There are a growing number of talented authors out there who are questioning the “traditional” Western notion of hell as eternal conscious torment (ECT). Charles Watson Sr. is one among these. In Hell in a Nutshell: The Mystery of His Will, Watson puts forth a very easy-to-digest book, while at the same time providing enough meat for any seasoned Christian thinker.
The book begins by weeding through some terms perhaps most Evangelicals have heard, but have never taken the time to fully understand—such doctrines as Conditional Immortality (CI), Christian Universalism (CU), and Unitarian Universalism (UU). Of course, what Watson offers here is a primer on such matters, and does so in order to “clear the air” of presuppositions that we may have about what we consider Orthodoxy and what we consider heretical. And he does a fine job indeed.
From here, Watson begins tackling some of the big issues that are argued over within Christendom. Concepts like divine justice, grace, and God’s love are explored and dissected, giving the reader more than enough food to chew on. And not only that, but Watson does such an admirable job that one cannot help but see how “the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation is simply the result of following God’s attributes where they naturally lead.” (72) Again though, Watson can only make such a claim because of his ability to address the faulty assumptions many Christians make about God’s nature and attributes.
What I enjoyed most about this book is that it is accessible and honest, without being overly verbose or pedantic. It is a book that could be given to any struggling Evangelical who is willing to sift through the assumptions they’ve made about God and the universe that has led them to conclude some of the human family will be eternally lost. But with vulnerability and an empathetic tone, Watson reminds us such will not be the case because God “will not damn anyone to ECT because his mercies are new every morning.” (20) And even though some Universalists “do not deny the existence of hell” (114), they just see God in such a way that his flames are “flames of unrelenting grace and perpetual mercy; that they are victorious flames of love that cannot be quenched until justice is brought to victory.” (114)
If you hold fast to the doctrine of ECT, but are willing to consider a vastly more merciful view of the Gospel, one that has a rich history tracing back all the way to the Apostle Paul, then I highly recommend this book.