Just to be Clear….

As I read Acts 15 last night, and as I stumbled across a recent blog post by an annihilationist friend of mine just today, I felt it necessary to say a few things in passing about where I stand on annihilationism.

1. I believe that annihilationism is heresy that entails some very bad conclusions regarding the person and work of Christ, the nature of salvation, and the nature of God’s Law.

2. However, I don’t believe that a person is not a Christian because he adheres to annihilationism.

3. To require that one believe the orthodox doctrine of hell in order to be savedwould be a damnable heresy, for it would be adding to the Gospel.

4. I don’t reject annihilationists as my  brothers in Christ.

5. However, I cannot in good conscience say that they are teaching sound doctrine, nor can I in good conscience refrain from identifying what they believe as heresy.

6. I use the word “heretic” in two senses: (a.) an adherent to a heretical teaching, or (b.)an unrepentant teacher of a heresy.

7. I do not use the words “heresy” and “heretic” as pejoratives.

8. My intention in using them is to make it clear where I stand, and to warn the unsuspecting of the dangerous nature of the teaching and teachers so identified.

I hope that I have not given the false impression that I believe one must believe in the orthodox doctrine of hell in order to be saved. That is not, nor has it ever been, my position.

The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, not an airtight eschatology.

I am truly sorry for any misunderstanding my words may have caused.
Solus Christus

-h.

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3 thoughts on “Just to be Clear….

  1. David Bishop says:

    Hiram,

    I’m glad to hear that you do not add to the Gospel. I would like to know though why you think you can assert that you count annihilationists as brothers in Christ, and yet at the same assert that an annihilationist’s view “is heresy that entails some very bad conclusions regarding the person and work of Christ, the nature of salvation, and the nature of God’s Law.” Do you often count people who believe doctrines that entail some very bad conclusions regarding the person and work of Christ, the nature of salvation, and the nature of God’s law, as brothers in Christ?

    But I would go one step further, Hiram. I would ask that you demonstrate where, let’s say, Chris Macfarlane for instance, has a doctrine of conferred immortality (annihilationism) that entails some very bad conclusions regarding the person and work of Christ, the nature of salvation, and the nature of God’s law. You should be able to demontrate this, right? You do not, after all, say some annihilationists have a view that entails some very bad conclusions. Rather, you specify all annihilationists.

    Which is why I continue to suspect that you aren’t sure what the annihilationist is really saying. You tie the doctrines of Christ’s person and work, the nature of salvation, and the nature of God’s grace itself, to a doctrine that most believing annihilationists do not tie it to. Where in Chris’s gospel, where in my gospel, where in any other believing annihilationist that you personally know or have spoken to, where in our gospel is there an atonement that is less effectual than the atonement found in yours? Where in our gospel is there a redemption, a reconciliation, a propitiation that is less perfect, less complete, less effectual, less salvific, less finished, less dependent on God’s sovereignty and grace than the reconciliation and redemption and propitiation found in yours? And yet you claim our view of conferred immortality entails some very bad conclusions regarding the person and work of Christ, the nature of salvation, and the nature of God’s law? Where?! And if so, how can you continue to refer to us as brothers? Aren’t you being inconsistent?

    Gospel faith has an object. And that object is the Christ who whose obedient death on a cross effectually obtained righteousness and immortality for His elect. The object of gospel faith is not a Christ who died to satisfy one’s opinion of eschatology. Nor is it a Christ who died to satisfy one’s opinion concerning the eternal state of the non-elect. Nor is it a Christ who died to satisfy one’s opinion concerning Spiritual gifts, the method by which God created the world, water baptism, or any other issue secondary to the true object of faith. I don’t say these are not important. Rather, I say these are not the object of my Gospel faith.

    You must realize that the gospel a gospel believing annihilationist believes is the exact same gospel you believe. The object of his faith is the same as yours. There is no difference. His view concerning the eternal state of the non-elect in no way effects his gospel. You might as well begin talking like Marc Carpenter if you think it does; castigating and then pronouncing gospel pastors lost based simply on the fact they baptized an annihilationist. You might as well begin judging by whether one celebrates Christmas or not, because it’s the same sort of issue – secondary and irrelevant to the object of gospel faith.

    I hope you will give this some thought.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Dave Bishop

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  2. hiram says:

    David,

    I appreciate your interaction with me here. For the sake of differentiating between your words and my responses, your comments are in boldface.

    “I’m glad to hear that you do not add to the Gospel. I would like to know though why you think you can assert that you count annihilationists as brothers in Christ, and yet at the same assert that an annihilationist’s view “is heresy that entails some very bad conclusions regarding the person and work of Christ, the nature of salvation, and the nature of God’s Law.” Do you often count people who believe doctrines that entail some very bad conclusions regarding the person and work of Christ, the nature of salvation, and the nature of God’s law, as brothers in Christ?”

    I think that there is a difference between someone who does not draw out the logical consequences of their professed belief in a particular doctrine of lateral importance, and someone who sees where his doctrine leads and yet persists in fighting tooth and nail against the inexorable logical conclusions his belief entails.

    Now, this is not the case with damnable heresy. If a man says that he is justified by faith and works, he is anathema, no two ways about it. That would be much different than someone not seeing the bad conclusions that his eschatological conclusions leads to.

    But I would go one step further, Hiram. I would ask that you demonstrate where, let’s say, Chris Macfarlane for instance, has a doctrine of conferred immortality (annihilationism) that entails some very bad conclusions regarding the person and work of Christ, the nature of salvation, and the nature of God’s law. You should be able to demontrate this, right? You do not, after all, say some annihilationists have a view that entails some very bad conclusions. Rather, you specify all annihilationists.

