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« Good News for Gordon College | Main | Gospel Unity: Reflections on Philippians 2 »

May 11, 2015

Comments

....huh?

Brother Brett, prrhaps you've encountered more annihilationists than I have, but I have never had it put to me that being snuffed out is God's plan for unbelieving humans souls -over and against- classical hell before. It seems to me your argument only applies if annihilationism is being supported because it is better than conscious misery. In that case, interesting point, but still, it is wrong for human beings to kill other human beings to alleviate future misery, but not for God, right? He's allowed to do that, right?

I typically hear that annihilationism is God's plan as the ultimate act of judgment against sin, not as a way to alleviate misery. It seems to me that that view of annihilation being the fulfilment of justice makes your philosophical argument here mute. And I'm not an annihilationist, so I'm standing next to you speaking, not against you.

Spencer,

Around 2 minutes into the video Brett says that inherent human value/worth doesn't seem consistent with annihilationism. If we take that as our starting point I think the following captures Brett's argument:

1. Human life has inherent worth.
2. It is more congruous with God's character for him to preserve things that have inherent worth than to destroy them.
3. It is more congruous with God's character that he preserve human life.

The point about killing children because of a low quality of life is an illustration for the idea that a low quality of life does not justify ending that life. That's an illustration that helps us see the truth of premise 2. And that can be understood as a rebuttal to a potential objection to his argument or simply as an objection to an argument that some annihilationists make: it is better to end a life that is suffering than to preserve it.

Not all annihilationists argue in this way. In fact I've heard at least one annihilationist say that he thinks annihilation is the worse punishment then enduring conscious torment. (And I think I might agree.)

But anyway, Brett doesn't need the annihilationist to say that annihilationism is better in order for the argument to work. Brett only needs for the person to agree that it is more in line with God's character to uphold inherent worth than to destroy it.

Here is another argument against annihiliationism:

1. If annihilationism is true then ultimately everyone who is punished receives the same punishment.
2. Scripture says that not everyone receives the same punishment. (Matt. 26:24; Luke 12:47-48)
3. Annihilationism is false.

Janitor,

While I totally agree with your last syllogism, and that annihilationism is false, I guess I still don't find the "Human Worth" argument (If we can call it that) persuasive.

-What produces that human worth? The image of God seems the likey answer.
-Do angels have thr image of God? Classically, no.
-Hell is a place originally intended for them, not for us.
-So if the plan was to keep Satan in conscious misery, who does not bare the image of God, then it seems the reason is that it is the better judgment, not the worth of the being.

I sit on the fence on this one and I did not find this argument all that compelling. First, Janitor, to address your argument, it seems that it does not work for all versions of annihilationism. Here is how most annihilationists argue:

death - resurrection - punishment for a finite period - final act of punishment is state of non-being

The punishment for a finite period is not the same, but would be different for different people, according to what they deserve. Annihilationism does not imply that people will not be punished, simply that the punishment ends. It is a shortening of hell so to speak.

Here is why I do not think Brett's argument holds water. There is no reason to think that God is bound not to destroy something because it had intrinsic value at one point. Throughout scripture God destroys corrupted things and even people over and over again (and yes, destroying a body constitutes destroying someone). God destroys the wicked. And those that are resurrected without the forgiveness of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, how can we expect them to still bear the image of God?? Romans 1 basically implies that people quit bearing the image of God in this life, how much more after death?

Anyways, we need to quite looking at this issue from a philosophical bent. We should look at it from a scriptural point of view, and see what scripture says first, then work our way outwards philosophically.

Why do I sit on the fence on this one? Because the strongest argument/scripture for eternal conscious torment comes from Revelation, an allegorical book. So it is difficult to ascertain for me which one it is.

But is it really so important? You will face punishment for what you deserve. Either way, scary enough.


JBerr,

While I agree with your point about God being able to destroy even if they had value, I cannot agree that hmans ever lose the image of God entirely, nor do I think Romans 1 implies that, unless the image of God shakes hands with our behavior and state of depravity, which I dont see any reason to conclude.

Moreover, annihilationism, as you depicted it, has a few separate problems of its own, mostly pertaining to it's similarities with existentialism. If anything ends with complete annihilation, its experiences are irrelevant, meaning God isn't providing justice in a finite hell, He's just venting His frustration in a very immature way. Its the same argument as to why life has no meaning if atheism is true.

Spencer,

I'm not sure that I agree with the premise that angels do not have the image of God. Many philosophers and theologians find the image of God in things like rationality, moral culpability, etc. And angels have those things in common with humans. If these things are what make humans image bearers of God, then so too are angels. Granted there is a way that seems exegetically strong that might get around this: being an image bearer of God relates not to our capacities per se, but to our function on earth (as exercising dominion). In this sense, angels would not be image bearers of God. However, they could still be image bearers in another way: exercising dominion in the spiritual realm. Anyway, I wouldn't say it's clear that angels do not bear God's image.

But even if we accept that angels do not bear the image of God, I don't think this entails that angels do not have their own inherent worth. And, thus, I still don't think your criticism is persuasive.

JBerr,

I anticipated that this criticism would arise. I have two things to say as a rejoinder.

1. The texts which speak of a period of punishment are often reinterpreted by annihilationists as speaking of annihiliation. Thus, they pull the rug out from under their own feet on this point. They can't say that texts that speak of destruction both refer to a time of conscious torment and refer to annihiliation.

Now maybe an annihilationist can find some text about punishment in the afterlife and preserve it from their annihiliationist hermeneutic. But I don't know what text that would be (granted, I'm not very familiar with annihiliationism). So I would say to such an annihiliationist who attempted to use your rebuttal: show me the text.

2. I don't think "puishment for a finite period of time" resulting in eternal destruction is a viable escape route for the annihiliationist because the annihiliationist frequently casts the eternal destruction as itself being punishment. And then I would argue that any finite punishment leading to an eternal punishment is for all intents and purposes equivalent. For instance, if I tell you that I'm going to chop your arm off and then torture you to the n-th degree for eternity and tell Bob that I'm going to slap his wrist and then torture him to the same degree for eternity, I don't think anyone would say that I'm punishing you and Bob differently in any morally significant sense.

Along these lines I might try to develop an argument from Paul's observation that present sufferings are not worthy to be compared to an eternal reward. Well then, so to with an eternal punishment!

But I don't have much time to interact now. I'll be working for the rest of the day. I have some other things I'd like to come back and say though (e.g., about the value of philosophical argument in this discussion).

Great post, Janitor.

I agree there is disagreement on what it means to be made in the image of God. If anything, that should make us more careful here.

If you allow that angels aren't made in the image of God, how do you escape my conclusion? If they aren't made in the image of God, even if they have value (Im not saying they don't), it is certainly less than a being made in His image. And if a being of less value is tortured forever, then a being of higher value wouldn't receive a lower punishment. That's all I was saying.

And I too wanted to make a comment about philosophy, but I will let you go first.

Does this post assume Humans are immortal?

Giving a human being who has chosen to serve sin and death over to their master seems to respect freedom.

Lots to say here, but I would love a reaction to one passage:

Does not God say in Genesis 3 that "The man must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” And so God allows a human life to return to the dust. This would seem to go against the claim that "Low quality of life doesn't give permission to extinguish a human life." God seems to think that is the appropriate move in this passage.

Grace and peace.

The arguments both for and against annihilation are both fairly robust and leave me - for the most part - uncommitted.

As JBerr noted - neither sacrifices Justice and neither sacrifices Punishment.

