Do Evangelical Conditionalists Believe in Hell? That Depends On What You Mean by “Hell”

One of the hot topics in the hell debate is whether or not it is proper to say that evangelical conditionalists believe in the existence of hell. 1Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations I give are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

The Question And Its Answer

The answer is itself quite simple: it depends what you mean by “hell.”

Some people define hell as a place of eternal conscious suffering, and if that is what you mean, then of course evangelical conditionalists deny the existence of “hell.” But if you, more broadly, mean a place or state of final punishment for the unrepentant, then yes, evangelical conditionalists (and most annihilationists broadly) definitely believe in hell. We just disagree with the majority of Christians about what hell ultimately entails.

That’s it. That’s the answer.

But since you probably came here not for a short paragraph but for a meaty Rethinking Hell article on a topic, allow me to elaborate and use this question as an opportunity to discuss some key, related matters. These will include the Greek and Hebrew words typically translated as “hell,” a bit about English theological terms of art vs. the inspired biblical text, and how this ties into the hell debate in general.
Continue reading “Do Evangelical Conditionalists Believe in Hell? That Depends On What You Mean by “Hell””

References
1 Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations I give are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Matthew 10:28 is About God, Not The Devil

If you’ve heard of anything under the umbrella of annihilationism or conditional immortality, you’ve probably been exposed to Matthew 10:28, and understandably so. 1Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations I give are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Conditionalists point to it frequently for obvious reasons. Jesus told the disciples that God will destroy (Greek apollumi) both the body and the (supposedly immortal) soul in hell. Traditionalists, of course, have rebuttals to the conditionalist interpretation that you will come across.

…And then there is an unusual interpretation that rears its head every now and again that we will be looking at today. This is the view that this passage is not warning about what God will do at final judgment, but rather, it is a warning to fear the devil.

Continue reading “Matthew 10:28 is About God, Not The Devil”

References
1 Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations I give are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Rethinking Hell 10 Year Anniversary! – History and Reflection (Part 2 – Conferences)

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

2014 Conference

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.

Lanier Theological Library Chapel Ceiling
Lanier Theological Library (Feat. Our Own Greg Stump)
2014 Conference – John Stackhouse, Plenary Speaker

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.”

2014 Conference – Glenn Peoples, Plenary Speaker
2014 Conference – Glenn Peoples, Plenary Speaker (View Towards Back of Chapel)

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.”

2014 Conference Panel

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

2015 Conference

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.

2015 Conference Panel

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

 

2016 Conference
2016 Conference – JT Tancock, RH Ministry Team Member and Conference Presenter

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 – Chris Date, Presenting A Plenary Presentation Titled “Conditional Immortality: A Comprehensive Case”

2016 Conference Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgNcf6pxVEs&list=PLzzKdEy3zkxPB-fb8xUqfdv4h0uM3BkgP

2017 – Auckland, New Zealand

2017 Conference

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).

2017 Conference – Peter Grice, Introduction

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

2018 Conference

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.

2018 Conference – Craig Evans, Plenary Speaker

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.”

2018 Conference – Preston Sprinkle, Plenary Speaker

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

2019 Conference

The 2019 conference was held at Emmanuel Enid Church in Enid, OK, from August 16-17, 2019.

2019 Conference – Wade Burleson, Introduction

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.

2020 Conference – Audience View

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

2021 – Virtual

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.

2021 Conference

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:

Whataburger – Houston, TX

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!

Rethinking Hell 10 Year Anniversary! – History and Reflection (Part 1)

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.

Happy Anniversary!

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.

References
1 Due to geographical differences, the date of the group’s formation was April 30, 2012 in Australia.
2 This statement may be a bit exaggerated.

The Gospel of Parallelism Between Heaven and Hell – A Fallacious Basis For Eternal Conscious Hell

The traditional doctrine of hell has a number of scripture passages used to support it, a number of theological and philosophical arguments to support it, and no shortage of major church figures to appeal to in order to give it credibility. It also is based on some major assumptions that have little or no support.

