Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 8c) – Josephus’ Writings

Josephus

In previous articles, more specifically 8a & 8b, I highlighted how Chris Date uses a passage of Josephus’ works to wrongly assert how the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are not currently undergoing eternal conscious torment in eternal fire. Even though the Greek grammar and discourse of Jude certainly affirms that the inhabitants are presently undergoing a punishment of eternal fire, Chris takes a passage from Josephus, where similar words are used, to help him exegete the text. But even though the words are the same, the context and semantics are starkly different. If you have not read article 8b, please do so to get context. But here is a brief understanding of what we are looking at.

Jude 7 says:

just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

ὡς Σόδομα καὶ Γόμορρα καὶ αἱ περὶ αὐτὰς πόλεις τὸν ὅμοιον τρόπον τούτοις ἐκπορνεύσασαι καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας πρόκεινται (serve – present tense, main verb) δεῖγμα (example) πυρὸς (fire) αἰωνίου (eternal) δίκην (punishment) ὑπέχουσαι (undergoing – present tense, participle of means)

The color coding will make sense in a bit. Chris Date (and other conditionalists) believe that Jude is not affirming present suffering when dealing with how Sodom is “serving” as an example, but that he is referring to the historical record found in Genesis. In other words, when you go back to read Genesis, the presentness of serving as an example to us is found “via the historical record of their past destruction” as Chris puts it (see article 8b for reference). He then uses Josephus Wars of the Jews passage (6.103) to try and validate his claim on how a present tense verb can be used in the context of talking about a past event. Which I can agree, depending on the context. But of course, syntax and grammar aren’t always thoughtfully considered. Here is the Josephus passage that Chris is referring to.

“But still, John, it is never dishonorable to repent, and amend what hath been done amiss, even at the last extremity. Thou hast an instance before thee in Jechoniah, the king of the Jews, if thou hast a mind to save the city, who, when the king of Babylon made war against him, did of his own accord go out of this city before it was taken, and did undergo a voluntary captivity with his family, that the sanctuary might not be delivered up to the enemy, and that he might not see the house of God set on fire; on which account he is celebrated among all the Jews, in their sacred memorials, and his memory is become immortal, and will be conveyed fresh down to our posterity through all ages. This, John, is an excellent example in such a time of danger, and I dare venture to promise that the Romans shall still forgive thee.”

Here is it again in Greek:

[103] ἀλλά τοι, Ἰωάννη, καὶ μετανοῆσαι μὲν ἐκ κακῶν οὐκ αἰσχρὸν ἐν ἐσχάτοις καὶ καλὸν ὑπόδειγμα βουλομένῳ σώζειν τὴν πατρίδα σοι πρόκειται (present tense) βασιλεὺς Ἰουδαίων Ἰεχονίας, [104] ὅς ποτε στρατεύσαντι τῷ Βαβυλωνίῳ δι᾽ αὐτὸν ἑκὼν ἐξέστη πρὶν ἁλῶναι τῆς πόλεως καὶ μετὰ γενεᾶς αἰχμαλωσίαν ὑπέμεινεν ἐθελούσιον ὑπὲρ τοῦ μὴ παραδοῦναι ταῦτα πολεμίοις τὰ ἅγια καὶ τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ περιιδεῖν φλεγόμενον. [105] διὰ τοῦτο λόγος τε αὐτὸν πρὸς ἁπάντων Ἰουδαίων ἱερὸς ὑμνεῖ καὶ μνήμη ῥέουσα δι᾽ αἰῶνος ἀεὶ νέα τοῖς ἐπιγινομένοις παραδίδωσιν ἀθάνατον. [106] καλόν, ὦ Ἰωάννη, ὑπόδειγμα, κἂν προσῇ κίνδυνος: ἐγὼ δέ σοι καὶ τὴν ἀπὸ Ῥωμαίων συγγνώμην ἐγγυῶμαι.

Let’s make this as simple as possible for every reader. If you notice, the words from Jude 7 and Josephus have been color coded to show word relationship. The one, blaring thing that you must pay attention to is what is missing from Josephus’ passage that Jude has. That is, a present participle of means!