Two other odd affairs:

1) Justice - such is found in Christ and not in Man and as someone noted elsewhere we find here a barrier perhaps more medical than legal.

2) The issue of Time as persisting ad infinitum. There are some nuances there which merit unpacking along the way - though perhaps not important here.

If you tell me you are an annhilationist - well I can see your rather robust and scriptural argument.

If you tell me the opposite - well I can see your rather robust and scriptural argument.

Robust/Robust? Well - as neither has a *reach* on Justice and/or Punishment which outreaches far wider truth predicates housed elsewhere in God, such ultimately fails to sum to a "problem" in any necessary sense.

Janitor,

I think your 2rd premise in your syllogism against annihilationism is false. Just quoting this from the RethinkingHell.com website "The annihilationist view allows for an array of possible combinations of type, intensity and duration of suffering as part of the process by which the lost are destroyed. Perhaps it is these differences in the degree of suffering, experienced while being destroyed, that accounts for degrees of punishment."

The texts which speak of a period of punishment are often reinterpreted by annihilationists as speaking of annihilation.

I don't think that's actually been done. I've certainly never seen it done, and I'm in a fairly large group of conditionalists, "Rethinking Hell". Here are the two texts that you named:

Matt. 26:24 - "It would be better for [Judas] if he had not been born."
This doesn't mention what will happen to Judas; but when Job cursed the day of his birth he'd undergone torment for finite time, and he later made it clear that he expected to die. So it doesn't require limitless torment to make someone feel that it'd be better if he hadn't been born. (It's even possible that shame would be adequate for that purpose.)

Luke 12:46-48 - "...will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few."
Three punishments are mentioned: being cut in half and treated as an unbeliever; being flogged many times; and being flogged a few times. None of those punishments are compatible with eternal torment. Being cut in half is lethal. Being flogged is torment, but the Greek uses counting words for the number of lashes, and if the lashing does not stop "many" or "few" is irrelevant.

Here's a few more:

Many of the proportional punishment verses are of the form seen in Matt 10:15: "I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day." This is compatible with either eternal torment or with capital punishment (what you call "annihilation"), although it's very hard to explain why Jesus only mentioned the _day_ of judgment if He'd expected eternal torment. On the other hand, if Jesus expected the wicked to receive capital punishment, of course only the relative suffering on the Day would matter.

Finally, some verses don't make the proportional punishment explicit, but may imply it. Such passages are exemplified by 2 Thess 1:6-10, as God considers it "just" to "repay with affliction those who afflict you", and forces the oppressors, along with those who disobey the gospel, to "pay the [just] penalty" "when He comes to be glorified ... on that day." Of course, famously that passage says the punishment is of everlasting destruction -- which cannot faithfully be read as eternal torment. Regardless of that, though, the greatest affliction God promises here is to afflict people as they've afflicted the believers -- which certainly cannot mean eternal torment.

Erik M,

I already responded to that attempt to get around my argument in my response to JBerr.

wtanksleyjr,

I'm not sure you understood what I was saying (or else I don't understand what you are saying).

For instance, you point out that a person can experience a finite duration of punishment and still wish they had never been born. But that's irrelevant to my use of the text. My assumption in quoting that text is only that Judas will receive a punishment that not all receive.

Your other observations on the other texts are also irrelevant to the argument I made. My argument only needs for you to agree that there are degrees of punishment.

Now if you want to argue that degrees of punishment are accomplished in the time between the final judgment and the person's eternal destruction then you need to address the two rejoinders I've already given to that response above.

wtanksleyjr,

After thinking about it a bit more I think we both misunderstood each other, though I think I see your point now.

I think you thought that the texts I had in mind when I said "texts which speak of a period of punishment" are texts like Matthew 26:24 and Luke 12:46-48. And you are saying that these texts are not taken as speaking of annihilation.

But that's not what I was saying. I was not referring to these sorts of texts in particular *because* I don't think these texts teach us anything literal about Hell.

Or do you think people will literally be cut in pieces or will literally be whipped a certain number of times? I doubt it.

The point of these passages is simply that some persons will receive less punishment than others. I don't think the author(s) intended to give us the actual specifics.

Now you may want to say that these passages which teach that there will be degrees of punishment are not interpreted by annihilationists as teaching annihilation instead of degrees of punishment.

That's fine. But two issues:

1. You actually do, in part, what I suggested annihilationists would do and try to interpret some of what is in these passages as being annihilation. But you can still say "Well there is still room for few or many lashes in annihilationism."

Which still leaves you with the second issue I raised:

2. Annihiliationists think that annihilation is itself (at least part of) the punishment. But I think everyone wold recognize there is no morally significant difference between slapping you on the wrist and then shooting in the hand or shooting you in the arm and then shooting you in the head.

Sure I can say that slapping in the wrist and shooting in the arm are OBVIOUSLY not the same or even morally equivalent in themselves. But that's an absurd rejoinder when considered along with the rest of my punishment: shooting in the head.

So my argument is that our intuition is that eternal annihilation being part of the punishment that all unrepentant sinners experience makes whatever finite punishment they receive prior to annihilation a moot point.

Furthermore, I argue that Scripture supports our intuition here, so the annihilationist cannot merely dismiss it as a misguided intuition. For instance, Paul says that present, finite sufferings are negligible in light of an eternal reward. Conversely, any finite suffering would be negligible in light of an eternal punishment.

Furthermore, I would argue that our antecedent philosophical arguments support our intuition here! For instance, the argument from meaning that apologists frequently use argues that all of our experiences in this life are meaningless if there is no eternal life. In other words, if we cease to exist when we die then nothing we currently do ultimately matters. Whether we live like Hitler or Ghandi is ultimatley meaningless since they both rot in the grave the same. Likewise if Hitler and Ghandi both suffered differently thoughout this earthly life and will suffer differently for a period of time after the day of judgment, that suffering is meaningless in light of the fact that they will still both be punished with rot in the grave the same once God annihilates them.

But for the Eternal Life which comes by *Christ* there is no ultimate meaning in the created being's motions - whatever they are.

Exactly.

Think about that.

Annhilation cannot remove the truth of that actuality. Nor add to it.

And, in the reverse, eternal hell cannot add to the truth of that actuality. Nor remove it. Hell just is the absurdity of Man void of Immutable Love - void of God - which is the very zenith of meaninglessness.

Void of God - of Christ - there is no "meaningful". Neither death nor life *changes* that fundamental shape of reality.

That is why where the *necessary* emerges both the Eternalists and the Annihilationists ultimately retain the ultimate meaning maker.

Just as both retain the farthest *Reach* of both Justice and Punishment.

I'm not *compelled* in either direction here - not *necessarily*.

Correction:

"there is no morally significant difference between slapping you on the wrist and then shooting in the head or shooting you in the arm and then shooting you in the head."

---

But while I'm here let me go ahead and respond to some of your other comments that were not actually relevant to the original argument I made:

You attempt to show that some passages are incompatible with eternal torment. I'll respond to that:

Matthew 26:24 - Your explanation doesn't take into account the difference between an objective judgment and Job's subjective state of mind. Just because Job thought it would have been better had he never been born does not mean Job was correct in that judgment.

Luke 12:46-48 - You try to say this is incompatible with eternal torment by reading the passage in a woodenly literal fashion. Jesus is giving a parable, not opening a window into what will actually happen to people in the afterlife. When you read the parable in Luke 16, do think that's a literal description of what will occur in the afterlife? If not, why the inconsistency in your approach to Luke 12?

