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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Rethinking Hell Conference 2015

I am really looking forward to the Rethinking Hell conference in June. They have very generously invited me to speak in defence of universal salvation (and, if I am feeling a little naughty, in critique of annihilation). I think I'll be given a thorough though gracious grilling!

There are some good folk there. I am especially looking forward to seeing some old friends, but also looking forward to making new ones.

Must say that I am impressed by the folk at Rethinking Hell, even though we have very different views on the subject of hell.


TamtheTyper said...

Great news Robin -- and yes, the rest of us want it videoed!

Eric McCarty said...

I had lunch with an annihilationist friend yesterday who was lamenting the use of the term "annihilation" for his position. I guess "conditional immortality" has a better ring to it. If the naughty bug does indeed bite you during the conference, I double dog dare you to refer to that position as "obliterationism".

Robin Parry said...


obliterationism is a great name. Love it.

Personally, I consider the notion of "conditional immortality" as interesting, but something of a distraction. One could affirm conditional immortality and be either
(a) an annihilationist on hell
(b) an eternal tormenter on hell
(c) a universalist on hell

So settling conditional immortality question does not settle the hell question.

Furthermore, I suspect one could be a Thomist on the soul and claim that it is indestructible (though that it depends on God for its ongoing existence) and yet still believe that God could withdraw "being" from such a soul. This would be quirky, I admit, but I suspect it could make sense.

So I think it helps the discussion to ignore issues of conditional immortality as they are only indirectly relevant. Or so it seems to me.

Peter Grice said...

Hi Robin, thanks for the kind comments about Rethinking Hell! We would love to see the conversation proceed along lines as Christ-honoring as we all can possibly muster. Onward and upward!

I think it's interesting and true that "conditional immortality" could be a label used by anyone to affirm that immortality is contingent rather than innate (if that's what you had in mind).

But it's worth pointing out two things:

That's not actually the annihilationist notion of C.I. (which is more to do with actual everlasting life and not the mechanics of it), so it would require us to maintain two distinct notions of the same label, which is confusing!

And, we would assert that it's not consistent with the biblical usage of the term "immortality," which as far as we can see, is only ever applied to God, Jesus (in that he brought it to light), and those resurrected with immortal/incorruptible form. I suspect you'd want to nuance that, but I think at least this rules out traditionalism's usage of "immortality" as failing this test?

Anonymous said...


Robin Parry said...


That is interesting. The way that I have seen conditional immortality deployed in the case against ECT is that it is used to undermine one of the arguments for ECT—namely, that humans are everlasting creatures and so must exist everlastingly in either heaven or hell.

But if humans are not everlasting creatures then this argument will not stand up.

And with this strategy I concur.

My point, as you know, is simply that establishing such a conclusion merely removes one (dubious) argument for eternal torment. It is worth removing, but once it has gone, the debate is not much closer to resolution because ECT folk, annihilationists, and universalists can (in theory) all agree that humans are not everlasting creatures.

ECT folk might also embrace the fuller and richer notion of conditional immortality you offer. They might say that those in hell are not immortal, are not incorruptible, and do not have life. They continue in bare existence because they are not united to God in Christ and do not share in Christ's risen life. Their having life and immortality—not in the mere sense of existing forever, but in the richer sense of being fully human and knowing God—is conditional on their accepting the gospel (and they missed that chance). Left to themselves they would corrupt and vanish from existence, but God, for the sake of justice, maintains them in bare existence so that they can be punished for their sins forever, as justice (they allege) demands.

It is not clear to me that this position is incoherent (if one accepts the notion of justice at work) and it seems to affirm the richer notion of immortality.

Of course, you may say that if they are not immortal they die and if they die they cease to exist, but the traditionalist may say that the Bible often refers to people as "dead" who have not ceased to exist. At this point we are back on to more familiar ground of standard debates between ECT and Annihilationists.

I don't think I am articulating my thoughts very well here. Apologies.

James Goetz said...

Hi Robin, I appreciate your follow up comments. As you know, I'm a universalist. I'm also agnostic about CI. I would love to see however you develop this point. Peace, Jim

James Goetz said...

One point of complexity is that Irenaeus proposed something along the lines of CI and consciousness during the intermediate state. In that case, death isn't always synonymous to nonexistence.

Anonymous said...

But what of those who do not love God and do not desire his eternal company? What of the damned? How and why are they punished? How do they suffer? Here we enter into the most controversial dimension of St Isaac’s mystical knowledge. We begin with one of the most frequently quoted passages from his homilies:

I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. For what is so bitter and vehement as the punishment of love? I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment. For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is sharper than any torment that can be. It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God. Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all. The power of love works in two ways: it torments those who have played the fool, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend; but it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties. Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret. But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability. (I.28, p. 266)

God’s love for his creatures does not stop at the borders of hell. The creator does not cease to love the damned because they have renounced him so definitively. His mercy does not suddenly turn into wrath. Though we may speak of the damned as separated from God, we must not think that God has separated himself from them. Those in hell are not deprived of the divine love. They remain the objects of the Father’s mercy and compassion. And that is their torment! They hate God because they despise his forgiveness. They hate God because they have begun to understand the glory and happiness they have lost through their pride and foolishness. They hate God because they cannot escape his presence. They are “scourged by the scourge of love.”

Robin Parry said...

Great quotes from St. Isaac. Many thanks