When you read Josephus, you can clearly see that the word Chris Date uses to make his point (πρόκειται) is the same word found in Jude, just singular form instead of plural, and it is indeed present tense. So far so good. Furthermore, Josephus talks about how King Jechoniah’s actions in the Old Testament are laid out before (πρόκειται) him (present tense) as an example for John (the recipient) via the historical record. No worries here either. This is perfectly normal usage in language. However, the mistake is to make a faulty comparison that just because πρόκειται is used in both passages, the semantics are the same. Not only that, as I already mentioned, what is missing from Josephus’ passage that is found in Jude?  Our participle of means (ὑπέχουσαι) which expounds upon and extrapolates how Sodom and Gomorrah are serving as an example – by presently undergoing a punishment of eternal fire! If you look at Josephus’ passage, you see no such participle modifying or clarifying πρόκειται like it does in Jude. As I already mentioned in article 8b, if you are going to make a comparison, especially if you are going to go outside of Scripture to do so, at the very least, you should find another context that uses identical linguistics to make your point. This is a fatal mistake, but not literally fatal of course.

***Note: I wrote this article months ago, but withheld it to see what conditionalists would say about my previous article on this topic. Now that Chris Date and I have debated, my suspicions have been verified. You can see the debate here.

And you can see my clarifications on this point here. 

-Until we go home

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Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 10) – Did Augustine believe Annihilation was worse than Conscious Torment?

St-Augustine-of-Hippo

Why I keep stumbling upon quotes taken out of context by Rethinking Hell and some of their social media warriors is beyond me. At this point, it is predictable to see conditionalists take such easy reads out of context just so they can support their position. I am really trying hard to just stay away from these kinds of low hanging fruit, but like whack-a-moles, they just keep popping up at every turn. In our present case, there is a particular point made about Augustine that really needs to be erased from Rethinking Hell’s playlist.

In Augustine’s City of God, Book 11, Ch 27 Augustine gives an analogy about those that would rather exist and live in misery, than to be “annihilated” (A more modern translation can be found here). It is because of this kind of language that Peter Grice, Christopher Ray, Chris Date, other conditionalists jump on their opportunity. In typical, out-of-context fashion, Peter Grice quotes Augustine saying:

“When Augustine—whose view of eternal torment is far from gentle—weighs in on the question of which would be worse, he strongly opposes the scales used by Piper and others today:

If those wretches were offered immortality, on the condition that their misery would be undying, with the alternative that if they refused to live for ever in the same misery they would cease to have any existence at all, and would perish utterly, then they would certainly be overjoyed to choose perpetual misery in preference to complete annihilation.” (emphasis mine)

This is in response most of the time to those that wish to make the claim that eternal conscious torment (ECT) is worse than annihilation. Though this isn’t their primary argument, it is sprinkled in the mix. And just recently, Peter Grice commented on someone’s Facebook meme by stating:
Peter Grice, Augustine reference, Annihilation Harsher than ECT

Did Augustine really argue that annihilation was harsher than ECT? Christopher Ray, another Rethinking Hell contributor, seems to think so. He says in one of his points to J. Warner Wallace:

 “What Wallace does not seem to understand is that, in the mind of many, the complete cessation of life, the blotting out of existence, is the ultimate punishment. According to some people like Augustine, annihilation is a more severe, more undesirable penalty than eternal torment, and therefore one could argue that annihilationists take sin even more seriously than their traditionalist counterparts. It is no coincidence that governments around the world and across millennia have reserved capital punishment for the most heinous of crimes. So, if one is simply looking to find the worst possible punishment to hang their theological hat on, there is certainly a compelling case that annihilation fits the bill.

As you can read above, both authors feel as though Augustine makes a contrastive argument against ECT by stating that annihilation is worse, harsher, more severe, and undesirable. And both quote Augustine’s City of God to do it. Let’s see what Augustine says. Please pay attention to the emphases, as they are key to understanding the true meaning and sense behind what Augustine is saying.

