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Peter Grice

Peter Grice

Peter Grice is a founder and steward of Rethinking Hell and Rethinking Heaven. He is also an author, entrepreneur, graphic designer, musician, and website developer.

Author: Peter Grice

Peter Grice

Death or Eternal Suffering—Which One Reveals How Much Jesus Loves You? (A Response to Timothy Keller)

Timothy Keller is a widely respected Christian pastor and much-needed public voice. But even our best and brightest are prone to saying questionable things due to the implications of their doctrine of hell. A case in point is Pastor Keller’s recent tweet: “Unless you believe in Hell, you will never know how much Jesus loves you.” This statement proved to be quite controversial, leading Keller in subsequent tweets and comments to seek to clarify what he had meant. Now, to those like myself who believed for decades that the Bible taught a hell of eternal torment, Keller’s statement doesn’t seem controversial at all. It hits all the right notes for conservative evangelicals, and just feels appropriately pious and true. It’s one of those statements you whip out when you want to defend hell from its liberal or postmodern detractors. There are many variations on the theme—to do with God’s love, glory, holiness, or even His willingness to defer to the sinner’s own desires—but in each case the basic formula is the notion that the worse hell looks, the better God looks by contrast. For example, if you think that the idea of a loving Creator tormenting people should cause us to raise at least one eyebrow, simply realize that people in hell are tormenting themselves, and you’ll soon feel much better about

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Peter Grice

The Neglected Doctrines of Resurrection and Bodily Transformation

Today in Protestant circles we still hear a lot about the immortality of the soul, despite this doctrine being passionately rejected by Martin Luther 500 years ago.1 Martin Luther, “Assertio Omnium Articulorum M. Lutheri per Bullam Leonis X. Novissimam Damnatorum,” article 27, Weimar edition of Luther’s Works, Vol. 7, pp. 131,132. But we rarely hear of the immortality of the body, an important feature of resurrection, nor do we even hear that much about resurrection in general!2 For example, the otherwise commendable Reforming Catholic Confession fails to include the resurrection of the unsaved, and only alludes to a resurrection of the saved by mentioning “glorified bodies” (even this much requires additional understanding to link the two concepts). Will all rise physically from the dead, like Jesus did—or only the saved? And if all rise in physical bodies, will the bodies of all be fitted with immortality, never to die again—or only those of the saved? These kinds of questions are essential for assessing any doctrine of salvation and damnation, and yet they are often absent from the hell debate, and from broader discussion. Both heaven and hell are widely seen as ethereal destinations, to be arrived at immediately upon dying. But this truncated version of the biblical schedule of events renders resurrection and final judgment superfluous, even incoherent. Why were the unsaved

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Peter Grice

Three Biblical Arguments Against Universalism

Below are three biblical arguments against universalism (and an extra one for further reading!). While they offer more than simple proof texts, it would take a much longer article to develop them more fully. Even so, I trust that you will find them useful and persuasive. Let’s first look at some relevant context, and then dive into the arguments themselves. Personal eschatology—the study of the final fate of human beings—should be embedded within cosmic eschatology, the study of the final state of God’s created order. God is redeeming the cosmos, and human beings within it (see Rom 8:18-25). Universalists and conditionalists both agree that God will redeem the cosmos as a whole. But universalists also claim that God will eventually redeem every human being that will have ever lived, while our claim as conditionalists is that God’s work of “new creation” purposefully excludes some human beings. Despite knowing enough about the immortal God and realizing that they ultimately deserve death they still reject him (Rom 1:18-23; 32). They disobey the gospel (1 Pet 4:17; 2 Thess 1:8; Rom 10:16), and so fail to respond obediently in repentance and faith to the knowledge of God and his offer of salvation (Acts 6:7; Rom 1:5; 16:26). They love sin rather than goodness, themselves rather than God, and are “disqualified regarding the faith” (John 3:20;

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Peter Grice

Warned of Sin’s Wages: A Concise Explanation of Death in Genesis 2:17 and Romans 6:23

In Genesis 2:17, God’s warning “you will certainly die” (מֹות תָּמֽוּת) refers to the penalty or consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin, should they disobey God’s command. They had been given the ongoing privilege to “live forever” by accessing the Tree of Life (Gen 3:22 cf. 16), but this would be forfeited and their lives would be cut short by death—death as normally and universally understood; sometimes called “physical death.”1I do not recommend using the term “physical death” (or “biological death”) unless deemed necessary. If further clarity is needed, I suggest “ordinary death.” The term “physical death” implies an unhelpful dichotomy between physical and spiritual death, and prejudices an interest in mechanisms that might attend death, in terms of things like bodies and souls. But the more obvious way to define death is through its operation upon life, which is, simply, to bring life to an end. Death at any time does this, so we should also be mindful not to think of “the second death” as categorically different from “the first death” (terminology the Bible never uses). It might be complete and permanent (Matt 10;28), unlike ordinary death where resurrection follows, but it is still an end to life. Romans 6:23 simply says “death” for good reason. The universal wages of sin is not first death, second death, physical death or

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Rethinking Hell Conference—Next Month in Auckland!

