Although some details of the 2014 Rethinking Hell Conference have been in place for over a year, we have only recently finalized the rest of our conference schedule, including breakout session speakers and other details, which we are excited to share with you all now. If you haven’t registered yet, visit our registration website here!
Friday, July 11
Our conference begins on Friday evening; doors and registration open at 6:00 p.m. Registration will take place in the Lanier Library dining hall, where we will have book tables from Wipf & Stock, as well as titles from various conditionalist authors for purchase. We will also have a visual exhibit on the work of Edward Fudge, including Edward’s correspondence with such notable thinkers as F.F. Bruce, John Stott, and Michael Green, as well as various important manuscripts and papers from Edward’s study on hell. We will also have an exhibit featuring information and memorabilia from the various authors whose writings are included in our forthcoming book, Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism.
The program will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Stone Chapel with a welcome and introduction from the most public face of Rethinking Hell, our principal blogger and podcaster, Chris Date. John Stackhouse will open up the conference at 7:15 p.m. with a plenary talk on the legacy of Edward Fudge, and we will follow this with an open mic time at 8:30 p.m. where conference participants may share thoughts and blessings with Edward. We will end Friday evening on an appropriate note with a screening of the film based on Edward’s life, Hell and Mr. Fudge, beginning at 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 12
Doors will open again Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m., giving attendees an hour to settle in before a short introduction to the Rethinking Hell project at 9:00 a.m. from founder Peter Grice, coming all the way from Brisbane, Australia. Peter will explain a bit about the aims and strategies of Rethinking Hell, and he will also share about a statement on evangelical conditionalism that we’d like to use as a way of self-identifying the theological tenets of our movement and building momentum with like-minded evangelical conditionalists.
This will be followed by a brief presentation from Logos Bible Software, who will be selling their product at a significant discount at the conference, and demonstrating how we as conditionalists can use their software to argue our case exegetically!
Next, Chris Date will host a live interview with Edward Fudge at 9:30 a.m., recorded for the Rethinking Hell podcast, where Edward will share interesting experiences and anecdotes from his ministry as one of the leading proponents of conditionalism. This will also include a time for him to answer questions from conference attendees. Following a half-hour break, we will head to our first round of breakout sessions at 11:00 a.m., which will feature a variety of papers on topics related to conditional immortality and the final judgment.
Breakout Session #1
- Roger Harper: “Hades in Revelation.”
- This paper will outline Harper’s view of Hades as being distinct from Gehenna in nature and purpose through close examination of Jesus’ words in Revelation 1:17–18 and Luke 16, particularly focusing on the strong implications that he has found for postmortem repentance prior to final judgment.
The Reverend Harper is an Anglican vicar who studied at the University of Cambridge (French and Russian) and St. John’s College, Nottingham (Theology). He is also the author of The Lie of Hell, which Edward Fudge has called “a stimulating and nuanced form of conditional immortality likely to invigorate Bible students of all persuasions.”
- Douglas Jacoby: “Doctrinal, Biblical, and Psychological Obstacles to Accepting Conditionalism.”
- This study will consider three clusters of impediments to the acceptance of conditionalism: doctrinal, biblical, and psychological. Jacoby will also discuss the potential for large-scale doctrinal change through influencing smaller, independent Christian movements by way of an example from his own church affiliation.
Dr. Jacoby is a graduate of Duke University (History), Harvard Divinity School (New Testament), and Drew University (Ministry). After twenty years of full-time preaching, Douglas launched an independent Bible teaching ministry in 2003 as well as serving as an adjunct professor in the MA program in Bible and Theology at Lincoln Christian University. He has written two dozen books, including What’s the Truth About Heaven and Hell? Sorting Out the Confusion About the Afterlife.
- Rob McRay: “Moses, Jesus, and Fudge: How Edward Fudge (and Biblical Theology) Changed What I Preach about Hell.”
- This presentation will discuss the impact of Edward Fudge on a minister’s treatment of the subject of hell in preaching and teaching ministry in churches and among the unchurched. It will make the case that the most important aspect of Fudge’s work is the correlation of conditionalism with important themes in biblical theology (as a discipline distinct from systematic theology), especially God’s love (chesed) and justice. The paper will also argue that the traditional view of hell is incompatible with God’s self-revelation in Scripture.
Rob McRay is a graduate of Abilene Christian University (Biblical Studies) and Wheaton College (Biblical Studies) and has done graduate study in New Testament backgrounds at the University of Chicago. He is the founding minister of Reunion Christian Community in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as an adjunct instructor in Bible at Lipscomb University.
- Nick Quient: “Paul and the Annihilation of Death.”
- This paper will work to establish a clear sense of the apostle Paul’s view of immortality, the nature of the human body and soul, and final judgement, paying particular attention to 1 Corinthians 15.
Nick Quient is graduate of Biola University (Film) and is currently pursuing an MA in Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, as well serving as a contributing team member of the Rethinking Hell project.