 “Mere existence is desirable in virtue of a kind of natural property. So much so that even those that are wretched are for this very reason unwilling to die; and even when they are aware of their misery they do not wish to be removed from this world. Instead of this, they want their wretchedness taken away. This is true even of those who appear utterly wretched to themselves and who clearly are so, and of those whom the wise account wretched because of their folly, and also of those whose poverty and beggary makes them wretched in judgment of men who regard themselves as happy. If those wretched are offered immortality, on the on the condition that their misery would be undying, with the alternative that if they refused to live forever in the same misery they would cease to have any existence at all, and would perish utterly, then they would certainly be overjoyed to choose perpetual misery in preference to annihilation.”

“This reaction is the most [unchallengeable] evidence of the fact that we are examining. For why should men fear to die, and prefer to live in such distress than to end it by dying? The only reason is the natural revulsion from annihilation. And that is the reason why men, although they know that they are destined to die, long for mercy to be granted to them, as a great boon, the mercy, that is, of an extension of life in this pitiable state, and the deferment of their death. This shows without any shadow of doubt that they would grasp at the offer of immortality, with the greatest delight, even an immortality which would offer no end to their beggarly condition.” – (City of God, Book 11, Ch 27)

Augustine goes on with an illustration that even animals and plants are endowed with natural instinct to survive and take “every possible action to escape destruction.” In other words, nature has an inherent inclination that says, “We don’t want to die.”

Even though there is more argumentation that Augustine is building upon prior to making his point above, ask yourself one question: Where on earth is Augustine comparing annihilationism (according to Rethinking Hell’s definition) with eternal conscious torment in mind? Nowhere! Just analyzing this discourse alone, it is clear that Augustine’s main point is that mankind has a natural instinct to live! And that they hate death or dying. No surprise there. And that if they were given the choice to live in this world with the fallen consequences of their sinful choices (folly), and/or in beggary and poverty, or die, they would rather choose to live in that same misery, perpetually. They would choose the pitiable state and the distress they are in, over against being wiped out from the earth (aka annihilated, which is another term often used in various contexts, including this one, to describe the first death without any reference or entailment concerning the second). If Augustine was trying to say that annihilation in contrast to ETC is more severe, more harsh, more undesirable as Rethinking Hell would like you to believe, he certainly didn’t get the memo.

It is disheartening to me that conditionalists continue to perpetuate these kinds of arguments. You can’t make that kind of semantic leap that these men make when Augustine’s analogy was clearly moving in a different direction. But, even if that is the direction Augustine wanted to go, we are still only given two choices in this analogy. Annihilation (aka dying the first death) or this present life. I would say yes to living too if those were my options. But that isn’t our options. Augustine knew that. Athanasius knew that. And Irenaeus knew that. Conscious Torment is the biblical reality. And given a choice between living in this world or ECT, I still would choose this life! But Augustine’s point was not even close to what these men above are saying. The simple thesis is that man naturally wants to live and exist in this world. It was a sub-point to the greater argument he was developing. And in their current existence, they would do anything they could to extend and maintain that existence, even if life was extremely miserable in most cases (although many do commit suicide, seeking escape. But that is another discussion). There is no contrast here between final annihilation and eternal conscious torment. Because that kind of misery doesn’t compare to the type of misery Augustine had in mind here. You can’t make that kind of application even principally.

-Until we go home

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 9a) – Athanasius

athanasius the great

I wanted to deal with this low hanging fruit long ago, but to me it should seem obvious to a normal reader that Athanasius was not a annihilationist/conditionalist. As always, you have to examine the context of any writing. Not only the surrounding text, but other variables like, historical timeframe, audience, speaker, culture, location, semantics, or in this case, other literary works that place the gems of history in their proper setting upon the crown of context. All that to say that if one were to just take the time to pick up two of Athanasius’ most popular and interrelated works, they would quickly pull the rug under those that believe he was a conditionalist. The evidence will be easy to reference.

Who said it?

