"Second, belief in the outright annihilation of nonbelievers after final judgment (as opposed to an eternal punishment) seems to me biblically illegitimate. I suspect some Christians whose loved ones die without accepting Christ are tempted to embrace the annihilationist view. Scripture, however, seems to show that one aspect of human dignity is that we are built to last. Whether for joy or for sorrow, our souls are eternal."J.I. Packer, known as a capable theologian, has gravely misunderstood and mischaracterized the annihilationist position. There are multiple issues within this section, but I do not have the time (or patience) to sift through each one. Since this is a popular retread on twitter and the Internet, allow me to offer a brief rebuttal. I had thought about responding to the entire article, but time limits me.
One, Packer gives us no reason to see annihilationism as biblically illegitimate. By tying it with the "annihilationists are emotional" argument, he ceases to give any respectable response as a straw man is easier to beat up than the annihilationist argument is to genuinely refute. He doesn't offer the consideration that those who hold to the view do so because of exegesis and a high view of Scripture.
Two, I have no moral qualms with eternal conscious torment (though I do -- now -- because I think it is false). Frankly, this is insulting. Several of my friends and relatives have passed on, and this had no prompt in my abandoning of the traditional view of hell. God's justice would be satisfied in eternal conscious torment, if such a view were true. In fact, the idea that I would never see them again is tragic and one that I wish I wouldn't have to experience.
Three, a central aspect of human dignity is that we are created, not that we are built to last. Packer seems to place a high view of humanity in his comment, whereas the annihilationist (Reformed or otherwise) would simply shrug and say that YWHW is the only Creator and thus has the final say over the created. If I were a Calvinist, and had such a view of YHWH, very little would change since I am utterly dependent on YHWH as my very source and existence.
As someone who leans towards Weslyanism, I find this coordinate as well.
Four, Packer offers a detached assertion that our souls are eternal. This is nowhere stated in Scripture and it simply assumed on his part. He doesn't address that Paul spoke of those who seek "immortality" (Romans 2), that Jesus offers "eternal life" (Synoptics especially Matthew and John) and that only YHWH is immortal (Romans 1:23, 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; see also Wisdom Literature and Sriach 17:30 which states that human beings are not immortal).
I think much more could be said, but I'm out of time and need to rush off. Thanks for reading.
For the source, enjoy it here.
For a comprehensive examination of the biblical data (one that I find compelling and moderately persuasive, see Edward Fudge "The Fire that Consumes" and Andrew Perriman "The Coming of the Son of Man."