Sunday, August 19, 2012

Kevin Miller, "Is Universalism the new Annihilationsim?"

Thanks to a prod from Graham Ware, I’m currently reading Clark. H. Pinnock’s excellent essay The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent. Published in 1990, Pinnock’s essay critiques the “traditional” doctrine of hell as eternal torment for the wicked and argues for the (then) radical notion of Annihilationism–the belief that the “impenitent wicked suffer extinction and annihilation” rather than unending torment in hell.
Early on in the essay, Pinnock recognizes that he is embracing a minority view. Even though other prominent evangelicals, such as John Stott, were coming to similar conclusions at the time, Pinnock expresses some concerns about going public with his beliefs:
In defending the annihilation of the wicked, I realize that this is the view of a minority among evangelical theologians and church leaders and that I place myself at risk when I oppose the traditional view of hell as endless agony and torment. After all, it is a well-established tradition, and one does not oppose such a tradition without paying a price in terms of one’s reputation. Even worse, I recognize that this puts me in some odd company, a fact which is regularly used against the position I am defending, for it is usually argued that only heretics or near-heretics deny the doctrine of everlasting punishment and defend extinction. The idea is that if the Adventists or the liberals hold such a view, the view must be wrong. In this way the position can be discredited by association and not need to be taken seriously or worried about. Of course it is not much of an argument, but it proves effective with ignorant people who are taken in by rhetoric of this kind.
Fast-forward to the present, and the landscape has changed considerably. Annihilationism is still a minority position, but just over two decades after Pinnock wrote his essay, it is no longer considered an emblem of heresy or near-heresy. Even a brass-knuckled, fire and brimstone preacher like Mark Driscoll accepts Annihilationists into the fold. He still thinks they’re wrong, just not dangerously wrong. That’s a far cry from the uproar John Stott created when he “came out” as an Annihilationist in the late 1980s.
For the rest, enjoy it HERE.


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