The Hellbound? filmmakers, including local boys Kevin Miller and David Rempel, produced a high quality film. I was thoroughly engaged throughout the entire film and it was not merely a “talking head” piece because it included some great cinematography. If the film was marketed as a piece that articulates various views on hell and then promotes a particular view, then the project was a success. However, the film was marketed as an even handed documentary that would merely raise questions and prompt discussion. The film prompted discussion, but was by no means even handed or 'just asking' questions. I disagree with Miller’s view on hell, I think the film is counterproductive in its goal of gracious dialogue, and it ultimately does more harm than good.
The doctrine of Hell as the populated place where people not-in-Christ dwell eternally is a difficult one to think about, but I hold it as a true doctrine of the church nonetheless. I believe it is the testimony of scripture and also the doctrine held throughout church history.
The specifics of what Hell is like as experienced by those in it is beyond our scope of complete understanding, yet the doctrine of hell is affirmed as a doctrine in many denominations - including the Mennonite Brethren Church. The MB Confession of Faith states that “all those who have rejected Christ will be condemned to hell, forever separated from the presence of God” (p.198 - Article 18).
In its commentary on Article 18, the MB Confession states:
“In sermon and parable Jesus, the kindest person that ever lived on this earth, proclaimed loudly and clearly that a day of judgment was yet to come (Matthew 7:9; 8:12; 25:31-46; John 3:16; 5:29). The apostles too made it very clear that the ungodly will ‘suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might’ (2 Thess.1:9)... Those who have rejected the gospel will suffer eternal punishment (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17)... ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath’ (John 3:36)” (p.203).
J.I. Packer eloquently and soberly discusses Hell as he understands it. His disposition towards the subject and his wisdom would have been a helpful addition to the film. I'd encourage you to watch it.
Hellbound? As Counterproductive (Regarding Gracious Discourse)
One of the primary goals of the film was to encourage and facilitate constructive dialogue. I believe the film contradicts this goal in the editing process because there were a few cheap-shots taken towards the “traditional-literal” folks, and the traditional-literal view of hell is described at the beginning only to be torn down as the film goes along. For example, a Mark Driscoll video clip was ripped from its context in order to prove a point being made. The argument was made that if you believe in a populated and eternal Hell, that you will be angry with everyone - as an example of this anger a clip of Driscoll yelling was shown. However, the clip ended before it was clear what Driscoll was yelling about, and in ripping it from its context they did not allow Driscoll the type of clarity he is due in a constructive conversation. In context, Driscoll is yelling at guys who abuse women. Surely, something people on all sides of the discussion can agree is worth a certain level of passion. It’s shoddy work and was not gracious in their treatment of Driscoll.
Another example of an “editing” low-blow was after one contributor discussed how he believed that not everyone is a child of God, and in so doing made a case that God loves everyone but not equally (with a special love for his children, the elect). After this clip, a brief montage of the general public were shown with a cheeky version of “One of these things...” playing in the background. Sure it was a moment of humor, but it was at the expense of one of the contributors - hardly a gracious way to treat a conversation partner. Such editing cheap-shots were not taken with those who held annihilationism or universalism as true, as far as I could tell.
Miller reduced himself to making fun of his opponents to make his view look better. Don't bully's do the same on childhood playgrounds?
Hellbound? Does More Harm Than Good
The film promises a dialogue on the different views of Hell but functions more as a universalistic sermon. The film promises a fair dialogue but takes cheap shots at contributors who hold a traditional-literal view of hell. The film was engaging and provocative, but it's easy to be provocative and hard to be fair and nuanced.
There is some good that has come out of the making of this film. I think the film may be helpful for some as a starting point to discuss the doctrine of Hell (they even provide a discussion guide available here). However, there is also a danger in showing it to a group that has no interest in seeking out further what the scriptures say about the matter. This film should be watched with ears, and a Bible, open.
Ultimately, I think the film does more harm than good. The film doesn’t talk very much about sin or the need for the incarnate, obedient, victory-winning, death-substituting, resurrected Jesus Christ. Repentance is not discussed at all as a normative part of the Christian experience, even though a consistent message preached throughout the New Testament is that people must repent of sin and believe the gospel in order to know and follow Jesus. While the film may be preaching some notion of good news, it is not the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that actions and beliefs have eternal consequences, while universalism proclaims actions and beliefs are essentially inconsequential from an eternal perspective. I agree with Mike Bickle's comment that it is both biblically irresponsible and incredibly dangerous for Christian's to propagate universalism. Hell as an eternally-populated place need not be the primary motivation to follow and talk to others about Jesus Christ, but we ought not throw the doctrine out the window either.
(Note: This version of the review has been edited in my attempt to be more clear)