Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 7a) – Rethinking Hell’s Proponents

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I keep saying over and over again that the annihilationism/conditionalism discussion would take on a different form if it wasn’t for all the heretics Rethinking Hell and others like them affirm, associate, and keep company with. As I pointed out in article 5a concerning the atonement, there are some very serious concerns that should be addressed, not just about the unsound biblical hermeneutics coming out of this camp, but also the corruptions these associations bring to the table. Saying this, have you ever taken a gander at Rethinking Hell’s list for “proponents” of conditionalism?* I have. Seems overwhelming at first. It’s almost like so many orthodox scholars and preachers would adhere to this position. Well, I have watched videos and listened to podcasts where Chris Date touts some of these names when asked for scholars that believe in conditionalism. But are you aware of what some of these people believe about some of the essentials of the faith? Are you even aware of the names of the people that are being used in the Rethinking Hell articles, podcasts, books, and conferences? You should. Because some of these people stand out if you diligently seek to know those that labor among you (1 Thess 5:12). For some of these names, it didn’t take long before something damnably heretical turned up. For others, (some of which I was already aware of), I was surprised (but not really) that Rethinking Hell, which considers themselves within the bounds of orthodoxy, would list such heretics and not call them out as they are. But if you’ve read article 5a on the atonement and how Unitarians, Universalists, and those that deny penal substitution are on the approval list for even supposed gospel-centered Calvinist like Chris Date, then this article may not come as a shock to you. Let’s deal with a few of these men now.

Homosexuality

1) Jeff Cook is listed as a modern  and Professor at University of Northern Colorado. In an online debate with Preston Sprinkle (who also is a conditionalist), he writes some pretty disturbing things. To cut to the chase, he affirms monogamous same sex marriage as not  immoral. He says:

Nothing about monogamous same-sex relationships by necessity contradicts a life of virtue. Physical relationships between same sex individuals may be enjoyed by faithful, courageous, wise, hopeful, loving, grace-filled, self-controlled people. Those who disagree will need to show how committed homosexuality, by its nature, always keeps a person from reflecting Christ or violates some Christian virtue. If they cannot a decisive argument emerges: Because monogamous gay sex does not violate the demands of Christian virtue, monogamous gay sex cannot be the target of the New Testament’s prohibitions when speaking about vicious sexual behavior.

He goes on to emphasis: “…it necessarily follows that the New Testament does not prohibit monogamous gay relationships.”

Of course, I encourage you to read the whole debate to see Jeff Cook’s reasoning, but I’ll tell you now, they are far from biblical hermeneutics. Even Jeff says himself in the article that he is not a “trained Bible student.” But he is resource for biblical truth? Worst of all, a pastor? And why doesn’t Preston Sprinkle or Rethinking Hell preach against this damnably heretical nonsense as what it is? Let’s move on.

Emergent Church, Original Sin, Penal Substitution

2) I was initially surprised to see John Franke on the list, but then after a few minutes of thought, I wasn’t. If you don’t know John, he is another major Emergent Church leader who, like many within that movement, tend to have a very post-modernisitic understanding of truth, especially concerning the Scriptures. His position concerning the “plurality of truth” in biblical inerrency is nothing new (as we will see from other older scholars listed as being proponents of conditionalism). But since Albert Mohler deals quite well with this issue, and with John Franke specifically, I leave this here for your study. Just note that along with all the other Emerging church leaders like Brian Maclaren and Rob Bell, people like John Franke is another dangerous leader in the mix, and another fly in the ointment on the “credible” scholar list. And if you don’t know who some of these names are, get familiar fast.

3) David Inston-Brewer is a name you’ll hear and read a few times if you are familiar with Rethinking Hell. He is quoted on the scrolling banner of Rethinking Hell’s front page, and even by some other legitimately respectable scholars for some of his Old Testament work who may not be familiar with some of his beliefs. But then again, quoting liberal or conservative scholars without disclaimer concerning their beliefs, unfortunately, occurs more often than it should. Nevertheless, Brewer denies Original Sin and doesn’t believe God poured His wrath on Christ, nor punished him. None of this is becoming much of a shocker anymore as there are others in the conditionalist camp that have similar beliefs, especially some open theists which we have identified in article 5a, and will identify more below. You can hear an interesting discussion between Brewer and Dr. James White about whether or not Jesus was a Calvinist. This will give you some background and insight into the some of Brewer’s presuppositions.

