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.

I call this phenomenon the gospel of parallelism because it is so deeply ingrained in the minds of many and it influences how they approach hell broadly, as well as how they interpret certain passages. Needless to say, it is not an issue that actually affects the gospel that the Bible considers of the utmost importance in passages like Galatians 1:6-9 or 1 Corinthians 15:2-9. Nevertheless, this paradigm is of great influence for many, and the name is easy to remember.

That said, although this general assumption does appear in more developed literature – such as when Matthew 25:46 comes up – it is usually in more informal settings, such as social media and in-person conversations, that the assumptions are presented more explicitly.

This is something I have seen and thought about for years, and it is something I was reminded of in a recent conversation with another conservative, evangelical Christian. She had not spent much time studying the topic previously, but was beginning to do so and, therefore, had a number of questions and concerns.

At several points, she brought up philosophical or theological concerns about annihilationism, and an assumed parallelism between the eternal conscious experience of heaven and the experience of hell was part of that discussion. In addition to a few relevant passages that come up, I will bring up a couple of specific claims from that conversation that are representative of these kids of arguments for eternal conscious hell.

Matthew 25:46 and the Parallelism Between “Everlasting Life” and “Everlasting Punishment.”

Matthew 25:46 is perhaps the most commonly cited passage in favor of eternal torment in the whole Bible, and the fact that it grammatically parallels elements of heaven and hell is a big reason why.

 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. 1 Unless otherwise noted, all scripture is quoted 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 25:46 has been dealt with in depth on this site, of course. For a more in-depth look, see “Matthew 25:46 Does Not Prove Eternal Torment,” Part 1 and Part 2. 2 For additional discussion on specific aspects of this passage, see Chris Date, “‘Punishment’ and the Polysemy of Deverbal Nouns” and “Falling Into Error: Grasping at Straws in Matthew 25:46“.

Note: For our purposes here, the English words “eternal” and “everlasting” are to be used interchangeably, as the two are translated from the same Greek and Hebrew words in the relevant passages. Arguments based on a distinction between the two English terms have no basis in the actual, God-breathed text of scripture.

The argument for eternal torment from this passage is that both “life” and “punishment” are qualified as eternal/everlasting.  Since those in Christ will live forever with the Lord, the unsaved must be punished forever (since both are said to be everlasting). Therefore, if the unsaved are punished forever, they consciously exist forever.

The meat of the conditionalist response, in a nutshell, is that conditionalists can fully grant that in this passage, both the life and punishment are said to be eternal. This does not challenge annihilationism, since annihilation, as the permanent and eternal loss of life, can properly be called eternal punishment.

Conditionalism does not require denying parallelism. It simply requires that we assert a parallelism only where the Bible actually demonstrates one and not assume more is parallel than what is in the actual text.

This will be a recurring theme. If we do not impose upon the Bible parallels between heaven and hell beyond what is in the actual text, there simply is no case for eternal conscious hell that is based on the Bible paralleling heaven and hell.

Regarding Matthew 25:46, a conditionalist can treat “eternal punishment” the same as “eternal redemption” in Hebrews 9:12, “eternal judgment” in Hebrews 6:2, the “eternal sin” of Mark 3:29, etc.

In each of those cases, the “eternal + [noun of action]” does not speak of the underlying action continuing eternally. 3 For more on deverbal nouns (i.e. nouns of action) and the relationship to hell, see Chris Date, “‘Punishment’ and the Polysemy of Deverbal Nouns“. God is not judging for eternity. Jesus is not redeeming us throughout eternity (Hebrews 9:12 makes a point that He completed it once and never again). Rather, these actions occur (e.g. judging, redeeming), and the consequences (judgment, redemption) are what go on for eternity. It would be the same here, for Matthew 25:46. God punishes the unsaved by killing them (i.e. inflicting the second death of Revelation 21:8). They are alive and conscious to be punished at that point in time. Once punished, the result, their punishment (i.e. being dead and deprived of life in every sense), lasts for eternity.

Contrary to popular assumptions, eternal punishment does not require the ongoing act of punishing to continue throughout eternity.

With that all in mind, the only thing that the scripture here keeps paralleled is that the Greek words translated as “life” and “punishment” are both qualified with the Greek word aionios. Even if we grant that aionios properly means everlasting, and that it is meant the same way when describing punishment and life, this does not indicate that hell is an eternal conscious existence.

One may object that since life is both eternal and conscious, therefore punishment must also be eternal and conscious. However, the passage does not say “eternal and conscious,” does it? That conclusion is therefore just an assumption, not an interpretation of anything in the text.

Daniel 12:2 and the Parallelism Between “Everlasting Life” and “Everlasting Contempt.”

