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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Conditional Immortality—An Acceptable View?

What does Conditional Immortality affirm and deny?

As a Christian doctrinal position, conditional immortality affirms that immortality—living forever and never dying—is a gift from God given only to the saved (; ; ; ; ; ; ).
It also tacitly rejects universal immortality, the view that all people either are or will be immortal. Since this is a tenet of both eternal torment and universal salvation, conditionalism necessarily denies those two positions.1

Conditional immortality, or conditionalism, is expressed in terms of a reward of “eternal life” for the saved, and an “eternal punishment” for the finally unsaved (). The punishment is an “eternal judgment” of death instead of life, since the wages of sin is death (; ). This requires an “eternal destruction” of “body and soul” ( cf. ).

Although the biblical label for that event is “the second death,” it can also be called annihilation (conditionalism and annihilationism may be used interchangeably). Whereas the concept of death indicates the forfeit of life but doesn’t specify duration, annihilation speaks of a death that is a permanent loss of life, and destruction of the whole person. Since God is the source and sustainer of life (; ; cf. ), this kind of demise may be considered a consequence of eternal separation or severance from God.

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  1. Conditionalism therefore also rejects universal salvation’s stipulation of a universally-met condition for immortality. []

16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;

10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”

No True (Evangelical) Scotsman?—Denny Burk and National Geographic on the Rise of Conditionalism

Recently, National Geographic interviewed Chris Date and Preston Sprinkle in preparation for this article on the rise of evangelical conditionalism, which is somewhat reminiscent of the 2014 article in the New York Times, documenting the same phenomenon (on that occasion, Chris Date, Edward Fudge, and John G. Stackhouse, Jr. were interviewed). While the article has its flaws, and the title (“The Campaign to Eliminate Hell”) is sensationalist and just plain inaccurate, overall NatGeo is to be commended for a willingness to report on this topic in a balanced way. Both articles serve to instruct Christians on the curiosity of many in the secular world, not only about the topic of hell, but also the prospect of reform, which is deemed newsworthy.

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"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”

“Conditional Immortality”—What it means and why it’s the best label (Part 3)

In Part 1 of this series, I clarified what we mean in calling our view “conditional immortality.” In Part 2, a doctrine of proto-conditionalism was identified and elucidated, providing important historical context. Now in Part 3, I’ll complete the overall justification of our chosen label, giving due attention to convention, and also further explain our view and its relevance today.

As we’ve now seen, in the plainest terms immortality means “will live forever” and conditional means “subject to a condition.” Narrowly expressed, that’s primarily what we mean by the words conditional immortality. There is more involved theologically, but at the level of words, it remains for us to appreciate the secondary sense of conditional that we are also invoking.

A second sense of conditional, denying universal and absolute

In theological labeling convention, conditional is a technical term implying that conditions will not be universally met (i.e. rendered absolute). The reason for this is that it’s not merely the fact of a condition that is in view, but rather the interesting question of scope. If you wanted to announce a universal scope, you would call your position universal or unconditional. If you wanted to refer to a limited, nonuniversal scope, you would refer instead to “conditional” matters. In this sense, something can’t be both universal and conditional.

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“Conditional Immortality”—What it means and why it’s the best label (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I clarified what we mean in calling our view “conditional immortality.” Now, in Part 2, we will continue with some important historical background. In Part 3, I’ll complete the overall justification of our chosen label with due attention to convention and further explain our view and its relevance today. If you prefer, you can read the entire article as a whole.

What “conditional immortality” meant before it was cool

Did you know that the Christian church has always held to conditional immortality? Well, not necessarily in a way that implies annihilation, but perhaps more consistent with today’s usage than you might expect.

For purposes of testing that claim, let us suppose that, at base, the term conditional immortality refers to the idea that humanity was not created mortal or immortal per se, but rather conditionally immortal or conditionally mortal, depending on emphasis.

More fully expressed, this would mean humans are mortal yet capable of immortality (after meeting qualifying conditions), or alternatively, immortal yet capable of mortality (after meeting disqualifying conditions).

Writing in the late second century, Theophilus of Antioch spoke this way explicitly:

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“Conditional Immortality”—What it means and why it’s the best label (Part 1)

Alas! The hell debate has a terminology problem. First, traditionalism is nondescript and sometimes considered pejorative. It’s also not quite accurate: there were several traditions in early Christendom, with eternal torment dominating in the Western church from around the fourth century. Next, universalism can refer to the inclusivist outlook on world religions, which evangelical universalists typically deny in favor of an eternal opportunity to respond to the gospel. Finally, conditionalism (short for Conditional Immortality) is sometimes reduced to a view about the mechanics of human mortality/immortality instead of pertaining to ultimate destinies in the context of eschatology.

The addition of “eternal torment” and “ultimate reconciliation” to our deck of terms helps us compensate for some shortcomings. However, despite many proposals, no viable alternative has emerged that is simultaneously strong and consistent across all three positions. It seems that these terms are here to stay, for better or worse, as well-established shorthand labels. Continue reading ““Conditional Immortality”—What it means and why it’s the best label (Part 1)”

Did Jesus preach hell more than heaven?

Before Rethinking Hell was forged—which is now more than two years ago—our own Dr. Glenn Peoples had already been writing and speaking on this topic for a number of years. With surprising frequency these days, one hears from those who credit Glenn with having been instrumental in their journey toward conditionalism. As a matter of fact, this includes a number of others on our team.
One of the many perks for those attending the Rethinking Hell 2014 Conference will be the opportunity to meet and hear from Glenn in person. If you were thinking of joining us in Houston on July 11-12 but haven’t yet secured your registration, don’t leave it too late!
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Why "Rethinking Hell"?

For many of us the great symbol of deep contemplation is Auguste Rodin’s statue of The Thinker. He wanders restlessly through our culture seeking subjects worthy of his furrowed brow. I imagine he is regularly disappointed.
We keep him around in contexts as diverse as libraries and car dashboards for one simple reason: thinking is still a virtue. Or at least it can be, if the subject is worthy. That’s important, because when a culture stops thinking about noble things bad stuff can happen, like the horrors of biochemical warfare — and inflatable kitsch.
Originally, Rodin cast our bronze hero for the penetration of one mystery only. One worthy subject; one terrible theme.
Hell.
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