by Dale C. Allison Jr.
Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mich. 184 pages
This is an honest book. It is also a compassionate book written by a man who cares deeply and thinks carefully. These reflections were originally offered as the Stone Lectures at Princeton Seminary. Questions about death, the afterlife, heaven and hell press upon all of us. Allison does not lie about his own existential fears in the face of death, final things and the presence of God. Nor does he flinch from addressing troubling questions including those that arose in his own near-death experience. This makes him a wise guide. He is humble in the face of what is unanswerable and respectful of those who refuse to accept the consolations of faith. In fact, neither does he accept sentimental consolations that avoid the questions. Rather, he probes his subject with theological courage and candor and is willing to let stand what is beyond all understanding. “How should I,” he asks, “respond to those who reject the topics with which this book concerns itself? I’ve never quarreled with such folk. I’ve rather listened to what they’ve had to say and tried to understand it, after which, if there is time I’ve respectfully shared why I’m not death-tolerant, and why I expect more than a coffin.” Allison draws upon a range of theological, biblical, historical and literary sources to explore these subjects. This astonishing range makes the book all the more compelling and delightful.