For I Am Undone: Conditionalism, New Creation Theology, and the Annihilating Power of God’s Presence

It is often the case when discussing matters of eschatology that a variety of terms will be used to argue for one’s position. Subtle nuances drive the need for additional terms, and our position of conditional immortality (“conditionalism”) is no exception. The primary reason that we prefer that term over “annihilationism” is that the study of eschatology involves much more than a narrow focus on what happens to the risen lost. While it is certainly true that the majority of our effort is often spent arguing for the annihilation of the risen lost, that’s not the full scope of what conditional immortality is.
With that in mind, I would like to offer a biblical case for the compatibility of conditionalism and what is often called “new creation” (NC) theology. For my purposes here, I will define that as the belief that the new heavens and new earth mentioned in Isaiah, 2 Peter and Revelation refers not to some other plane of existence where we will dwell after this world is destroyed, but rather to this world fully redeemed (even if possibly recreated), in which risen humanity will dwell with God, enveloped by His glorious, manifest presence—the final realization of God’s purposes for creation.
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Hypocrisy, Not Hell: The Polemic Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man

The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19–31) is often one of the first to be mentioned as giving explicit details on the nature and geography of hell. Upon closer examination, these assumptions prove to be lacking and evidence pulls us in another direction. Jesus told this story as a condemnation against the Pharisees, after a prolonged controversy with them regarding the rich and poor. This will be shown by analyzing the context of the story within the gospel of Luke, as well as the cultural and sociological context. Also, the parabolic genre of this story will be considered against the background of extra-biblical parallels of Jesus’ time, which will further reveal its authorial intent.
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Book Review: Christ Triumphant

Thomas Allin. Christ Triumphant: Universalism Asserted as the Hope of the Gospel on the Authority of Reason, the Fathers, and Holy Scripture (Annotated Edition). Robin Parry (ed.). Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2015.*
Originally published in 1885, Wipf & Stock has released this new, annotated edition of Thomas Allin’s case for universalism. Editor Robin Parry (author of The Evangelical Universalist) has provided an introduction and extensive footnotes throughout, providing bibliographic and historical notations so that this work adheres to current standards of citation and clarifies some particular phrases and references relevant to the 19th century.
Thomas Allin (1838-1909) was an Anglican clergyman, and passionate advocate for universalism (or what he often calls the “larger hope”; Allin does state universalism is a hope, albeit a strong hope, but is not held as dogma). At the time of its publication Universalism Asserted, was among the most thorough examinations of final punishment from a universalist perspective. His three-part argument (examined from reason, historical theology, and Scripture) has been repeated by several authors since (e.g. Robin Parry, in The Evagelical Universalist, though, Parry assures me, he hadn’t actually read Allin until after writing TEU, so the similarities in argument are coincidental). Continue reading “Book Review: Christ Triumphant”

Atonement Debate Redux: Lean Not On Your Own Understanding


While contending for Conditional Immortality within today’s evangelical world, it can often feel like one is in a battle of sorts: a contest of theological rigor, consistency, and biblical fidelity. This sense of contention gives rise to lively deliberations on social media, conversations with friends and family, discussions within churches, and even formal academic debate. What delights me most about all the interaction around conditionalism lately is the increased focus on the atonement and the soteriological implications of what we believe about what awaits the risen lost. In a theological battle that to date has been—to an extent—characterized by misunderstandings and vacuous rhetoric, it is encouraging to see a more focused approach come from both sides, especially those around the atoning sacrifice made by Christ on our behalf.

I recently had the privilege to join the fight for conditionalism on the Rethinking Hell Podcast and have eagerly awaited the continued dialogue that was sure to follow. So imagine my delight when I was informed that a former debate opponent of Chris Date has recently written about the connection between final punishment and penal substitutionary atonement! With great anticipation I prepared for doctrinal battle and awaited the pointed arguments I expected to encounter, only to find that in the end, the only attacks aimed at me fell upon straw men! How sad. Nevertheless, it is instructive to address what arguments have arisen in this new wave of focus on the atonement. Conditionalism’s critics often lean heavily on their own understanding of our claims, hastily waxing eloquent about our supposed errors without representing us fully or accurately. This article will address such arguments, and others, made in “Does the Doctrine of Hell Conflict With Penal Substitutionary Atonement” by  Hiram R. Diaz III on biblicaltrinitarian.com. Continue reading “Atonement Debate Redux: Lean Not On Your Own Understanding”

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 be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power”—2 Thessalonians 1:9, KJV

The conditionalist reading is that the glorious presence and power of the Lord causes the punishment of destruction, which is everlasting because it is God’s permanent judgment. Let’s explore how this makes the best sense. Continue reading “Annihilation in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (Part 1): Destroyed by the Glory of His Manifest Presence”

A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 3 (Robin Parry on Universalism)

Ever read something you know you disagree with but still can’t help but admire the actual argument presented? That’s how I felt about Robin Parry’s presentation in the second edition of Four Views on Hell. Parry is an editor with Wipf & Stock Publishers (who published both Rethinking Books through their subsidiaries Cascade and Pickwick), and a friend of the Rethinking Hell project. Like John Stackhouse, he’s appeared twice on the podcast (here and the second as part of our series with Chris Date and the contributors to Four Views) and he was one of the plenary speakers at the second Rethinking Hell conference at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena in 2015 (that lecture is available on the conference DVD set). But of the four presentations in Four Views, I am inclined to say that Parry’s is the best in the sense of a well argued, compelling case. This isn’t to say I think he’s right, but simply that of the four authors, Parry has plead his case for universal reconciliation better than the other authors did for their views.
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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, 20161Many thanks to Zondervan for providing copies of this book to Rethinking Hell contributors. – 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.2The same can be said of the other contributions which will be reviewed in the near future
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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

Clark Pinnock, Hell and the Holiness of God

I recently had a very brief exchange with a colleague regarding conditionalism. He knows I’m a conditionalist, and he is not. He had just finished Clark Pinnock’s argument in Four Views on Hell,1Clark H. Pinnock. “The Conditional View”. Four Views on Hell. Stanley N. Gundry & Willian Crockett (eds). (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994). Hereafter: Pinnock, Four Views. and stated that it was not a compelling argument, and that Pinnock began with a strawman- that God is love and therefore would not inflict people with torment forever (I don’t think this qualifies as a strawman, but that’s not my purpose here). This colleague argues that God is holy- this was the basis for rejecting Pinnock’s argument. Is this valid? Does God’s holiness stand in opposition to conditional immortality (CI)? Is God’s holiness grounds for believing in eternal conscious torment (ECT)? The purpose here is to examine what (if anything) God’s holiness contributes to our understanding of final punishment.
Continue reading “Clark Pinnock, Hell and the Holiness of God”

1. Clark H. Pinnock. “The Conditional View”. Four Views on Hell. Stanley N. Gundry & Willian Crockett (eds). (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994). Hereafter: Pinnock, Four Views.