One assumption that often comes up is a general paradigm, a general presumption, that the eternal and conscious experience of the kingdom of God to come (called “heaven” here for convenience) must be mirrored by hell. Therefore, just as heaven is eternal, conscious reward and joy, so hell must be eternal, conscious punishment and suffering.
Continue reading “The Gospel of Parallelism Between Heaven and Hell – A Fallacious Basis For Eternal Conscious Hell”

Evangelical Conditionalism and the Image of God

One of the more common theological arguments against evangelical conditionalism is that it is inconsistent with man being created in God’s image.

There are two main ways in which this plays out. These two lines of argumentation are separate but not mutually exclusive.

The first is that God is immortal, and so if all humans are created in God’s image, then all humans are immortal because all humans share this attribute with God.
Continue reading “Evangelical Conditionalism and the Image of God”

The Traditional View Of Hell Is Rightly Called “Eternal Torture” (At Least Traditionally)

If you’ve ever been on the internet, then you’ve no doubt seen people of various beliefs object to the traditional (though not universal) Christian doctrine of eternal conscious hell by calling it “eternal torture.”1Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations I give are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. And if that has concerned you, then you’ve probably also been exposed to apologists rebutting that claim and denying that eternal conscious hell is really eternal torture.2 Al Serrato, “Is Hell Torment or Torture and Does It Make A Difference?”, Cross Examined [blog], posted February 15, 2020, https://crossexamined.org/is-hell-torment-or-torture-and-is-there-a-difference/ (accessed February 24, 2021). 3J. Warner Wallace, “Can The Existence and Nature of Hell Be Defended? (Free Bible Insert),” Cold-Case Christianity, July 1, 2014, http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/can-the-existence-and-nature-of-hell-be-defended-free-bible-insert/ (accessed February 23, 2021). 4 Hank Hanegraaf, “Is Hell A Torture Chamber,” Equip [blog], posted February 18, 2018, https://equipblog.wpengine.com/is-hell-a-torture-chamber/ (accessed February 24, 2021).

As a result of this common experience, many today who believe in the doctrine of eternal conscious hell believe that it is not rightly called “torture,” and that descriptions of hell using that term are inappropriate.

Continue reading “The Traditional View Of Hell Is Rightly Called “Eternal Torture” (At Least Traditionally)”

References
1 Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations I give are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
2 Al Serrato, “Is Hell Torment or Torture and Does It Make A Difference?”, Cross Examined [blog], posted February 15, 2020, https://crossexamined.org/is-hell-torment-or-torture-and-is-there-a-difference/ (accessed February 24, 2021).
3 J. Warner Wallace, “Can The Existence and Nature of Hell Be Defended? (Free Bible Insert),” Cold-Case Christianity, July 1, 2014, http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/can-the-existence-and-nature-of-hell-be-defended-free-bible-insert/ (accessed February 23, 2021).
4 Hank Hanegraaf, “Is Hell A Torture Chamber,” Equip [blog], posted February 18, 2018, https://equipblog.wpengine.com/is-hell-a-torture-chamber/ (accessed February 24, 2021).

The Modern Eastern Orthodox View and the Hellfire of God’s Love

You probably have heard of a view that has become common among those in the Eastern Orthodox Church and its various subsets, a view that says both the saved and unsaved go to be in God’s intimate presence. Whether it is a heavenly experience or a torturous one depends on whether you love God or not, and therefore, whether you consider his constant presence to be a blessing or curse.
Continue reading “The Modern Eastern Orthodox View and the Hellfire of God’s Love”

Introduction To Evangelical Conditionalism: 2 Thessalonians 1:9

If you are at all familiar with Rethinking Hell, you will know that we have never once addressed 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

Just kidding, it comes up all the time, including in a two-part article that is more in-depth than what we are looking at today:

– Part 1: Peter Grice, “Annihilation In 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (Part 1): Destroyed By The Glory Of His Manifest Presence“.

– Part 2: Ronnie Demler and William Tanksley, “Annihilation In 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (Part 2): Separation Or Obliteration?—The Present Controversy“.

Nevertheless, in no small part due to a recent interaction I witnessed over social media, it seemed worthwhile to give a nice, relatively short introduction to the passage and how it is perfectly consistent with evangelical conditionalism.
Continue reading “Introduction To Evangelical Conditionalism: 2 Thessalonians 1:9”