I was recently honored to be published in volume 18 of McMaster Divinity School’s McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry. My article argues from the atoning work of Christ to conditional immortality and against eternal torment, and will be the basis of my plenary presentation at the upcoming Rethinking Hell Conference 2018 in Dallas–Fort Worth, March 9–10—for which tickets are still available! In the meantime, my article is available for free PDF download. Here are three of the opening paragraphs, to give you a feel for what I go on to argue:

Conditionalists have very often commended their view on the basis of biblical texts that describe hell and final punishment in terms of death and destruction, including those typically cited in support of the doctrine of eternal torment, and this article does not seek to reinvent the proverbial wheel. But in the eyes of some traditionalists, conditionalism is more objectionable on Christological grounds than on any other. Robert Peterson, for example, summarizes how the doctrine of substitutionary atonement should inform one’s understanding of hell: “The cross sheds light on the fate of the wicked,” he explains, “because on the cross the sinless Son of God suffered that fate.” Mistakenly understanding conditionalists to be saying Christ’s human nature ceased to exist on the cross, Peterson insists that the “systematic implications of holding that Jesus was annihilated when he died are enormous. Nothing less than orthodox Christology is at stake.” Such a view, he argues, entails a temporary separation of Jesus’ human and divine natures, thereby violating the Chalcedonian doctrine of the hypostatic union. Alternatively—and equally problematically—Peterson argues that if both of Christ’s natures “ceased to exist between his death and resurrection, then the Trinity only consisted of two persons during that period of time. The Trinity would have been reduced to a Binity.”

Conditionalists, on the other hand, often argue that the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is more consistent with their view of hell than that of their traditionalist critics. Agreeing with Peterson that “Jesus’ death somehow reveals the nature of final punishment,” Edward Fudge observes that “Jesus died; he was not tortured forever. Jesus’ death for sinners does provide a window into the final judgment awaiting the lost. But the view we see through that window is one of suffering that ends in death—not one of everlasting conscious torment.” Glenn Peoples likewise writes, “the New Testament is replete with the language of Jesus dying for sin, for sinners, and for us. Whatever else this might mean, it at least means that in Christ’s passion and ultimately his death we see what comes of sin.” Peoples concludes, “in identifying with sinners and standing in their place, Jesus bore what they would have borne. Abandonment by God, yes. Suffering, yes. But crucially, death.”

Peterson and other critics of conditionalism are right to test it for consistency with an orthodox doctrine of the atonement. Despite their Christological objections, however, conditionalism passes that test quite well—while their own traditional view fares poorly—given the Bible’s teaching of the substitutionary death of Jesus. As the following essay sets out to demonstrate: (1) in the Old Testament, the lives of sacrificed animals substituted for the lives of those who deserved to die; (2) animal sacrifices prefigured Christ’s own atoning sacrifice, likewise described by New Testament authors as the giving of his life in place of those for whom he died; (3) his infinite worth as the God-man enabled him to bear the death penalty deserved by the millions for whom he bore it; (4) by applying his infinite worth to his torment, traditionalists risk unintentionally denying the substitutionary nature of his death, a denial conservative evangelicals are not typically willing to countenance; (5) because Jesus was to be raised, he did not wholly cease to be when he died, but since no resurrection will follow the second death, the bodies and souls of the unredeemed will be destroyed in hell; and (6) although Christians continue to suffer death and will until Christ returns, his substitutionary death shatters its power over the redeemed, guaranteeing their resurrection unto eternal life.

Links

“The Righteous for the Unrighteous: Conditional Immortality and the Substitutionary Death of Jesus,” article in the McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry by Chris Date
http://mcmaster.ca/mjtm/documents/Volume18/18.MJTM.69-92-Date.pdf
The current issue of the McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry, containing Chris’s article
http://mcmaster.ca/mjtm/volume18.htm
Chris Date’s Academia.edu profile, where his article can also be downloaded
https://fuller.academia.edu/ChristopherDate
Biblical Exegesis Chris Date Christology Criticisms Leave a comment