As a quick aside, there is already growing number of “protestants” who use similar arguments that Eastern orthodox churches use concerning their denial of penal substitution. And this trend has been growing to laymen of many western churches. This will be something I hope to address in the future articles.

4) Douglas Jacoby is another leader that stacks on the orthodoxy. In his article, Why I’m not a Protestant, he denies Imputed Righteousness, Original Sin, and believes the punishment and penalty Jesus took on our behalf was payment to Satan and not God. He also does not believe Jesus took God’s wrath for us on the cross, which, if you’re going to be consistent within his theological construct, is understandable. (Note: the article used to be available for free, but now requires paid subscription. I guess if you post an article that makes you an enemy of the gospel, you might as well get your critics to pay for it).

Open Theism and Other Atonement Theories

5) Roger T. Forster is a leader of Ichthus Christian Fellowship in Britain. He is not only Greg Boyd’s “role model” (identified in Article 5a), but has ministered alongside him.  He is best known for his book, “God’s Strategy in Human History” where you will find a treatise against all things Calvinistic. Not to say contesting Calvinism makes you lost (assuming you actually understand it), but Forster is more than Arminian. In fact, he is an unorthodox Ariminian! Which means his particular position affirms open theism. An interesting discussion between him and James White can be found here. John Piper (who also received a lot of heat for allowing heretics like Rick Warren to preach at a Desiring God conference) provides a thorough critique about this book here. Piper also provides points of reference concerning Forster’s open theistic statements. However, that is not Forster’s only issue. He has had his hand in dealing with some pretty heretical movements like the Toronto Blessings and Vineyard Churches (search for “Forster” and read all of them) (If link doesn’t work, go here: A chronicle of the TB by David Hilborn). He also denies Original Sin, has a very deficient view of the sufficiency of Scripture, as well as, drum roll please…rejecting penal substitution atonement. He holds more to Moral-Example/Influence Theory/Christus Victor type atonement, but he also strangely believes Christ repented for us in our place as well. And this is just a short list of his bizarre/heretical theology (If you wish to see a well referenced source on Forster’s beliefs listed above, you can go here). If you are not familiar with the differing views of atonement, sharpen up! You’ll need them in this kind of discussion. It’s going to come up more than once. (You can hear a podcast I recorded describing the differing views and discerning which are heretical).

6) Christopher Marshall is a Professor of Victoria University of Wellington, and is the author of the book Beyond Retribution where he questions and denies the penal substitutionary model of Christ as a vicarious sacrifice in our place (starting at pg. 59), and as a satisfaction for the demands of justice instead of us so that God’s wrath can be appeased.  His position is proposing the heretical Moral-Example/ Influence Theory of atonement stated above, which is also Horace Bushnell’s view below (the Father of American Liberalism). I would love to deal so much more here, but this idea that Christ died “on behalf of” vs. “instead of” us to cast doubt upon the penal substitutionary model is a slick-tongued and dishonest way to handle the language of Scripture. The language of the Greek most certainly affirms the “instead of” model that validates penal substitution. This is the kind of language that Marshall and others are using. But even if I can’t deal with this in length here, I hope you are paying attention, once again, to the kind of language these “scholars” and leaders affirmed by Rethinking Hell are using. Scary thing is this ministry wants a seat at the table of orthodoxy even within gospel-centered, Christ centered churches, and we’re giving it to them. But, as the saying goes, one thief brings in another. Moving forward.