    By annihilationism I mean, generally, the doctrine that states that the reprobate will be put out of existence. Here are my short demonstrations.

    1. The Law of God: The Law demands perfect and perpetual obedience to its every one of its precepts, and promises perfect retribution for any infraction thereof. Man cannot meet either the positive demands of the Law or the punitive demands of the Law. As a man’s debt is infinite, so is his stay in the hell of fire/eternal prison where he exists under the torturers, experiencing retributive justice for his debts (cf. Matt 5:21-26; 18:23-35; Luke 12:57-59). Implicit to this is the fact that the punishment is retributive suffering that never comes to an end, for this is what the Law demands perfect justice.

    If man is annihilated, however, then that implies that his debt has been paid off by his retributive suffering. The annihilationist position, then, entails a drastic alteration of what the Law entails, and whether or not fallen man can meet either the positive or punitive demands of the Law.

    2.The Nature of Salvation Consequently, if salvation is from the wrath of God, and if the wrath of God is the endless retributive suffering that unrepentant sinners necessarily face, then annihilationism entails that the elect are saved from something very different, namely extinction. The conditionalist position teaches that the reprobate will undergo a degree of punishment commensurate with the sins that they have committed, and that this will end with their being put out of existence. However, if this is the case, then the sinner can pay back the unpayable debt he owes to God, for God will no longer require that payment be made of him by dint of retributive suffering.

    However, the situation is equally bad if one embraces a non-conditionalist form of annihilationism.

    3. The Person and Work of Christ: Insofar, therefore, as Christ is the penal substitutionary sacrifice for His people, He must have (a.)completely satisfied the positive demands of the Law (this is the active obedience of Christ), and (b.)completely satisfied the punitive demands of the Law (this is His passive obedience). The declaration “It is Finished!” only serves to underscore this, as He had drank down to the dregs the full wrath of God.

    If the wicked, however, will only suffer for a time and then cease to exist, it follows that they can pay the unpayable debt they owe God. And if this is so, then Christ’s death seems to me to be unnecessary, as the Law’s punitive demands can be met by any individual.

    [There are other textual reasons why the doctrine of annihilationism is impossible, but I’m pressed for time here ;)]

    Which is why I continue to suspect that you aren’t sure what the annihilationist is really saying. You tie the doctrines of Christ’s person and work, the nature of salvation, and the nature of God’s grace itself, to a doctrine that most believing annihilationists do not tie it to.

    I tie them to those doctrines because those doctrines are all central to the Christian faith. Consequently, I think it is necessary for me to see how those doctrines bear up under the scrutiny of Scripture’s teaching on those matters. All doctrines are tied together in one way or another. Scripture is a system of truth; therefore, I am obligated to draw the logical conclusions of a particular doctrine out.

    Where in Chris’s gospel, where in my gospel, where in any other believing annihilationis that you personally know or have spoken to, where in our gospel is there an atonement that is less effectual than the atonement found in yours?

    I don’t know of any annihilationists who have an atonement that is less effectual.

    Where in our gospel is there a redemption, a reconciliation, a propitiation that is less perfect, less complete, less effectual, less salvific, less finished, less dependent on God’s sovereignty and grace than the reconciliation and redemption and propitiation found in yours?

    Again, I don’t know of any.

    And yet you claim our view of conferred immortality entails some very bad conclusions regarding the person and work of Christ, the nature of salvation, and the nature of God’s law? Where?! And if so, how can you continue to refer to us as brothers? Aren’t you being inconsistent?

    I think it does, but not for the reasons you’ve listed here. As far as being inconsistent goes, though, I’m not being inconsistent. I understand that the doctrine of final things is lateral, and the Gospel is central. I also understand that not everyone attempts to tie together these doctrines and draw out their conclusions. So I can refer to an annihilationist as my brother if he believes the Gospel of the freely imputed righteousness of Christ without being inconsistent.

    Gospel faith has an object. And that object is the Christ who whose obedient death on a cross effectually obtained righteousness and immortality for His elect. The object of gospel faith is not a Christ who died to satisfy one’s opinion of eschatology. Nor is it a Christ who died to satisfy one’s opinion concerning the eternal state of the non-elect. Nor is it a Christ who died to satisfy one’s opinion concerning Spiritual gifts, the method by which God created the world, water baptism, or any other issue secondary to the true object of faith. I don’t say these are not important. Rather, I say these are not the object of my Gospel faith.

    I agree, David. That’s why I wrote this post :) I read McFarlane’s post, after having read Acts 15, and I thought it my duty to inform any readers I might have about where I stand. I don’t want to appear to be corrupting the Gospel by adding something to it.

    You must realize that the gospel a gospel believing annihilationist believes is the exact same gospel you believe. The object of his faith is the same as yours. There is no difference. His view concerning the eternal state of the non-elect in no way effects his gospel.

    I grant that annihilationists may believe the same exact Gospel. So, again, I agree with you here.

    You might as well begin talking like Marc Carpenter if you think it does; castigating and then pronouncing gospel pastors lost based simply on the fact they baptized an annihilationist. You might as well begin judging by whether one celebrates Christmas or not, because it’s the same sort of issue – secondary and irrelevant to the object of gospel faith.

    Lol. I pray that I won’t fall into that manner of behavior! I appreciate the warning though, and I take it to heart. I will consider these things, and try to be more measured in my responses to annihlationism.

    Solus Christus
    -h.

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