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Episode 3: The Goodness of God with John Stackhouse

Dr. John Stackhouse, Jr., Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada, joins RethinkingHell.com contributor Chris Date to discuss his story as a conditionalist and his lecture, “Hell and the Goodness of God.”

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11 Responses to Episode 3: The Goodness of God with John Stackhouse

  1. Paul B says:

    Got your link via Ed Fudge. I wanted to download, but that link seems to go directly to ‘play now’.

    • Chris Date says:

      Hi Paul. You should be able to click “Download” above. You can also subscribe to the podcast by clicking the big icon at the top-right of the page, or by searching for “Rethinking Hell” in iTunes or Zune. Can you try one of those options out and let me know if you were able to listen?

    • Peter Grice says:

      Browsers these days seem to open MP3s rather than download them. Try right-clicking on the ‘download’ link, and choosing to save to your computer.

  2. TilledSoil says:

    Hi Chris, John (Dr. Stackhouse was one of my primary professors at Regent),

    I’m still on the fence on this one (which means I’m a traditionalist) as I haven’t put in enough study to break from the majority. However, I’ve been impressed by the conditionalist case enough to start paying more attention to it. This was another helpful interview in that regard! (I’m also unimpressed with the traditionalist response so far – at least from the figures Chris has been in contact with and exposed me to.)

    What would be really great, Chris, would be a debate between scholars of equal ability on both the exegetical and theological basis (maybe even in one 2 vs 2 debate if it were long enough to get to the details?). I suppose this kind of thing would need to be done in print though, as it would probably be too long for the debate format. I am curious what folks would recommend as the best from the traditionalist side.

    I also keep hearing traditionalists assert that conditionalism causes major problems, theologically, for all sorts of core aspects of Christianity, yet I’ve been unable to determine what those aspects are (other than from *some* forms of conditionalism). Joshua Whipps made a big deal about this over at Choosing Hats. When I asked, he referred me to your debate (which, IMO, was kind of a train-wreck… sorry Chris), but I never really heard this come out clearly. So, I guess I’m still waiting… ;)

    re: this interview with John:

    I like the idea that sin and evil are removed, rather than eternally quarantined. While Scripture must remain the decider, that makes more sense theologically to me. I also disagree with the idea of sin being infinite against an infinite God, but is that really the argument (by most traditionalists)? Isn’t it more that sinners (being hostile rebels against God) will never stop sinning?

    I still don’t agree with the parallel to earthly capital punishment, so I was really happy to see John push back on that a bit. I think it is better to see final death not being the actual payment, just the final result (so, in that sense, yes, part of the punishment and payment). This better parallels Christ’s suffering in the atonement. To me, might the push to distance the view from the traditionalist view be motivating a ‘falling in the other ditch’ type of problem here for many conditionalists?

    Apologetically, I certainly can see the benefit of the conditionalist view. Unfortunately, that might be the biggest critique from the traditionalists, and I see their point to be very careful there. However, I also have to consider that Evangelistically, ‘putting the fear of hell’ might have weighed into getting it wrong too. Ultimately, this decision must be made exegetically and theologically.

    • Chris Date says:

      Hi, Steve. It is Steve, right? We’ve talked here and there if I recall :) And you posted a bunch of my episodes at the end of a relevant blog post, right? Thanks so much for your feedback!

      When you say the Whipps debate was a train wreck, what do you mean? I know what *I* would mean if I were to say that about it, but I’m curious what you mean :)

      As for what he alleges to be serious problems that logically follow from conditionalism, I’m not sure what those would include, but I suspect they would include: 1) an inability to account for the whole definition of death as defined by Scripture; 2) a denial of the present reality of regeneration; and 3) an inconsistency between our understanding of final punishment and what Christ bore on the cross, one which might allegedly turn into heresy if we try to be consistent. I believe I fully addressed all three of those in my first rebuttal.

