Jesus Undefeated is the fourth volume in a series of books from author Keith Giles where he attempts to develop a christocentric view in contrast to views that are assumed to be dominant or traditional views on politics, the bible, church, and hell (Jesus Untangled, Jesus Unbound, Jesus Unveiled, and Jesus Undefeated, respectively).
Jesus Undefeated is an accessible, approachable book on the views of hell and, more specifically, what the Bible says (and doesn’t say) and what early Christian leaders thought. The thrust of the argument is that diversity of thought exists (Eternal Suffering is not the obvious or primary view), biblical supports vary, and mainstream Christian leaders held a view of Universal Reconciliation (this was not some fringe sect, in other words).
Giles builds his argument by summarizing the three primary views (Eternal Suffering, Annihilation, and Universal Reconciliation) in chapters 1-3; examining each view’s biblical and theological basis in 4-8; exploring questions typically raised by supporters of differing views in 9; and applying the concept of Universal Reconciliation in 10-16.
The tone is very conversational and avoids technical academic arguments in theology, history, philosophy, or biblical studies. This style is at its strongest when describing the different views and making a case for Universal Reconciliation, though chapters 10-16 lack the earlier structure that provided a clearer focus.
While staking the position of Universal Reconciliation as a historically and biblically coherent perspective, Giles does allow room for the conclusions of others. He writes, “So, again, no matter what view of Hell you embrace, you do so because it’s what you see the Bible affirming. You may also feel safe knowing that a certain handful of early Church Fathers or wise Christian teachers in the past once also held your views. Your view may also support your other convictions about the nature of God and the nature of human beings (40)”. This paragraph hinges the summaries of views to their examinations and sets a tone for assessing each in the context of their broader orientation. The question of hell is not an isolated tenet of faith, but inextricably bound up with other pertinent beliefs and assumptions. By lifting a mirror to the topic of hell, Giles continues his effort to discern a cohesive Christian faith that bridges Jesus’ teaching and the Early Church with contemporary life.
The greatest beneficiaries to this book will be people who cannot square the values of a loving, gracious Christian faith with the supposed necessity of Eternal Suffering. By making a proactive case for the diversity of thought and primacy of Universal Reconciliation, the reader is invited into new possibilities for living and sharing their faith fully.
This book would make an excellent resource for a small group study, especially for churches which do not have established doctrine of hell and leave its members to rely on popular assumptions. This book will force readers to hold their projections and conflicting biblical texts in hand, leading to some dynamic discussions that extend beyond the mere subject of hell. Logistically, the book could be read and discussed in 1-2 months, or spend 6 months reading through the set of four in whichever order is most pertinent to the group.
(A copy of this book was provided to the reviewer in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review.)