There is still talk about the Whipps/Date debate, so it’s been hard for me to dwell on much else besides the topic of annihilationism. And when I downloaded this Friday’s Dividing Line in order to avoid thinking about the subject, I was surprised to hear that Dr. White’s podcast was also about annihilationism. It seems that I can’t escape the topic!
Dr. White’s comments were helpful, as he underscored one of the main reasons why annihilationism is logically and theologically absurd – its hermeneuticaal procedure. But I was disappointed that White didn’t get to delve into the topic further, as I’m sure he would have presented an analysis of the texts under consideration that would have given Date and other annihilationists something to think about.
Also disappointing was the fact that White’s short criticism seemed to unnecessarily concede ground to the annihilationists in the area of exegesis, and I have not yet encountered an annihilationist who accurately deals with Scripture. More commonly, they machine-gun-fire numerous Scripture references that seem to lend support to their error, but which do no such thing when read in their original contexts. This could have been due to the fact that he was not intending to deal with the subject for the whole time on his show. And that is understandable. I guess I just find it frustrating that annihilationists build their “exegetical case” from strands of images divorced from their contexts, as well as some phrases also taken out of their contexts, and then confidently assert that the bible teaches annihilationism.
Date, for instance, in his debate with Whipps referenced Matthew 18:7 and its use of the phrase eternal fire, but did not address the context in which it appeared. Christ’s use of that phrase (which He parallels with the phrase “fire of hell” in v.9) occurs in a discourse that Christ is giving to His disciples on the nature of His kingdom on earth and in heaven, His protection of His sheep on earth, the judgment of the wicked through the instrument of excommunication as exercised by the church, and the endless retributive suffering awaiting those who persist in sin, abuse Christ’s sheep, and show no mercy to them. The wicked are said to be “handed over to the torturers” by the Master until they have paid every last cent of a debt that they can never pay! (cf. Matt 18:15-35)
Date also neglected to deal with the fact Christ identifies the worst form of capital punishment (i.e. death by millstone drowning) as preferable to the judgment of God awaiting the wicked. Neither did Date deal with the fact that Christ also identifies self-mutilation as preferable to the eternal fire. Why does Christ choose among the most gruesome experiences a person can have, identifying them as preferable to the judgment of God?
Moreover, beyond his silence on the overall context of Matthew 18, Date also failed to explain how it is that he, on the one hand, sees eternal fire as signifying the literal extinction of the reprobate, and yet, on the other hand, interprets self-mutilation as a means of procuring one’s entrance into the kingdom of God in a figurative manner. There is absolutely no consistency to this particular way of reading the Scriptures. And yet, the claim is that annihilationism is the clear teaching of the Scriptures.
Who decides that self-mutilation as a means of procuring one’s entrance into God’s kingdom is only figurative, but being burnt to ashes is literal in this instance? The choice to switch from figurative to literalistic is not at all promtped by the text. Annihilationists simply want to read the text that way, so they do.
I don’t think we should concede even an inch of space to annihilationists in the area of exegesis. Why? Because I am stubbornly clinging to a false belief, a tradition that has no Scriptural foundation?
Not at all.
We should not concede even an inch to the annihilationists because, well, they are not dealing with the Scriptures accurately. To say that they have an exegetical case is to, in my opinion, concede the same exegetical case to many others who openly reject the Christian faith by means of argumentation arising from the same flawed and unbiblical hermeneutic utilized by Fudge & Co.