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.

Like Matthew 25:46, Daniel 12:2 parallels the everlasting life of the saved with one aspect of the fate of the unsaved as also being everlasting. Note that it does not say that “heaven” and “hell” are both everlasting. Only a specific element of the fate of the unsaved is called “everlasting,” and it does not require that the unsaved people be conscious (i.e. alive) for eternity for this to be fulfilled.

In this case, what is qualified as everlasting is the Hebrew deraon, often translated as “contempt.” As has been noted before, this only describes how others (i.e. the saved) will regard the wicked who are ultimately lost. One need not be conscious and feeling anything to be viewed with contempt. Even atheists would have no qualms about saying that they view the worst villains of history with contempt, even though they believe that those men have truly ceased to exist.

And for good measure, the one other time the Old Testament uses deraon is in Isaiah 66:24, describing the disgust with which the living look at the corpses of those who rebelled against God. 4 https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1860.htm. 5 Isaiah 66:24 is very relevant to the doctrine of hell in its own right, especially given its connection to Mark 9:48. For more on this, see: “Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism – Mark 9:48“; Chris Date, “Their Worm Does Not Die: Annihilation and Mark 9:48“; “The Fire Is Not Quenched: Annihilation and Mark 9:48 (Part 2)“; Glenn Peoples, “Worms and Fire: The Rabbis or Isaiah“.

For more on Daniel 12:2, see “Daniel 12:2 Does Not Teach Eternal Torment“.

Other Parallels and Fallacious Understandings of Silent Passages

For both Matthew 25:46 and Daniel 12:2, there can be a temptation to say that they both say heaven and hell are everlasting. However, the text of each passage is much narrower and more specific. Anything beyond that is an extrabiblical imposition onto the text. This is where we really see the gospel of parallelism really show itself.

Notice that I am not saying that because neither text teaches parallelism between the length of life in heaven and the conscious experience (i.e. life) of damnation, therefore these texts refute eternal conscious hell. I am only saying that these particular texts are silent on the issue.

Many of you reading this probably have understood that and will find this disclaimer to be a bit redundant. However, I have found that with a lot of people, they have trouble really being able to accept the idea that a specific passage of scripture could be silent or ambiguous on an issue. This is not unique to the topic of hell.

For them, to say that their view is not taught in a passage is to insist that the passage directly teaches against their view. The idea that a passage just isn’t decisive on its own just does not click in their minds. For people like me who use Excel frequently, it is the theological equivalent of a #REF! error. It simply cannot be.

However, I am not saying that because Matthew 25:46 and Daniel 12:2 do not specifically teach that the conscious experience of hell is everlasting, therefore they teach annihilationism. I do believe that they serve as evidence for annihilation for other reasons (see below), but all I am saying here is that we cannot cite passages like these as authoritatively giving us parallels between heaven and hell beyond what is in the text.

With that in mind, understand that at no point does any passage of scripture paint a parallel between heaven and hell such that we can rightfully infer that hell is an eternal conscious experience like heaven. Simply pointing out that a passage speaks of the fates of saved and unsaved together does not prove that both are eternal conscious experiences.

In fact, given that several passages directly contrast the fate of the saved and unsaved as respectively being life versus death and otherwise not-life (e.g. John 3:16, 5:29, Romans 6:23), the comparisons between heaven and hell in the Bible would appear to show us the opposite. Even the supposed parallels in Matthew 25:46 and Daniel 12:2 ultimately serve as a contrast this way: both speak of going to heaven as entailing life, with the logical implication that the fate of the unsaved, their punishment and their state of being viewed with contempt, entails not having life.

So much for the saying “everybody lives forever somewhere.”

Now then, as mentioned earlier, I recently had a conversation with a traditionalist about hell, and a few instances of the gospel of parallelism came up more directly. As I did there, in person, I will address them here as well.

Claim: Heaven Is Everlasting (and Conscious) So Hell Must Also Be Everlasting (and Conscious)

This claim comes in variations as well, such as “if heaven is literal then hell must be literal” (with “literal” being a stand-in to mean eternal and conscious).

But why would this be so? Why must this be the case? One might presume that this is the meaning of Matthew 25:46, but as shown above and demonstrated more in-depth elsewhere, this is not the case. That which is qualified as everlasting, the punishment, is consistent with annihilation.

This sort of thing can be hard to refute in some cases because, as was the case in that conversation, there isn’t really an argument to rebut in the first place. It is just presumed to be that way. It is just ingrained in the minds of many that it just is that way. This presumption is often bolstered by passages like Matthew 25:46 and Daniel 12:2, which then leads it to be read into those passages in a vicious cycle of sorts.