Matthew 10:15 - It's not hard to see how one can have the sentencing in mind when one says that "it will have been better for so and so on that day..." For instance, suppose Bob and Joe are arrested for arson. Bob is the one who came up with the idea and actually started the fire. Joe just drove Bob to the location, at Bob's request. On the day before they appear in court before me, the judge, I know that I'm going to give Bob the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. But I'll give the accomplice, Joe, just 3 years. I say to my wife "Tomorrow it'll be better for Joe than for Bob." Does my wife assume that I must mean that their punishment will be started and completed on the DAY of tomorrow? That doesn't seem rational to me, and neither does your own emphasis of the word _day_ in "day of judgment."

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 - Here you say that eternal destruction cannot be everlasting torment. Other theologians have handled the nature of destruction more capably than I. For instance, see Charles Wanamaker's comments in The New International Greek Testament Commentary for that epistle. Clearly it is possible to understand this phrase consistently with eternal conscious torment.

You then go on to say that "the greatest affliction God promises here is to afflict people as they've afflicted the believers -- which certainly cannot mean eternal torment."

But did the people annihilate the believers? No. In which case, the passage certainly cannot mean what you think it does either!

Thank you, "The Janitor". However, I'm responding to your claim about how conditionalists use those texts.

Your first claim The texts which speak of a period of punishment are often reinterpreted by annihilationists as speaking of annihiliation.

...was so strange that I wanted to offer evidence. You seem to view our argument as immediately self-contradictory, which normally means you haven't really examined our arguments.

So, I wanted to give you a chance to hear one.

So I would say to such an annihiliationist who attempted to use your rebuttal: show me the text.

Hence, I showed you the text :), and explained how I read it. Your move.

2. I don't think "puishment for a finite period of time" resulting in eternal destruction is a viable escape route for the annihiliationist because the annihiliationist frequently casts the eternal destruction as itself being punishment.

Indeed, I do that. So this point is apparently meant for me.

And then I would argue that any finite punishment leading to an eternal punishment is for all intents and purposes equivalent.

Both examples you give are eternal _torment_. By your argument and examples, then, it's impossible to have proportional eternal torment. This makes sense in general because the experienced magnitude of the punishing treatment after the current moment of punishing will always be incomparably worse than what one is experiencing now, so the experience "on the day of judgment" will be incomparable to the experience after it.

However, although eternal torment and eternal destruction are both eternal punishment, they are not both eternal punishing -- torment is a _process of punishing_ requiring a continuation of the recipient's awareness and participation. Destruction is a _punishment_ (an _event_ rather than a process) whose end finishes the punishing, but whose resulting duration is normally everlasting (assuming no subsequent restoration). Thus, an eternal punishment can includes both affliction for abuse of believers and destruction for disobedience to the gospel without serious philosophical problems.

The one problem I can immediately recall is the question of whether this destruction will be viewed as a relief. But as many people have pointed out, the total loss of personal continuance is a very great horror. Further, we see from history that men will endure enormous pain if they think they can "pull through", but when faced with assuredly lethal pain will fold. Even an indirect continuance, such as the survival of one's country or one's ideals will brace a man; but the wicked are promised that their ideals are being shamed and will be held in eternal contempt. Women are to be recognized as pulling through both pain and even death for the sake of childbirth -- but according to Malachi 4:1-13 the Day that is to come will leave the wicked neither root nor branch, as both ancestors and descendants abhor the wicked one's deeds; and the righteous.

(And of course we know that death without shame or pain, even death without awareness, is no punishment; Job 21 makes that perfectly clear, and Psalm 73 expands on Job's argument to show that even the wicked man dying in comfort will be finally punished when God rises against him in righteous anger and sweeps him away like a forgotten dream.)

The comments defending an eternal hell are cogent and robust so far in this thread.

I can easily *add* to it some key points I think make the Eternalist's position quite sound - particularly as we find in Man the mutable and the temporal necessarily entering into the immutable and the timeless.

All our frail and stubborn "No God I will not"'s necessarily becoming immutable and timeless "I cannot"'s - all of our frail and flawed "Yes God I will"'s becoming - likewise - immutable and timeless "I can's / Yes"'s.

Time is an odd thing.

Then - in the reverse - I find an equally wide ontological / scriptural topography wherein the scriptural coherence of the Annihilationist's position lands just as robustly.

In fact - I find the E's points out-reaching the A's points on some seams all the while finding the reverse pull on yet other seams.

Created Being, Justice, Punishment, Time, Mutability, God's love, Necessity.... *Christ*... and so on.

Neither the Eternalist position nor the Annihilationist position manages to sum to a "problem" in any necessary sense even as both successfully extricate robustly scriptural grounding. Hence I find myself un-compelled in any necessary and scriptural sense to one or the other.

wtanksleyjr,

Thank you, "The Janitor". However, I'm responding to your claim about how conditionalists use those texts.

Right, as you can see above I did understand your point upon further reflection.

Both examples you give are eternal _torment_. By your argument and examples, then, it's impossible to have proportional eternal torment.

I thought this might be a point of confusion and meant to clear it up but forgot about it as I addressed other things.

Your confusion rests upon the idea that the torment people are experiencing in the eternal conscious torment view is equivalent. That's clearly not my position. A person who receives one slap on the wrist every day for all eternity and a person who receives a nail through the wrist every day for all eternity are clearly not equivalent.

So it's not a problem for my position. But annihilation for the person who gets slapped on the wrist and annihilation for the person who gets a nail through the wrist is equivalent... So it is a problem for your position.

This makes sense in general because the experienced magnitude of the punishing treatment after the current moment of punishing will always be incomparably worse than what one is experiencing now, so the experience "on the day of judgment" will be incomparable to the experience after it.

I don't know what you're trying to say here.

Thus, an eternal punishment can includes both affliction for abuse of believers and destruction for disobedience to the gospel without serious philosophical problems.

I fail to see how anything you've said is supposed to resolve a philosophical problem. Suppose Jones steals a candy bar and Steve murders a baby. I slap Jones on the wrist then execute him and I chop Steve's arm off and then execute him. Clearly I have a philosophical/ethical problem on my hands here and pointing out that execution is an event does nothing to solve that.

Blockquotes torment me...

Janitor-

The preview button is your friend ;-)

I think Brett got to the nub of it in the first place.

To annihilate a soul would be to treat it as if it's only purpose was to make God feel better. Souls in hell take away from God's pleasure, so God wipes them out?

Would God give up on a soul in that way?

No. God doesn't give up on any soul. He loves them all for their own sake, and wants to redeem every one of them from sin and hell. He still has hope for all of them.

What about the passages that say that those in hell cannot be redeemed? Wouldn't that make God's hope for them irrational.

Perhaps. But the problem is that there are no such passages.

There are passages that say at most that the lost will not be redeemed. Big difference.

Spencer,

If you allow that angels aren't made in the image of God, how do you escape my conclusion? If they aren't made in the image of God, even if they have value (Im not saying they don't), it is certainly less than a being made in His image. And if a being of less value is tortured forever, then a being of higher value wouldn't receive a lower punishment.

I assume the conclusion you have in mind is this one:

-So if the plan was to keep Satan in conscious misery, who does not bare the image of God, then it seems the reason is that it is the better judgment, not the worth of the being.

Two things:

1. I don't see that the only possible reason God could have for torturing fallen angels is because it is the better judgment, without consideration of the worth of the beaing.

