This month, I have the special privilege of reviewing a book written by a good friend of all the McCropders, Jay Dykstra. Jay, Eric, and John were all medical students and CMDA members together. Jay and his family now live in western Michigan, where he works as a radiologist and faithfully supports lots of missionaries. From what I remember, Jay’s book, Healing Hereafter, came out of the aftermath of Rob Bell’s controversial book Love Wins, where Bell argues against the existence of an eternal Hell. Jay has worked extensively through the years mentoring high school and college students and has taken this opportunity to compile his thoughts and answers to tons of controversial and common questions raised by many Christians (both new and experienced). Some of the questions he investigates include “Are children who die automatically guaranteed to go to Heaven?” “Are we predestined to Heaven or Hell, and what does that mean?” “Where do believers and non-believers go right after they die?” “Is Hell eternal?” “What does a Heaven free of sin mean for things such as free will?” With admirable thoroughness, Jay spends almost 500 pages addressing these questions.
Let me start by saying that this book is absolutely recommended reading. I may not necessarily agree with all of the conclusions that Jay comes to (not that he’s wrong, just that some things are hard to know) but the questions he writes to answer are important things for Christians to consider. He spends some time at the beginning of the book arguing why the response of “God’s ways are higher than my own and I can’t hope to understand them, so they will just stay mysteries and I’m OK with that” isn’t a good way to look at things. It was a good challenge for me to not just shy away from things that are confusing or uncomfortable and instead examine the evidence in front of me. That being said, I still maintain that all of our logic is not going to get us to God; just because something “seems logical” to me does not mean that it is true of God, and that God’s infinite being and His infinite wisdom are beyond my complete understanding.
I realized as I was reading this book how many of my beliefs about the afterlife are not necessarily based on the Bible, but instead on what I would like to be the case. I would like there not to be an Eternal Hell. I would like that everyone goes to Heaven. But Jay spends a lot of time reviewing Bible passages to see what is actually contained within on the topics of Heaven and Hell. And I have to say that some of it was quite surprising to me, a lifelong Bible reader. There was more than one occasion that I exclaimed out loud, “That’s in the Bible?!” and immediately double checked. Jay is very thorough and goes over many arguments and counter-arguments as he works through his questions in a logical and systematic manner. It’s quite a tome, not exactly light reading, but he does include several Cliff’s notes versions in the back, a condensed and ultra-condensed version of his arguments. You might not like some of the conclusions he comes to, but he has spent a lot of time doing his homework on this and it’s all from the Bible. Of course, two people can read the same passage and come to two different conclusions, but Jay’s reasoning makes sense.
I’m not much of a theologian. I like to think in terms of practical and concrete. I can’t sit down with Jay and have a deeply theological conversation about his conclusions. But I know that the book helped me examine my beliefs on Heaven and Hell, come to some different conclusions than I had previously, and expand my knowledge of Scriptural teachings. And on a brief side note, all the proceeds from this book will be donated to various charities supporting orphans, women, and families, so that alone is worth the purchase price. :)