And so, the question that must always be asked with something like this is the simple question of where the Bible actually teaches this. Where does the Bible ever actually tie the length of hell’s conscious experience with that of heaven? It does so nowhere.

What is parallel in passages like Matthew 25:46 is the everlasting length of the two things qualified as everlasting. Any other parallels are assumed and not actually part of the text. So then, what is our actual authoritative source of doctrine? Is it our presumptions, or is it the Bible?

Claim: For Good to Exist, Evil Must Exist. Therefore, If There Is Always Good Then There Must Always Be Evil

This general claim about good and evil is made at times in philosophical circles, but I do not believe I have ever seen this used as an argument for eternal conscious hell by traditionalists in books or literature. I only recall hearing it in conversations and social media. This is understandable, since this view is probably the easiest argument to refute of all.

This argument for eternal conscious hell, and this general claim that evil is necessary for good to exist, is disproven by the fact that God existed in eternity past before creation. Before God created the world, he was the only thing that existed. And yet, God is good and not evil. This means that, at one point, there was only good and no evil. God’s very existence and nature disproves the idea that there must always be evil – and therefore, conscious hell – forever.

Conclusion

It is not enough to just point out that heaven is an eternal, conscious experience to prove that hell is also an eternal conscious experience. A logical connection must be made. That connection is not made in scripture. That connection is not made by the logic of the Christian worldview, especially given that the Christian worldview itself teaches that eternity past had no evil and only good because it had only God.

Because our lives as humans often have a strong sense of balance and dualism, a need for yin and yang, this can be read into eschatology. But as believers, we already abandon a need for this sort of metaphysical balance. We look forward to living in an eternal world without a balance of good and evil, comfort and pain, happiness and mourning. We expect to know only joy and goodness and to be free of the former things that bring us down now (e.g. Revelation 21:4).

We should not be tempted to see symmetry where there is none. Our question should be what God has revealed in the Bible. The more one looks into this matter, the more one should expect to find a final end to the wicked and an eternal world, lopsided in favor of beauty and grace, where God is all-in-all. 6 For more on the biblical vision of eternity, see Rethinking Hell Podcast Episode 4 (starting about 18:00).

References
1 Unless otherwise noted, all scripture is quoted 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 For additional discussion on specific aspects of this passage, see Chris Date, “‘Punishment’ and the Polysemy of Deverbal Nouns” and “Falling Into Error: Grasping at Straws in Matthew 25:46“.
3 For more on deverbal nouns (i.e. nouns of action) and the relationship to hell, see Chris Date, “‘Punishment’ and the Polysemy of Deverbal Nouns“.
4 https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1860.htm.
5 Isaiah 66:24 is very relevant to the doctrine of hell in its own right, especially given its connection to Mark 9:48. For more on this, see: “Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism – Mark 9:48“; Chris Date, “Their Worm Does Not Die: Annihilation and Mark 9:48“; “The Fire Is Not Quenched: Annihilation and Mark 9:48 (Part 2)“; Glenn Peoples, “Worms and Fire: The Rabbis or Isaiah“.
6 For more on the biblical vision of eternity, see Rethinking Hell Podcast Episode 4 (starting about 18:00).

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.
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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.
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John 17:3 Does Not Change The Meaning of “Eternal Life”

It should be apparent why evangelical conditionalists appeal to passages that use the term “eternal life.” The Bible only attributes the fate of eternal life (or life in general) to the redeemed, in contrast to death for the unsaved (e.g. Romans 6:23). At face value, the phrase “eternal life” would mean life that lasts for eternity. If only the saved inherit life that lasts for eternity, then the wicked do not live forever. And therefore, the wicked cannot be tormented forever.

For that reason, traditionalism requires that the life and death language in the Bible be metaphorical whenever it is applied to final judgment.
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The Eternal Joys of The Life To Come Do Not Change The Meaning of “Life”

As many readers will likely be familiar with, one of the main questions in the debate over the nature and duration of hell is what is meant by the term “life” in the Bible when it speaks of the fate of the saved. 1 For more on the broader debate about the language of life and death as applied to final judgment, see “Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism: Life and Death in the Bible” Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Many conditionalists, of course, are happy to take such language at face value. But face value is not always correct, whether in regards to the Bible or in life, and so traditionalists often argue that there are good reasons to interpret such language differently. 2Regarding the matter of reading scripture at face value, see “Traditionalism and Annihilationism in Light of the Face Value Meaning of Scripture”.

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References
1 For more on the broader debate about the language of life and death as applied to final judgment, see “Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism: Life and Death in the Bible” Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
2 Regarding the matter of reading scripture at face value, see “Traditionalism and Annihilationism in Light of the Face Value Meaning of Scripture”.