The long-awaited Rethinking Hell Conference last weekend (July 11-12, 2014) brought together nearly 150 registrants and participants from the USA, Canada, U.K., France, Lithuania, New Zealand and Australia at the campus of the Lanier Theological Library and Chapel in Houston, Texas. The Conference sponsor, the Rethinking Hell (RH) Project, is presently uploading presentations to its RH Channel on YouTube. Presentations by both plenary speakers are already available for viewing, as is a lively conversation between RH podcaster/interviewer Chris Date and me, including some questions from the audience. Other sessions are being uploaded, so stay tuned.
The duo of plenary speakers each addressed half the conference theme, which was “The Legacy of Edward Fudge and the Future of Conditionalism.” Canadian theologian Dr. John Stackhouse, who took the place of the retiring Dr. J. I. Packer at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, spoke on “The Legacy of Edward Fudge.” And Dr. Glenn Peoples from Wellington, New Zealand, perhaps the leading academic conditionalist in the Southern Hemisphere, addressed “The Future of Conditionalism.” Other presentations now available include Peter Grice, “Introduction to the Rethinking Hell Project“; Douglas Jacoby, “Obstacles to Accepting Conditionalism“; and David Cramer, “How to Talk About the Afterlife.”
The conference was memorable, to say the least–and in many details–two of which happened during a brief period of time during which audience members said very nice things about God’s working through me to bless others. Comments were priceless, deeply appreciated, and some especially memorable because entirely unanticipated. Dr. Christopher Hutson, associate dean of the College of Biblical Studies at Abilene Christian University, offered good words personally, adding that he officially spoke also for my alma mater. Even more surprising were the congratulations and best wishes via video, of Robert Brinsmead in Australia, the man who sponsored my research project on hell in the 1970s, then published the original edition of The Fire That Consumes.
On Sunday, July 13, some 60-70 conference attendees joined us for a thrilling time of worship, encouragement, Table and Word at Bering Drive Church of Christ in Houston, where guest preacher John Stackhouse asked and answered the questions “Why Can’t God Just Forgive? Why Does Anyone Have To Suffer?”. After church, Sara Faye and I had the pleasure of hosting conference guests at a catered meal. To all who had a part in this special weekend–LTL hosts; conference sponsors, planners, and attendees; Bering brothers, sisters, visitors; Sara Faye, our family, dear friends, acquaintances–I sincerely say “Thanks be to God!”