Glenn Peoples made a video about which early church fathers believed in conditonalism. You can see the part where he mentions Athanasius here.  Aside from the clipped and edited quotes that clearly do not represent Athanasius’ position in context, Glenn is using his own interpretation of Athanasius’ words and reading them into words like “non-existence” and “destruction.” As you will see in part 9b in this series, these words were used with nuance by Athanasius. You will also notice that the majority of the time, conditionalists tend to quote from Anthanasius’ work entitled On The Incarnation. But they neglect to mention that this work was part II of his previous work Against the HeathenUnfortunately, because of videos like this, men like Preston Sprinkle, Chris Date, and others, are stuck in the proverbial echo chamber of conditonalist propaganda. And time and time again, they continue to purposefully or neglectfully spread false information like this out of context whenever the subject of church fathers are brought up. Let’s put this particular father to rest.

Note: As I mentioned before in my previous articles, the views of the church fathers pale in comparison to God’s word which testifies to the veracity of eternal conscious torment. I seek to address this only as a matter of exposing the varying avenues conditonalist leaders will take to push this view. So believe me when I say, God’s word is clear that the wicked will be tormented forever. And Athanasius believed that.

A Tale of Two Books

As I alluded to already, Athanasius had two books which were were essentially his thesis on the human condition and the necessity of Christ’s incarnation to save us from that condition. But conditionalists love to quote from the second book On The Incarnation, while neglecting to read it through the foundation laid down in the first book Against the Heathen. To be brief, The main purpose of Against the Heathen in Athanasius’ own words is to “[vindicate] Christian doctrine, and especially the cross, against the scoffing objection of Gentiles” (Introduction). It is divided into three main parts through which he argues:

  1. Against the (non)existence of evil as a substance and its relationship to the worship of idols and how this affects our degeneration into immorality.
  2. The immortality of the soul and its relationship to God by worshiping Him who is eternal rather than idols.
  3. The divine, monotheistic, and sovereign presence of Christ the Word in creation and the necessity of our corrupt nature to be restored to Him.

These, of course, are my summaries. You can read all the contemporary issues that he goes into yourself, but our goal here is to make a quick work by focusing on Part I where Athanasius explicitly affirms his belief of the immortality of the soul. And if you know anything about conditonalism, this doctrine is one of the first things they challenge.

The Immortality of the Soul

In case you didn’t watch the video, here is the popular quote from Incarnation that Glenn Peoples used in the video above, and that many annihilationists use:

For transgression of the commandment was turning them back to their natural state, so that just as they have had their being out of nothing, so also, as might be expected, they might look for corruption into nothing in the course of time. 5. For if, out of a former normal state of non-existence, they were called into being by the Presence and loving-kindness of the Word, it followed naturally that when men were bereft of the knowledge of God and were turned back yto what was not (for what is evil is not, but what is good is), they should, since they derive their being from God who IS, be everlastingly bereft even of being; in other words, that they should be disintegrated and abide in death and corruption (Section 4, para. 4b thru 5, emphasis mine).

There are different translations to this work of course. And I fully intend to deal with Athanasius’ philosophical and natural nuance of “non-existence” and going back into “nothing” in the future. However, we must first deal with this fundamental question. Did Athanasius really believe that those outside of Christ are eventually annihilated? Since this can be a bit loaded, let’s shave that question down a bit. Because annihilation can refer to just the first death only. A linguistic nuance that conditionalists often manipulate to their advantage. So let’s make it more specific. Does Athanasius believe that the soul will also eventually be annihilated after the first death? This question is answered in his own words. 