7) Horace Bushnell was a strange Congregationalist leader who ascribed to Moral Example/Influence Theory of atonement, (consequently denying penal substitutionary atonement) and was known for being a semi-sebellian in his time for his views of the Trinity. Most of this was spurned forth by the personal, special “revelations” he received concerning the fatherhood of God. You can find all about this kind of stuff and read about his “greatest” works here.  He concluded that penal substitutionary atonement had “no base of reality” and mentions the theological system as a failure (you can read here some more of his assertions). He further states imputation of righteousness as “fiction” and that Christ’s active and passive obedience in relation to that righteousness is also fiction. And in the case Rethinking Hell responds to this and throws out quotes that seem to contradict this, you really should read as much of Bushnell’s work in context, because we have seen how context makes a difference against most, if not all, of their assertions.  I understand that not many will take upon themselves this kind of daunting task of thorough and systematic study. But that is what teachers like these bank on.

8) Clark Pinnock is yet another heretical figure that was once very known for his upholding orthodox teachings and then diverging to open theism and questioning the inerrancy of Scripture. He even espoused to an inclusivisitic theology in his book, The Wideness in God’s Mercy, and proposed that “the Bible does not teach that one must confess the name of Jesus to be saved” (pg 158).  Predictably, he references Old Testament examples like Job, David, or the unborn which were/may be saved without knowledge of Christ as examples, but this kind of argumentation has already been dealt with, clarified, and refuted many times over. Moreover, in his book, he even proposes the possibility of post-mortem salvation (pg 169). So even though his earlier work in Scriptural Inerrancy and other biblical doctrines were, and still are by some, hailed for their truth, we should nevertheless openly warn others about this man’s apostasy and damnably heresies which has left a lasting stain since he never repented from such things. But hey, he is a credible proponent of annihilationism. At least one that Christ Date invites us to bring as a seat to the table of gospel-centered, Christ exalting, and even sovereign grace fellowship (insert sarcasm here).

Biblical Inerrancy…again

9) We now come to Samuel Parkes Cadman. He is listed as being a nothing more than a Congregationalist clergyman, newspaper writer, and pioneer Christian broadcaster on Rethinking Hell’s list. However, he was a controversial, liberal broadcaster that was a known Ecumencial Leader and proponent of the Social Gospel in his days. He also became president of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America (look it up). At one part of his speech, he made clear his ecumenical goal by stating ” all forms of Protestantism and Roman and Greek Catholicism would ‘be sublimated in one great faith.” But, he was even more known for his statement(s) concerning his denial of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. He says:

“The absolute inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible are no longer possible of belief among reasoning men.”

He reportedly first stated this at a Methodist meeting in New York, and received applause. But it was a shot heard round the world. If you were to simply Google search “no longer possible of belief among reasoning men” with Cadman’s name on it, you would find multiple sources reacting to this. In one newspaper article, it was reported that he never moved from his creed after 30 years (see “Paid to Make Infidels, pg 2) saying, “I repeat that the iner­rancy and infallibility of the Bible are no longer credible, nor are they necessary in the personal revelation of God’s nature and purpose.” And even in his book, Ambassadors of God, he called Biblical infallibility a “groundless view” (pg 250). Also, whenever this topic is touched on in other portions of his book, it is spoken of as mere hypothetical because man wrote it, and man were custodians of it. He affirms this presupposition in an article he wrote for the Pittsburg Press, July 10th, 1928 by saying that the source of inspiration for Scriptures was from the writer’s themselves! Not from Holy Spirit inspiration.

Time for Summary

As much as I wish to continue with more thoroughness, after looking and reading for hours at other names like Nigel Wright, who also rejects penal substitutionary atonement and promotes Moral Government Theory of atonement, and people like Karl Barth,  Jurgen Moltmann, Friedrich Schleiermacher who were universalists and/or entertained universalism as a possibility (especially Jurgen Moltmann – don’t sleep on this name), I quickly realized that most of these range from super-liberal to rank heresy (not a very thick line between the two). I have spent almost 3 weeks trying to concisely summarize all of this! And with an abundance of resources at my fingertips concerning the names on the Rethinking Hell scholar/leaders list, much of it is pointing its liberal fingers in very dangerous directions. But I simply do not have the time (or the stomach) to continue sifting through the mountains of theological garbage. And although there are some on the proponents list that confess essential Christian doctrine, why are none of these men who are still alive identifying some of these things above as heresies?