It could also be the better judgment in light of the worth of the being, even granting that angels do not bear the image of God. This is because there are different degrees of punishment.

The eternal nature of the punishment does not have to be tied to the set of sins committed in this life (or during this period of angelic life). Rather, the unending duration of the punishment is simply due to the unredeemed nature of the one's being punished.

And there is another option: that beings of a certain worth are capable of meriting eternal punishment and that both beings of angelic worth and beings of human worth meet that threshold.

2. Any fittingness of the punishment must take into account the nature of the offender (e.g., mental health, context) as well as the victim. So it seems impossible to completely divorce the "better judgment" from the worth of the offender.

Does not God say in Genesis 3 that "The man must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” And so God allows a human life to return to the dust. This would seem to go against the claim that "Low quality of life doesn't give permission to extinguish a human life." God seems to think that is the appropriate move in this passage.
Genesis 3 doesn't imply annihilation. The concern here is the infinite extension of physical life in a world of sin. That is because Eternal Life + Sin = Hell.

What God does in Genesis 3 is decide not to immediately condemn every human being to hell. He does not condemn every human because He has a plan to save them. This is not a matter of putting men out of their misery...it's about having a plan to save them from it.

I'm not sure what the image of God has to do with anything.

Angels are free to sin or not. Thus Lucifer did and Michael did not.

Angels can feel torment.

Isn't the general problem with hell just the fact that free sentient beings are condemned to suffer forever?

So what mileage do you get, exactly, from the idea that hell is made for the fallen angels?

Philosophically, being in the image of God, whatever that is, seems to be quite irrelevant. (Unless you believe, as do I, that all free sentient beings are bearers of the image of God, though Sin shatters that image beyond all hope of repair apart from God..)

In regard to the value of philosophical arguments:

https://janitorialmusings.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/a-sketch-of-how-theology-and-philosophy-interact/

Basically, if you think this issue is underdetermined by the Scriptural evidence (e.g., you are sitting on the fence) then the philosophical arguments will be of more value to you.

WL,

Will not be redeemed....

To me that bolsters the Eternalist's position in that there IS a place where X exists and cannot merge with Y (etc...).

It also bolsters the Annihilationist's position in that it remains coherent with the temporal claims levied on said place etc. as such moves out wider.

Really there's no hands down winner there.

God's pleasure:

Neither the Annihilationist's nor the Eternalist's cast man as a mere tool for His pleasure - though some argue God Wills only the Good and takes pleasure only in the same - which entails all that is - and thus Hell too. In which case God wouldn't annhilate as His pleasure is the Good - which includes Hell *itself*. But that whole line is misplaced by both sides - at times on their own and at times in mis-claims claimed of/or against the other. But when placed properly I find each side staying well within God's purposes for and God's Pleasures in Man (in their claims).

I find no solely unilateral compulsion in any of those - but then that has been my experience all along.

It seems that on E vs. A - whatever the particular "it" is which is given as "weight" there's always another approach that pulls in the other side's view. Hence - on the place called hell - I'm not an Annihilationist. Nor an Eternalist.


"Janitor- The preview button is your friend ;-)"

The preview button is for cowards who second guess themselves. The preview button is for old ladies who drive five miles under the speed limit. The preview button is for doubters who don't have faith that it all worked out fine on the first go.

The preview button is fine for certain people. I'm more of a "post" man, myself.

Janitor,

Just being honest, I didn't find anything you said in your rejoinder regarding degrees as a convincing rebuttal. I'm not even sure I can make sense of the argument. I don't see anything inconsistent with saying that, in the resurrection of the wicked, that there may be some whose crimes are more heinous suffering more greatly at the hands of God before they ultimately perish. Sure it may all ultimately end the same way, but all would rather die with least amount of anguish. For example, if hypothetically I was a criminal who was going to be executed and I could choose between death by the firing squad versus being crucified or thrown to the lions, I'm going to say firing squad every time.

Here are the main issues with this argument (the format is odd because I originally posted this to my blog site):

Kunkle parallels his philosophical argument against hell with a common argument against abortion, which is that it is wrong to destroy an unborn child, made in the image of God, simply out of concern that they might have a low quality of life.

There are a number of problems with this parallel. To begin with, in the case of the unborn child we have a person who is innocent (one’s view of original sin aside). A better parallel would be to a prisoner convicted of crimes meriting execution. Though I’m not sure if Kunkle supports the death penalty in the present day, he no doubt would acknowledge that God has executed the death penalty (both directly and indirectly through the Israelite government) in the past and was just for doing so. Therefore it is inconsistent for him to argue that it is always wrong to destroy human life since, indeed, sometimes it is just. The appeal to pro-life arguments on abortion are therefore not relevant to this discussion.

Kunkle also uses lofty phrases in order to achieve a positive emotional response from his viewers toward his contention, such as the claim that God “dignified us with human freedom” and “respects our choices.” God is therefore obligated by justice to not destroy rebellious sinners but must instead torment them eternally, consciously, and without any opportunity for saving repentance. Say what you want about the justice of eternal conscious torment, but the last thing it could be called is dignified or respectful. Kunkle seems to know this on a subconscious level, and thus argues that, in contradiction to the claims of annihilationism, “unfortunately hell is eternal conscious torment” (emphasis mine).

But why should this be unfortunate? If it’s just and provides rebel sinners with dignity, why should we not celebrate eternal conscious torment? The unstated answer is that being tortured forever sucks. So, now that we’ve stripped the argument of its fluffy, emotional language and alleged parallels to pro-life convictions, what do we have?

In short, we have the argument that if human beings are made in the image of God, this makes them inherently valuable. If they are inherently valuable, God would not destroy them. But are we then left with eternal conscious torment as our best alternative? Absolutely not, for on this account it is also not desirable to torment inherently valuable, thinking, feeling persons for all eternity. If Kunkle’s argument follows, it does not lead us to the traditional view, but something akin to universalism or apocatastasis.

My proposed counter-argument to Kunkle is to acknowledge that neither annihilation or eternal conscious torment of persons made in the image of God is desirable, but in light of the scriptural witness to final punishment, and the fact of sinful rebellion, something must be done with those who refuse to repent. In the coming eschaton, wherein we will see firsthand God’s perfect reordering of the universe, is it preferable to imagine the unending torture of men and women who refuse to repent, or to imagine God as all in all?

God is therefore obligated by justice to not destroy rebellious sinners but must instead torment them eternally, consciously, and without any opportunity for saving repentance.
Not sure where you get that.

For starters, the belief in an everlasting hell for the unrepentant doesn't imply that there is no opportunity for the unrepentant to repent. It is simply the belief that some unrepentant individuals never do repent. I think that every soul in hell, including Satan and his angels, could repent and be redeemed. They just won't ever do so.

Nor is there any Biblical evidence for the claim that the souls in hell have no opportunity to repent. Again, there is only evidence that they won't.

Also, I don't buy the idea that God torments the souls in hell. What He does is condemn them to the fate that all men would have suffered had he let them eat from the tree of life from Adam onward: Everlasting life under the tyranny of sin. The unrepentant make for themselves a hell out of that combination.

This is a fate that the lost themselves choose. A fate that God allows them to suffer because He accepts their choice.

Didn't read everyone's comments here, but I just wanted to clarify that there are two types of annihilationism. The first is where there is actually punishment of the human being for a finite period, that ends in destruction. The second is like the Jehovah's witness, where you just remain dead. The punishment has already been enacted (thus there is no hell).