In Against the Heathen, Athanasius first discusses how the soul is rational and distinct from the body (Part II, Sections 30 thru 31). Then, in Sect. 32, he expounds a little more on the rationality and eternality of the soul because it thinks of and imagines things that are immaterial and eternal. He further remarks that the mortal body of itself does not have this capability to ponder such things, and that this is one proof of a rational and immortal soul ruling the body. But it is in Sect. 33 where Athanasius drops the bomb on conditionalist conspirators by saying, “But that the soul is made immortal is a further point in the Church’s teaching which you must know, to show how idols are to be overthrown.” He also states, “For if our argument has proved it (the soul) to be distinct from the body, while the body is by nature mortal, it follows that the soul is immortal, because it is not like the body.” But if we really want to receive a full blown, in context, demonstration of what Athanasius’ believed about the immortality of the soul, read this excerpt from sect. 33, and pay attention to the emphasis:

“2. And again, if as we have shown, the soul moves the body and is not moved by other things, it follows that the movement of the soul is spontaneous, and that this spontaneous movement goes on after the body is laid aside in the earth. If then the soul were moved by the body, it would follow that the severance of its motor would involve its death. But if the soul moves the body also, it follows all the more that it moves itself. But if moved by itself , it follows that it outlives the body. 3. For the movement of the soul is the same thing as its life, just as, of course, we call the body alive when it moves, and say that its death takes place when it ceases moving. But this can be made clearer once for all from the action of the soul in the body. For if even when united and coupled with the body it is not shut in or commensurate with the small dimensions of the body, but often , when the body lies in bed, not moving, but in death-like sleep, the soul keeps awake by virtue of its own power, and transcends the natural power of the body, and as though travelling away from the body while remaining in it, imagines and beholds things above the earth, and often even holds converse with the saints and angels who are above earthly and bodily existence, and approaches them in the confidence of the purity of its intelligence; shall it not all the more, when separated from the body at the time appointed by God Who coupled them together, have its knowledge of immortality more clear? For if even when coupled with the body it lived a life outside the body, much more shall its life continue after the death of the body, and live without ceasing by reason of God Who made it thus by His own Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. 4. For this is the reason why the soul thinks of and bears in mind things immortal and eternal, namely, because it is itself immortal. And just as, the body being mortal, its senses also have mortal things as their objects, so, since the soul contemplates and beholds immortal things, it follows that it is immortal and lives forever. For ideas and thoughts about immortality never desert the soul, but abide in it, and are as it were the fuel in it which ensures its immortality. This then is why the soul has the capacity for beholding God, and is its own way thereto, receiving not from without but from herself the knowledge and apprehension of the Word of God.”

Now, let it be known that I don’t agree with the logic in his argumentation. But let it also be known that if we are going to read Athanasius through an historically honest filter, we must take all of his work into consideration. Unless there is a flat out denial, or a confessional change of belief that can be argued, we have no choice but to assume that Athanasius believed in the immortality of the soul, and not in annihilationism as Glenn Peoples and those who parrot would have it. And anything written afterwards should be understood in relation to what was written here. Because to understand his Part II (Incarnation), you must keep in mind Part I, which Athanasius also reminds us to do. Which leads me to my final point.

Change of Mind?

Just in case this is brought up, is it possible that Athanasius could have had a change of mind? Could he have changed his understanding of eternal torment and the immortality of the soul when writing Part II of his work, On The Incarnation? Sure. Anything is possible. But this is really hard to believe when at least three times he purposefully references back to what was formerly written in order to make some of his points in the Incarnation (see 1. Introduction, & Sect. 4 and 11). In light of this, we must interpret any passage quoted by conditionalists through the lens of what we know of Athanasius’ position on the immorality of the soul. They should now read very differently. And in case you are a bit skeptical still, consider what he wrote toward the conclusion of Incarnation:

“He (Jesus) is to come, no more to suffer, but thenceforth to render to all the fruit of His own Cross, that is, the resurrection and incorruption; and no longer to be judged, but to judge all, by what each has done in the body, whether good or evil; where there is laid up for the good the kingdom of heaven, but for them that have done evil everlasting fire and outer darkness.

And also in Against the Heathen:

“For just as for them who walk after His example, the prize is life everlasting, so for those who walk the opposite way, and not that of virtue, there is great shame, and peril without pardon in the day of judgment, because although they knew the way of truth their acts were contrary to their knowledge.”

