On April 29th, 2012, a Facebook group called Rethinking Hell was created by a Christian apologist in Australia named Peter Grice. 1 Due to geographical differences, the date of the group’s formation was April 30, 2012 in Australia. The world has never been the same since. 2 This statement may be a bit exaggerated.
Early on, Peter brought on three fellow stewards to help run the ministry:
- Chris Date of the Theopologetics podcast.
- Joshua Anderson: scholar and missionary.
- Greg Stump: a Baptist pastor with a dream to release a collection of top annihilationist writings that would eventually become our 2014 anthology, Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism.
They were also joined by contributors who had studied the topic of final punishment in-depth. This included Dr. Glenn Peoples, Ronnie Demler of the Consuming Fire blog, and, through a series of little things that happened to work out, yours truly. And the late Edward Fudge – the kind and humble titan of the movement – gave us encouragement, our first podcast interview, and one of the first cash donations to the ministry to get us going.
Ten years have gone by since that fateful day on Facebook. Many names and faces have come and gone, but the various ways that they have positively influenced the ministry and the greater debate on the nature and duration of hell remain. Since then, the ministry has grown and developed into an official non-profit organization. A second anthology of essays on hell, a festschrift in honor of Edward Fudge, was published in 2015. There have been hundreds of articles, podcasts, and videos. There have been eight conferences in multiple US States, England, and New Zealand. There have been numerous formal debates over video conferencing and in-person. And in many different forums and venues, there have been countless interactions and discussions between believers in the Lord Jesus Christ about a topic that many do not want to discuss, but one that we are all better for discussing when we do it.
I certainly like to think that, in all of this, a lot of good has been accomplished, and that this is only the beginning.
Ways I Have Been Blessed
Has Rethinking Hell been a blessing to you? I certainly hope so. Or, if you are new, that it soon will be.
Nevertheless, I figure that rather than telling all of you how much Rethinking Hell has helped you, I should instead contribute to this time of reflection and retrospective by sharing how I have been blessed by being part of this project over the last decade:
- Community: This is the most obvious one. I have made friends along the way. I’ve gotten to form ministry and personal relationships with people who would otherwise just be names on the internet. If you’ve never been to a Rethinking Hell conference, I must say that, while the topic is as serious as a heart attack, the conferences are also a pretty great time. You meet new people, and you also get to finally shake hands and hug and do finger guns at people you knew online but who now become real. I have been personally blessed quite a bit by all of this.
- Opportunity to sharpen my exegetical and critical thinking skills: Repetition makes ready, and studying a like this topic in-depth requires you to learn, to study, and to learn how to learn and study. And in my experience, doing this for one topic spills over into other topics. You are exposed to new knowledge and new ideas, some of which will change your mind. Even exposure to bad arguments helps you learn not only why they are bad, but how and why people come to believe what they believe. I believe I am a better expositor and thinker in general because of this project, and I hope to grow even more as time goes on.
- An anchor: Life can get busy and things can get away from you. Having a reason to regularly keep my mind on the things of God has helped my spiritual life in many ways across the seasons of life.
For me, this has been (and continues to be) a labor of love. There would be no point in expending the time, energy, and resources needed for us to run the Rethinking Hell project if it was not benefiting others. But it would be dishonest and painfully false martyrdom if I were to pretend I have not also been blessed by the whole thing – including by you, the reader.
A Few Other Fun Questions:
- Favorite Podcast Interview: The first podcast interview, with Edward Fudge, of course.
- Favorite Conference: All the conferences I have been to have been great, but I will give this one to the 2018 conference in Plano (Dallas), Texas.
- Something Fun I Didn’t Expect: How great Whataburger is. I live in California, so I have great burger chains like In N’ Out. Nevertheless, after trying it the first time at the 2014 conference in Houston, TX, I make sure to eat at Whataburger whenever we have a conference or event in Texas or surrounding states.
There will be more content celebrating this anniversary soon. But for now, to all our donors, fans, advocates, and you the reader (even if this is your first time), we thank you all so much! The Rethinking Hell project would not be what it is without you.