Lessons You Learn As A Conditionalist (Part 2)

Having held to evangelical conditionalism, a minority Christian view on the doctrine of hell for some time now, I find that it has taught me a lot about things that go far beyond final punishment. Some time ago, I wrote an article spelling out a number of these lessons (see Part 1).
This article will add to that list of lessons that. Though they were driven home as I discussed this particular issue with others, they can nonetheless have application in many other matters.
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A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 2 (John Stackhouse on Terminal Punishment)

John Stackhouse has been a faithful friend to Rethinking Hell. He has appeared on our podcast twice (Episode 3, and Episode 86). He wrote the foreward to the first Rethinking Hell book, Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism (Eugene: Cascade, 2014), and was a plenary speaker at the first Rethinking Hell conference in 2014 (that address was printed in our second book, A Consuming Passion: Essays in Honor of Edward Fudge. Eugene: Pickwick, 2015.). So Rethinking Hell contributors were pleased to hear he had been tapped on the shoulder to contribute to the second edition of Four Views on Hell.
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The Hermeneutics of Conditionalism: Chris Date's ETS Presentation Available for Download

On April 1st, I had the pleasure and honor to speak in a parallel session at the 2016 ETS Eastern Region Meeting, held at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where I am earning my undergraduate degree in biblical and theological studies. There I presented a greatly abridged version of a paper I am developing for publication entitled The Hermeneutics of Conditionalism: A Defense of the Interpretive Method of Edward Fudge. For a cost of $4.00, ETS has made an audio recording of my presentation available for purchase and download here: http://www.wordmp3.com/details.aspx?id=21766. I covet feedback on my developing paper, so if you download and listen, please email me at chrisdate@rethinkinghell.com with your thoughts!
(Note that recordings of all plenary and parallel sessions, including mine, are available for purchase and download as a single set here: http://www.wordmp3.com/product-group.aspx?id=495. For what is surely a limited time, that set costs only $9.99, but apparently will one day cost $60.)

A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 1 (Denny Burk on Eternal Torment)

In the discussion of hell, Denny Burk has a very significant advantage; his interpretation is the majority opinion. What cannot be disputed in this discussion is that over the course of 2000 years of Church history the majority (though of course not all) of Christian theological writing has presented that those who reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ will experience eternal conscious torment (ECT) in hell. But one of the things which becomes apparent in reading Denny Burk’s chapter in Four Views on Hell (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 20161 – for a chance to win a copy enter here) is that the scriptural basis for this view being the majority is far more flimsy than this view’s advocates would have us believe. Even though John Stackhouse, Robin Parry, and Preston Sprinkle pointed out several problems (there will be considerable overlap below) there is still much in Burk’s presentation to be covered.2
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  1. Many thanks to Zondervan for providing copies of this book to Rethinking Hell contributors. []
  2. The same can be said of the other contributions which will be reviewed in the near future []

“The Unsaved in Hell Would Want To Be Annihilated to End their Suffering!”: Why This Argument Completely Misses the Point

If you have been a conditionalist for a while, you will have certainly heard it stated that annihilationism can’t be true because people suffering in hell would want to be annihilated, and therefore annihilation is actually a good thing, not a punishment.
This traditionalist objection has always made me cringe because the fact that it misses the point is almost self-evident: annihilation is a bad thing because it is worse than the alternative fate of eternal life with God. That seems pretty simple, right?
However, I have never really laid down in one place a solid rebuttal to this argument. I hope to rectify that here. Because it is accepted by many, and because healthy dialogue is seldom furthered by simply telling others “you’re wrong, stupid,” I’d like to take this opportunity to break down this line of reasoning and explain where I think it falls short.
Firstly, I actually agree that annihilation is a less terrible fate than eternal torment – at least the historical Christian version of eternal torment that involved fire and unbelievable pain and suffering, that is. By comparison, death would be an improvement. Annihilationists are divided on this, but that is where I stand. Therefore, if some people were in hell, being horribly tormented, burned alive (or its equivalent) in the presence of Jesus and the angels (which is as much a part of as the references to the smoke of their torment and “for ever and ever”), and these people were given the option to be destroyed or to stay in that condition for eternity, they would surely choose destruction. And in doing so, they would be better off than if they stayed alive in traditionalist hell for ever and ever. To this extent, I agree with the traditionalist sentiment behind this argument.
That said, this is irrelevant as to whether or not evangelical conditionalism is true.
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And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

"Hell Triangle"—Christian Views of Final Punishment

Rethinking Hell’s classic “Hell Triangle” chart has been revised and updated, and made available in a variety of formats, for printing and including in blogs and presentations.

You may freely use the images below under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives license. This means that you can use the diagram in any way, so long as appropriate attribution is included, and so long as you don’t change the image or use it to make your own version. Continue reading “"Hell Triangle"—Christian Views of Final Punishment”