The Walrus, a magazine not renowned for a sustained interest in Christian thought, in its April number commendably features a review article of a book about, of all things, hell: Marq de Villiers, Hell and Damnation: A Sinner’s Guide to Eternal Torment (University of Regina, 2019). Villiers is a Nova Scotia-based journalist whose previous books discuss wine, water, and, inevitably, the Bluenose. But now he turns to the history of theology.
To review this book, The Walrus called upon the services of…another journalist. Michael Coren is known to many Canadians in one or another of his successive personae: political journalist, shock jock, evangelical TV show host, right-wing Catholic pundit, and now a left-leaning Anglican on the barricades for various LGBTQ+ causes.
Michael (whom I have met and with whom I enjoy a cordial acquaintance) has recently completed a Master of Divinity degree at Trinity College, Toronto—a school with an illustrious heritage that has not, however, retained what one might call a robust connection with Christian orthodoxy. So let’s see how hell shows up in the hands of these journalists in Canada’s aspiring magazine of ideas.
Alas, reading the first few pages of Mr. Villiers’s volume tells me all I need to know about what kind of book it is: cheerfully uninterested in orthodoxy of any kind, versed in sources almost entirely gained from the Internet, and with no apparent connection to any of the scholarly literature on the subject. (It’s not evident to me why a university press—even a little, struggling one—would publish such a book.)
Readers hungry for a volume calculated to jolt and amuse while confirming bien-pensant prejudices toward those awful, silly churchpeople and their outlandish ideas will eat it up—perhaps with a nice pinot noir. Serious people will devote their reading hours to the likes of philosopher Jerry L. Walls’s Hell: The Logic of Damnation (University of Notre Dame Press, 1992) or the collection of theological essays presenting Four Views on Hell (HarperZondervan, 2016).
As for Michael’s own review, I don’t want to pick on someone who has just barely earned his first theological degree. So let’s just tidy up a few things.
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