I think it is important here to state that I am not advocating some kind of a guilty-by-association logic whereby annihilationism is untrue simply because some who believe it have damnable theology. There are names on the list of proponents that give much credence and defense of what we understand to be essential truths. Other proponents are so obscure and hidden within the pages of history, it is hard to make a judgment concerning the whole of their orthodoxy. However, what I am trying to do is point out the dangers of some of these proponents, and their internal influence on ministries like Rethinking Hell, as well as those that read their material. And even though there are some who are indeed saved, (or at least teaching within orthodoxical boundaries associated with this ministry) that does not rule out the clear unequal yoking going on here, and the clear violation of uniting with enemies of the gospel just to assert annihilationism, meanwhile asserting this subject as being simply a secondary issue. As history marches on, it will show how this “secondary” issue has primary implications. Or as I would say, it is only a fruit of the rotting root of the essential Christian theology.

Final Thoughts

Annihilationism is unbiblical because, linguistically, it cannot be supported from Scripture. Despite the subervise linguistic strategies of annihilationist/conditionalist leaders, the heart of the issue is not merely theological conclusions based upon the language of Scripture. But it is based upon some strong presuppositions concerning how God should demonstrate His love as well as His justice. This of course is intertwined with the nature of the soul (including soul sleep, which Chris Date does not like to admit is an essential part of his arguments), the nature of the will (free vs. bound), soteriology (monergism vs. synergism), the nature of God (open theism vs. omniscience), the atonement, and the list goes on. So when dealing with this topic, or even any other topics for that matter, remember, sometimes it is not what people are saying on the surface that is the problem. But the presuppositions that guide those statements is key. As one of Rethinking Hell’s properly stated when dealing with universalism:

“The history is a complex one, partly because the issue of hell and universalism is closely interconnected with other difficult and debated theological issues, such as predestination and free will, the validity of retributive punishment, the authority of the Bible, and (most centrally) the nature of God, the meaning of and the relationship between His love and His justice.” – Richard Bauckman

And as hopefully you, reader, have discovered, the same goes with any discussion regarding hell.

One last thing I’d like to point out, as I’ve pointed out in previous articles, is that annihilationism is not supposedly gaining ground because it is biblical. I know many are convinced that the language of Scripture supports it. Unfortunately, due to wrong hermeneutical principles (for example word studies and proof texting) along with errant theological presuppositions, the western church is being convinced of anything because we have become biblically illiterate. So whatever ground is gained, I pray that you understand that there are many who don’t even know what open theism, original sin, or biblical inerrancy is. Some of them may be Christians, but they are not being taught the biblical gospel, the abounding philosophies and theologies that cast serious shade upon it, as well as how to remain consistent and steadfast within a systematic framework. So if you’re reading this, and you have concerns about this position, or maybe have been recently convinced that annihilationism is true, I would encourage you to read the previous articles as well as future ones that I will write. And I pray it will strengthen your understanding of the Scriptures, enrich your relationship with Christ, and bring you to a place of sound theology.

-Until we go home

*Rethinking hell has since revamped their website and changed their content. So the list as it once was is no longer viewable. However, they did add the below caption on there page as damage control.

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One thought on “Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 7a) – Rethinking Hell’s Proponents

  1. Reblogged this on A : A and commented:
    George Alvarado, writer from the Defending-Contending blog (now truthingrace.com) has a new blog which will feature his writing on various topics, including Conditionalism/Annihilationism.

    This article enumerates, and details, the extent to which “RethinkingHell.com”‘s “ministry” breaks bread with heretics who deny the Gospel (i.e. penal substitutionary atonement), inerrancy. and God’s omniscience, among other central doctrines of the faith.

    Be sure to subscribe to the blog, and check out the six other posts he has written against Conditionalism/Annihilationism.

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