Couple these quotes together with his affirmation of the immortality of the soul, we can draw some good educated conclusions about what he believed. And no, he wasn’t just using biblical language, giving us no indication whether he really believed in conscious torment like some conditionalist would have us believe.

But I still sense a bit of skepticism, even in the face of these above. So in a second, I will show one more of Athanasius’ writings that will hopefully push you further away from believing this annihilationistic conspiracy. But before I do, I really have to ask, what is it about the above writings that conditionalists leaders fail to understand? Why do we always have to play these linguistic games where conditionalists say, “Well, he was just using biblical language.” Or that “He mentions everlasting fire and peril without pardon, but that still doesn’t mean that he meant unending torment.” Two can play that game though. Because it doesn’t imply that the torment will cease either! And it certainly doesn’t imply annihilation! I might grant “peril without pardon” if one feels like it isn’t explicit enough. But in light of what Athanasius believes about the immortality of the soul, if he truly believed that the lost will ultimately be annihilated (as is proposed by Rethinking hell and their followers) why not mention that ultimate end in these two passages? Was he really just using biblical language, or just affirming an already established truth concerning the eternal torment of the wicked?

Now let’s look at a portion of Festal Letter #7 written circa 335 AD, approximately 10-20 years after Incarnation and Against the Heathen, and see if perhaps Athanasius changed his mind over time. And in light of what we have read concerning his position on the immortality of the soul, which was never contradicted or recanted as far as I have researched, ask yourself what do you think he means in light of what he said he believes.

“But it is the soul which they bury in sins and follies, drawing near to the dead, and satisfying it with dead nourishment; like young eagles which, from high places, fly upon the carcasses of the dead, and which the law prohibited, commanding figuratively, ‘You shall not eat the eagle, nor any other bird that feeds on a dead carcass Leviticus 11:13;’ and it pronounced unclean whatsoever eats the dead. But these kill the soul with lusts, and say nothing but, ‘let us eat and drink, for to morrow we die Isaiah 22:13.’ And the kind of fruit those have who thus love pleasures, he immediately describes, adding, ‘And these things are revealed in the ears of the Lord of Hosts, that this sin shall not be forgiven you until you die.’ Yea, even while they live they shall be ashamed, because they consider their belly their lord; and when dead, they shall be tormented, because they have made a boast of such a death. To this effect also Paul bears witness, saying, ‘Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them 1 Corinthians 6:13.’ And the divine word declared before concerning them; ‘The death of sinners is evil, and those who hate the righteous commit sin.’ For bitter is the worm, and grievous the darkness, which wicked men inherit” (Section. 2)

In this Letter, Athanasius is encouraging the saints to live a life of virtue in Christ, and in some sense, exposing those who come to eat but are not saved. In this portion, as you can see, he makes mention of how the wicked kill the soul with sins, and are drawing nearer to death (the first one). And then, when they have had their fill of sin and death, when they die the first, natural death, their spiritual end is to be tormented. Not only that, he mentions the “grievous” darkness they will experience along with the “bitter” worm that they will inherit. Now, if he had annihilation in mind, surely…SURELY he would have mentioned it. But he didn’t. I mean, he already used “non-existence” before, and going back into “nothing,” right? Why not just say it more plainly, or at least reaffirm it? Yet, what we do read is a contrast between the death you die the first time, and the torment you experience afterwards. If there was to be a cessation of such a torment, and the ultimate punishment is “destruction,” even of the soul (how conditionalists believe), it doesn’t seem like Athanasius got that memo.

Conclusion

This article was not written to be the sole unraveling concerning the whole of the conditonalist/annihilationist position. But only to expose, once again, the deceit, half-truths, and linguistics nuances that are constantly propagated to gain a theological influence in the minds of the unsuspecting. And because my overall goal was to be as brief as I possibly could be, I ask that you, reader, to pick up and read any work that a preacher uses (Athanasius included), and seek to understand that person, their timeframe, their whole theology, etc. Especially when heretical, or even heretically leaning positions like conditionalism are being proposed. Because all too often, we take for granted that everyone is on the same page of meaning. And when it comes to Rethinking Hell and other conditionalists leaders, we ought to be extra suspicious. So let’s be faithful to the language of the Scriptures, and history.