John 5:28 makes the second kind of annihilationism impossible:

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned."

So Jesus there plainly states that everyone will be resurrected, some to condemnation, some to life.

You can see some strong scriptural arguments for the first type of annihilationism from Edward Fudge in the book "The Fire that Burns". However, I'm still not convinced. It might be possible though. There are also a few early church father who held this type of view.

However, most of the church has never held this view, which is also a red flag for me. That doesn't mean it is not the correct view, but it makes it harder to accept.

I think we can find good philosophical backing for either view. For now, it's not something terribly important for me, and not something I particularly like to think about or study, so if I am teaching on this subject, I make sure to refer to biblical language. If I am teaching a non-believer about hell, I truly attempt to avoid the word and talk about the term judgment and punishment and justice, or even the word torment as to avoid confusion. I may even mention to them that I am not sure how long punishment lasts, but that it must be at least as horrifying as the cross, or I will show them certain texts and ask them what they think.

We probably need to stop using the word "hell" altogether as this conjures up too many silly images in western culture. It has more to do with pagan myths than anything biblical. Unfortunately, the word Gehenna is always translated as hell, and I believe this is quite misleading in my opinion. Maybe we should pick other words from scripture to use that will be more powerful in today's western culture and more biblical, such as judgment, punishment, and the like.

I thought that N.T. Wright had some interesting thoughts on this issue. He mentions in some comments (it sounds like he sort of has an eternal conscious torment view) that perhaps what hell is is that human beings lose the part of them that made them in God's image. It sort of sounds like they become animals or something like that. I thought that was interesting and wish he would have expounded a bit more on what he thinks that looks like. It's hard to imagine a future world where heaven and earth come together, and there is a concentration camp next to the walls of the new Jerusalem. I dunno.

Anyways, as this issue is not really something totally important (as in the finitude of punishment for those without Jesus in the end), I don't think we should get too bent out of shape over what view people hold on this. I do think universalism is a serious problem and a dangerous doctrine, as it implies there is no justice and that you need not worry, but in the case of annihilationism, most serious people that hold this doctrine simply think that the suffering ends in non-being. If that is wrong, I don't think it's particularly harmful or important. Maybe one day I will make a more committed decision as to which view I think is right.

Erik,

I'm not even sure I can make sense of the argument.

Let me try to state my argument in a better way then.

----
1. A punishment must be proportionate to a sin.

In other words, from the standpoint of punishments and sins there are proportionate and disproportionate relationships and these are not arbitrarily decided by an act of God's will. Just as God could not call rape good and, thereby, make rape good so also God could not disproportionately punish sin.

2. Scripture supports the idea that punishments need to be proportionate to sin by indicating that some sins merit greater punishment.

Aside from the obvious texts which speak of some people receiving worse punishment then others, there are texts like Romans 2:5 that speak about "storing up wrath". The idea is that by behaving in a certain way we are earning a certain response from God. This presupposes a just deserts or retributivist model of punishment in which a punishment must fit the sin.

3. Scripture can be understood as teaching two different types of punishment: (a) Punishment A = [some finite duration of conscious torment + annihiliation] or (b) Punishment B = [some finite duration of conscious torment]

I think it's important that we understand annihilation as itself being a part of Punishment A and not something that is simply tacked on to Punishment A. That shouldn't be controversial to the annihiliationists since I think they all agree that annihilation is itself part of the punishment. In other words, if you remove annihilation then Punishment A isn't complete.

Punishment B is what is often termed the eternal conscious torment view (ECT for short). Why didn't I include "eternal" in my description of Punishment B? Because it gives the impression that the finite sins we commit in this life merit unending torment and I'm not convinced either that the Bible teaches this or that this is the required explanation of the unending nature of the torment. I do believe that the torment continues unendingly (but this will always equal a finite period of time, so my language above is still accurate) but perhaps the torment continues without end because the agent continues to sin without end and thus continuously merits more punishment.

This might also help explain why Jesus did not suffer unendingly. He suffered for the amount that the sins merited during earthly existence, which was not unending torment. And since Jesus had no unending sin (and the redeemed don't have unending sin), the punishment didn't need to be unending.

Now two things: first I realize there are other explanations for why the torment might be without end (e.g., offenses against an infinitely holy God, etc) and there are other explanations for why Jesus did not suffer without end (e.g., he was able to endure an infinite amount of punishment in a finite time). I think the former sort of explanation is viable, but I'm not sure I can wrap my mind around the latter sort of explanation in regard to Jesus. So my own explanation has the advantage of making both points understandable. Second, I haven't taken much time to consider whether there might be some Bible passage which renders my model impossible. So if one can find a Bible passage that contradicts what I've suggested, I'm open to seeing it.

4. Punishment A seems inherently disproportionate to the varieties of sins people commit and, thus, the punishments they should merit.

Here I've tried to make this clear by providing several illustrations: suppose that Jones steals a candy bar and Steve murders a child. I slap Jones on the wrist and then hang him and I whip Steve with 40 lashes and then hang him.

The annihilationist wants to find the "proportionality" within the variable of the finite torment (slapping on the wrist vs 40 lashes). My illustration demonstrates that this cuts against our moral intuitions. Why? Because both punishments involve hanging and hanging is of such intensity or... gravitas (?) that it makes the finite variable a moot point. Likewise, annihilation has a finality to it that makes the finite variable a moot point.

Furthermore, I've argued that Scripture seems to agree that fixing one's future for all eternity makes all prior finite experiences negligible. Namely, Paul says that the sufferings we experience on earth are negligible in light of our future being fixed in an eternal glory. This suggests, conversely, that sufferings experienced on earth or for some period after earth are negligible in light of the damned's future being fixed in an eternal annihilation.

Proportionality cannot be found in negligible variables.

Furthermore, I've argued that our antecedent commitment to the argument from meaning seems to agree that finite experiences are rendered insignificant in light of annihilation. Apologists frequently appeal to the fact that eternal life is a necessary condition for our lives to have meaning and significance. Prior to confronting the argument I've presented here, all annihilationists would have agreed with that argument (that's why I call it an antecedent commitment). But if eternal life (not to be understood in the sense of "Heaven" or "glorification") is necessary for our experiences to have significance, then annihilationism renders the experiences of the damned insignificant.

Proportionality cannot be found in insignificant variables.
----

Hopefully that spells out my argument in a clear way. One obvious objection would be to try and turn my argument around on me and say that if fixing one's fate with annihilation makes a finite punishment negligible then so too with fixing one's fate with ECT. But I think that confuses quality with quantity. I'm not saying that because annihilation persists from one moment to the next indefinitely that this entails insignificance or negligibility to any finite moment. Rather I think it is the qualitative finality of the annihilation that is equitable to all the damned that makes the variable negligible. ECT can maintain different qualitative existences and punishments. Annihilationism can't. This point should be even more obvious in light of those annihilationists who insist that annihilation is a *worse* punishment than ECT (and since snooping around some yesterday, I've found a few other annihilationists who make this claim). Why does the annihilationist think his view is harder to swallow than the ECT view? Clearly that judgement can't be grounded in the finite torment variable, for ECT has that too! Rather, the annihilationist must be grounding that judgment in the qualitative finality of the annihilation itself.

Thus, I could add this as further support for my 4th premise:

Prior to being confronted with my argument annihilationists have insisted that annihilation is a worse punishment than ECT. The annihilationist's judgment cannot be grounded in the variable of the finite torment that occurs prior to annihilation since ECT has this in common with the annihilationist. Thus, the annihilationist's judgment is grounded in the act annihilation itself as punishment. Thus, the annihilationist is tacitly admitting that the act of annihilation outweighs consideration of the finite torment.

