The Berean Call: Assistance for Those Testing the Traditionalist Doctrine of Hell

Berean Call

During his missionary journeys, Paul often faced fierce opposition and was run out of many towns. When he came to Berea, however, Paul encountered Jews who were willing not only to hear his message but also to take the time to investigate it in light of the Hebrew Scriptures (). What a blessing this must have been! Joy undoubtedly filled Paul’s heart as scrolls were unrolled in search of the truth. And heaven surely rejoiced over the evangelistic victory that followed: “Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men” ().

The eagerness of the Bereans to consider Paul’s claims regarding Jesus and his resurrection in light of God’s word is celebrated in Scripture as a noble endeavor. To this day, to be known as a “Berean believer” is a huge compliment. It speaks of valuing Scripture above tradition and personalities, especially with regard to controversial subjects. It refers to one who opens his or her Bible and carefully examines the details of the text.

Do you stand ready to take a fresh look at the Scriptures to see for yourself what they actually say? Those of us in the evangelical conditionalist movement hope so. And we encourage you to join us in testing the common claim that divine justice requires suffering throughout all of eternity. Continue reading “The Berean Call: Assistance for Those Testing the Traditionalist Doctrine of Hell”

11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.

Perspicuity or Ambiguity: Could the Bible Have Been Clearer on Hell?

Conditionalists often make bold claims. For example, we are known to say—with an even blend of sincerity and hyperbole—that our view appears on virtually every page of the Bible. We’re often quick to point out that serious defenders of the eternal torment view will only focus on three or four key verses. And we’ll claim that even these texts provide better support for conditionalism, upon closer examination (take Matt 25:46 for example, or 2 Thess 1:9).

Are our strong statements just a case of over-confidence? Some people think so. Advocates of eternal torment like Jerry Walls and Gregg Allisson were taken aback when encountering them (you can read Glenn People’s reply to Walls here!). In fact, we’ve been accused by critics of everything from ignorance to hubris! In a climate where it is polite to say that everybody’s perspective is valid, and everybody has their own set of verses, why are conditionalists so dogmatic? Why does Rethinking Hell make such strong statements when championing conditionalism, despite also being strong promoters of dialogue?

Part of the reason is the principle that the Bible should be expected to be clear about such an important subject, including with the terms it uses. Defenders of eternal torment will often say, albeit mistakenly, that Jesus spoke more about hell than about heaven, meaning that we should understand and heed his solemn warnings. So there is often the same kind of conviction about the clarity of biblical teaching on the side of eternal torment as well. This article puts that claim to the test.

Continue reading “Perspicuity or Ambiguity: Could the Bible Have Been Clearer on Hell?”

Conditional Immortality and Angels, Part 1—The Mortality of Angels and Men (Psalm 82)


 

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?
. . . Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

Psalm 82, ESV

 

Traditionally this passage has been viewed by exegetes as referring to God condemning human leaders and judges for perverting justice. John Wesley, in his explanatory notes on this Psalm, argues that “judges and magistrates are called gods, because they have their commission from God, and act as his deputies.” When the Most High God tells these “gods” that they will die like men, Wesley reasons that he only means “like ordinary men,” though is silent on the verse’s parallel statement, “and fall like any prince.”1
Continue reading “Conditional Immortality and Angels, Part 1—The Mortality of Angels and Men (Psalm 82)”

  1. Psalm 82 Bible Commentary. (n.d.). Retrieved December 03, 2017, from https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=wes&b=19&c=82 []

John Piper is Wrong About Hell (But I Still Thank God for Him!)

I thank God for John Piper and the work God has done and continues to do through him. I have been one of many to benefit from Piper’s books, sermons, and articles. I was blessed with the opportunity to serve the Lord in the world’s largest Muslim nation for fourteen years. During those years my coworkers and I were often encouraged and strengthened to continue in a very difficult ministry by things Piper wrote or said. And just last night, not knowing that I would be writing this article this morning, I used an article of Piper as part of a Bible study at the church where I serve.1 And if I had known that I would be writing this article this morning, I still would not have hesitated to use Piper’s article last night.
Having said all that, I believe that Piper is simply wrong about the nature of hell and the fate of the unrighteous. A good, godly man who God uses mightily can occasionally be just plain wrong. An excerpt from a message he gave on the topic of Hell was just posted this morning at the Desiring God website.2 I won’t be quoting every word of Piper’s article, so I encourage you to read it for yourself, it’s not long. Continue reading “John Piper is Wrong About Hell (But I Still Thank God for Him!)”

