Episode 105: "Hell Under Fire" Under Fire, Part 5: Hell in Biblical and Systematic Theology


 
Rethinking Hell contributors Peter Berthelsen and Glenn Peoples join Chris Date for the fifth of a series of episodes reviewing Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson. This fifth episode in the series reviews chapter 6, “Biblical Theology: Three Pictures of Hell,” by Christopher Morgan, and chapter 7, “Systematic Theology: Three Vantage Points of Hell,” by Robert Peterson. Continue reading “Episode 105: "Hell Under Fire" Under Fire, Part 5: Hell in Biblical and Systematic Theology”

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.
Continue reading “For I Am Undone: Conditionalism, New Creation Theology, and the Annihilating Power of God’s Presence”

Book Review: The Evangelical Universalist

Gregory MacDonald. The Evangelical Universalist (Second Edition). Eugene: Cascade, 2012.*
In 2006, then editor for Paternoster, now with Wipf & Stock, Robin Parry published the first edition of The Evangelical Universalist (hereafter simply TEU) under the pseudonym Gregory MacDonald (combining Gregory of Nyssa and George MacDonald, both notable theologians who were universalists). The goal was to present a case for universalism which was compatible with evangelical commitments to the Gospel and biblical authority. In the preface to the second edition, Parry describes the reasoning behind the pseudonym, and the reasoning behind coming clean that he was the author of this volume. At the time (and to a signficant extent still now, a decade later) being a universalist was taboo in evangelical circles. Perhaps in the so-called “liberal mainline”, but certainly no conservative evangelical Christian who accepts the authority of Scripture could hold this position… right? Parry did not want to raise questions or criticisms for his employer, but, after a few years of blogging under the pseudonym, and interacting with various individuals, he did “come out” in 2009, and in 2012, Wipf & Stock/Cascade published the second edition, with a new preface by Parry, a forward by Oliver Crisp of Fuller Theological Seminary, as well as a few new appendices addressing concerns arising since the first edition, including a response to those who challenged his criticisms of Calvinism, a response to the Rob Bell Love Wins controversy, and a study guide for groups wishing to interact with the book together. Continue reading “Book Review: The Evangelical Universalist”

A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 4 (Jerry Walls on Purgatory)

The first edition of Four Views on Hell was structured quite differently from the recently released second edition. The original featured two versions of eternal torment (literal and metaphorical), conditionalism, and a Catholic purgatorial view. The fact that evangelical universalism was excluded, and purgatory was presented and a Catholic position shows how much evangelical conversations have shifted since that edition. At the time, few would have imagined that evangelical protestants would argue for universalism and purgatory (although, few would have considered conditionalism a valid option for evangelicals either). The landscape has changed, and now, it seems that some evangelical protestants are showing interest in the notion of purgatory, so a protestant argument for purgatory appears in the new edition of Four Views Continue reading “A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 4 (Jerry Walls on Purgatory)”

Cross Purposes: Atonement, Death and the Fate of the Wicked (Part 2)

In a recent article, guest contributor Terrance Tiessen, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Providence Theological Seminary, explained that after being convinced of conditional immortality he nevertheless thought for a while “that neither traditionalism nor annihilationism gains an apologetic advantage from the doctrine of Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement” because “Jesus neither suffered endlessly nor was annihilated.”1 Upon further reflection, however, Tiessen has come to conclude that “Since the penalty for sin is death, what Jesus suffered as our sin bearer was death,” while “the unrepentant wicked, who must pay the penalty for their own sin, necessarily die the ‘second death.'” He concludes, therefore, that “penal substitutionary atonement accords much better with conditionalism than it does with endless conscious torment.”2
Tiessen echoes my own sentiments, captured in the conclusion to my 2012 article “Cross Purposes: Atonement, Death and the Fate of the Wicked.” “Traditionalists say that Jesus died for our sins,” I wrote, “but what they mean is that he suffered pain leading up to his death . . . And because traditionalists don’t believe the bodies of the risen wicked will ever die, their view of eternal punishment is at the very least considerably more unlike the substitutionary death of Christ than [that of conditionalists].”3
However, I also noted the existence of “the reverse challenge from traditionalists who insist that conditionalism must be false because either Christ wasn’t annihilated or because of conditionalism’s allegedly heretical Christological implications,” and I said we at Rethinking Hell would address the challenge in the future.2 It is to this challenge that I turn now, if belatedly. Continue reading “Cross Purposes: Atonement, Death and the Fate of the Wicked (Part 2)”

  1. Terrance Tiessen, “What did Jesus suffer ‘for us and for our salvation’?” Rethinking Hell [blog], posted July 17, 2016, http://rethinkinghell.com/2016/07/what-did-jesus-suffer-for-us-and-for-our-salvation/ (accessed July 17, 2016). []
  2. Ibid. [] []
  3. Chris Date, “Cross Purposes: Atonement, Death and the Fate of the Wicked,” Rethinking Hell [blog], posted August 12, 2012, http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2012/08/cross-purposes-atonement-death-and-the-fate-of-the-wicked/ (accessed July 17, 2016). []