Now I will turn to some other comments you made, Erik:

I don't see anything inconsistent with saying that, in the resurrection of the wicked, that there may be some whose crimes are more heinous suffering more greatly at the hands of God before they ultimately perish.

Hopefully you can see now that my argument does not involve a charge of inconsistency in the way you're suggesting.

Sure it may all ultimately end the same way, but all would rather die with least amount of anguish.

It's not a question of which we would prefer. In many scenarios I would prefer ECT to annihilation. The fact that you would prefer to be slapped on the wrist before being annihilated rather than sawed in half before being annihilated is irrelevant to my argument. My argument is that the annihilation vastly outweighs consideration of the torment, and as I pointed out above, annihilationists have already tacitly admitted this is the case!

I think you have to get past the idea of hell being principally a place of punishment for sin.

Christ bore the entire punishment for all sins for all people, in heaven and hell.

All the suggestions in the Bible that some sins are punished worse than others boil down to the fact that Christ suffered more for some sins than for others.

Hell is a place where sinners suffer the consequences of sin without the gracious interference of God. Chances are that the suffering of individuals in hell will have no connection at all to how evil they were in this life. Injustice will continue unchecked among hellions forever.

(P.S. Christ suffered for all that sin too.)

WisdomLover,

I don't accept the idea that Hell is a punishment for sin. The idea that Hell is not punishment for sin is a theological conclusion derived from your other theological beliefs (e.g., Jesus bore the punishment for everyone's sins already). Some of those beliefs I would reject (I'm Reformed), and thus your conclusion doesn't logically follow for me.

But even apart from my Reformed theology, Scripture still speaks pretty clearly of unbelievers as being punished for sin and I don't think we can easily dismiss that just because it creates tension with other theological beliefs we hold (e.g., Jesus bore the punishment for everyone's sin). In my opinion, a non-Reformed person should consider this option: (a) Jesus bore the punishment for everyone's sins and (b) Scripture teaches that the unrepentant are punished for sin, so (c) if a person rejects Jesus as a substitute on their behalf God requires punishment of the person.

There may be other problems further down the line for that option... But maybe it's possible to move that tension to a theologically inferred belief rather than have it resting on a belief that is more of a direct teaching of Scripture.

Correction:

"I don't accept the idea that Hell is not a punishment for sin."

Shhhhh, no mention of preview.

Punishment and Justice via Hell:


Insufficiency multiplied by Infinity is still insufficiency.

The Justice of God is an All-Sufficient Justice - there is no thread unaccounted for - and as such it cannot - in any necessary sense - be satisfied by the sum of Insufficiency X Infinity.

We can untie Punishment from Justice to satisfy that equation - but that too is nonsense.

Whatever Hell "is" - it is not that which ever has - ever does - ever will - or even *can* do that which sums to this: Satisfy Divine Justice.

Angels and Men fail in such a formula as does Pain and tacking on Infinity solves nothing - adds nothing.

The whole idea of Insufficiency X Infinity as somehow preserving the instantiation and sum of the Ultimate Meaning Maker is - whether via the Eternalist or via the Annihilationist - bad metaphysics and worse Theology.

Neither side gains any ground there.

The fundamental contours of reality will converge in *Christ* - though - there are those contours. It is not that they do not exist - or that they *cannot* exist - or that they *must* exist.

Rather - it is quite another something.

If Hell..... and no Christ.....


Then we do not find - in any metaphysical or theological seam anywhere - the All Sufficient Justice which the Necessary.... not "has"... but in fact "is".

"The Janitor" -- we HAVE to meet someday. I like your thinking. Especially about the preview button.

Your confusion rests upon the idea that the torment people are experiencing in the eternal conscious torment view is equivalent. That's clearly not my position.

That's clearly not my contention. I'll use your argument to restate my claim below.

A person who receives one slap on the wrist every day for all eternity and a person who receives a nail through the wrist every day for all eternity are clearly not equivalent.

You just finished making the argument that they _are_. After all, no matter how long they've been tormented (and no matter how strong the sensation was) what lies behind is negligible compared to what lies ahead. I call this the "negligible punishment" argument, and it's _your_ argument.

But annihilation for the person who gets slapped on the wrist and annihilation for the person who gets a nail through the wrist is equivalent... So it is a problem for your position.

"Annihilation", by which you mean death without considering things like pain or shame, is by its nature always the same. That's why you use the philosophical term.

But there's a crucial thing to note: death, no matter the shame or pain it's with, is not an _experience_, but the lack of all experience. The punishment of death is punishment because it takes away all experience.

Their loss from "annihilation" is infinite -- they're deprived of boundless Life with God. But their experience with death is _finite_, it comes to an end. Their punishment is proportional affliction to death. Finite experience; infinite loss.

But with ECT, the experience and the loss are both infinite. They lose an everlasting life with God; and their consolation prize is that they get to exist in torment.

Your argument that it's not infinite torment is hollow; "infinite" means "without boundary", and there is no _end_ to their torment. It is endless specifically in duration by your account.

The argument that the Bible doesn't say they can't repent but only that they won't is also false; regardless of what you believe about Luke 16, Jesus has Abraham both describe and interpret a feature of the story of Lazarus to say that anyone desiring to cross from one side (where the wicked are) to the other side (where the redeemed are) are not able (i.e. lack the power). Hebrews 12:17 seems to make the exact same point; and Jesus' "Lord, Lord" teachings likewise.

I know you think I shouldn't cite parables, but I hope you can see that the last two are not parabolic, and the crossing is actually an _interpretation_ of the parable even though it's inserted inside the parable.

(I'll respond to your critique of my verses later.)

I said: This makes sense in general Blah blah blah

I don't know what you're trying to say here.

Not your fault. Your explanation was much better, and I pretty much reechoed it above -- I called it the "negligible punishment" argument. That argument applies against _your_ position.

Suppose Jones steals a candy bar and Steve murders a baby. I slap Jones on the wrist then execute him and I chop Steve's arm off and then execute him. Clearly I have a philosophical/ethical problem on my hands here and pointing out that execution is an event does nothing to solve that.

Suppose, though, that both Steve and Jones are dying (we all are, you know), and they know it. They barricade themselves in the rented house; Steve breaks all the household goods and shoots everyone he sees coming, while Jones just ignores the knocking and lives a quiet life. Time passes, we all die -- just like Steve and Jones.

Then Steve and Jones find themselves standing before the Throne of God, beside an audience of the people they've harmed. God speaks, saying that they stand condemned to death "in Adam", and their lack of a mediator leaves them condemned in all their offenses against men as well.

Death -- understood Biblically, "not living forever" or utter powerlessness to do anything, rather than unbiblically as eternal mere existence or as self-sustained life -- is both natural to man and completely deserved by all men (except Jesus). All men know that; we learn it early on. Most people who think about it admit that there's no real alternative to death -- they imagine that everlastingness on its own would get pretty boring, and they're right (apart from the source of Eternal Life, of course).

Steve and Jones both get the greatest punishment -- or the natural consequence, whatever. But Steve's punishment -- for his wilful murder -- will be remembered by all the redeemed who see it as being _greater_. Steve's temporary experience of shame will be remembered as being greater. Although both are dead and have no thoughts or feeling of shame anymore, everyone who saw their self-deception exposed and their true motives revealed will shudder in revulsion. And those people will live forever.

