This was a working vacation to New Zealand, in which I averaged almost one presentation per day. On successive Sunday mornings I preached at Titirangi Baptist Church (pastor Jonathon Weir) and at Owairaka Baptist Church (pastors Bruce Hilder and Carl Josephson), sharing three points from John 3:13-17 — that God desires to save people, not to condemn them; that he saves believers through the merits and for the sake of Jesus Christ; and that the alternative to eternal life is, indeed, to perish. Sunday evenings saw advertised public meetings at Remuera Baptist Church (pastor Warren Prestidge) and at Hamilton Church of Christ, Life & Advent (pastor Warren Salisbury). These 45-60 minute presentations of biblical teaching concerning final alternatives (eternal life or the second death) were followed by 30-60 minutes of animated questions and answers.
Between Sundays, I presented lectures at the interdenominational, evangelical Bible College of New Zealand (BCNZ), whose graduates now serve Christ in 110 countries around the world. BCNZ is New Zealand’s largest Christian college/seminary, and it was the nation’s first private institution authorized to grant university and graduate-level degrees. I was privileged to address Dr. Chris Marshall’s post-graduate seminar (“Does Scripture Teach Everlasting Torment?”), to lecture Dr. Nicola Hoggan-Cregan’s introductory theology class one day and to return the day after for Q&A (“Final Punishment in the Bible”), and to speak to a faculty seminar drawn from BCNZ and the (Brethren) Pathway College (“The State of the American Evangelical Debate Concerning Hell”).
I also presented material for three hours (with two tea breaks) to an advanced theology class at Carey Baptist College (“The End of the Wicked in the New Testament”), by kind invitation of Dr. Martin Sutherland. That night, I gave a public presentation at Auckland University on the biblical view of hell. On the final night of our tour, I spoke for nearly an hour on the same topic, with another hour’s Q&A, at a public coffee house meeting hosted by a Christian bookstore in Dunedin on the South Island. Somewhere between, I addressed a dinner meeting of the trip’s sponsoring organization, the nondenominational Conditional Immortality Association of New Zealand (CIANZ), who had requested an informal history of the origins and effects of my books The Fire That Consumes (1982) and Two Views of Hell (2000, IVP). Audiences at eleven of the twelve presentations represented various opinions on the topics discussed — my views were usually held by a small minority of those attending. Disagreements were politely expressed, however, and I attempted to make my own case with grace and in a nondogmatic spirit.
Sara Faye and I can never adequately thank Carl (and Sharon) Josephson, who scheduled the dozen meetings — and got us to them, besides providing personal tour-guide services for many days. We were also pleased to meet pastor David Burge and family, presently CIANZ president, and pastor-author Warren Prestidge (and wife Jackie), whose own New Zealand-published book on “Life, Death & Destiny” admirably sets out the biblical case for human immortality as conferred only by God’s gift, in the Resurrection, to the saved. For additional biblical material on these themes, see the CIANZ website.