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.
Continue reading “A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 2 (John Stackhouse on Terminal Punishment)”

What I would have to deny in order to teach eternal torment

For some people, the concept of hell as a state of eternal torment is so central to their faith and their portrait of God that giving it up would mean giving up the faith altogether: giving up the authority of Jesus; giving up, in principle, the authority of Scripture; discarding the testimony of the church; and ultimately denying the gospel. This is the stance Tim Challies takes, somberly telling his readers that “If I am going to give up hell, I am going to give up the gospel and replace it with a new one.” Of course, by “hell,” he means eternal torment, not the biblical picture of final judgement and the loss of life and being forever.

Setting aside more popularist visions of hell like that of Challies and turning to the biblical account of life, death, judgment, and eternity, we could ask a similar question: If we were to give up the biblical position of immortality and eternal life found in Christ alone and to instead embrace the doctrine of eternal torment, what would we have to give up? What would be the cost of embracing the traditional view instead of the biblical one?

Continue reading “What I would have to deny in order to teach eternal torment”

Hell and the Logical Implications of One's Arguments (Part 2)

Previously, when we looked at the importance of considering the logical implications of one’s arguments, we looked at a failed attempt to use physical laws to prove that all men live forever (in the way everyone means “live” except when talking about hell).1 Here, we will be looking at two more examples of arguments that fail when the logical implications are considered.

Immortality Through Creation In The Image of God

The fact that men are made in the image of God comes up in discussions on the nature of hell. This involves a number of ideas, but in no case does it succeed in demonstrating the eternal conscious existence of all people.
Continue reading “Hell and the Logical Implications of One's Arguments (Part 2)”

  1. See Part 1. []

Don't Be Afraid to Rethink Hell: Why Other Beliefs Needn't Get In Your Way

Are you hesitant to really reconsider your view of hell because you think it means you’ll have to adopt other beliefs, beliefs you may not think are biblical? Concerned that rethinking hell will require you to abandon other key doctrines that you believe are biblical? Well, if this describes you, then know that you have nothing to worry about.
Evangelical conditionalist theologians run the gamut of beliefs on other issues within the realm of Christian theology. But how can this be? Shouldn’t we all think the same about everything since we share a belief about this one issue?
Obviously, that is a silly question. You wouldn’t assume that all your premillennialist friends share the same view regarding baptism. The two views aren’t logically connected.1 You wouldn’t assume that all Calvinists hold the same view of how to interpret for that same reason. Yet for some reason, this comes up with annihilationism. But there is no logical reason for it. There is no reason why one’s belief about hell would affect their view of baptism, for example. Why would it? Likewise, you can reconsider your view on hell and still keep all kinds of views on other topics.2
Believe what is biblical: if our view on hell is biblical, and your view on another topic is biblical, then there is no reason why you can’t hold to both.
Continue reading “Don't Be Afraid to Rethink Hell: Why Other Beliefs Needn't Get In Your Way”

  1. This isn’t to deny that in practice, some collections of doctrines tend to be held together. But my point is not to deny that there is ever a connection between doctrines, but just to point out such connections are not logically necessary. And there are always exceptions to these tendencies as well. Dispensationalists, for example, tend to lean Arminian and charismatic, but John MacArthur is an outspoken Calvinist and cessasionist. []
  2. Of course, as you study the scripture more on this topic, you may reconsider other things because you have a better grasp of scripture than you did before. But that said, if you change your mind because you realize your former view on a different topic was unbiblical, how would that be anything but a positive change? []

1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Why The Modern Version of the Eternal Torment Doctrine Falls Short

One common view among traditionalists today, including among some of the biggest names in evangelical Christianity, is that hell is a place of eternal conscious punishment, but not a place of literal fire. Such a view was represented by William Crockett in Four Views on Hell, where it was referred to as the “metaphorical view.”1 We will be using the description “the metaphorical view” throughout this article.2
Now, not everyone holds this view, and so my primary point may not apply to your view of hell. That said, you may still get something out of it if you do choose to read on, and so I certainly invite you to do so.
Continue reading “Why The Modern Version of the Eternal Torment Doctrine Falls Short”

  1. William Crockett. “Chapter Two: The Metaphorical View,” Four Views on Hell. Ed. William Crockett and Stanley Gundry (Zondervan, 1996), 43-76. []
  2. adapted from Joseph Dear. The Bible Teaches Annihilationism (n.d.), Section XLIV, found at 3-Ring Binder, n.d., http://3-ringbinder.weebly.com/uploads/1/9/1/0/1910989/the_bible_teaches_annihilationism.pdf (accessed on December 1, 2013). []