      I, too, would like to hear a debate such as what you’ve described. I don’t know if I’d like it in print, because I think cross-examination is the most important part of the debate. And I don’t think an in-person one would be too long, even a very thorough, comprehensive one; haven’t you listened to debates that span multiple days? As to who should participate in such a debate, representing either side, I don’t know. Personally I would recommend Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson for the traditionalist side. But as for the conditionalist side, I don’t know.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think just about any conditionalist(s) will kick their proverbial butt. The problem is, I think each possible candidate is going to have some disadvantages when it comes to audience perception. Dr. Glenn Peoples is, I think, the absolute best candidate in terms of the argument. Unfortunately, conservative evangelicals are not going to like certain stances he takes on some positions, and his opponents will likely press him on his physicalism. Edward Fudge would do well, but unfortunately I think his affiliation with the Church of Christ might turn some watchers off, as might his tendency to self-identify as not smart enough to follow the reasoning of his opponents (I think the rhetorical effect is good, but has its disadvantages). Stackhouse would do well on some issues, but I think the way he presents conditionalism is very dangerous, as one in which the wicked suffer and pay the full penalty of their sin, and then die; his opponents will likely pick up on what I picked up on, namely, why do they then go on to die? What penalty is left to pay with their death? And while I think I would do well, I think my inexperience and lack of education will cause watchers to completely dismiss me.

      So I don’t know what conditionalists we need to do this debate. I suspect that what Stackhouse said is true: We need to get some prominent, prestigious theologians to come out in defense of conditionalism, adding clout to our view. Then we might be able to find conditionalists for such a debate who appear less questionable to traditionalists in other areas, and who are nevertheless able to capably defend our position.

      RE: Your question about the interview itself

      No, I don’t think the more common response is that sinners keep sinning in hell. I do think it’s becoming increasingly common, and perhaps will one day pass the infinite sin argument as being the one more commonly appealed to. Here’s my response to that argument: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2012/07/no-penitent-in-hell-a-reformed-response-to-d-a-carson-2

      With absolute respect due you, I don’t agree with you that death is merely the final result, with the primary payment being suffering. I think that goes terribly contrary to the Scriptures, which consistently and repeatedly identify Christ’s death as the punishment He bore on behalf of the elect, and even where the Scripture says He suffered, it’s in the context of His death: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2012/08/cross-purposes-atonement-death-and-the-fate-of-the-wicked

      And I totally agree with your final paragraph. I am not convinced that conditionalism makes evangelism and apologetics easier. (Although, Edward Fudge says he receives countless testimonies from people who say that evangelism and apologetics has, in fact, been easier with conditionalism.) However, I also hotly dispute the traditionalist claim that conditionalism makes it harder to evangelize: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2012/08/cross-purposes-atonement-death-and-the-fate-of-the-wicked

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  4. Mike says:

    Currently listening to the podcast and while its still fresh on mind wanted to say a couple of things. First I do think this topic of Conditionalism and other traditional doctrines are being challenged today are part of a reformation that is going on within the church body. More and more I’m seeing Christians being open to other other possibilities apart from their denominational beliefs and church traditions. I can testify that I was a staunch proponent of traditional views and held firmly with a grip that it was right. Within the past few years that has changed, I could be wrong about a few things and I should be atleast open minded to challenge the thought and let scripture explain scripture instead of a man’s opinion.

    Second I think he is incorrect about his comment concerning if one has enough credentials to form a logical opinion. It seemed to me that it was implied that if you are not a theologian, scholar that you doctrinal work on a topic is somehow less or possibly dismissed. A doctrine wouldn’t get any traction unless it was written by a “clergy” member instead of the “laymen”. This mindset is what divides and hurts the body of Christ. Jesus never spoke concerning one being superior over another. I believe God is using those that don’t hold the high credentials to judge those that do.

    Keep up the good work

    • Chris Date says:

      Thanks, Mike! In Stackhouse’s defense, I don’t think he was agreeing that someone lacking clout *should be* dismissed; rather, I think he was saying that it is an unfortunate reality in evangelicalism today that someone lacking clout *is* dismissed, and so he thinks it’ll take someone with clout coming out in defense of our view in order to really cause it to make inroads into evangelicals. It’s not a mindset he appears to share, but one he thinks many evangelicals do, and he’s just trying to be realistic. Does that make more sense?

      • Mike says:

        Yes makes sense thanks. BTW really enjoying the podcast. Not yet convinced on conditionalist view but it does make sense and willing to study and listen further. On a side note, I know others think that being eternally tormented in hell is frightening and very much would be, but to imagine being completely annihilated…to exist no more is extremely frightening. To stand at the judgement and have God make his case and then comes complete destruction! Terrifying!

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