At 12:00 p.m. we’ll take a break for lunch (off-site). Third Circle conference sponsors will join Edward and Sara Faye Fudge, John Stackhouse, and the Rethinking Hell leadership, for a special lunch out. (There’s still time to sponsor the conference! Go to the conference website for details.) We’ll reconvene at 1:30 p.m. for our second set of breakout sessions.
Breakout Session #2
- Shawn Bawulski: “The Annihilationist’s Theological Problem.”
- This paper will raise a difficulty for annihiliationism/conditionalism that Bawulski feels has not been adequately addressed. First, it will argue that Christ’s death was essentially like ours, providing exegetical and theological support for this conclusion. Second, it will consider the major theories for the atonement, showing how each entails the idea that Christ’s death was like ours. Finally, it will argue that this leads to unacceptable consequences for Christology for annihilationism.
Dr. Bawulski is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute (Bible and Theology), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Divinity), and the University of St. Andrews (Systematic and Philosophical Theology). He currently serves as an assistant professor of Theology at LCC International University in Lithuania and is the coauthor of Christian Theology: The Classics.
- Ralph Bowles: “The Offer of Life: Conditional Immortality in the Practice of Evangelism.”
- This presentation will give new clarity and force to the communication of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, including practical demonstration of how conditionalism can inform an evangelistic presentation.
The Reverend Dr. Ralph Bowles trained for Anglican ministry at Moore College Sydney, serving as a rector in the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, before being called to serve as rector (priest in charge) in an evangelical parish in Brisbane in 1990. Since 2009 he has worked as a church development officer, applying Natural Church Development for improving the health in 44 percent of parishes of the Anglican Church Southern Queensland.
- Ronnie Demler: “Persuasive or Evasive? Subtle and Not-So-Subtle Shifts in Traditionalist Dialectics.”
- This paper is a polemic against the traditional view of final punishment as it has been presented by church leaders, theologians, apologists, pastors, and preachers throughout history. An exposé of sorts, much of the paper will be devoted to setting simple, straightforward, biblical affirmations in stark contrast to statements made by traditionalists over the years, up to and including the present day, including whether or not the impenitent die, whether or not the impenitent live forever, whether or not the impenitent are immortal, whether or not the impenitent are destroyed, and whether or not the impenitent are consumed. This paper will show that a comparison of Scripture to the frank affirmations of traditionalists leaves traditionalism in an unenviable position and that contemporary attempts to reconcile the apparent disconnect are not successful.
Ronnie Demler is a graduate of Biola University (Philosophy). He has been a guest contributor to the Rethinking Hell podcast and blog, as well as the principal blogger at Conditionalism.net.
- Sam Griffith: “Men Have Forgotten God.”
- This presentation will look at examples of “hell on earth” through the presenter’s experiences in Iraq, Sudan, Rwanda, and Guatemala, putting in context the justification for God’s judgment against sinners in hell.
Justice Sam Griffith is a judge in the Twelfth Court of Appeals in Texas, and he received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University, as well as his Juris Doctor from St. Mary’s School of Law. Justice Griffith has taught US Constitutional Law at Yunnan University School of Law in Kunming, the People’s Republic of China, and during the first of his three mission trips to Iraq, he taught US Constitutional Law at Koya University in Koya, Iraq. He has also written, delivered, or published articles on topics ranging from law to social psychology, from farming to devotionals. In 2011, he received a Global Encourager award from the Global Evangelistic Relations Committee for the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention for his mission work in Iraq.
We’ll end the second breakout session after just shy of an hour to give everyone a few minutes to switch rooms if necessary to attend the third breakout session of their choice, which begins at 2:30 p.m.
Breakout Session #3
- David Cramer: “How to Talk About the Afterlife (If You Must): Ten Theses to Guide Debates Among Traditionalists, Conditionalists, and Universalists.”
- This paper proposes and defends ten theses that Cramer believes should guide debates about the afterlife, especially debates among evangelical traditionalists, conditionalists, and universalists. Instead of defending any one particular viewpoint, this paper offers a road map for debates on these issues among evangelicals.
David Cramer is currently a PhD student in Religion at Baylor University. He earned degrees at Bethel College (Biblical Studies and Philosophy) and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Cross-Cultural Ministry and Philosophy of Religion). He is the editor-in-chief of the journal, Reflections: A Publication of the Missionary Church Historical Society and the coeditor of The Activist Impulse: Essays on the Intersection of Evangelicalism and Anabaptism, as well as the author of numerous articles in publications such as the journal of Christians for Biblical Equality, Christian Scholars Review, and Philosophia Christi.
- Peter Grice: “Tempest Theophany, Cosmic Cataclysm, and the Vanished Vanquished.”
