RH Conference 2015: Full Schedule!

With only a few weeks remaining until our second Rethinking Hell conference, taking place at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, we wanted to share the full speaking schedule with you all and invite those who have not already signed up to consider registering at a special discounted price of $50, which we can offer thanks to some funds that have come in to help scholarship registrations (use discount code RH2015  at the checkout page of the registration process at www.rethinkinghellconference.com/2015/).

Here is the updated full speaking & activity schedule for this year’s conference, along with some notes about our plenary & breakout session presenters:

THURSDAY, JUNE 18

FRIDAY, JUNE 19

  • 9:00-9:10am | Introduction to the Rethinking Hell project
  • 9:10-10:30am | Plenary #2:  ”Burning Love: The Theological Hermeneutics of Hell” – Robin Parry (Wipf & Stock Publishers) – this will be a key presentation of an “evangelical universalist” view on hell, by one of the leading Christian voices from this perspective (Parry is the author of The Evangelical Universalist, under the pseudonym Gregory MacDonald), which will help frame the discussion of the topic of universal salvation at the conference
  • 10:30-10:45am | Logos Bible software presentation (including significant discount on purchase or upgrades)
  • 10:50-11:50am | Breakout Session #1
    • “How One Biblical Annihilationist Became a Biblical Universalist” – Peter Hiett (The Sanctuary Downtown) - Philip Yancey, a former congregant of Peter Hiett’s has called this presenter “one of the best teachers I have ever had.” Hiett, a pastor in Denver, Colorado and the author of several books including Eternity Now!, will share some of his personal journey, as well as exploring exegetical analysis of biblical topics such as time and eternity, the “three hells,” and God’s call in Jesus Christ
    • “Annihilation or Salvation? A Philosophical Case for Preferring Universalism to Annihilationism” – John Kronen (University of St. Thomas) / Eric Reitan (Oklahoma State University)  - these professors of Philosophy have been have been defending universalism from a philosophical perspective for many years, and their recent co-authored book, God’s Final Victory: A Comparative Philosophical Case for Universalism, which will provide material for this presentation, has been called by Thomas Talbott “the most complete discussion to date of the relevant philosophical and theological issues” which “no philosopher or theologian who in the future addresses the issue of universalism will be able to ignore”
    • “Christian Apokatastasis contra Crisp & Walls” – Steven Nemeș (Fuller Theological Seminary Arizona) - in this presentation, an M.Div student will sketch the contours of a patristic, biblical universalist tradition, drawing from Ilaria Ramelli’s recent research in The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis, and argue for its superiority over those of the doctrine’s objectors, specifically those held by plenary speakers Oliver Crisp & Jerry Walls
    • “Is God Creation’s Biggest Loser?” – George W. Sarris - an M.Div graduate of Gordon-Conwell seminary, Sarris has served on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ as well as writing the popular “Engaging the Culture” blog on ChristianPost.com. In this presentation, he will examine the origins of eternal hell, contrast them with the teachings of early church fathers, and discuss the dominance of the traditional view of eternal torment in the Western church
  • 11:50am-1:10pm | Lunch
  • 1:10-2:10pm | Breakout Session #2
    • “Hermeneutical Considerations In The Discussion Of Eternal Punishment In Revelation and Beyond” – Lindsay Brooks (Apologetics.com) - Brooks is co-host of the radio program Apologetics.com and a contributor to the book Think and Live.  His presentation will defend the traditional view of eternal torment through a careful examination of the imagery and allusions in the book of Revelation
    • “Supporting the Claim that Conditionalism Is Philosophically Unmotivated” – Samuel Garcia (Fuller Theological Seminary) -  an adjunct professor of philosophy at Biola University, where Garcia obtained an MA  in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics before coming to Fuller to work on an MA in Theology, this presentation will raise an objection to both traditionalism and conditionalism regarding the Status Principle, which includes the idea that the guilt of an offending party is proportional to the status or nature of the offended party
    • “In Defense of Hell: Some Explorative Reflections” – Gavin Ortlund (Fuller Theological Seminary) - a PhD student in Historical Theology and editor with The Gospel Coalition, Ortlund will explore how the traditional doctrine of hell is logically correlated with the Christian notion of sin, as well as considering how the traditional doctrine of hell is logically correlated with the Christian view of God with particular reference to the work of C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller
    • “The Unified Character of God & the Purpose of Hell” – Jordan Wessling (Arizona Christian University) - an Assistant Professor with a PhD in Theology and Religion, Wessling argues against the view that God’s love and justice have different aims.  Instead, he contends that it is theologically preferable to hold that God’s love drives everything God does, in the sense that even God’s most severe punishments are a kind of tough love meant for the good of those punished. This unified view of God’s love and justice leads Wessling to retool the doctrine of hell. Drawing from Greggory of Nyssa and contemporary communicative theorists, he defends a broadly retributivist theory of God’s punishment, wherein God aims to communicate to offenders the censure they deserve, for the purpose of trying to persuade them to admit their evil, to try to reform themselves with God’s help, and to reconcile themselves with those whom they have wronged. Hell, in other words, is conceived along general purgatorial lines in which God seeks to transform the denizens of hell into those who are fit for fellowship with himself and the gloried saints.
  • 2:20-3:20pm | Breakout Session #3