-Until we go home

Annihilating Conditionalism

Bible-Thumping-Wingnut-Logo

I had the privilege to appear on the Bible Thumping Wingnut show to discuss conditionalism/annihilationism. We went over the common mistake people make when dialoguing with conditionalists, the heretical associations Rethinking Hell has with theologies like Open Theism, Unitarianism, and Universalism, and finally Jude 7 regarding the Greek language and how it affirms the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah currently suffering eternal conscious torment now, even as we speak, in final punishment. We also talked about Chris Date and Rethinking Hell still refusing to have a real conversation with me about this topic. Tune in and share with friends.

http://biblethumpingwingnut.com/2017/10/31/btwn-episode-277-rethinking-hell/

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 8b) – Jude’s Eternal Fire & 2 Peter 2:6

214_2_sodom_and-gomorrah

Almost a year ago, Chris Date and I had several conversations about his position and about coming on our radio podcast. He first emailed us and asked us to come on the show to talk about conditionalism. Being familiar with his ministry at that point for almost three years, I desired to converse with him about some of the details of what he believed. The conversations didn’t go well. Partly because Chris felt as though I was being mean-spirited and rude. Mostly because he doesn’t know how to be critically questioned about his belief in conversation (more specifically by me) and can’t answer my follow up questions. And Jude’s eternal fire is definitely a golden calf that he and other conditionalists vehemently defend. But recently, Chris blocked me from Facebook so that I cannot see his interactions and posts. It’s a good strategy. But just like many of his followers who send him my articles and social media posts (who also aggressively swarm my brethren’s blogs and podcasts in almost militant fashion), by God’s providence, I have been give the privilege to see Chris’ recent post about Jude 7’s eternal fire. His thoughts about Jude were off back then when he shared them with me. The ones I received recently were just as fallacious. Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 8a) – Jude’s Eternal Fire

214_2_sodom_and-gomorrah

I’ve been waiting to write this article for a while. But I have been eager too. Jude 7 is a go-to verse for annihilationists who assert that since Jude 7 seemingly speaks of “eternal fire” that rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and that fire was not (and is not still) burning, therefore, the eternal fire in Matthew 25, or anything other semantical reference about hell’s fires burning forever, is false. And since also the parallel passage in 2 Peter 2:6 mentions Sodom being reduced to ashes, that pretty much seals the deal and destroys eternal conscious torment (pun intended). Not so fast though. There is a key linguistic feature in Jude that I have yet to hear being addressed in any of the articles or podcasts being written (even though I directly challenged Chris Date with this, and his answer was appalling). But before I reveal what that is, this will be a two part article. This first one is the easier-to-read-just-get-the-gist, kind of article that will be for those of us who do not fully understand linguistic terms. I will attempt to break it down so that almost anyone can understand. The next article will be more technical.

So what is this key? First, here is Jude verse 3 – 7 Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 7a) – Rethinking Hell’s Proponents

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I keep saying over and over again that the annihilationism/conditionalism discussion would take on a different form if it wasn’t for all the heretics Rethinking Hell and others like them affirm, associate, and keep company with. As I pointed out in article 5a concerning the atonement, there are some very serious concerns that should be addressed, not just about the unsound biblical hermeneutics coming out of this camp, but also the corruptions these associations bring to the table. Saying this, have you ever taken a gander at Rethinking Hell’s list for “proponents” of conditionalism?* I have. Seems overwhelming at first. It’s almost like so many orthodox scholars and preachers would adhere to this position. Well, I have watched videos and listened to podcasts where Chris Date touts some of these names when asked for scholars that believe in conditionalism. But are you aware of what some of these people believe about some of the essentials of the faith? Are you even aware of the names of the people that are being used in the Rethinking Hell articles, podcasts, books, and conferences? You should. Because some of these people stand out if you diligently seek to know those that labor among you (1 Thess 5:12). For some of these names, it didn’t take long before something damnably heretical turned up. For others, (some of which I was already aware of), I was surprised (but not really) that Rethinking Hell, which considers themselves within the bounds of orthodoxy, would list such heretics and not call them out as they are. But if you’ve read article 5a on the atonement and how Unitarians, Universalists, and those that deny penal substitution are on the approval list for even supposed gospel-centered Calvinist like Chris Date, then this article may not come as a shock to you. Let’s deal with a few of these men now.