- This paper derives a biblical framework for conditional immortality which is independent of views about human constitution and an intermediate state and is thus streamlined for adoption within evangelicalism. Numerous biblical texts and motifs are interrogated and distilled into unifying themes which herald a certain logic of time, place, and divine prescription, out of which individual annihilation necessarily emerges. In particular, a hebraic this-worldly, shalom-based, two-age scheme will be explored with respect to life itself and the doctrine of resurrection, along with the elemental nature of final judgment (whether taken literally or figuratively), to show that themes of slaughter and burning coincide with the liberation of the cosmos via the obliteration of evil. Special attention will be given to the biblical roots of the Gehenna and Lake of Fire symbols, as well as passages from Isaiah 30–34, Haggai 2, Hebrews 12, and Revelation 14 and 21. The presentation concludes with a discussion of the ultimately positive eschatological vision that is entailed and how this overall scheme helps to frame our gospel message in ways which address specific contemporary concerns.
Peter Grice is a founder of the Rethinking Hell project, a global network of evangelical scholars, teachers, and laypeople who are exploring the doctrine of conditional immortality. He serves as president of Think Christianity, which promotes Christian thought in contemporary life, and as director of the TELOS Program, a unique course in Christian worldview and apologetics. He recently contributed a chapter on reason and the Christian faith to the book, True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism.
- Tim Jennings: “The Neuroscience of Belief: How Your View of Hell Impacts Your Brain.”
- This presentation will explore the neuroscience of fear-based beliefs and present evidence that a belief in eternal torment is damaging to the brain and body.
Timothy R. Jennings, MD, is a board-certified Christian psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, lecturer, international speaker, and author. Dr. Jennings was voted one of America’s Top Psychiatrists by the Consumer’s Research Counsel of America in 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Dr. Jennings is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, president elect of the Tennessee Psychiatric Association, vice president of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. He is in private practice in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His latest book, The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life, was released by InterVarsity Press in April 2013.
- Jim Wood: “Taking Conditionalism to the People: A Documentary from the Producers of Hell and Mr. Fudge.”
- This presentation will explore the challenge conditionalists face as to how best to communicate our message to the widest possible audience. While the topic of conditionalism is a familiar one for many theologians, it is a rare novelty at the popular level. As media producers, we had to address both how and what to do in order to effectively reach a mass audience. Hell and Mr. Fudge is our initial effort in that direction. While the response to the movie has been generally positive, there has also been some negative reaction—from apathy to opposition. Distribution of Hell and Mr. Fudge has been hampered due to its doctrinal content. We want to learn from our experience so far and continue seeking innovative ways to circumvent professional traditionalist “gatekeepers” in order to bring the movie and a subsequent documentary (from which interview clips will be shown) to the attention of the laity. This will mean thinking outside the box—and we are eager to hear from fellow conditionalists who may have advice and ideas that we have not considered.
Jim Wood is a graduate of Pacific Union College (Theology) and has been serving in media ministry since 1985. He is writer and associate producer of The Seventh Day: Revelations from the Lost Pages of History, a five-part documentary series hosted by Hal Holbrook. He is coproducer of Hell and Mr. Fudge and is currently working on a documentary on conditionalism.
After these breakout sessions, we will come back together at 3:30 p.m. in the chapel for a plenary talk on the future of conditionalism from Rethinking Hell’s very own Glenn Peoples. Following Glenn’s talk, we’ll break at 5:00 p.m. for dinner (off-site).
When we return from dinner at 6:30 p.m., Glenn will introduce the participants in and moderate our final and perhaps most highly anticipated event, an evening panel that will treat conference attendees to a dialogue between advocates of all the major views on final punishment. Joining conditionalists Edward Fudge and Dr. John Stackhouse will be Dr. Shawn Bawulski (Assistant Professor of Theology, LCC International University), representing a variation of the traditional view of hell known as reconciliationism, Dr. J. Lanier Burns (Senior Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary), representing a more mainstream traditional view, and Dr. Thomas Talbott (Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Willamette University), representing universalism.
After a rousing two hours of discussion, we’ll end the conference with some closing remarks at 8:30 p.m. and bid conference attendees a warm farewell.
Sunday, July 13
Though this event is not officially part of the Rethinking Hell Conference, John Stackhouse will be speaking at Edward Fudge’s church, Bering Drive Church of Christ, at their worship service, which begins at 10:15 a.m.
Special Hotel Package
We also wanted to let you know about a discounted hotel package we have secured for conference attendees at the Hilton Garden Inn in Northwest Houston. This is one of the closest hotels to the Lanier Theological Library, and their shuttle can take you to our conference venue (potentially saving you the cost of a rental car).
The special room rate for the weekend of our conference, which also includes a full made-to-order breakfast, is 2 queen size beds for US$89.00/night, or 1 king deluxe with a queen sofa bed for US$89.00/night. The cost for these rooms would regularly be $119 per night with $11.95 for breakfast, so that’s a savings of over $80 for a two-night stay. (Note: the breakfast will not appear on your receipt, but it is included in this package.)
If you would like to book your room, you can do so either by clicking here, or by calling the hotel reservation line at 414-935-5952 (7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST).