Dismissive of Hell, Fearful of Death: Conditional Immortality and the Apologetic Challenge of Hell


I was recently honored to be published in Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics. My article, which challenges the claim that annihilation is not a fate unbelievers fear and will thus fail to prompt them to repent and turn to Christ for salvation, is available for free PDF download. Here are the first two paragraphs, to give you a feel for what I go on to argue:

According to the historically dominant view of hell as eternal torment, the unsaved will be resurrected and made immortal so they can live forever in punitive misery. Conditional immortality on the other hand—or conditionalism for short—is the view that immortality is a gift God will grant only to those who meet the condition of being saved by faith in Jesus Christ, while those not meeting that condition will be raised for judgment still mortal. Being found guilty of sin—the wages of which is death, according to —they will be capitally punished: killed, executed, destroyed, deprived of life forever—both in body and soul, as Jesus indicates in , a fate sometimes therefore called annihilation.

What follows is not a positive case for the truth of this view. Rather, it is a rebuttal to the claim made by critics of conditionalism that it will fail to elicit repentance because unbelievers, they allege, are unafraid of ceasing to exist. In today’s pluralistic culture, however, atheists and adherents to a variety of non-Christian religions often dismiss the doctrine of eternal torment as absurd, and reject Christianity for apparently requiring belief in it. Meanwhile, Scripture and human experience testify to the reality that people deeply fear death, and the Bible’s offer of immortal life is naturally appealing to them, as evinced by the lengths to which mankind goes to try and achieve immortality. Consequently, evangelism done from a conditionalist perspective will fare just as successfully as evangelism based on escaping eternal torment, if not more so.

Links

“Dismissive of Hell, Fearful of Death: Conditional Immortality and the Apologetic Challenge of Hell,” article in Hope’s Reason by Chris Date
http://www.stephenjbedard.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/HRV6-Hell.pdf
The current issue of the journal Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics, containing Chris’s article
http://www.stephenjbedard.com/current-issue/
Chris Date’s Academia.edu profile, where his article can also be downloaded
https://fuller.academia.edu/ChristopherDate

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

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.

A Lukewarm Case for Eternal Torment: Responding to J. Warner Wallace


Recently, well-known Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace penned an article for his website, Cold Case Christianity, in which he offers a case for the appropriateness of eternal conscious torment.1 Mr. Wallace is a former homicide detective whose apologetic works include the best-selling Cold Case Christianity. The impetus for his article, “Why Would God Punish Finite, Temporal Crimes in an Eternal Hell?” came from a caller on a radio show who questioned Wallace over the justice of eternal torment. How could this be proportionate, they asked, in light of only a finite human life lived in sin? In his article, Wallace takes the opportunity to address what he deems “misunderstandings” of several principles regarding the final state of the wicked. Below, I will address Wallace’s four “misunderstandings” and attempt to show that they hardly create an open-and-shut case for eternal torment. Continue reading “A Lukewarm Case for Eternal Torment: Responding to J. Warner Wallace”

  1. J. Warner Wallace, “Why Would God Punish Finite, Temporal Crimes in an Eternal Hell?,” Cold-Case Christianity [website] (accessed September 20, 2017), http://coldcasechristianity.com/2017/why-would-god-punish-finite-temporal-crimes-in-an-eternal-hell/. []

Dismissive of Hell, Fearful of Death: Chris Date's 2017 Eastern Region ETS Presentation Available for Download

On March 31st, 2017, I was honored to speak in a parallel session at the 2017 ETS Eastern Region Meeting, held at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.1 There I presented a paper titled “Dismissive of Hell, Fearful of Death: Conditional Immortality and the Apologetic Challenge of Hell,” which I wrote in response to the claim that unbelievers don’t fear death and annihilation, and thus that conditional immortality will take the proverbial wind out of the sails of the Great Commission.2 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=24561. I welcome feedback on my paper, so email me at chrisdate@rethinkinghell.com with your thoughts if you’ve had a listen!
(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=543. For what is surely a limited time, that set costs only $9.99, but apparently will one day cost $60.)
Continue reading “Dismissive of Hell, Fearful of Death: Chris Date's 2017 Eastern Region ETS Presentation Available for Download”

  1. I spoke at the same conference a year earlier at Liberty University, where I am finishing my undergraduate degree. See the list of links above to purchase and download that presentation. []
  2. I also handed out free bookmarks, fanning them out on the table at the center of the conference room in which I presented, as shown in the photo above. Be on the lookout for your opportunity to get yours here at Rethinking Hell! []

Episode 71: The View From the Outside, with Andrew Whyte (Part 2)

Rethinking Hell contributor Chris Date is joined by former evangelical turned agnostic, Andrew Whyte, to discuss one unbeliever’s perspective on the intramural evangelical hell debate. This episode contains the second half of their two-and-a-quarter hour discussion.
Continue reading “Episode 71: The View From the Outside, with Andrew Whyte (Part 2)”

Episode 70: The View From the Outside, with Andrew Whyte (Part 1)

Rethinking Hell contributor Chris Date is joined by former evangelical turned agnostic, Andrew Whyte, to discuss one unbeliever’s perspective on the intramural evangelical hell debate. This episode contains the first hour of their two-and-a-quarter hour discussion.
Continue reading “Episode 70: The View From the Outside, with Andrew Whyte (Part 1)”

Intrinsic Value, Sanctity of Life, and Capital Punishment: A Response to J. P. Moreland

1998 marked the publication of journalist and legal editor Lee Strobel’s popular-level apologetic work, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Two years later he went on to publish The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity, which details his quest for answers to several issues that had still nagged at him even after having published his previous book. Among other questions, Strobel asked, “If God cares about the people he created, how could he consign so many of them to an eternity of torture in hell just because they didn’t believe the right things about him?”1
In his search for an answer to this objection Strobel turned to notable philosopher and theologian, Dr. James P. Moreland. Perhaps unsurprisingly the topic of annihilationism came up and, in answering Strobel’s questions, Moreland argued not only that the traditional view of hell is more consistent with the text of Scripture than annihilationism but that it is in fact morally superior to it. In so doing, however, he appears to have forgotten what a co-author and he had written a decade earlier concerning the ethics of capital punishment.
Continue reading “Intrinsic Value, Sanctity of Life, and Capital Punishment: A Response to J. P. Moreland”

  1. Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity (Zondervan, 2009), Kindle edition, locations 305-306. []