Thursday, November 29, 2012

Three Views on Hell: A Universalist Response to Annihilationism

Jason Pratt:

Chris doesn't mention the goats' narrative and thematic contexts in Matt 25's judgment. But I did as evidence for universalism!

The goats are explicitly part of the Shepherd's flock. Jesus in John 10 insists that none of His flock shall be lost, contrasting this (10:10) to the brigand who comes to {apolesĂȘ}. Does the Shepherd hopelessly apollum His flock?! Flattering Jesus as a brigand gets one of Jesus' servants thrown outside with the goats (by application) in another Matt 25 parable!

Jer 7:32-33 (echoed at Jer 17:27) refers to God's wrath poured on Jerusalem that (per 7:17) won't be quenched. The wrath didn't continue, but Jerusalem wasn't annihilated: God often promises, including in Jeremiah, to restore her!

Isaiah 30:27-33: Israel has been shattered by YHWH such that no human could remake them, and aren't penitent yet when the Assyrians overrun them (vv.15-17). God still promises they shall eventually repent and be restored with great blessings. YHWH smites the invading Assyrians to death in Gehenna valley; but calling it "Topheth" indicates YHWH rejects what happens there.

Sodom suffering "eternal fire" doesn't count as evidence for annihilation, since YHWH prophecies Sodom shall be at least resurrected (Matt 10:15, 11:24 par) and apparently restored to friendship with Israel (Ezekiel 16).

Chris affirms general resurrection, so even the bodies at Isaiah 66 (much moreso their souls) aren't annihilated. Those who feel shame are the people, who had themselves been rebelling against God again, going out to give the corpses a proper burial: sacrificial mercy to fallen enemies.

Jesus explains the unquenchable fire's spiritual purpose in Mark 9:49-50: the fire salts into peace (both ancient treatments for infection), so maggots consume a person's corruption (nasty though the treatment may seem to the person.) Jesus ends Matt 18 by warning apostles to have mercy on enemies!

Matt 5:30 warns believers, amid contexts about loving our enemies; not hating lest we go to Gehenna; and being sent to prison for refusing reconciliation. Torment isn't annihilation; and release involves reconciliation.

Christ scours the chaff off each grain in Matt 3:12 / Luke 3:17; the imagery fits tough-love salvation from sin. In JohnBapt's Malachi 4:1-3 reference, "every evildoer" burned like chaff, whose roots and branches will be set ablaze, includes the rebel Israelite leaders (to whom JohnBapt was specifically speaking) from Mal 3:1-7: but there it's a refining fire that surely will save them from sin!

Jesus says the wheat and the weeds are the "sons of the kingdom" and sinners respectively. But Jesus also warns "sons of the kingdom" who don't expect those outside the kingdom to be saved, with a related threat (Matt 8:12)!

As for Paul's "vengeance" ("justice" in Greek, which shall come to be value/honored by those who experience it) of flaming fire at 2 Thess 1:7-8, why doesn't it refer even more directly to Isaiah 2 and its extended prophecy where (unlike Isaiah 66) there are specific parallel phrases?--and which predicts the punished people will eventually serve God loyally in peace with their former enemies!

The prodigal son's father draws an explicit parallel between being lost (a cognate of {apollumi}) and being dead.

Jesus doesn't say at Matt 10:28 (or Luke's parallel) that God will destroy body and soul in Gehenna, only that God can do so. Jesus instantly follows this (in Luke as well) by talking about God's concern even for small birds. This thematically parallels another saying about God valuing people much more than birds. Jesus shortly afterward (6:27-28, Matt 6:28-30) draws a similar analogy about God's provision for flowers which, explicitly unlike even people of little faith, are effectively annihilated with fiery furnace imagery! God values people more than to annihilate them.

Annihilation happens in the Day of YHWH, the Great Sabbath when God rests from finishing His work. But Jesus challenges regarding the sabbath (Luke 6:6-11 and parallels): "Is it allowed on the sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save a soul or to destroy?" GosMark uses "kill" instead of "destroy": "kill" is the meaning of {apollumi} in mind. Matthew directly connects this (via Isaiah 42) to Jesus' mission to save those whom God's people aren't expecting.

"Restless" people (Chris' description) aren't annihilated. The term for refining gold fits more with Malachi 3 than Isaiah 34. The Temple imagery parallels sacrifices being cleaned and offered to God as a pleasing incense. The verses after Isaiah 34:10 reveal animals living safely in the area, and God healing the region along with its people. When St. Paul cites Malachi 1:2 at Romans 9:13, he indicates the result of "Esau" (Edom) being "hated": "'The older will serve the younger'". This, not annihilation, fits Jacob's prophecy: Esau shall be blessed in Jacob.

Tyre wasn't permanently destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, nor even by Alexander later: Jesus evangelized many people from Tyre, and prophesied Tyre (and Sodom) would find judgment day more tolerable than Galilee! Annihilation isn't more tolerable than annihilation.

Chris thinks God overcomes death by sentencing sinners to permanent death!

If stopping an abstract kingdom's dominion parallels annihilation, God must annihilate every sinner along with our rebel dominion.

Daniel 2:44: God did not simply destroy the Roman kingdom but transformed and incorporated it into Christ's new kingdom.

Dan 7:27 refers to a king (not a kingdom) whose kingdom and dominion shall not be annihilated (in the sense required).

The false prophet and the devil are thrown into the lake of fire along with the beast to be tormented into the eons of the eons: but annihilation cannot involve continuing "torment", and the beast cannot be tormented if the beast is only an abstract kingdom.

Rev 19:20: Christ slays the final rebel kings in language directly echoing the salvific 23rd Psalm! The "kings of the earth" (same phrase) show up in chapter 21 following Christ into the New Jerusalem, bringing the nations' glories with them; echoing Ezekiel's similar prophecy that even the kings of Israel's enemies will reconcile with her in the day of YHWH.


The original post.
The longer critical response.

1 comment:

  1. Apologies in advance (or since this is a comment, apologies after the fact {wry g}) for the brusqueness of the rebuttal--but I wanted to cover as many topics as possible from Chris' introductory argument, and I was trimming down to under 1Kwords from an original rebuttal of over 3K.

    The longer version, linked by Nick above at the end, features more detailed discussion, and more credit for Chris, too. {s!} Consider this a short and punchy topical overview.

    Thanks again to Nick for hosting our three-way debate! Next up, I'll be working on comments to Joe Dear's rebuttal of my introductory argument.

    Note: my rebuttal (and this comment) was written before reading and responding to JD's rebuttal of my own introductory argument--it's entirely possible I may adjust or correct some of the data/rationale claims later.