In 1996 I graduated from Trinity Western University in Langley, BC. For years TWU has been (so I would argue) Canada’s flagship liberal arts evangelical post-secondary institution. Unfortunately, its evangelical identity has long included some fundamentalist roots. For example, when I attended TWU in the mid-1990s students were required to sign a lifestyle covenant stating that they would refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages or engaging in “social dancing”. (Presumably, anti-social dancing — e.g. the mosh pit — was okay.)
The good news is that TWU’s revised 2009 lifestyle covenant has removed the prohibitions on alcohol and dancing. Instead, the document calls on all students, faculty, and staff to exercise wisdom and discretion in their recreation and beverage choices. I can certainly agree to that. (At the same time, the statement does continue to banish alcohol from campus, so the TWU campus pub is still a ways off.)
In 2009 TWU also adopted a revised Statement of Faith. Unfortunately, vestiges of a questionable theological conservatism (if not fundamentalism) still remain in this document. In order to teach at the institution, you need to sign a statement consisting of ten confessions:
“I agree with the above Statement of Faith and agree to support that position at all times before the students and friends of Trinity Western University.”
In most cases, the expectations are very reasonable for any evangelical or Protestant institution. However, paragraph 10 raises a significant concern for me because it includes a confession that the lost will experience eternal conscious torment in hell:
“We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace.”
Note that this demand would exclude many evangelicals from teaching at TWU including the late John Stott, arguably the most widely respected evangelical public intellectual of the latter half of the twentieth century. (Stott was a well-known annihilationist.)
Evangelicals like Stott have excellent reasons for endorsing alternative views of posthumous judgment. Those reasons include biblical, theological, philosophical, historical, and practical considerations. To my mind, the only reason that one would retain such a contentious doctrine as ECT within a statement that is purportedly aimed at representing a broad and basic evangelical commitment is practical in nature: in short, removal of the eternal conscious torment requirement would upset a particular conservative constituency (read: donors).
I will leave it to the reader whether that is a satisfactory reason to continue to require all TWU faculty and staff to believe — or at least publicly defend — the claim that the lost will experience eternal, unimaginable torment in body and mind.