A friend of mine Edward Fudge is hosting a conference this summer, July 11-12, at the Lanier Theological Library. The title is “Rethinking Hell.” Edward Fudge, as you may know, has written the definitive book on hell as annihilation. Here is an announcement I received recently on it. If you are in or near Houston this summer, you should plan on attending. Go to the site http://www.rethinkinghell.com for more details.
Eleven weeks from now, registrants from countries on three or four continents arrive in Houston for the first ever Rethinking Hell Conference. Awaiting them will be a schedule that includes high academic prowess and ground-level practice, historical exhibits, a live podcast interview with audience involvement, screening of a feature movie, and never-before-seen excerpts from an international documentary film now in progress.
All this happens in a world-renowned venue, the Lanier Theological Library and Chapel, whose professional staff is accustomed to tourist buses, even on ordinary days with nothing special on the calendar. The calendar for this conference is brief, though packed, beginning on Friday evening, July 11, and ending Saturday night, July 12. In keeping with the sponsor’s mission and vision, and unlike many conferences, this one is open to anyone who wishes to register (for a very modest fee) and attend.
The sponsor and its mission
Less than two years ago, God wondrously brought together a small group of disparate individuals scattered halfway around the world, by inspiring in them the uniting vision of a joint mission. They differed in age, location, occupation, and theology–but in truth they shared very much indeed. They all were Christian believers and all held to evangelical convictions. Additionally, driving this conference on July 11-12 in Houston, the sponsors all held the understanding of final judgment known as conditionalism or conditional immortality.
The group named their mission the Rethinking Hell Project, and took as their first assignment the creation of a powerful website called RethinkingHell.com . Next, they organized an international conference on the subject that brought them together.
What is conditionalism?
The term “conditionalism” reflects the biblical teaching that human beings are not inherently immortal, and that human immortality is “conditional” as God’s gift to the redeemed. At the time he has appointed, God will raise all the dead, both righteous and unrighteous, for judgment and their final reward.
However, while the redeemed are raised immortal, the unrighteous are not. Instead, they are banished into hell, also called Gehenna, and the Lake of Fire. There they finally “perish” (John 3:16), are “destroyed” both soul and body (Matt.10:28), and experience the “second death” (Rev. 21:8)–from which there will be no restoration, return, or recovery forever. This is the view set out in my 1982 book, The Fire That Consumes, which was something of a leader in its field.
Conference speakers and presenters
The conference will feature two plenary speakers–Dr. John Stackhouse of Vancouver, Canada, and Dr. Glenn Peoples of Wellington, New Zealand. Dr. Stackhouse holds the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Chair of Theology and Culture at Regent College, an international graduate school of Christian studies. Dr. Peoples blogs (Right Reason) on issues of philosophy, theology, biblical studies and social issues. His is the most widely listened to podcast on philosophy or theology in the southern hemisphere.
Presenters at breakout sessions and panelists include philosophers, theologians, authors and clergy; but also an evangelist/apologist in more than 100 countries; an appellate judge, a filmmaker and a psychiatrist, each bringing a unique perspective. Dr. Stackhouse is also slated to preach on Sunday, July 13 at Bering Drive Church of Christ in Houston, and those attending the conference are specially invited to attend.
Will you join me there?
Click here for links to the conference schedule, cost, and hotel and other information. With only eleven weeks to go, why not register now and plan to join me there!
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Reblogged this on Dunelm Road and commented:
This is sure to be an interesting conference.
Brave post my friend. Many evangelicals like John Piper condemn annihilationism and have attacked wonderful men of God like John Stott. But a soul—annihilated or not—separated from the love and grace of God is still something that should drive us to obey the great commission.
Thanks for spreading the word! Conference registration and details are at http://www.rethinkinghellconference.com.
The idea of hell as a place of eternal torture bothers the modern conscience, yet C.S. Lewis seems to have thought that scripture did not support a notion of “painless” damnation, that is, simple nonexistence as final state for those who are not saved. He rather preferred the argument that contrast between a thing and its opposite is a necessity of a thing’s existence in the first place. So, no hell (with those in it aware of the fire), no heaven (with those in it aware of bliss).
An answer to this kind of question is beyond my ken. It probably requires determining how ancient minds formulated and understood the difficult concepts of time, awareness, life, and death involved. Because no living person has ever experienced death, human ego has no ability to countenance nonexistence or permanent loss of consciousness–from our own limited point of view, we have always existed with a personality, with a powerful psychological expectation that our current state of being will continue forever. This is despite our intellectual knowledge telling us otherwise.
Our limited ego also cannot imagine a universe not circumscribed by time. Perhaps after the resurrection to judgment, time, with its sequences of events that happen one after the other, will no longer exist in the familiar way. Perhaps eternity has no duration at all, as duration itself is a time-dependent phenomenon. This kind of reality is so alien to human experience that the bible can only hint to us about it.
I think Christians can be confident that God is just, however. After all, although the bible says several times how God declares at judgment that the unsaved must enter hell, it does not say that God inflicts what transpires there–there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, but it’s not God doing it to them, as far as I can see.
The idea of “second death” was known to Egyptians (in the Coffin Texts and its successors) as roughly equivalent to erasure from living memory, although whether biblical sources mean this when they use the term is unclear to me. It will be interesting to learn whether the upcoming conference examines this question.
Hopefully the comment above about “attacking wonderful men of God” doesn’t describe the current affairs of God’s church on earth. Annihilationism can be condemned as a doubtful doctrine with some justification. Honest Christians should admit that eschatology is a subject known only to God, so that men of God can and do disagree about it.