Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hell Raisers

doreinfernoThe GTY blog has been posting a series critiquing Rob Bell and defending the doctrine of eternal punishment. Obviously, when a high profile ministry like Grace to You posts articles on current controversies within Christendom, it will draw attention. Thus, a handful of annihilationists sallied forth to our blog and one of them left some challenges.

Most of them were soundly refuted within the comments under the various posts. I thought I would take a moment to answer the one challenge I saw often repeated.

The Biblical passages for eternal life with an immortal soul being a gift from God Rom 6:23, the idea that all men are not born with an “immortal soul” (that term is nowhere in the Bible) platonism [sic] (Greek phylosphical [sic] influence) says all men do have an immortal soul. We believe eternal life is a gift, and God could destroy the soul if he wants to Mat 10:28.

Annihilationists like to call themselves “conditionalists.” The word "conditionalism," for those not in the "know," is another fancy way of saying "annihilationist." They use the term to describe their insistence that men do not have an immortal soul. The only way humanity obtains “immortality” after death is if God grants immortality to the person as a gift upon the person’s faith in Christ for salvation. Thus, the soul’s immortality is “conditioned” upon God giving that gift to the person.

They also like to make the charge that the concept of men having an immortal soul is a result of Greek philosophy creeping into the church.

This is a classic assertion made by annihilationists. Both Leroy Froom and Edward Fudge present this claim in their books defending annihilationism, but it is a claim fraught with problems.

If it is true about Platonism influencing early Christian thought on the immortality of the soul, then there should be clear evidence of such an influencing happening. Meaning, before a certain point in Church History the soul’s immortality was never taught by early Christians and we can thus gage a period of time when this influence of Greek philosophy began to appear. However, if it can be shown that early Christians believed in the immortality of the soul, this claim becomes quickly problematic. This is especially true if Christians believed in the immortality of the soul BEFORE the Platonism allegedly began to influence their thinking. Most annihilationists pin-point the problem with Augustine, or a century or so before his influence. That is at least 200 years after Christ.

Another problem for the Platonic influence claim is the Jewish teaching on the soul’s immortality. Christianity arose from Judaism. If it can be shown that Jews, both before and after Christianity arose, believed the OT taught the soul’s immortality, it then becomes difficult to defend the idea that Platonism introduced false teaching to Christians about the soul’s immortality.

Robert Morey, in his book Death and the Afterlife, documents a number of Rabbinical sources, both before and after Christ, that teach the soul’s immortality. The entire book can be read on-line HERE.

The rabbinic literature is clear that the soul of man was understood to be invisible and immortal (Bab. Tal. Ber. 59, AZ 21). At death, the soul leaves the body and remains conscious. Mid. Gen. 409, 516, 549; Num. 733; Ecc. 83, 229; Ba. Tal. Shab.777-779 PT Mo'ed Ketan 111. 5,826, Yeb amoth XVI.3,157, Bereshath Rabba C.7, Vayyakra Rabba XVIII.

The righteous go to "The Throne of Glory" or Paradise (Bab. Tal. Shab. 779), while the wicked "recline in anguish and rest in torment till the last time come, in which they shall come again and be tormented still more" (2 Baruch 36:12). Thus the wicked experience conscious torment (Apocalypse of Ezra VII, 78-101; Book of Enoch 103:7).

The righteous in paradise are exhorted to worship God (Song of Three Children, 64). This obviously requires that they are still conscious after death.

The rabbis interpreted Eccles. 9:5, "the dead do not know anything," as referring to the living wicked who are called "dead" in a spiritual sense (Mid. Ecc. 229). The word "sleep" is used to describe the body at rest awaiting the resurrection while the soul is conscious in the afterlife (Mid. Gen. 549).

At the resurrection, the soul returns to the body according to The Apocalypse of Baruch.

