Many people incorrectly believe that, save for a few nut jobs, cults, and liberals who don’t care about the Bible, Christians of all stripes have always believed that hell is a place of eternal torment. For this reason, many are wary to even consider any alternative ideas like evangelical conditionalism (also called annihilationism). The idea that no one will live forever in hell, but will instead be destroyed and fully killed, sounds like some new age nonsense. Many think that Christianity simply has always taught that hell is a place of eternal torment, and only recently does anyone deny this because people today are just too soft and too sentimental to handle the truth. However, this assessment is not correct.
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 Romans 6:23—they will be capitally punished: killed, executed, destroyed, deprived of life forever—both in body and soul, as Jesus indicates in Matthew 10:28, 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.
- “Dismissive of Hell, Fearful of Death: Conditional Immortality and the Apologetic Challenge of Hell,” article in Hope’s Reason by Chris Date
- The current issue of the journal Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics, containing Chris’s article
- Chris Date’s Academia.edu profile, where his article can also be downloaded
Recently, well-known Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace penned an article for his website, Cold Case Christianity, in which he offers a case for the appropriateness of eternal conscious torment.1 Mr. Wallace is a former homicide detective whose apologetic works include the best-selling Cold Case Christianity. The impetus for his article, “Why Would God Punish Finite, Temporal Crimes in an Eternal Hell?” came from a caller on a radio show who questioned Wallace over the justice of eternal torment. How could this be proportionate, they asked, in light of only a finite human life lived in sin? In his article, Wallace takes the opportunity to address what he deems “misunderstandings” of several principles regarding the final state of the wicked. Below, I will address Wallace’s four “misunderstandings” and attempt to show that they hardly create an open-and-shut case for eternal torment. Continue reading
- J. Warner Wallace, “Why Would God Punish Finite, Temporal Crimes in an Eternal Hell?,” Cold-Case Christianity [website] (accessed September 20, 2017), http://coldcasechristianity.com/2017/why-would-god-punish-finite-temporal-crimes-in-an-eternal-hell/. [↩]
Rethinking Hell contributors William Tanksley and Daniel Sinclair join Chris Date for the third of a series of episodes reviewing Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson. This third episode in the series reviews chapter 3, “Jesus on Hell,” by Robert Yarbrough.
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.
Rethinking Hell contributors Joey Dear and William Tanksley join Chris Date for the second of a series of episodes reviewing Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson. This second episode in the series reviews the second chapter, “The Old Testament on Hell,” by Daniel Block, and chapter 5, “The Revelation on Hell,” by G. K. Beale.