A Few Thoughts on the Date/Whipps Debate

The recent debate on the nature of the final end of the wicked was a hard one to listen to. I had hoped and prayed that Date would come to see the nature of his errors and recant of the position that he holds to. But as the debate went on I abandoned that hope. Whipp’s opening presentation showed that Date’s position was, even in Date’s own understanding, one possibility. Date explained this as merely being an expression of his own fallibility, but the problem is this: Christ came to save men from eternal punishment. If one does not know what a man is, then how can one confidently attempt to teach others (i.)the nature of man’s condemnation and (ii.)the nature of man’s salvation?

Now, I am not saying that someone has to have a thoroughly fleshed out anthropology in order to be saved. Not at all. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, who bore the sins of His people on Calvary, was buried, and rose three days late, all according to the Scriptures. However, if one does not understand how the doctrine of man informs and is informed by the doctrine of God (to give just one of the many doctrines involved in the debate over the nature of hell), then he should not be confidently asserting that his doctrine is the truth. What is central to all Christian doctrine is the Gospel, and implicit to the Gospel lies a host of doctrines that are explicitly affected by the Gospel. Annihilationism, when fully fleshed out, is at odds with the Gospel. And while Date doesn’t see this to be the case, those who follow his podcast may follow his reasoning to its inevitable end.

Clark Pinnock is an excellent example of where the annihilationist’s interpretation of Scripture leads. How does one understand statements in Scripture regarding God “changing His mind” in light of the “traditional” doctrine of the Omniscience of God? How does one understand the words “Now I know that you fear God…” etc [Gen 22:12]? Clearly Pinnock had a correct understanding of God, since he simply followed what the text says? These propositions about the nature of God’s mind, after all, are made in historical narratives and should, therefore, be interpreted accordingly…..right? As a professed Calvinist, Date would no doubt reject Pinnock’s open theism, but upon what logical grounds? Pinnock is, after all, just following the text of Scripture…..right?

Well…No. Pinnock filtered the data of Scripture through a network of unbiblical presuppositons, and then carefully molded the resultant mass of confusion into a deity after his own image. I can affirm and prove this, but how can a professedly Calvinistic Christian who uses the same interpretive method in defense of the doctrine of annihilationism affirm and prove it? He has no basis upon which to do so.

{On a related side note, Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega ministries on today’s Dividing Line podcast spent quite a bit of time explaining why there are no neutral facts. You can check out the podcast here.}

Since the debate, C.L. Bolt over at choosinghats.com has written up a good overview of the debate, adding his own concerns about Chris Date’s teaching. You can find it here. Bolt’s concerns are valid and should treated as such.

For myself, while I am concerned for Chris Date, I am equally concerned for Christ’s sheep who may stumble into theological error as a result of the position that Date espouses and seeks to identify as Biblical. Christ says the fate of the one who causes even one of His little ones to stumble is worse than  having a millstone tied around one’s neck, being cast into the depths of the sea, and dying a violent death. How much worse, then, is the fate awaiting those who cause multitudes of Christ’s sheep to stumble?

-h.

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