  1. John Piper, “Biopsy Blows and the Helmet of Hope,” Desiring God, July 28, 2009, accessed July 20, 2017, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/biopsy-blows-and-the-helmet-of-hope. []
  2. John Piper, “Unforgiven: The Eternal Tragedy of the Lost,” Desiring God, July 20, 2017, accessed July 20, 2017, http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/gods-wrath-vengeance-is-mine-i-will-repay-says-the-lord/excerpts/unforgiven-the-eternal-tragedy-of-the-lost. []

Hypocrisy, Not Hell: The Polemic Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man


The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man (–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.

Continue reading “Hypocrisy, Not Hell: The Polemic Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man”

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

What did Jesus suffer "for us and for our salvation"?

A podcast interview with me

Chris Date has begun a series of podcasts in which he will interview authors of chapters in A Consuming PassionI am the first person on deck, and Chris spent quite a long time talking with me about my journey to annihilationism. Whether or not you have read the series of blog posts I wrote, which were an early form of the material in my chapter for the festschrift for Edward Fudge, you may be interested in this interview.
Toward the end of the interview, Chris asked whether my becoming a conditionalist had affected any other areas of my theology. I said that this was not the case, outside of eschatology. In my experience to that point, I had seen no other dominoes fall as a result of my new understanding of the nature of hell. Chris was particularly interested in hearing whether my understanding of Christ’s atoning work had been affected by my coming to believe that God ultimately destroys the wicked rather than tormenting them endlessly. I answered in the negative. For good reason, this is a subject of great interest to Chris, and he noted that traditionalists tend to place a very heavy emphasis on Christ’s suffering, in order to demonstrate a coherence between what he experienced and what the unredeemed will experience.
Prior to that time, I had made comments on the issue a few times on this blog. While I was still a traditionalist, I had reached the conclusion that neither traditionalism nor annihilationism gains an apologetic advantage from the doctrine of Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement. It seemed to me that Jesus neither suffered endlessly nor was annihilated. So there is not an exact likeness between Christ’s experience in bearing the penalty of our sin and unrepentant people’s experience in bearing the penalty of their own sin. That was still my view at the time of my podcast conversation with Chris.
It has been a few months since that Skype call conversation and the wheels have kept turning in my mind. To my own surprise and delight, I have come to see the matter differently. So, by way of moving further onward from my written work to date and my recorded conversation with Chris, I want to lay out here what I now believe and why. Continue reading “What did Jesus suffer "for us and for our salvation"?”

Featured Content: The Second Council of Constantinople Canard


A fairly common claim against evangelical conditionalism is that the Second Council of Constantinople of 553 A.D. condemned annihilationism as heresy.
This is meant to score big points in the church history argument against conditionalism (a method that is itself wrought with problems). In this case, the conditionalist has a much easier task than having to explain the shortcomings of the church history argument as a whole. When you actually read the text of the council, you find that this claim about our view being condemned in it isn’t even true in the first place.

Friend and guest contributor Ronnie has a bit to say about that in today’s featured content: “Conditionalism and the Second Council of Constantinople.”
 

The Passive Qal and Other Issues

A few days ago Chris Date asked me to read and evaluate an article written by Dr. Glenn Peoples. I read the article and concluded that his argument was valid. I stand by my evaluation of Glenn’s article.
His article drew a stern response from Adam Blauser, a blogger at Old Testament Studies Blog. The issues involved in this exchange between Glenn and Adam deal with the proper interpretation of and whether the Hebrew word כָּבַה carries a passive meaning.
In this post I will not deal with the interpretation of . That would require another post and a different approach from the one I plan to take in this post. Rather, my purpose today is to address the issue of the passive Qal and comment on other issues raised by Adam as he responded to Glenn’s article. Continue reading “The Passive Qal and Other Issues”

24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

No Need to Waver in View of Evidence

I recently received an email in which the writer said his reading had led him to believe that “the clear preponderance of scriptural evidence is easier read as annihilationist,” such that in his thinking “the annihilationist case is the stronger in all of scripture, but fails in the Apocalypse,” particularly . This is “the only real weakness” he can see in the case for annihilationism, but he considers it fatal to that view nevertheless. “Where am I going wrong?” he asks.
I suggest that the answer is clear and simple, and it is as follows. One should not base a doctrine on the book of Revelation, much less on two or three passages in it, when the preponderance of scriptural evidence throughout the rest of the Bible supports a different point of view. Indeed, I know of no doctrine beside this one about which any responsible scholar does such a thing. Continue reading “No Need to Waver in View of Evidence”

10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.