Matthew 26:24
Your explanation doesn't take into account the difference between an objective judgment and Job's subjective state of mind.

(1) The verse is stated in a subjective manner, and (2) punishment is an attempt to make a person have a negative and proportional subjective experience. It's not adequate to have a proportional objective experience -- anyone who's seen a bully and a bullied kid both be "shamed" in front of the class knows that. Same objective punishment; completely inadequate subjective experience for the bully.

Just because Job thought it would have been better had he never been born does not mean Job was correct in that judgment.

But God knew, right? There is a fact of the matter: was it _actually_ worse for him? As soon as it is actually worse for Judas, the prophecy is complete. If it cannot be made worse by extending time, it can't be made worse by extending time infinitely.

Luke 12:46-48
You try to say this is incompatible with eternal torment by reading the passage in a woodenly literal fashion.

Not at all! I'm observing the data we have, and noting that Jesus seems to be stating this as a principle, not as a story. All the linguistic data we have here -- with one exception -- says Jesus is talking about His return, and a judgment with three punishments for those found wanting.

When you read the parable in Luke 16, do think that's a literal description of what will occur in the afterlife?

No. But I do think everything _explained_ in the story has a purpose. I'm not sure why angels carry Lazarus to Abraham while the rich man is carried to hades by his relatives (I'm illustrating my point by finding an accidental meaning), but I'm sure the apparent geography of the "great gulf" is actually meant to show that those desiring to cross lack the power to do so.

Matthew 10:15
It's not hard to see how one can have the sentencing in mind when one says that "it will have been better for so and so on that day..."

That's a perfectly plausible alternate reading. Thanks! Now, this fits perfectly well with the capital punishment I've described.

(And of course, the argument you used about "negligible punishment" is currently used against you, but I'll let you reply to it before I presume to cite it.)

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10
Here you say that eternal destruction cannot be everlasting torment.

Right. Perhaps I should have said that it's not the face-value reading.

Clearly it is possible to understand this phrase consistently with eternal conscious torment.

I know people have claimed this, but in fact attempting to understand this as an ongoing process of destruction that never destroys is a category error. Destruction is not process dependant; it's result dependant. Saying someone "spent three hours destroying my watch" doesn't make much sense if the watch wasn't destroyed at the end, no matter WHAT they did to it.

In the same way, in the phrase "eternal destruction" the word "eternal" cannot be the duration of the process (because then the destruction would never actually happen); it must be the duration of the result. (Or, of course, as the universalists might say, eternal is the _quality_ and not a duration at all. Do you want to argue that?)

But did the people annihilate the believers? No. In which case, the passage certainly cannot mean what you think it does either!

That doesn't work against me -- by definition annihilation isn't an affliction, because it cannot be experienced. There's Biblical evidence to this point in 1 Cor 15:16-19, as the positive experience of falling asleep in Christ is the same as the experience of "perishing" that those who die in their sins have -- the only difference being the objective reality of the resurrection. My point stands.

Further, God doesn't promise to punish people ONLY for their affliction of believers; this is _also_ a punishment against those who "disobey the gospel".

SCBLHRM-

I think we're on the same page this time.

Hell as punishment is a poor substitute for real justice...only God could pay the price in a way that truly satisfies justice. That's why God had to become man.

wtanksleyjr-

The story of Lazarus and Dives is not germane to the question of whether it is possible for the lost in hell to repent and be saved. This is because Dives does not repent in the story. No one can escape hell without repentance. It does not follow from that that no one can escape hell with repentance. Nor does it follow that no one can repent.

As for Hebrews 12:

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
Essau sought what with tears? The blessing. Why didn't he get that blessing? Because he didn't repent.

Again, there is no escape from hell without repentance. It does not follow that it is impossible to repent and be saved.

And the same goes for the "Lord, "Lord" teachings. At the time that those souls cried "Lord, Lord" they were hardly repentant. In fact, it's the exact opposite of what they were. They were saying that they didn't need to repent because they were such good people. But this implies nothing about whether they could even then, repent.

Now let's move to another point that is more like pure philosophy:

Death -- understood Biblically, "not living forever" or utter powerlessness to do anything, rather than unbiblically as eternal mere existence or as self-sustained life -- is both natural to man and completely deserved by all men (except Jesus). All men know that; we learn it early on.
I'm not quite sure what this means. Are you saying that everyone learns early on that death, understood as the complete cessation of mental experience, is natural to humanity?

If that's it, then it seems to me that we learn no such thing and that all our experience goes the other way.

WL,


Yes we seem to agree on that point.

Hell as God's means to exact Justice upon those outside of His All-Sufficient Filling (Christ) just is God employing X to achieve Y when X is grossly underpowered to come anywhere close to Y.

Hell's Insufficiency X Infinity being elevated to the necessary and sufficient means to the ends of the All-Sufficient Justice housed in God's actual Means and actual Ends is - as noted - bad metaphysics and worse Theology.

It even credits a Non-Christ some-thing with that which is claimed of Christ and no other.

And then they make it worse:

Perhaps if we add on not just Infinity - but Ten X Infinity..... So the logic goes......


And still this multiplied "justice" lands insufficient - light years away from the epicenter of All Sufficiency Himself - and thus ends as an incoherent application.

Justice is metaphysically, necessarily, and scripturally found elsewhere, and that "it" (Justice) is in fact fully Actualized brings us to the unavoidable conclusion that should God employ Hell to "Exact Justice Upon" this or that Soul well it is the case then that God there and then employs something far, far underpowered for His Stated Task there in His employment of Hell.


Which is nonsense. Metaphysically and Scripturally.

That is why the Eternalist who argues from that end not only fails to gain ground - but in replacing Christ with some lesser something actually looses ground.......

That is not a credit for the Annihilationist - but merely an incoherence in the Eternalist's claims as providing some greater some-thing than the Annihilationist.


The story of Lazarus and Dives is not germane to the question of whether it is possible for the lost in hell to repent and be saved. This is because Dives does not repent in the story. No one can escape hell without repentance. It does not follow from that that no one can escape hell with repentance. Nor does it follow that no one can repent.

I'm sorry, I don't understand where your argument is coming from. This passage is completely silent on whether Dives wanted to repent; it doesn't mention it. Whereas it _does_ say that if one wants to reach the other side they will not have the ability -- it seems that there's no way to want to cross that can actually lead to one making it across.

Can you back your position on this point with a positive teaching from scripture? You've made the distinction between "can" and "will", and I've shown you a passage that _seems_ to say "can not" (in this sense of lacking power). I don't know where your claim is coming from at all.

Until then, it seems to me that one of the main points of this parable is to set things up so that Abraham can tell us that anyone desiring can not cross. (The second main point is to say that anyone refusing to repent with the Law and Prophets will also not repent were they to hear and see the most authoritative possible witness of the horrors of final judgment -- and this applies to living people.)

I'm not quite sure what this means. Are you saying that everyone learns early on that death, understood as the complete cessation of mental experience, is natural to humanity?

No. I'm saying that everyone learns that death is natural to humanity (and I explain what death means as well). This point was important to my argument -- both Steve and Jones know they're dying, and both know of no means to escape it.

I didn't make any claim about mental experience; that's not something we can learn about other people.

I tried to claim the Biblical understanding of death is a discontinuation of life with the effect that we do not live forever (Gen 3:22). I also referred to death as an utter powerlessness to do anything; this is seen in a number of references; in the OT it's said in explicit statements like Eccl 9:10, and in the NT it's seen because "death" is used as a metaphor for how Christians are to consider themselves as dead to sin (completely lacking in desire and power), that the old man is dead (powerless), and so on.

