Friday, February 24, 2012

A Brief Case for Annihilationism (Updated)

I believe Scripture strongly teaches conditional immortality. I recently had to disagree with my university (it is unnecessary to name them) on their doctrinal statement where they included decisive language on the eternal conscious fate of the wicked. I did this just as an exercise, and knew that my perspective more than likely disqualified me. This is not to say that I disrespect or hold this against the university.

I had only a page to write out my disagreement, and I know much more could be said on this issue. So, here it is.

1) ETERNAL FIRE

A. I do believe that hell will be eternal in effect (Matthew 25:46) but I do not believe that the punishment is ongoing and conscious. Instead, I believe the payment of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and I do believe that, if suffering was all that was required of Christ, then his death is nonsensical.

B. Matthew 25:41 references "eternal fire," and in the Greek, it is used several different times throughout Scripture. One of them is in Jude verses 3-7, where it explicitly states that Soddom and Gomorrah serve as an example of ' the vengeance of "eternal fire.'" And Soddom and Gomorrah was, according to Genesis 19:24-29, utterly destroyed. The content is known as a "sample" of what will happen. 2 Peter 2:6 explicitly says that God condemned them to '"extinction", making them an example of what will happen to the ungodly.'

C. You also have a host of metaphors to describe the ultimate fate of the wicked. "Like chaff that the wind drives away...the wicked will perish" (Ps 1:4,6). They will be dashed "in pieces like a potter's vessel." (Ps. 2:9). These are merely samples of the imagery the Bible uses to describe utter and complete destruction.

2) INHERENT IMMORTALITY

A. This also is in conjunction with Romans 6:23 in that the only people who are explicitly given eternal life are Christians (John 3:15-16, 10:28, 17:2/ Rom 2:7, I Cor 15:42f, 50, 54/ Gal 6:8/ I John 5:11). I believe that those who reject God's gift will not in fact receive immortality. Any hope we may have had of being inherently immortal was lost in Adam's sin (Gen 3:23-24).  John 3:16 declares that "everyone who believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." James 1:15 states that "sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death."

I think the Biblical language of destruction describes Annihilationism, and the presupposition of inherent immortality is unfounded.

3) ALL IN ALL

A. The belief that Scripture teaches unending conscious torment is inconsistent with the host of Scriptural revelation elsewhere, especially in regards to God's total victory over sin and death. If hell, and by extension sin and sinners, exists after the cosmic redemption has taken place, then God is not victorious because sin and suffering still exist. If sin still exists after the complete reconciliation of all things (Col 1:20, Eph 1:10), then there is a contradiction.

B. Annihilationism is an excellent way, I think, to hold together the passages about judgment as well as the cosmic redemption exhibited in God's unfailing love and his desire to be "all in all" (I Cor 15:28).

4) CONCLUSION

I go where the evidence leads, and I believe Scripture quite possibly teaches that the wicked will simply be no more after the end of all things. This does not mean I am not open to new evidence or arguments. I do not believe that people who believe in ETC or Universalism lack intelligence or Biblical integrity, so I offer grace as a substitute for contention.

More to come. For additional resources see:

Glenn Peoples -- http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/2011/an-open-letter-to-my-traditionalist-friends/

Theopologetics (Podcast/ Blog)

Interview -- Edward Fudge #54-55, Larry Dixon #62-63.
Debate -- Ronnie vs Turretinfan #64-65, Chris Date vs Hiram Diaz #70-71.
Post-Debate Reflections -- #72-74.

Joseph Dear -- http://3-ringbinder.blogspot.com/2010/09/explanation-of-my-controversial-though.html

Hope all is well.

--Nick

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