From Texas to Oklahoma to London and beyond, the first 10 years of Rethinking Hell saw some wonderful conferences which brought together fellowship, intellectual rigor, and spiritual enrichment – with a healthy dose of fun and good memories, of course.
And there is good news for those of you who haven’t gotten to be at every single one of them in person: the plenary presentations from each conference, as well as a number of breakout sessions, were recorded and are available on the Rethinking Hell Youtube channel! They can be found under Playlists, and links to each year’s conference playlist are given below.
Without further ado, let’s take a look back at some of the highlights:
2014 – Houston, Texas
The first Rethinking Hell conference took place from July 11-12, 2014. The theme was “The Legacy of Edward Fudge and the Future of Conditionalism,” and it was hosted at the immaculate Lanier Theological Library in Edward Fudge’s then-home of Houston, TX.
The honor of delivering the very first plenary presentation at the very first Rethinking Hell conference was given to John Stackhouse. Dr. Stackhouse currently holds the position of Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall College, though at the time of the conference, he held the title of Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College – a position originally held by J.I. Packer. Dr. Stackhouse’s presentation was titled “The Legacy of Edward Fudge.”
At the 2014 conference, we also had the privilege having of our own Glenn Peoples come all the way from New Zealand to give the second plenary presentation, titled “The Future of Conditionalism.”
In addition to our two plenary presenters, we had several additional distinguished guests join the conference for a panel discussion at the end of the conference. Second from the right was, of course, the late Edward Fudge (the conference’s guest of honor). In addition were, from left to right: Dr. John Stackhouse (plenary speaker), Dr. Thomas Talbott (universalist, professor), our own Dr. Glenn Peoples (plenary speaker), Dr. Shawn Bawulski (traditionalist, professor), and Dr. J. Lanier Burns (traditionalist, professor).
2014 Conference playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBgYnQfkmr0&list=PLzzKdEy3zkxOS8byBZz2oMwOLhAQZJnks
2015 – Pasadena, California
The second Rethinking Hell conference was held at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, from June 18-20, 2015.
The theme of this conference was “Conditional Immortality and the Challenge of Universal Salvation.” The scope of this conference was expanded from 2014. Over three days, we had six plenary presentations delivered by three conditionalists, two traditionalists, and one universalist. There was also a concluding panel discussion, as has become the norm. Notably, in order to bring all three views to the table (conditionalism, universalism, and eternal conscious hell), this conference had three separate breakout sessions, each to feature papers given on one of the three views.
Above is a photo of the panel, featuring all six plenary speakers (from left to right): Dr. David-Instone Brewer (conditionalist), Dr. Robin Parry (universalist), Dr. James Spiegel (conditionalionalist), our own Chris Date (who needs no introduction), Dr. Oliver Crisp (traditionalist), and Dr. Jerry Walls (traditionalist). Pictured at the podium was panel moderator Greg Stump, a pastor and one of the original stewards of Rethinking Hell.
2015 Conference Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vNUNpJ2yMw&list=PLzzKdEy3zkxNAlwjXNhKK–6NFZulMezT
2016 – London, England
Our 2016 conference took place at Highgate International Church in London, England from October 7-8, 2016. It was the first Rethinking Hell conference held outside of the United States!
2016 Conference Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgNcf6pxVEs&list=PLzzKdEy3zkxPB-fb8xUqfdv4h0uM3BkgP
2017 – Auckland, New Zealand
The 2017 conference was held at Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand on July 15, 2017. The host country of New Zealand was noteworthy for being the home country of RH contributor and highly influential conditionalist, Dr. Glenn Peoples. It also facilitated attendance by notable Australian conditionalists such as Ralph Bowles (who presented at the 2014 conference and was interviewed on Episode 48 of the Rethinking Hell Podcast).
Quite fittingly, the introduction to this conference was given by the founder of Rethinking Hell, Peter Grice (also from nearby Australia).
2017 Conference Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgNcf6pxVEs&list=PLzzKdEy3zkxPB-fb8xUqfdv4h0uM3BkgP
2018 – Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas
The 2018 conference saw a return to the United States, and was held at The Heights Baptist Church in Richardson, TX, from March 9-10, 2018.
Dr. Craig Evans of Houston Baptist University gave some a surprise by lending scholarly support toward a conditionalist view of hell in his presentation titled “Jesus, Hell, Hyperbole and Hope.”
Preston Sprinkle’s advocating conditionalism in his presentation, though expected, was still noteworthy because Dr. Sprinkle had previously co-authored the very popular defense of eternal conscious hell, Erasing Hell, with Francis Chan in 2011.
2018 Conference Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwJPBQYTtaY&list=PLzzKdEy3zkxOHzmuncVs8a_bW03HbMgwE
2019 – Enid, Oklahoma
The 2019 conference was held at Emmanuel Enid Church in Enid, OK, from August 16-17, 2019.
Pictured above is Wade Burleson, then-pastor of Emmanuel Enid Church. The hospitality of Pastor Wade and Emmanuel Enid Church went above and beyond, and this was instrumental in making the 2019 conference a big success from every angle (attendance, quality of dialogue, fellowship, etc.).
2019 Conference Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dg7AePz-AP4&list=PLzzKdEy3zkxOQDxkLQQo_PodEla78k3mr
2020 – Seattle, Washington
The seventh annual Rethinking Hell conference was held at Christ’s Church Federal Way in Federal Way, WA, from November 6-7, 2020.
The worldwide chaos of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic may have meant face masks and renting an oversized venue to allow people to be spaced apart, but the conference still went on. Despite a few understandable hiccups (such as one plenary speaker having to give his presentation by video due to living in Canada), the conference still had great dialogue, great fellowship, and a surprisingly good turn-out. I am not alone when I say that I took away a lot from it and had a lot of fun.
2020 Conference Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUAnemtBygQ&list=PLzzKdEy3zkxPz-GpxEMS9v9IyLzOqBvSM
Various circumstances led the 2021 conference to be held virtually from December 30-31, 2021. Despite not being in-person, it brought various presentations of depth and intellectual quality, discussing the very practical question of how to engage the culture regarding death and mortality, according to a Christian worldview.
The video presentations from the 2021 conference are now all uploaded to our Youtube channel, so what are you waiting for?
2021 Conference Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yhXf58LJb8&list=PLzzKdEy3zkxOYTykF2-hSX9-mzL9Up1dZ
Other Conference Highlights
Perhaps the greatest discovery of all, from all the conferences we have had, is below:
I do not know if the above was the Whataburger where we stopped in Houston, TX (2014 conference). But I do know it is a Whataburger in Houston, TX. And that is how I discovered how great Whataburger is.
…That one might be a bit more personal to my experience. But needless to say, there have been some really great conferences on the topic of hell since Rethinking Hell was founded 10 years ago. Perhaps it might be practical for you to meet us at one in the future? Hope to see you there!