Like my fellow contributors, it is truly a delight to join the Rethinking Hell project. I have been hoping for years to be part of a larger conversation among evangelicals on the topic of hell. For a long time I was constrained from talking about my views due to my position on staff at Biola University and my role as an elder at two conservative evangelical churches. However, I now have the freedom to express my own convictions about hell without having to honor an institutional position with which I respectfully disagree—namely, eternal conscious punishment of the unsaved. I am now able to openly share and talk about this view of hell that I have come to hold known as “conditional immortality.” More often than not I would refer to myself as an annihilationist, as that succinctly describes my view of the nature of hell itself, but since this term has some baggage and unhelpful associations attached to it I am comfortable referring to myself as an evangelical conditionalist.
Part two of Chris Date’s discussion with Dr. Preston Sprinkle, co-author of Erasing Hell with Francis Chan, to discuss why, though finding himself now leaning toward conditionalism, a few passages still give him pause.
Dr. Preston Sprinkle, co-author of Erasing Hell with Francis Chan, joins RethinkingHell.com contributor Chris Date to discuss why, having leaned toward the traditional view of hell when the book was published, he now finds himself leaning toward conditionalism.
In his apocalyptic vision recorded in the book of Revelation, John sees a lake of fire into which the risen wicked are thrown (20:15). There they join a seven-headed, ten-horned beast, a two-horned beast (the false prophet), and the devil, all three of whom are in eternal torment (20:10). This imagery is often appealed to by proponents of the traditional view of hell, typically treating it incorrectly as if it were a literal description of future events, or offering no justification for assuming that the proper interpretation is one in which the damned will suffer for eternity, ((For one of several reasons to interpret the imagery otherwise, see Date, C. [2012, July 12]). “Consistency in Preterism: Annihilation and Revelation 20:10” Rethinking Hell [blog]. Retrieved 26 August, 2012. http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2012/07/consistency-in-preterism-annihilation-and-revelation-2010)) despite the interpretation offered by “He who sits on the throne” (21:5) which is that the lake of fire is a symbol for “the second death” (21:8).
Conditionalists, recognizing this as the divine interpretation of the cryptic lake of fire imagery, take the interpretation in a quite straightforward way: those who die apart from Christ will rise and die a second time. Traditionalists offer an alternative explanation for the phrase, “the second death.” As the first death is a separation of body and soul, they often argue, so, too, is the second death a separation, one of the whole person from God for eternity (a claim which itself will be examined more closely in the future here at Rethinking Hell). And whereas the first death is physical, they tend to say that the second death is in some way a spiritual one. But in identifying the second death as spiritual death and separation from God, they demonstrate that they don’t really think it’s a “second” death at all.
Rethinking Hell contributor Dr. Glenn Peoples presents the positive case for annihilationism.