Sure as Hell: Is Scripture really clear about final punishment?

Sure as Hell: Is Scripture really clear about final punishment?

In a recent discussion with Chris Date on the Rethinking Hell podcast, Professor Jerry Walls of Houston Baptist University expressed his incredulity that we could think the Bible is really so clear on the subject of hell. But I don’t think his reasons for giving up that certainty are particularly compelling.

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What I would have to deny in order to teach eternal torment

What I would have to deny in order to teach eternal torment

For some people, the concept of hell as a state of eternal torment is so central to their faith and their portrait of God that giving it up would mean giving up the faith altogether: giving up the authority of Jesus; giving up, in principle, the authority of Scripture; discarding the testimony of the church; and ultimately denying the gospel. This is the stance Tim Challies takes, somberly telling his readers that “If I am going to give up hell, I am going to give up the gospel and replace it with a new one.” Of course, by “hell,” he means eternal torment, not the biblical picture of final judgement and the loss of life and being forever.

Setting aside more popularist visions of hell like that of Challies and turning to the biblical account of life, death, judgment, and eternity, we could ask a similar question: If we were to give up the biblical position of immortality and eternal life found in Christ alone and to instead embrace the doctrine of eternal torment, what would we have to give up? What would be the cost of embracing the traditional view instead of the biblical one?

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Answering Answers in Genesis: An Infinitely Bad Argument

Answering Answers in Genesis: An Infinitely Bad Argument

RETHINKING Hell doesn’t take a stance on many issues other than final punishment, including questions about the age of the earth or the right way to interpret the creation narratives in the book of Genesis. Some of our team members are sympathetic to Answers In Genesis’s points of view on these matters, others less so. If you want to hear two fine fellows who share AIG’s stance, you can listen to Chris Date interviewing Chuck McKnight, whom AIG forced to resign (i.e. fired) when they learned that he held to (what we consider to be) a biblical view of judgment.

Speaking of Answers in Genesis and fire, while Rethinking Hell does not take a stance on such secondary matters as the right way to read early Genesis, Answers in Genesis does take a strong view on the doctrine of hell. This was brought to the forefront again recently when AIG published an article by Tim Challies called “What Kind of God Would Condemn People to Eternal Torment?

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Hell in the Times: Were the Early Church Fathers “Vague” in Their Support of Conditional Immortality?

Hell in the Times: Were the Early Church Fathers “Vague” in Their Support of Conditional Immortality?

Rethinking Hell was recently brought to the attention of readers of the New York Times, along with work of Edward Fudge and the subject of conditional immortality. Not too shabby! In the article, one theologian dismissed the comments of Church Fathers who supported conditional immortality as “vague.” But are they really? Read more about Hell in the Times: Were the Early Church Fathers “Vague” in Their Support of Conditional Immortality?

What the Qal? Revisiting the Unquenched Fire

What the Qal? Revisiting the Unquenched Fire

Does “their fire shall not be quenched” in Isaiah 66:24 really allow for a fire that consumes and then goes out? Or is there a serious challenge to this claim that we have not seen before?

Adam Blauser, a blogger over at Old Testament Studies Blog has been giving us some free rent in his mind of late and has invested a bit of time responding to blog entries here at Rethinking Hell. In his first response Blauser takes issue with my article about the meaning of apollumi in the synoptic gospels. He grants the fact that the term means literally kill and destroy in the examples I discuss but insists that this does not literally inform the word’s meaning when it is used to describe final punishment, for it is wrong to assume that the word there carries the meaning that it universally carries in grammatically similar instances. This is because hell is an eternal matter and we can’t assume that words carry their normal meaning, the meaning they have in normal speech discussing natural matters, when we are speaking about the affairs of the age to come. I responded in the comments section over there and while the argument isn’t substantial enough to warrant lengthy comment here I shall describe it very briefly: Scripture speaks literally about eternal matters with the same language that we use in normal speech about natural affairs all the time. When it comes to apollumi—which, as I showed, in grammatically similar contexts always carries the strong meaning of literally kill or destroy—and the subject is final punishment, the only reason we would have for resisting a natural meaning for that word is if we began by assuming that there is something about final punishment that is not compatible with literal destruction. But how else are we to know what scripture teaches about final punishment if not by learning from the terms that it uses to do so?

However, in a second article on annihilationism, Blauser maintains that he has discovered and provided solid linguistic proof that we have made a mistake when interpreting Isaiah 66. As this is a more falsifiable claim, I was curious to have a look at the evidence. In short, although Blauser invests some time and space reproducing what he takes to be good evidence in fairly technical detail, his claim turns out to crucially depend on assumptions about Hebrew verbs that are simply incorrect, namely, that the form of the verb used in Isaiah 66:24 cannot have a passive meaning due to its stem. In fact, once we review the evidence we find that it only offers further support for our conclusion.

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Fighting for the Fire: The Sinking of Pirate Christian Radio’s Case Against Annihilationism

Fighting for the Fire: The Sinking of Pirate Christian Radio’s Case Against Annihilationism

Avast, ye!Someone recently brought my attention to the fact that Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio and “Fighting for the Faith” recently offered some criticisms of my summary of the positive biblical case for annihilationism in episode 4. Here are my thoughts on the criticisms, which, so it seems to me, go the way of many scurvy criticisms that came before – straight to Davy Jones’ locker. Read more about Fighting for the Fire: The Sinking of Pirate Christian Radio’s Case Against Annihilationism