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.

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)”

Wind Out of the Sails: A Response to Greg Koukl

I highly recommend Greg Koukl’s Stand to Reason ministry and radio program. Greg and I don’t agree on a number of theological issues, but I greatly respect and appreciate his passion for teaching Christians the importance of careful thinking. As he’s been known to say, “Emotions are what make life delicious, careful thinking is what makes life safe.” Unfortunately, however, as is certainly the case with every generally careful thinker, Greg thinks less carefully about some issues than he does others.
In a recent episode, Greg explained that he sees spiritual warfare not primarily as battle during a direct and immediate assault by the devil against the individual believer but as the tearing down of lofty ideas that hinder the message of Christ. “Many of those who identify themselves as genuine followers of Christ,” said Greg, “have been undermined in their ability to communicate the gospel because of other beliefs, theological beliefs, that take the wind out of the sails of the Great Commission, to put it simply.”1 Among other examples of such beliefs, Greg included annihilationism:2

So the point here is, I see in, say the teaching of annihilationism…the hallmarks of spiritual warfare. That is, I see an idea now, that if taken seriously, takes the wind out of the sails of the Great Commission. It makes the gospel seem less important, or less urgent. Now who would have an interest in making the gospel less important or less urgent? Not Jesus. The devil. When I notice a doctrine coming in from the side that doesn’t seem to be consistent with classical Christian teaching and which doctrine seems to have the impact of taking some of the force out of the Great Commission, I immediately know that this is an example of spiritual warfare, and I need to resist it.

Annihilationism is false, then, according to Koukl, because it makes the gospel less important, less urgent, thus taking the “wind out of the sails” of the Great Commission. Let us examine this claim, and see if it is a compelling reason to reject conditional immortality.
Continue reading “Wind Out of the Sails: A Response to Greg Koukl”

  1. Koukl, Greg. Stand to Reason, June 25th, 2012, 12:50 []
  2. Ibid., 19:09 []