    • “Freedom, Evil and Tom-Tom: Some Philosophical Reasons to Prefer the Annihilationist View of Hell to Soteriological Universalism” – Jeff Cook (Atlas Church/University of Northern Colorado) - a pastor and Lecturer in Philosophy, Cook will raise several problematic questions of Soteriological Universalism: Why has God made this kind of world when others are possible? Does the nature of evil complement a purgatorial interpretation of hell, or make it bizarre? Are human beings free and if so can the Soteriological Universalist make claims about the renewal of all things? And if hell is a place of refinement, where is hell located in a theistic cosmology? Ultimately, he will posit that metaphysical commitments common to the Christian tradition are better explained by Annhilationism than Soteriological Universalism
    • “Justification and Life for All? A Response to an Evangelical Universalist Exegesis of Rom 5:12-21” – Allison Quient (Fuller Theological Seminary) – Quient is a PhD student in Systematic Theology who argues that, although the typological parallelism between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-21 might appear to the universalist to support universal salvation, a more thorough reading reveals support for universal accessibility to salvation
    • “Worth a Thousand Words: A Conditionalist Reading of the Book of Revelation” – William Tanksley Jr & Chris Date (Rethinking Hell) – these presenters, who both serve on the Rethinking Hell leadership team, will examine models for interpreting the book of Revelation, its imagery, and its embedded interpretations. In addition to producing a set of broadly useful guidelines for reading the text, they will apply those guidelines to several texts frequently brought up by universalist and traditionalist readers from Revelation chapters 5, 14, and 20-22, and will show that both the broad trajectory and those specific passages of Revelation best support the conditionalist model
    • “A Philosophical Case for Conditionalism” – Daniel Sinclair (Rethinking Hell) – an Mdiv student at Fuller Seminary Northern California and Assistant Teaching Pastor, as well as a part of the Rethinking Hell leadership team, Sinclair will present an extended version of a paper delivered recently at the Evangelical Philosophical Society, which contends that, while the primary argument of modern Conditionalists is exegetical, and the self-understanding of the movement is as a continuance of the unfinished work of the Reformation, a strong secondary argument for the position and against the traditional position can be made from philosophy and reason alone without appealing to Biblical authority
  • 3:30-4:50pm | Plenary #3:  ”Jesus’ Rejection of Universal Jewish Salvation: The background of rabbinic theology about hell and forgiveness” – David Instone-Brewer (Cambridge, UK) – a Senior Research Fellow in Rabbinics, Baptist minister, and author of scholarly volumes on rabbinic traditions, Instone-Brewer will present a paper that explores some Jewish views of final punishment contemporary to the New Testament, including Jesus’ response to the universalism of his own day
  • 5:00-6:20pm | Dinner
  • 6:30-7:30pm | Breakout Session #4
    • “The Biblical Tour of Hell”  - Matthew Ryan Hauge (Azusa Pacific University) – a Professor of Biblical Literature and Ancient History, Theologian-in-Residence at Mountainside Communion, as well as the author of The Biblical Tour of Hell, Hauge will discuss the “tours of hell” tradition and carefully examine the only biblical “tour of hell” – the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, which is unique in the biblical tradition as the only narrative in the Bible that includes a postmortem setting and postmortem dialogue. These two unique features provide a narrative framework for thoughtful reflection on the fate of the dead
    • “An Orthodox/Catholic Eschatology: The Hopeful Inclusivism of Hans Urs Von Balthasar and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware” – Brad Jersak (Westminster Theological Centre) – serving on the faculty as head of the New Testament and Patristics department at Westminster Theological Centre (Cheltenham, UK) and Senior Editor at Plain Truth Ministries (Pasadena, CA), Jersak is also the author of Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell, and the New Jerusalem.  Jersak will propose that, in arguing our views of hell, we prematurely enter the debate and the quest for ‘a doctrine’ wearing lenses that cannot perceive the role of paradox or bow before an inscrutable mystery, which itself represents a major stream within the Great Tradition—a possibility that holds our greatest hopes with an open hand, namely a hopeful inclusivism, which will be exegeted through the thought of the Roman Catholic theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, and Orthodox Metropolitan, Kallistos Ware
    • “Hell Is For Christians? Eternal Judgment as a Unique Theological Emphasis in the Gospel of Matthew” – Laura Robinson (Duke University) – a PhD student in Religion at Duke University, Robinson will explore why hell and judgment are such pressing concerns in Matthew, and what didactic and practical lessons the author is seeking to share with his audience through the language of judgment, particularly language which seems to imply the possibility of hell and judgment for current insiders (Jews) who reject the message, rather than as the fate of community outsiders
    • “Toward a Charitable Epidemic of Amendments: Viral Change and the Hope for Diversity on the Nature of Hell” – Jason Schroeder – this paper will examine possible ways and means to promote openness within Christian institutions such as universities, churches, organizations to various views on final judgement
  • 7:40-9:00pm | Plenary #4:  ”Christian Particularism” – Oliver Crisp (Fuller Theological Seminary) - a Professor of Systematic Theology and author of a number of books, including Deviant Calvinism, Crisp will defend the view that there is some particular number of individuals that are saved through the work of Christ, which has been the traditional view in Christianity, while also focusing on Robin Parry’s evangelical universalism as an important alternative to the version of particularism he will be defending
  • 9:00pm | Dismissal and blessing

