It was one year ago today, on April 15, 2014, that our book, Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, was released by Cascade Books.* We thought that we would take a moment to honor this anniversary with a post reflecting on the process of publication, pointing out some responses to the book, and finally, sharing a special 50% DISCOUNT offer on obtaining this volume directly from us (see end of post for info).
I want to apologize straightaway for capitalizing on the baffling, yet wearisome global conversation happening around the color of a dress that was buzzing on the web last night (and if you’re reading this months later, I apologize for referencing something that has long been relegated to the dustbin of internet disinterest), but I think that the experience of cognitive dissonance (and indeed questioning of objective reality!) between those people who perceive a white & gold dress and those who obviously see the fabric as blue and black is analogous to what many of us at the Rethinking Hell project have experienced.
I tried (and may have failed) to explain this in my Preface to our book, Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, but my own obsessive interest in studying the topic of hell (which, I mean, why would ANYONE make this an object of 20 years of study??) comes from a very similar experience to those who see different colors in the dress. How can we be looking at the same thing, but see something completely different? Read more about Hell and #thedress …
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“ONWARD & EDWARD.” These were the words in bold letters on the front of Edward Fudge’s t-shirt as he greeted me with a warm embrace at the door of his lovely home in a suburb of Houston, Texas, during a brief visit I had with him on a chilly day in late January. He pointed to his shirt and said, “I had this made when I went in for my first surgery, then I took it back out when I went back in for a second and third surgery!” This man does not take adversity sitting down, whether it be severe spinal issues or theological opposition.
The church that I grew up in didn’t celebrate the season of Advent. For most of my life, I only understood the term “advent” in terms of some sort of countdown calendar to Christmas Day that involved a small sweet treat that would tide me over until the deluge of presents and candy began. It was not until I became part of a more liturgical church which celebrated the Christian year that I finally discovered that the season of Advent focused on celebrating our anticipation of Christ’s coming. But the strangest part of all was that we were celebrating not only his first coming, as little baby Jesus/God incarnate who would be the savior of humankind, but also his SECOND coming, as the righteous judge and rightful ruler over all humanity.
I remember being shocked and almost appalled at this eschatological intrusion into the time of year when we were supposed to be recounting the timeless details of the classic Christmas story and singing carols about mangers and wise men. So it was even more disconcerting when our Director of Worship pointed out to me that the song, “Joy to the World” was actually a carol celebrating the second coming of Jesus to reign on earth! I thought, what has Bethlehem to do with Armageddon? Where does the judgment day fit in to the nativity scene? Read more about Merry Christmas and Happy Judgment Day! …
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.