Episode 94: “Is Conditional Immortality Biblical?” Chris Date and Len Pettis Debate Hell

On Friday, September 9th, 2016, Len Pettis of the Bible Thumping Wingnut and Rethinking Hell contributor Chris Date debated the proposition, “Is Conditional Immortality Biblical?” Date affirmed, articulating and defending conditional immortality. Pettis denied, articulating and defending the traditional view of hell as eternal torment.


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The Bible Thumping Wingnut Website
The Striving for Eternity Ministries Website
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  • HaakAway

    Great presentation and great spirit of respect that you gave out.

    It was hard to sit and hear phrases like “false gospel” thrown at you while you reallly were just sticking to Scripture’s plain meaning.

    We are in a Slow Battle for hearts and minds that requires patiently presenting the evidence like this. Thanks for coming to our area.

    • Chris Date

      It was great to meet you, John!

  • Ken McKinney

    At the fifty-six minute mark, in response to Chris’s cross examination, Len Pettis states, regarding Jesus, that he ” spiritually died also!” That is heresy my friends ! I’m fairly confident that Len didn’t mean it that way, correct?

    • Chris Date

      I think he did, sadly. I think that’s fairly common among traditionalists, though.

  • TLY

    Chris, what I should say is that you’re anointed, but what I really feel like saying is, “Wow, wow, wow…you’re a rockstar and I want your autograph!”

    Great job there, but I frequently felt uncomfortable with the vast differences in strength of positions and skill levels. Like a blowout cannot be called a great game, this wasn’t a great debate. But I think it has potential for great effect on those adopting the notion of ECT.

    I hope no one saw me, but I did have to throw my hands up in the air and gasp when Len Pettis said, “The opposite of life is not death, it’s wrath.” (1:53 in the video)

    • Chris Date

      Yeah, that comment was pretty nonsensical.

      Don’t say I’m anointed, or a rockstar. If God has condescended to work through me, I’m grateful, but I deserve none of the praise myself. I do appreciate the compliment, though :) And you should have asked me for your autograph! Now I’m wondering who you were…

      • TLY

        Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean at the event, but my reaction in my own world as I watched the video. Sometimes I just have a visceral/emotional reaction to these type things, like when I suddenly blurt a loud “No!” when reading Robert Peterson’s book defending ECT!

        When that happens, my wife just checks on me and asks if everything is okay, and I tell her that it is, and that all is good. She doesn’t so much understand my reactions, or my attraction to the subject of CI, but she’s good with it nonetheless.

      • TLY

        “You have been given an anointing, a special touch from the Holy One. You know the truth.”
        1 John 2:20 Voice

        All Christians are anointed, including you, chosen for a specific purpose in furthering God’s Kingdom. I think it’s pretty clear you are anointed in this purpose. Okay, I’ll retract the rockstar status, but must leave the anointing! :)

  • LP Dion

    Valiant effort by Pettis. I don’t intend that as a put-down, he did just as well as any other traditionalist has done; but in the end he was trying to defend the indefensible. Like trying to protect Hiroshima with a bucket. He has a minor point about the term Conditional Immortality being a contradiction in itself, though.

  • disquswithme

    I listened intently to every second of both presenters.

    What I remember most about Date’s case is his emphasis on the atonement. I think this did set Pettis back to some degree, but it might have been too many steps ahead of most people (perhaps not). I might have just stuck with the Scriptural case merely for CI. I’d argue that it’s impossible for anyone to withstand that case without conceding that CI is a valid, possible interpretation, even if not agreeing with it.

    What I remember most about Pettis’ case is his emphasis on John 3:30 (i.e., “wrath of God remains on him”). I can’t find support for his statements about the Greek word, and other uses of that word in Scripture seem to undercut his claims. But insofar as it was out of left-field, it might have served to distract from Date’s case. If I were Pettis, I would have focused on appeals to authority/tradition and biblical examples where “the dead” still are or seem to be regarded as conscious. I’d argue that it’s impossible for anyone to withstand those arguments without conceding that ECT is a valid, possible interpretation, even if
    not agreeing with it.

    I do think Pettis’s recommendation that conditionalists should be “quarantined” and refused the full range of service in the Church needs to be repented of. That kind of behavior is out of line, and is close to true heresy (i.e., destructively factious and divisive, e.g., Titus 3:9-11).

  • Miguel

    Jehovah’s Witnesss, Mormons and all cultists agree: hell is not eternal.

    • Joseph Dear

      But that statement is not correct.

      Jehovah’s Witnesses do deny that hell is eternal – at least eternal in the sense of people being tormented for eternity. That much is true.

      However, Mormons believe in eternal torment. Perhaps a small number stray from the masses on that topic, but eternal torment is the view expressed by the official website of the LDS church. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/hell?lang=eng

      Furthermore, other non-Christians also believe in eternal torment. Muslims certainly do, for example. If you read ancient Greek mythology, you see that at least some ancient Greek polytheists believed in eternal torment for some sinners after death.

      And this ignores the extent to which a number of true doctrines are held by unsavory groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. JWs do, after all, believe the Jesus died and rose form the dead. The believe in the Old and New Testament scriptures. They believe in practices like baptism and Sunday worship etc. We don’t say that those doctrines are suspect because cultists hold them, do we?

      It seems to me that a much more productive thing to consider is not what group believes what – for many good doctrines are held by bad groups – but what the Bible teaches.

  • Enoch

    Chris, I really liked your opening statement. Is that available somewhere in print?

    • Chris Date

      Thanks, Enoch. No, not yet, but I hope to publish a journal article soon that incorporates most of it.

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