at what you find within its pages.

Now for the actual book review:

Having stumbled upon this belief system of Christian Universalism a little over three years ago, I have read several books, articles, and essays defending and promoting it. When I first heard that Ms. Ferwerda was going to release a book about it, I was pleased but not enthralled, as I have read so much about the subject already. Despite this, I read through the book and am very pleased with the results.

I think the thing I’m most pleased with about this book is that Ms. Ferwerda takes an approach to writing that is scholarly and yet, at the same time, has a personal touch to it that makes you feel as if you’re receiving a personal letter from a friend. The language is simple and easy to understand and avoids jargon (although I may be biased, having been raised in Christianity from my youth). Ferwerda’s book, to me, finds a sort of happy medium between Andrew Jukes’s “The Restitution of All Things” (which is very scholarly but may not be the layperson’s cup of tea) and Rob Bell’s recent “Love Wins” (which, though very informative and enlightening to someone who has never heard of Christian Universalism, is not necessarily a “scholarly” book).

Parts 1 and 2, “Hell: Fact or Fiction?” and “Love Does Not Fail…”, respectively, cover the basics when it comes to Christian Universalism and offer compelling evidence as to its validity in Scripture. I’ve read most of it before, but there are several gems that I’ve never considered before and greatly appreciate. It’s Part 3, “Hebrew Perspectives On Scripture,” however, that offers several ideas and concepts I had never truly considered to the extent I did after reading this book. Granted, I had heard of the idea that the harvest festivals and seasons written about in the Old Testament were types and symbols of future things (in books such as Jukes’s “The Restitution of All Things”), but I haven’t seen it explained so clearly and simply as I have in Ms. Ferwerda’s book.

I also greatly appreciated the “Resources” section at the end of the book, especially the section on “Talking Points.” It offers Scriptures to use in response to certain questions about “Christian Universalism” in order to discuss these issues with people. I’ve always subconsciously wanted a tool like this to help me out but Ms. Ferwerda thought of it and I’m sure it will be a benefit to many, including myself.

All in all, I found this book to be a very welcome addition to the growing list of books about Christian Universalism, and I feel it is quite likely that it is the best book on the subject to read if you want a clear, easily readable, scholarly introduction to the subject. If your life has been changed by Jesus but you can’t reconcile His love with His justice, please consider reading this book. It may just make you fall in love with Him all over again.

If you are interested in reading this book, feel free to download a free copy right here!  (I have permission from the author). Raising-Hell-Complimentary

Also, if you feel so compelled, you can purchase the book here for cheap.

Awesome Devotional Entry…

19 09 2008
This is a devotional entry from the book A Table in the Wilderness by Watchman Nee. This guy was an amazing writer and I often come across entries in this book that make one think about things in ways one isn’t used to thinking about them. I would highly recommend it as a devotional book if you’re into this sort of thing.

This particular entry partially explains why I don’t worry too much about “defending” God or my faith to other people. Sure I’ll try to “give an answer to every man that asketh [me] a reason of the hope that is in [me] with meekness and fear,” (1 Peter 3:15, KJV) but my beliefs aren’t really something that can be defended with worldly or “Christian” logic. If anything I believe is true, then the only way others will be convinced is if God moves them. Anyway, Watchman Nee says it a lot better than I ever could, so here’s the entry:


I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. Job 42. 5.

Sound doctrine can inflate us, making us proud of our knowledge or our opinions. Or we can forget the truth by having it knocked out of us by skilled argument or third-degree methods. But vision is revolutionary. Beside it everything else becomes small. Once see the Lord and we shall never forget Him. With the attacks of Satan increasing and the counsel of friends failing us, it is only the inner knowledge of God that will make us stand in the testing time.

For a year or two after my conversion I used to fear lest a modernist or an atheist should come along and prove to me that the Bible was faulty and unreliable. I thought, if he did, that would finish everything. My faith would be lost; and I wanted to believe. But now all is peace. If all of them came, and if they brought as many arguments against the Bible as there are bullets in the armouries of Europe, my answer would be one and the same. “There is a great deal of reason in what you say—but I know my God. That is enough.”

Velvet Elvis

21 07 2008
I’ve finally finished reading Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell (after taking a break to read six or so books for my summer class. Ugh. Those were good, too, I guess :). ) The first part of the note is what I wrote in the comments to another note I wrote. The rest is what I’m adding now, having finished reading.

Part I: Chaps. 1-3
There are many things I like about this book, one being that it seems to have a very “questioning” theme about it. Rob Bell is very interested in shaking people out of their comfort zones in order to ask the tough questions about God and why they believe what they do. Some quotes I really liked so far:

“Questions are not scary.

What is scary is when people don’t have any.”

“Now I think the Bible is the most amazing, beautiful, deep, inspired, engaging collection of writings ever. How is it that this ancient book continues to affect me in ways no other book does?

But sometimes when I hear people quote the Bible, I just want to throw up.”

“It is possible to make the Bible say whatever we want it to, isn’t it?”

