This week I had a friendly and lively conversation with J. D. Martin around the importance of Hell and concerns around whether hell is a salvation issue. Though many of us who hold to CI do believe this is a secondary issue, many of us also recognise that the traditional view of Hell is a stumbling block for many and stops many from coming to faith at all. Is this a contradiction? J. D. thinks it is and raises a few major concerns around the conversation that can be summarised in my opinion over the following points:
CI proponents are in danger of setting up statements of faith that end up ruling out ECT believers despite claiming to only want a seat at the proverbial orthodox table
Tradition has got it right on hell and there are very few church fathers who held to CI
Debating hell has been proven to be a slippery slope to all sorts of liberalising theologies
ECT is just used as an excuse for those not willing to step into the light and submit to God.
I think there are a places of agreement in these points. I feel that I challenged these concerns as well in the live stream but my responses can be summarised in the following:
We are nowhere near CI being a view that sets up statements of faith that exclude traditionalists. In fact the majority of those who share CI online simply want statements of faith to be scriptural.
There are several church fathers who very much sound like conditionalists but this needs further discussion and debate. Interestingly J.D. wouldn't use this argument for church practice, purgatory, the role of priests or child baptism but with regards to hell it's a different story.
The slippery slope argument is just not helpful nor accurate and just comes across as fearful. Given studying CI has made my theology more scripturally grounded and my preaching and teaching more clear, my life is an argument against the slippery slope issue.
Though I agree many leave the faith because they don't want to submit to a God who is judge, I don't think J.D. or others who hold the traditional view really grasp the issue that the ongoing nature of ECT, be it banishment or active torment by flame, the eternal duration of the experience is problematic when thinking of God's proportionate justice and substitutionary atonement. The idea of sin being an eternal crime against an eternal God deserving an eternal existence of sorrow and anger is simply not a Biblical argument.
If you want to listen to the conversation, watch the video below.