“Hath God said?” A Response to Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, and T4G

“You just got a shout out from Al Mohler at T4G.” A friend posted the notice on my Facebook wall while I was at work, and as I could not immediately access the Together for the Gospel (T4G) live video feed, my mind raced until my next short break. What might Mohler have said? I had debated him three years earlier, and he had been kind and gracious, even telling me after the recording was over that he’d love to meet me if I ever find myself on the east coast. I listen to his podcast “The Briefing” almost daily, and share much of his very conservative and Calvinist worldview. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mohler, and the thought that he might have mentioned me in a positive light excited me.

Sadly, I had been naive. Mohler hadn’t mentioned me specifically; he had mentioned our recent Rethinking Hell Conference in Dallas–Fort Worth. And his comments were not at all positive, but were instead derisive and even mocking. With his brief words, he had misrepresented the conference, the ministry, and the broader conditionalist movement. While the derision and contempt hurt, it was Mohler’s unfair mischaracterizations that frustrated me most. I believe that he should know better.

I tried to contact Mohler, asking if he would be willing to discuss his comments with me, but I have not yet heard back from him. So, in this article I shall respond to his comments and those of his co-panelist Ligon Duncan. If you like, you can hear them in this video before reading on:

Continue reading ““Hath God said?” A Response to Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, and T4G”

Episode 111: Rethinking “Hell Theology” in the Raw


Plenary speakers Preston Sprinkle and Chris Date record a joint episode of the “Theology in the Raw” and “Rethinking Hell” podcasts on Day 2 of the 2018 Rethinking Hell Conference in Dallas–Fort Worth. They discuss their and other speakers’ presentations, answer audience questions, and more.
Continue reading “Episode 111: Rethinking “Hell Theology” in the Raw”

2018 Conference Announcement: March 9–10, Dallas–Fort Worth

In 2016 and 2017 we took our Rethinking Hell Conferences across the Atlantic to London and across the Pacific to Auckland, respectively. But in 2018, we’re returning to the U.S. to hold our fifth annual Rethinking Hell Conference in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. We’ll be at The Heights Baptist Church in Richardson, Texas on Friday and Saturday, March 9–10, 2018.
Continue reading “2018 Conference Announcement: March 9–10, Dallas–Fort Worth”

2016 Rethinking Hell Conference Announcement

After the first two Rethinking Hell conferences drew speakers and guests from around the world to Houston in 2014 and Pasadena in 2015, we are excited to take our conference to the world! Announcing the third annual Rethinking Hell Conference, taking place at Highgate International Church in Highgate, London on October 7-8, 2016. Our theme this year will be “Conditional Immortality: Past, Present, Future.”
Continue reading “2016 Rethinking Hell Conference Announcement”

Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 3)

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) recently published an article entitled “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong.”1 In it, TGC reproduces four arguments Packer originally offered against annihilationism in his 1997 article, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review.”2 In Part 1 of Rethinking Hell’s response, we demonstrated that Packer’s first argument fails at every point.3 In Part 2, we refuted most of Packer’s second argument, demonstrating that the texts he cites actually support annihilationism.4 In this third and final installment, we will wrap up our response to Packer’s second argument and refute his third and fourth arguments as well.
Continue reading “Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 3)”

  1. Gavin Ortlund, “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong,” The Gospel Coalition, posted October 7, 2015, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/j.i.-packer-on-why-annihilationism-is-wrong (accessed October 8, 2015). Ortlund was a breakout speaker at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference. An audio recording of his presentation is available for free download here. []
  2. J. I. Packer, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review,” Reformation & Revival 6, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 37-51. Online: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/research/critical/j-i-packer. []
  3. Chris Date and Nicholas Quient, “Why J. I. Packer is (Mostly) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1),” Rethinking Hell [blog], posted October 23, 2015, http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2015/10/why-j-i-packer-is-mostly-wrong-a-response-to-tgc-part-1 (accessed October 23, 2015). []
  4. Chris Date and Nicholas Quient, “Why J. I. Packer is (Mostly) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 2),” Rethinking Hell [blog], posted October 23, 2015, http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2015/10/why-j-i-packer-is-mostly-wrong-a-response-to-tgc-part-2 (accessed October 23, 2015). []

Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 2)

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) recently published an article entitled “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong.”1 In it, TGC reproduces four arguments Packer originally offered against annihilationism in his 1997 article, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review.”2 In Part 1 of Rethinking Hell’s response, we critiqued TGC for calling into question the motives of annihilationists and doubting our commitment to the authority of Scripture, and demonstrated that the first of Packer’s reproduced arguments fails at every point as a challenge to annihilationism.3 As we shall see, Packer’s remaining arguments fare no better.
Continue reading “Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 2)”

  1. Gavin Ortlund, “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong,” The Gospel Coalition, posted October 7, 2015, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/j.i.-packer-on-why-annihilationism-is-wrong (accessed October 8, 2015). Ortlund was a breakout speaker at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference. An audio recording of his presentation is available for free download here. []
  2. J. I. Packer, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review,” Reformation & Revival 6, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 37-51. Online: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/research/critical/j-i-packer. []
  3. Chris Date and Nicholas Quient, “Why J. I. Packer is (Mostly) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1),” Rethinking Hell [blog], posted October 23, 2015, http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2015/10/why-j-i-packer-is-mostly-wrong-a-response-to-tgc-part-1 (accessed October 23, 2015). []

Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1)

In its eschatology-themed, Spring 1997 issue, Reformation & Revival magazine published an article by J. I. Packer entitled “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review.”1 In it Packer attempts to refute what he understands to be several arguments advanced in favor of annihilationism, though he has some refreshingly charitable things to say about those who offer them. Reproducing quotes from John Wenham and John Stott in which they warn against the unreliability of emotion and its ability to cause us to twist Scripture, Packer acknowledges that these men embraced annihilationism from a commitment to the authority of Scripture, and not from emotionalism or sentimentality. In the end he calls them and other evangelical annihilationists “honored fellow-evangelicals,” and says “it would be wrong for differences of opinion on this matter to lead to breaches of fellowship.”
Packer also concludes, however, that John Stott was wrong to suggest that “the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment.”2 Packer says Stott “asks too much, for the biblical foundations of this view prove on inspection, as we have seen, to be inadequate.”
Much ink has been spilled in defense of annihilationism in the nearly twenty years since Packer’s article.3 It seems strange to some of us, therefore, that The Gospel Coalition (TGC) would republish some of Packer’s arguments without dealing with the responses annihilationists have since offered, but that’s what they did in a recent article entitled “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong.”4 Stranger still, the article’s author says of these arguments that they “are some of the more pithy and incisive points I’ve read regarding annihilationism, and are still relevant today.”5 In reality, Packer’s arguments do not hold up to scrutiny as challenges to annihilationism, and TGC’s commentary reflects uncharitable and inaccurate assumptions concerning the motives of annihilationists, assumptions Packer demonstrates to be false in his own article. Continue reading “Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1)”

  1. J. I. Packer, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review,” Reformation & Revival 6, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 37-51. Online: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/research/critical/j-i-packer. []
  2. David L. Edwards & John Stott, Evangelical Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue (InterVarsity, 1988), 320. []
  3. See, for example, David J. Powys, ‘Hell’: A Hard Look at a Hard Question: The Fate of the Unrighteous in New Testament Thought (Wipf & Stock, 2007); Edward W. Fudge, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, 3rd ed. (Cascade, 2011); Edward W. Fudge, Hell: A Final Word (Leafwood, 2012); J. Webb Mealy, The End of the Unrepentant: A Study of the Biblical Themes of Fire and Being Consumed (Wipf & Stock, 2012); Kim Papaioannou, The Geography of Hell in the Teaching of Jesus: Gehena, Hades, the Abyss, the Outer Darkness Where There Is Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth (Pickwick, 2013); J. Gregory Crofford, The Dark Side of Destiny: Hell Re-Examined (Wipf & Stock, 2013). See also David Hilborn, The Nature of Hell: A Report by the Evangelical Alliance Commission on Unity and Truth Among Evangelicals (ACUTE) (Paternoster, 2000), as well as Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle, Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up (David C. Cook, 2011), both of which side with the traditional view but acknowledge annihilationism as a plausible reading of Scripture. Books which attempt to present both views of final punishment neutrally include Douglas A. Jacoby, What’s the Truth About Heaven and Hell? Sorting Out the Confusion About the Afterlife (Harvest House, 2013); Steve Gregg, All You Want to Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin (Thomas Nelson, 2013). []
  4. Gavin Ortlund, “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong,” The Gospel Coalition, posted October 7, 2015, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/j.i.-packer-on-why-annihilationism-is-wrong (accessed October 8, 2015). Ortlund was a breakout speaker at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference. An audio recording of his presentation is available for free download here. []
  5. Ibid. []

RH Conference 2015: Breakout Audio!

Two weeks ago about 100 evangelicals gathered to discuss the perennially hot topic of hell. What transpired was, by all accounts, unprecedented. As Jerry Walls put it, “Historic? I’m not sure it’s too strong a word. I can’t think of anything quite like this!” Seldom, if ever, have passionate evangelical proponents of competing views on a controversial topic gathered with the express purpose of discussing (arguing about) it, while nevertheless voicing their critiques with respect and in Christian love, enjoying the kind of camaraderie, fellowship, and unity to which their Lord has called them.
We understand that there are many who would have liked to attend but were unable, and so we are making recordings of nearly all of the plenary and breakout presentations available for free or at a very reasonable price. We are publishing video recordings of all six plenary and four breakout sessions, as well as the concluding panel discussion between the plenary speakers, on a 4-DVD box set which you can purchase for $35 here: http://rethinkinghell.com/about/order-dvds. Video recordings of some of the breakout sessions will be available on YouTube in the “2015 Rethinking Hell Conference” playlist. And aside from the sessions which were filmed for the DVD set, audio recordings of all of the breakout sessions presented by their authors are available for free download below. Continue reading “RH Conference 2015: Breakout Audio!”

RH Conference 2015: Full Schedule!

With only a few weeks remaining until our second Rethinking Hell conference, taking place at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, we wanted to share the full speaking schedule with you all and invite those who have not already signed up to consider registering at a special discounted price of $50, which we can offer thanks to some funds that have come in to help scholarship registrations (use discount code RH2015  at the checkout page of the registration process at www.rethinkinghellconference.com/2015/).
Here is the updated full speaking & activity schedule for this year’s conference, along with some notes about our plenary & breakout session presenters: Continue reading “RH Conference 2015: Full Schedule!”