So the 2015 Rethinking Hell conference, held at Fuller Theological Seminary, is over and I am back at home in the UK.
Here are a few brief reflections on the conference.
1. The most immediately striking thing about the conference is that it was a genuine discussion between conditionalists (the conference organizers), traditionalists (or perhaps modified traditionalists), and universalists. There was a real spirit of genuine respect for one another as fellow siblings in Christ. There was real listening. There was therefore real openness to modify or change views in light of the conversation. That is unusual on such a hot topic.
2. The quality of the papers was really very good—at least the ones that I heard. There was some solid, biblical, theological, and philsophical reflections from some "top dogs." Very thought-provoking and enjoyable. The respect and love certainly did not stop people offering clear critiques of one another. (There were certainly a few worthwhile critiques of my own work.) This was not a conference of wooly thinking!
3. I really enjoyed meeting folk—pastors, professors, students, and plain thoughtful Christian folk. There was a great lunchtime discussion with some students about atonement—fascinating! There was banter with Jerry Walls—that guy is a hoot and full of fascinating ideas. There was the sheer joy of hanging out with Oliver Crisp—words cannot express how much I enjoy Oliver's company. There was Brad Jersak—such a lovely guy! And wondeful time chatting with Eric Reitan, Greg Stump, Jim Spiegel, Chris Date, Peter Hiett, David Instone-Brewer, Jordan Wessling, and a whole bunch of other folk (who will no doubt be upset that I did not mention them. Sorry—but my list is already too long).
4. It became clear to me that a more adequate exegetical response to annihilationism is still required and needs to be written. Annihilationism is a serious position that deserves a proper exegetical critique. (I think that there are very good theological and philosophical critiques, but the exegetical case needs more attention.) Alas, I don't have any time to do this in the next few years, but if God keeps me around long enough I may do it one day. However, in the meantime it would be a good project for a young scholar.
5. I also think that the universalist exegetical discussion of hell texts is an ongoing project and that we need a few more biblical scholars to do the work needed. Also, further reflection on theological heremeneutcis and how it relates to the issue of hell is needed. Quite a bit has been said here, but I feel in my gut that there is something really important that needs clarifying that is as yet murky.(Which is why I have not said what it is—I see men like trees walking.)
So—exciting times! Glad for the conversation and the provocation.