Some people mistake this for soul sleep; I'm not arguing for that. I'm saying that this is death's ultimate meaning, whether or not it's the immediate one. Human experience can't tell us about ultimate things, but God's revelation can.

I also claim that man's experience is not sufficient to tell him whether God preserves his spirit after his death or whether his spirit meets the same fate as an animal (dissipating into nothing). Of course, this is from Eccl 3:18-21 -- often misread to teach that those things are _true_, but it should be read to say that God intended man to learn that lesson -- that man is naturally no better than an animal at preserving his spirit. (Ecclesiastes is clear that in spite of appearances God _does_ preserve man's spirit. But he doesn't say what happens at the judgment.)

Again, this pertains to your example with Steve and Jones.

Dives: I beg you, father Abraham, that you send Lazarus to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.

Abraham: They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.

Dives: No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!

So, for Dives, repentance doesn't have to do with acknowledging your utter failure before God's Law...he still doesn't see that that's what his own problem is. Instead, it's about somehow being frightened by signs and wonders into bending the knee. Dives thinks that if he had just seen a miracle, he would have repented.

No. Dives was quite unrepentant as the passage makes clear. So was Esau, as Hebrews 12 makes clear. So were those who cried "Lord, Lord", as Matthew 7 makes clear.

The only way to be saved is to acknowledge you complete failure and to let God have His way. If you don't God will let you have your way, and that way is hell.

And all of that is orthogonal to the question of whether the lost can repent. We are told that they won't repent. So perhaps it is not surprising that Jesus' story ended as it did and did not end with Dives repenting and being saved by the One who created the gulf that separates Dives from Abraham.

Does not Daniel 12 "close the book" on the annihilationists’ position? There are clearly two possible outcomes: 1- with God (life), 2- without God (contempt); but both are everlasting.
Daniel 12 New American Standard Bible
The Time of the End
12 “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. 4 But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”

Your entire argument, repeated here, is an argument from silence -- and you cut off Abraham's last reply to Dives to make even that. My argument is from the text, and it's a crucial branching point in the argument where the topic _ends_ because Abraham's cut off all hope.

Now, consider your claim. IF repenting would truly get people out of the judgment, and if I admit the possibility of that for the sake of argument, then you must admit that Abraham's interpretation of the great gulf means that they must lack the power to repent -- they CAN not. I'm not affirming or denying that conclusion, but it is the inevitable result of your direct claims about this passage.

The important assertion you made, that people remain in hell because they "will not" leave rather than because they "can not" leave, remains completely falsified, by my original argument: This parable includes the explicit interpretation that the wicked _can_ not leave their punishment, and that nobody _can_ come over to rescue them. That interpretation _concludes_ the line of conversation, so you can't say it's merely a passing accidental report.

Meanwhile, you claim that "we are told that they won't repent", but you haven't pointed to a single passage that actually says that.

Finally, you make the claim that "the One" who created the gulf could save people from it -- but you're overlooking that "the One" is telling us the parable, and His interpretation isn't that the gulf happens to be impassible, but that the gulf was put there SO THAT crossing was impossible. "The One" designed the reality behind the symbol of the gulf _on purpose_.

wtanksleyjr,

You just finished making the argument that they _are_. After all, no matter how long they've been tormented (and no matter how strong the sensation was) what lies behind is negligible compared to what lies ahead. I call this the "negligible punishment" argument, and it's _your_ argument.

Sorry, but I don't see how my argument can be effectively turned around on me and for the most part you've merely *claimed* that it is without showing how. You'll have to make that more explicit. My argument was not that the mere duration of life makes the past negligible and this seems to be the confusion you're making: an unending duration of anything makes everything in the past negligible.

That's not the argument I made.

"Annihilation", by which you mean death without considering things like pain or shame, is by its nature always the same. That's why you use the philosophical term. But there's a crucial thing to note: death, no matter the shame or pain it's with, is not an _experience_, but the lack of all experience. The punishment of death is punishment because it takes away all experience. Their loss from "annihilation" is infinite -- they're deprived of boundless Life with God. But their experience with death is _finite_, it comes to an end. Their punishment is proportional affliction to death. Finite experience; infinite loss.

You're simply saying that once a person ceases to exist they don't continue to have experiences... Okay, I never disputed that. What's the significance of your point?

But with ECT, the experience and the loss are both infinite. They lose an everlasting life with God; and their consolation prize is that they get to exist in torment. Your argument that it's not infinite torment is hollow; "infinite" means "without boundary", and there is no _end_ to their torment. It is endless specifically in duration by your account.

You seem to be equivocating on the word "infinite". Or at least the word is open to equivocation.

You say: "But with ECT, the experience and the loss are both infinite.... Your argument that it's not infinite torment is hollow..."

That looks like a clear equivocation on your part. So let's clear this up:

With ECT the experience and loss are unending. Clearly I didn't argue that with ECT the torment is not unending. So I'm not sure exactly what you're trying to say here unless you mean something like "maximal." So maybe you mean:

"Your argument that it's not [maximal] torment is hollow..."

Well that's your (supposed) assertion, but I don't see the argument for it.

The argument that the Bible doesn't say they can't repent but only that they won't is also false;

I don't recall ever making that argument.

Steve's temporary experience of shame will be remembered as being greater. Although both are dead and have no thoughts or feeling of shame anymore, everyone who saw their self-deception exposed and their true motives revealed will shudder in revulsion. And those people will live forever.

So what? I'm not sure what you're trying to say by pointing out that those with eternal life will always remember the shame of Steve. Is your point supposed to be that this is somehow punishing to Steve? That strikes me as absurd. Suppose Jones secretly steals some money from the church offering. Jones doesn't think anyone saw him steal the offering money. But unbeknownst to Jones, Steve saw him. Now everyday when Steve thinks about Jones he shudders. No ethicist would consider that punishment... but maybe I'm just completely failing to see your point.

WL and Scbrakjfd,

I don't agree that our punishment in Hell (or in annihilation) is insufficient to satisfy justice. One consequence of that view is that now God is morally obligated to offer an atonement, even if no one is saved. That cuts against the grain of how the atonement has been understood as a free and gracious act on God's part. God couldn't have chosen to not send his Son, because then God would have been unjust.

Quick note to The Janitor -- sorry, I included a reply to someone else in a reply to you (regarding "can not" versus "will not". My apologies.


1. The growing Annihilationist Movement

You are right about that. It's based primarily on standard exegesis, but there is also a good philosophical argument, which I will be presenting at this years Rethinking Hell conference, held on the campus of Fuller Theological in June. See rethinkinghellconference.com

2. Human Value and Killing

The argument that eternal torment is more respectful or kind than death is tenuous at best. Torment is cruelty. Death is finite and therefore more likely to be just, since it can be proportionate. The disproportion of eternal torment violates even the biblical notion of justice (eye for an eye), not to mention Jesus' call for mercy and justice to be exercised together.

3. The Precedent of the Flood

God certainly destroyed all humankind save Noah's family. Was that denying the dignity of humans? Even more, Jesus said the final judgment will be JUST LIKE the flood of Noah, except this time by fire. And as Ed Fudge points out in the title of his seminal book on the biblical argument for Conditional Immortality (annihilationism), fire consumes - it does not burn without consuming. It will completely burn up the chaff (the unrepentant).

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