Another theme that comes into play in the book often (so far) is that of continuously reinterpreting and engaging our Christian faith. He says that Jesus meant for us to continue questioning and growing and following Him, without being stagnant in our beliefs (and this sort of comes into play in the subtitle of the book: Repainting the Christian Faith. He speaks of a woman who says that she is going to “get back to the Bible and just take it for what it really says” in reference to a particular subject she was discussing in church with people who disagreed with her. The author goes on to say that “this view of the Bible is warped and toxic, to say the least.” He basically says there is no way to read the Bible without interpreting it through your own biases.

In the second chapter he references the Jewish rabbis of Jesus’ day and how they had “yokes” that their students would take up. He then says, “One rabbi even said his yoke was easy.”

In the third chapter, he speaks of God being present everywhere. He mentions how some missionaries tend to have this idea of bringing God to people. This isn’t really true, since God was there the whole time. A missionary’s job should only be to point Him out. In this chapter, he also says not to be afraid of learning new truth, even if it doesn’t come from someone who is “Christian”. He talks about a theoretical girl who grows up in Christianity and then goes to college. She is exposed to new ideas that pique her curiosity and interest, but since she has grown up without realizing that truth can be found outside of church walls, she is “now faced with this dilemma: believe the truth she’s learning or the Christian faith she was brought up with. Or we could put her dilemma this way: intellectual honesty or Jesus?” This chapter also speaks of not discounting significant moments in life that could be considered spiritual, but to accept them.

He says: “I assume you have had moments… when you were caught up in something so much bigger than yourself that you couldn’t even put it into words.” He says that a good faith should accept these moments instead of denying them.

Part II: My thoughts now

I think this book should be required reading for all Christians. The fifth chapter (or “movement” as he calls it), Dust, is worth the price of the book alone. It gives so much meaning to Jesus’ interactions and manners of speaking in a Jewish culture. I understand now why what much of He did was considered so shocking. I was nearly moved to tears reading this chapter. It shows how dearly he loves each person and how much faith He has in us (yeah, you read that right).

There are a couple things that I (possibly) disagree with in the book, but I still recommend it to all Christians (especially those who are stuck in legalism and judgmental ways). Of course, non-Christians can get a lot out of this book as well (and probably even more than the sorts of Christians who will read this book and criticize it for Bell’s more open-minded way of thinking). It promotes the opening of discussions between people who have different views. It encourages people with different interpretations of Scripture to actually discuss possible different meanings, instead of exchanging their own thoughts for those of whatever the authority (pastor, etc.) says is the truth. It calls for a community of like-minded believers who aren’t afraid to change what they believe if necessary. It urges readers not to just accept what one man behind a pulpit says, but to actually discover for oneself what the truth is and have civilized conversations with others about what is believed.

“If the gospel isn’t good news for everybody, then it isn’t good news for anybody.”

(originally written 7/11/08 )

The Unforgivable Sin

21 07 2008
I found a terrific article on this subject by George MacDonald, a theologian and writer who was deeply admired by none other than C.S. Lewis. I’ve been free from fear about this particular subject for quite some time now, and I wish I’d seen this article years ago. It helps to put this whole issue in perspective, and he effectively communicates that this particular sin isn’t one specific act, but a state of being (one that is not entirely irrevocable, either).

Here it is:

“My friends, I offer this as only a contribution towards the understanding of our Lord’s words. But if we ask him, he will lead us into all truth. And let us not be afraid to think, for he will not take it ill.”

(originally written 6/30/08 )


21 07 2008
I just read a great book online called So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore by “Jake Colsen” (actually a pseudonym for two authors). It’s about a man who grows increasingly frustrated with the church that he is an associate pastor at and his eventual departure from it. He only does so after he meets a man named John who helps him learn how to love and live in the freedom that only God can offer. He slowly learns how to break away from religion, organizations, and what is normally called “church”, and how to be free to love as Jesus did instead of trying to coerce people into behaving the way Christian society deems acceptable. My description is woefully failing at this point, so I suggest you go to and read the book for yourself. It’s really changed the way I look at church and is a terrific read. I found it very difficult to only read a chapter at a time.

Another book I’m currently reading is called A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, which is his personal memoirs after the death of his beloved wife, Joy. He asks difficult questions about God and even appears to lose his faith. The basic premise (from what I’ve read so far) of the book is that one can never know how much faith one has until it is tried by a tragic event in one’s life. An amazing quote from the book:
“If God’s goodness is inconsistent with hurting us, then either God is not good or there is no God: for in the only life we know He hurts us beyond our worst fears and beyond all we can imagine. If it is consistent with hurting us, then He may hurt us after death as unendurably as before it.
Sometimes it is hard not to say, ‘God forgive God.’ Sometimes it is hard to say so much. Buf if our faith is true, He didn’t. He crucified Him.”

And another:

“You could say we are fallen and depraved. We are so depraved that our ideas of goodness count for nothing; or worse than nothing—the very fact that we think something good is presumptive evidence that it is really bad. Now God has in fact—our worst fears come true—all the characteristics we regard as bad: unreasonableness, vanity, vindictiveness, injustice, cruelty. But all these blacks (as they seem to us) are really whites. It’s only our depravity that make them look black to us.”

It gets even better from there.

Read these books. I command you. Do it now. Don’t hesitate. DO IT! Use your abilities! Reading is a superpower! Be a superhero! Hurrah!


(originally written 5/23/08 )