In the first part of this series, guest contributor Cody Cook argued from Psalm 82’s condemnation of the divine council that both fallen angels and unsaved human beings will be finally punished with death, rather than with immortal life in everlasting torment. “The ultimate fate of these rebellious angels,” Cook writes, “is capital punishment—death. . . . Though these beings are divine in a general sense, and therefore not susceptible to the fragilities of human experience, they will nevertheless die just like human beings do.”1 But while Cook contends for the mortality of fallen angels and men from Psalm 82, others occasionally argue for their immortality from another passage, one not often cited in the debate over the purpose, nature, and duration of hell. Continue reading

  1. Cook, C., “Conditional Immortality and Angels, Part 1—The Mortality of Angels and Men (Psalm 82).” http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2018/01/conditionalism-and-angels-part-1-mortality-of-angels-and-men-psalm-82/ []
Biblical Exegesis Criticisms 2 Comments

 

Rethinking Hell contributors Peter Berthelsen and Mark Corbett join Chris Date for the eighth and last of a series of episodes reviewing Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson. This eighth episode in the series reviews chapter 9, “Annihilationism: Will the Unsaved Be Punished Forever?” by Christopher Morgan.

 

Continue reading

Book Reviews Podcast 2 Comments

 

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?
. . . Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

Psalm 82, ESV

 

Traditionally this passage has been viewed by exegetes as referring to God condemning human leaders and judges for perverting justice. John Wesley, in his explanatory notes on this Psalm, argues that “judges and magistrates are called gods, because they have their commission from God, and act as his deputies.” When the Most High God tells these “gods” that they will die like men, Wesley reasons that he only means “like ordinary men,” though is silent on the verse’s parallel statement, “and fall like any prince.”1
Continue reading

  1. Psalm 82 Bible Commentary. (n.d.). Retrieved December 03, 2017, from https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=wes&b=19&c=82 []
Biblical Exegesis Guest Contributions 5 Comments

Of the four words that are often translated “hell,” Gehenna is the only term used in our Scriptures to describe the final fate of the wicked.1 It is used primarily by Jesus in the gospels, once by James and is entirely absent in the writings of Paul. The purpose of this paper is to examine the origin, history and development of Gehenna from the Old Testament (OT) to New Testament (NT), comparing the external evidence seen in the historical rabbinical ideas of Gehenna with the internal evidence seen in exclusively biblical development.

The following questions will be considered: Is there any biblical or historical warrant for accepting the popular idea of Gehenna as a “garbage dump” just south of Jerusalem, into which the city garbage, and dead bodies of animals and criminals, were thrown to be incinerated? Is Gehenna primarily a geographical term giving rise to eschatology cast in spatial language, or is there development that takes us beyond the basic geographical meaning? What this paper hopes to accomplish is to give clarity to the meaning of Gehenna in its historical context, which will help us discern its overall usage throughout the NT. Continue reading

  1. See also: OT Sheol (63x), NT Hades (11x) and Tartarus (1x). It is important to note that all men (wicked and righteous) go to Sheol and Hades upon death, but only the wicked are finally destroyed in Gehenna after the final Resurrection. []
Uncategorized Leave a comment

As we enter 2018, my sense is that God has been growing the Rethinking Hell movement at an encouraging pace. I don’t have statistics to prove it, but my feeling is that belief in Conditional Immortality is on the rise. This is something to thank God for.

There’s still a lot of work to do. On the one hand, the belief that God will torture the unrighteous forever is still very widespread and is still the dominant belief in most Christian churches and institutions. This error is deeply rooted. On the other hand, as more and more people become skeptical of eternal conscious torment, by no means are all of them embracing Conditional Immortality. The error of Universalism seems to be on the rise.

God has called many of you who are reading this to work to help others understand what the Bible truly teaches about Hell and the final fate of the unrighteous. How should we think of this work?  It is a labor of love. It is a teaching ministry. And, like all of God’s work and like every ministry, there is an aspect of spiritual warfare involved.

We are in a spiritual struggle.  In a sense, all of life involves spiritual warfare.  Our efforts to correct a very longstanding, broad, and deeply rooted misunderstanding of the Bible involves us in one aspect of the good fight we are called to fight.
Continue reading

Featured Content Leave a comment