Some brief thoughts on my interactions with Rob Bell supporters and so-called “evangelical” annihilationists
In the meantime, my pastor was moved to jump on the Rob Bell pig pile and wrote up a few posts. The posts in order are,
I had the occasion before I left for a week, to engage the few Bell supporting annihilationists in the comments of the first post. It was quite stimulating. My encounters helped me realize the need for Christians to develop a robust theology on hell, and then prepare themselves to defend it biblically.
Allow me to outline my observations I made from my interaction with the eternal conscious torment deniers:
- The annihilationists I interacted with seem not to realize how serious man’s sin truly is. Or at least they haven’t pondered it too much. I believe one commenter wrote something like, “The punishment doesn’t fit the crime.” Which I take it to mean this person believes creatures living in complete anarchy against their eternal Creator’s moral laws are just having a little fun and shouldn’t be punished too severely. Isn’t punishing these folks in conscious torment forever by their Creator a tad over the top? It’s just not fair.
- That leads to the fact these annihilationist have an extremely low view of God’s holiness and justice. That goes without saying. If you believe the continually flagrant breaking of God’s moral law isn’t that big-a-deal, obviously you don’t think God will be moved to judge such treason with any severity.
- Other annihilationists reject my accusation, however. They believe sin is serious and God will judge it severely, hence, this is the reason God extinguishes the existence of the wicked.
- But if we are going to say the wicked eventually get “extinguished,” we are forced into two options:
A) Either denying outright what the Bible teaches regarding the wicked man’s consciousness continuing after he dies, or B) appeal to bizarre, convoluted selective exegesis.
Some cases in point:
- Certainly the annihilationists I debated believe the righteous who receive eternal life will continue to be conscious after they die, but for some reason, the wicked won’t. They are to be extinguished. The eternal punishment of the wicked is contrasted with the eternal life of the righteous. See for example Matthew 25:46; John 5:28, 29; and Acts 24:15. If the righteous will continue to consciously experience their eternal life, why won’t the wicked continue to consciously experience their eternal punishment?
- The word “death” is suggested to mean extinguish or go out of existence, rather than “separation” as the Bible teaches.
- Likewise, the word “destruction” is redefined to mean “total extinguishing” rather than “loss” or “valueless” as the Bible teaches.
- The parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 is dismissed as a symbolic tall tale. The annihilationist claims it is a parable, and everyone knows parables are to be understood symbolically. That is true to a degree, but a couple of problems:
First, how exactly does a symbolic parable prove the annihilationist’s thesis regarding wicked men not having consciousness after death? All of the sudden, because the parable is “symbolic” it doesn’t mean what it so plainly states? At face value, reading Luke’s account of the rich man’s torment, why would I conclude anything else BUT that wicked men are conscious after they die and suffer torment?
Second, when Jesus spoke in parables, he utilized real life illustrations. You don’t see Jesus appealing to Disney-esque talking squirrels or fairy godmothers to make His spiritual point. Thus, even though one may argue the story of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable, it is a parable drawn from real experience.