SATURDAY, JUNE 20

  • 9:00-10:20am | Plenary #5: “Optimal Grace and Eternal Hell” – Jerry Walls (Houston Baptist University) - a Professor of Philosophy and the author of a trilogy of books on the afterlife from Oxford University Press, as well as the recent popular volume Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things That Matter Most, Walls will argue for a Protestant version of purgatory, wherein the unsaved would be given an opportunity for salvation after death, while maintaining that some unbelievers may never choose to accept Christ’s work on their behalf, remaining eternally separated from God
  • 9:20-9:40am | Break
  • 9:45-10:30am | Panel questions; small group discussion
  • 10:30am-11:50am | Plenary #6:  ”Summing up the Case for Conditional Immortalism” – James Spiegel (Taylor University) – a Professor of Philosophy as well as the author of The Making of an Atheist and a number of forthcoming articles on annihilationism, Spiegel will provide a wide-ranging response to the tenets of universalism and traditionalism, as well as providing positive reasons for considering the conditionalist perspective
  • 11:50-1:10pm | Lunch
  • 1:20-3:45pm | Panel discussion with all plenary speakers - this will be an opportunity to hear some personal stories, clarifications, and closing remarks from the six plenary speakers, as well as an opportunity for the to respond to audience questions
  • 3:45-4:00pm | Final announcements & dismissal

A number of people have asked if the Rethinking Hell conference will be an annual event. We held our inaugural conference in July, 2014, in Houston with the dual topic of “The Legacy of Edward Fudge & the Future of Conditionalism.”  You may visit our YouTube page here for video clips of many of the sessions from this conference, a number of which will be published in the forthcoming volume A Consuming Passion: Essays on Hell and Immortality in Honor of Edward W. Fudge.

We are currently in the midst of planning conferences abroad in the U.K. and Australia, so we may not have a multi-day conference in the US for some years to come.  However, our leadership team has explored the possibility of smaller regional gatherings in the US to discuss conditional immortality, so if you are interested in seeing Rethinking Hell come to your area, please let us know at conference@rethinkinghell.com.  However, we hope that we can see you this summer at this one-of-a-kind event that is not to be missed!

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  • I’m in for both London and Australia. However, may have to start saving $ now!

    • Nicolas Thomas

      Better than London is Edinburgh, which is more in the middle of the UK, and the ancestral home of the Sinclairs! Blessings from Scotland on everyone at your Conference.

  • Brett

    Is this conference open to all people, regardless their view of other issues?

    • Chris Date

      Yes, although directing attention to other issues will be unwelcome.

      • Brett

        That is very good to hear, but something tells me that if I were to let one of my views be known, I’d likely be viewed as an outsider. Recent experiences would tend to support this.

  • Mike Owens

    Yes

  • Sean Reynolds

    Sad…theological, philosphical, and historical defenses of universalism, but it appears no biblical/exegetical defense…I wish it were true, but have never heard/read a good explanation/response to all the biblical judgment language (death, destruction, etc.)

    • Nicolas Thomas

      Sean — I’m so glad to tell you that it IS true, and the Bible does have it:

      just read Robin Parry’s “The Evangelical Universalist” and Brad Jersak’s “Her Gates will Never be Shut” — both mentioned above.

      • Sean Reynolds

        Thanks for the response/resources. I will check them out. I am of course aware of Robin Parry’s work, but have not read his book because every time I have seen him discuss the topic he focuses on theological or broader biblical theme type arguments; he does not seem to be the type of person that would give the detailed exegesis of relevant passages that I am looking for (and which the conditionalists have and do provide). I find that universalists like to provide a POSITIVE biblical case (as well they should), which is actually not difficult to make; however, the problem is that they seem to avoid the verses that contradict they view or paint over all of them with a broad brush. I am looking for a detailed explanation from the universalist camp of the main judgment texts in (primarily) the New Testament (i.e. how can death and destruction mean that they will be restored and live forever?). I hope the resources you have provided can help me with this and if anyone knows where I can find this information I would appreciate it. Unless and until then, to be faithful to the bible I must remain a conditionalist. Thank you.

        • Nicolas Thomas

          Thanks Sean,
          Yes, these are important questions, and it’s great that this conference is working on all that, in Christian love. I’m looking forward to hearing or reading all the papers — as you are, I’m sure.
          re death and destruction in the NT, the one passage that comes to mind is 1st Cor 5:5 where the word “destruction” doesn’t mean the extermination of the sinner himself, but the destruction of something else, within him.

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