I recently ran across a blog entry entitled R.C. Sproul on Hell. The post is just an excerpt from one of Sproul’s books, prefaced by a comment that the selection is “a great treatment on the doctrine of Hell.” While I’m accustomed to shoddy work in this area, I think Sproul has set the bar pretty low here, which is especially surprising considering the blog author’s glowing endorsement and the fact that Sproul is, in general, a pretty careful thinker.
Sproul is actually wrong more than five times. His last sentence, for example, assumes a faulty view of the intermediate state, but that’s a debatable issue that would require quite a bit of space to bear out. Below is the actual text under consideration. Bolding and brackets have been added to indicate the claims in dispute.  through  are easily shown, I think, to be in error. [A] and [B] are more speculative claims that I won’t say are necessarily false, but deserve comment nonetheless.
The doctrine of eternal punishment, though unpopular and frightening, is part of the confession of every branch of the historic Christian church.  Only in the last century, under the influence of liberalism, have some reinterpreted the doctrine. While some flatly deny hell’s existence, others understand it to be a temporary place of purging or punishment. Others advocate annihilationism, in which God ends the existence of the unrepentant soul. Such theologies seek to escape or mitigate the implications of eternal punishment.
 The fact is, however, that virtually every statement in the Bible concerning hell comes from the lips of Jesus Christ. We cannot take Jesus seriously without also taking seriously what he said regarding eternal punishment.
There is very little about hell in the Old Testament  and very little in the Epistles. [A] It is almost as if God decided that a teaching this frightening would not be received from any lesser authority than that of his own Son.
 Jesus chose the most dreadful images he could find to describe the reality of hell. One is the image of darkness, which emphasizes separation from God. Another is that of fire,  or a lake of fire. I believe that the lake of fire is a symbol and that the reality is far worse than the symbol. [B] The wicked who are now experiencing the wrath of God would do anything to jump into a mere lake of fire.
1. Even if we give Sproul the benefit of the doubt, and assume that by “the last century” he means the 19th century, he would still be wrong. Anyone who disputes this can read Al Mohler’s chapter in Hell Under Fire. There we have an evangelical, contributing to a book that seeks to defend the traditional view of hell, who acknowledges that a variety of views have been held prior to the 19th century.
2. This is simply false, unless Sproul means that virtually every biblical reference to Gehenna comes from the lips of Jesus. If by “hell” Sproul means the ultimate end of the unsaved then the entire Bible has much to say about it—it just doesn’t say what he expects it to say.
3. The claim about the Old Testament is the subject of heated debate, but I have honestly never heard a traditionalist say that the Epistles have very little to say about hell. Doug Moo rejects this notion outright in his oft-quoted contribution to Hell Under Fire:
On the basis of a concordance, one might expect an article on Paul’s teaching about hell to be very short. In most English versions, the word “hell” never appears in the letters of Paul. And for good reason: Paul never uses the Greek words usually translated “hell” (geenna and hadēs). But this book is not about the word “hell” but about the doctrine of hell. If that doctrine is defined as teaching about the ultimate destiny of the wicked, then Paul says much about it.
4. If Sproul thinks that darkness and fire are the most dreadful images that Jesus could find, then may I suggest that Sproul believes our savior to have a deficient imagination. A quick skim through Dante’s Inferno will show that one can easily conjure up images much more dreadful than mere darkness and fire.
5. Jesus never spoke of a lake of fire. This is imagery from the book of Revelation. I can’t understand how Sproul would get something like this wrong. If Sproul does know that this imagery is from Revelation, then that would nullify his speculation found in [A]. It would also mean that by “hell” Sproul does not just mean references to Gehenna.
A. This claim is somewhat speculative (“it’s almost as if . . . “), but it does seem to echo the sentiment (also found in  and extremely common in traditionalist literature) that the words of Jesus are somehow more true or more important than the rest of Scripture. On a hunch, I searched the website of Ligonier Ministries (Sproul’s organization) and found the following in a FAQ section regarding their Reformation Study Bible:
We have chosen not to use red-lettering in the RSB for a few reasons. Red-lettering is a fairly recent tradition used by some (but not all) Bible publishers. The original Greek texts of the New Testament did not use red-lettering or any other means to distinguish Christ’s words, and the use of red-lettering can sometimes unintentionally lead readers to the conclusion that Christ’s words are more important or more inspired than the rest of the Bible (emphasis mine).
B. If anyone thought that the traditional view of hell couldn’t be more horrific, Sproul somehow finds a way to make it worse. One must wonder what place there could possibly be for degrees of punishment if everyone in hell will suffer a fate that is literally worse than burning in a lake of fire for eternity.
Far from being a “great treatment” on hell, this is one of the most sloppy, inaccurate, and just poorly thought out pieces that I’ve read recently.
Update: I just ran across a blog post on a different site that also merely quotes R.C. Sproul on hell. This excerpt is from a different publication, but it contains many of the same errors. Sadly, some people are evidently not interested in thinking through these issues carefully—it’s enough for them to uncritically cite a evangelical celebrity who happens to take their view.