This year’s Rethinking Hell Conference is in Auckland, New Zealand, on July 15th. There’s only a few more weeks to go—we look forward to seeing you there! As we explore our theme, “Conditional Immortality: The Unfinished Business of the Reformation,” we’ll hear from a number of exciting speakers, including Rethinking Hell‘s own Chris Date! Joining him will be our Australian and New Zealand speakers, including well-known philosopher-theologians Dr. Matthew Flannagan and Dr. Glenn Peoples. Matthew teaches philosophy and theology at St. Peter’s College, Auckland, and his areas of expertise include Philosophy of Religion, and the field of Old Testament Ethics, about which he has co-authored a number of popular books with others such as Paul Copan and William Lane Craig. Glenn’s areas of expertise include Christology, religion in the public square, ethics, and the doctrine of hell. His writings in these areas are available in various books and journals (including our own two books), and also, together with social commentary, at his website, Right Reason. Rev. Ian Packer is a Baptist minister and lecturer in Theology and Ethics at Morling College in Sydney, Australia. Previously, he served as Director of Public Theology at the Australian Evangelical Alliance, Assistant Director of the EA’s Centre for Christianity and Society, and as part of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance. Ian will be

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Peter Grice

“Fixing John 3:16”—500 Years After the Reformation

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. The most famous verse in the Bible is broken. What the Bible says is not the problem, of course. But—and here’s the scandal—the message of John 3:16 has been dramatically changed. What’s actually broken is the popular understanding of the verse. It turns out, this towering text has been widely and wildly misunderstood. For a long, long, time. That’s quite a problem! And it’s not going to just fix itself. According to a growing number of Bible scholars and teachers around the world, something must be done to set the record straight.

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Peter Grice

The Annihilation of Hell? A Response to Alan Gomes

Back in 1991, when hardly anyone had discovered the internet, anti-cult author and Biola university professor Dr. Alan W. Gomes wrote “Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell,” a two-part article (see Part 1 and Part 2) for The Christian Research Journal.1Alan W. Gomes, “Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell,” Christian Research Journal, Spring 1991, pp. 14ff. and Summer 1991, pp 8ff. Those familiar with the debate over hell will recognize that things have moved on since then. Responding now could seem a little anachronistic. After all, Dr. Gomes can hardly be faulted for not interacting with more recent writings by evangelical conditionalists. However, like J. I. Packer’s critical review from 1997, Dr. Gomes’ article is still doing the rounds, suggesting that a belated response may be warranted. My intention will not be to find fault with Dr. Gomes himself, but for practical reasons I will proceed as if Dr. Gomes had been apprised of the clear statements and arguments of today’s evangelical conditionalists. He at least had access to the pre-1991 contributions of evangelical conditionalists such as Edward Fudge and the late John Stott, with whom we are in substantial agreement. This interaction with a decades-long dialogue then should hopefully be instructive, perhaps even taking us all a little further. 1. ↑ Alan W. Gomes, “Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell,” Christian

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Peter Grice

Annihilation in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (Part 1): Destroyed by the Glory of His Manifest Presence

Note: This article is part of a series. Here, Part 1 presents a consistent, straightforward conditionalist understanding of 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Since conditionalists question the NIV’s interpolation (“and shut out from”)—practically the only time we would quibble with any modern English translation—Part 2 will cover the more complex issues raised by a traditionalist reading, showing that the simple face value reading is correct. All references are from the ESV unless otherwise noted. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 is one of those texts which first convinced me to take the idea of annihilation seriously. Not just in isolation, where it seems obvious that destruction due to Christ’s coming is the point, but in the context of what is being said in the first couple of chapters of the epistle. (The NRSV even uses the word “annihilating” a mere eleven verses later concerning the “man of lawlessness,” which is intriguing enough on its own!) The overall impact of the passage I think should give anyone pause about this issue, since it portrays the day of judgment and the fire of judgment differently from familiar expectations from Christian tradition. Too often, our critics treat a single word of this verse as an isolated proof-text, or suggest that’s how we treat it, when of course each side must give due consideration to the fuller structural context. “Who shall

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2014 & 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference Sessions (Audio & Video)

At last year’s conference at Fuller Theological Seminary, my friend Chris Date delivered a compellingly reasonable, passionate plea for evangelicals to maintain unity and charity when it comes to this important topic of hell. Chris’ opening talk helped set the tone for a gathering that, by all accounts, successfully demonstrated just what this should look like. Although he focused in on our view, conditional immortality, and the conference was only about hell, what Chris offered in his presentation has much broader application in the church. Christians of all stripes should set aside the time to consider his important message. Chris will also be speaking at this year’s conference, which will be held in London next week. The first evening is free, so if you happen to be in that neck of the woods, be sure to reserve your seat! See the conference website for details. To celebrate this third conference, we have just published all the remaining video from our first two conferences. Most sessions were recorded in video, while for most of the remaining sessions we have audio. Please enjoy! Also, see the very bottom of this post for some bonus videos and an announcement.

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