Homosexuality

1) Jeff Cook is listed as a modern  and Professor at University of Northern Colorado. In an online debate with Preston Sprinkle (who also is a conditionalist), he writes some pretty disturbing things. To cut to the chase, he affirms monogamous same sex marriage as not  immoral. He says: Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 4c) – Irenaeus

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I have confronted multiple conditionalists about why Irenaeus didn’t believe in conditionalist/annihilationist doctrine, but they continue to spread this lie even after being corrected. And conditionalists wonder why I say some of their content is deceptive. What’s even more discouraging, is that Chris Date, even after an online debate with Jerry Shepherd, continues to spread this. I am grateful, though, to have come across a gem a few months ago, and have been meaning to share it.

I never read this online debate before writing my first two Irenaeus articles, but yet I was still able to come to some the same conclusions. Jerry Shepherd did what I would encourage many of you to do, and that is simply read the rest of Irenaeus’ work. But just like anything dealing with annihilationist doctrine, proper literary linguistics and context will overturn much of the rhetoric that come from this camp.

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Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 6a) – Eternal Life and Immortality

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I read someone asking a conditionalist in a Facebook thread concerning how they define death. Then one of them responded with, “It depends on how you define life.” I couldn’t agree more! Unfortunately, this is an area that Chris Date and some within Rethinking Hell sorely deviate from. In a debate with Len Pettis during a Striving for Eternity Conference in September of 2016, Chris Date stated that Jesus does not define eternal life as knowing the Father and the Son just as He taught in John 17:3. Chris then wrongly exegetes this Scripture by comparing the translation of the Greek word “is” with other Scriptures that contain the same word. He neglects to make a linguistic and contextual interpretation of John 17:3 by failing to see the other words which Jesus used that explicitly define eternal life.  It is presented below in English and in Greek so that you can see why Jesus defines eternal life as knowing (having intimate fellowship with) God. And please don’t run. As I did in Part 2a, you don’t have to be a Greek scholar to understand what I’m about to show you.

John 17:3

  • (English – ESV) And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
  • (Greek – MGNT) αὕτη δέ ἐστιν αἰώνιος ζωή ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν

Now, if you noticed, I highlighted the words that Chris used to make his case in blue. The Greek word ἐστιν is the conjugated form of the word “eimi” that he mentions in the video link above.  It is this word that Chris wrongly interprets in this context. But since conditionalists tend to define death in hyper-literal terms, it is no wonder that they look at Scriptures like this and have to make it fit their own annihilationistic hermeneutic. Nevertheless, Chris explicitly states that “is” does not “equate” eternal life with knowing God the Father and the Son. But let’s look at the other words within this context to help us to understand the semantic function of “is” in this context.
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Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 5a) – The Atonement

I would like to reveal and exegete more Scriptures that conditionalists use to affirm their position of annihilationism, but let’s cut to the chase. There’s an even bigger topic at hand. And it is in the area of atonement. Because whenever you change the nature/definition of eternal punishment or eternal life, you inevitably change your view of the atonement. And even though conditionalist claim to say that their view of hell doesn’t change their outlook on the atonement (in a heretical way at least), it seems that when the contributors write or speak on their podcasts, they betray themselves. And this issue is hard to tackle in writing seeing that those within the conditionalist camp are not only varied in their opinion concerning what happens in the intermediate state (between death and the resurrection), and the nature of Hell (whether it is retributive and/or restorative), but because of their hermeneutics and also some of their different applications of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA). But I contest that this position is indeed not only a gateway doctrine to heresy, but it seems to accommodate heretical company. And hopefully, the concerns below will make this more clear. Continue reading