Early Christian apocalpytic literature such as The Apocalypse of Paul described the angels carrying the righteous away at death (14) and evil spirits coming to carry away the souls of the wicked to torment (15-19).The Apocalypse of Peter graphically described the conscious torment of the wicked in the hereafter (390, 508, 514, 523, etc.).

Josephus states that the Essenes and all Jews except the Sadducees believed in the immortality of the soul (Wars II, 154-159, 163, 166).

The early church historian Eusebius (E.H. VI, C37) stated that the doctrine of "soul sleep" was invented by third-century heretics. The exact nature of the belief of the Essenes is still under investigation and there is conflicting material in the Dead Sea Scrolls. There seems to be a mixture of the teaching of annihilationism and eternal torment in the literature coming from the Essenean community. Thus writers can quote sources to support either position [Morey, 50, 51].

Yet Christians do not need to appeal to extra biblical sources to affirm the truth of man being both body and soul and the soul’s immortality.

The Bible is quite clear that man is a dual creature comprised of both body and soul, and when men die, their soul departs the body, where it is either in the presence of the Lord or away from the presence of the Lord, as it awaits the resurrection of the body at the latter-days.

For example, Jesus states in Matthew 10:28 “But rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” and James writes in 2:26, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Both passages reveal a dichotomy with man between body and soul.

Additionally, the soul of both the righteous and the wicked will continue to exist consciously in the eternal afterlife upon death. They never go out of existence, or just “sleep,” as the annihilationist claims.

One of the more penetrating passages against the idea of the wicked going out of existence is Revelation 20:10, 15, where it says of those who are cast into the lake of fire that “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The devil, the beast, and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire, and then those who are not found written in the book of life were cast into the lake of fire (20:15).

You will note that it is conscious beings cast into the lake of fire, angelic beings (Satan, and by inference, the devils), as well as humanity (the Anti-Christ, false prophet and the unsaved). Moreover, they are tormented day and night forever and ever. If they merely go out of existence, what is the use of the phrase “forever and ever?” Most annihilationists say this expression means just that, they go out of existence and will never exist again for all eternity. But those in the lake of fire are tormented. How exactly can non-existent beings be tormented? One must be conscious of the torment in order to be tormented.

Consider also Christ’s contrast in Matthew 25:41, 46 between the righteous who receive eternal life, and the wicked who go away into everlasting punishment. Here we have two categories of individuals being eternally judged. If we can expect the righteous will consciously go into eternal life, so too the wicked will go consciously into everlasting punishment. Also note the description of everlasting fire in 25:41 prepared for the devil and his angels, similar imagery found in Revelation 20:10, 15. Nothing in the words of Jesus suggests He means the wicked go out of existence. Instead, they experience the fullness of God’s holy wrath in the same way the righteous will experience the fullness of God’s holy grace: consciously forever.

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Blogger keo said...

You call man "a dual creature." I'm a bit surprised you didn't say "three-part," given that the NT quite clearly talks about body, soul, and spirit (I Thess 5:23, for example). Soul and spirit are different words in Greek, with different definitions.

You appear to be mixing the two, even combining Matt. 10:28 and James 2:26 into one argument for the separation of body and soul. James 2 doesn't mention the soul. I guess that one would interpret those words as meaning the same thing if one already believed in the duality, but that would be circular logic.

You might be interested in the current discussions (today = http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/05/12/being-human-2-rjs/) at the Jesus Creed blog of Dr. Joel Green's (Associate Dean at Fuller Seminary) new book: Body, Soul, and Human Life. Apparently the book (among other, as this is not a new claim) presents it as "virtually certain" that the body-soul duality is not an OT concept -- despite the fact that some Jews may have adopted such beliefs by the time of Jesus as the extrabiblical sources you quote show. Of course, those same Jews came up with some other stuff during those centuries between Malachi and Matthew. Don't we have that golden age of spiritual understanding to thank for the creation and growth of both the Pharisee and Sadducee parties, for example?

Finally, you might enjoy reading N.T. Wright's March 2011 paper to the Society of Christian Philosophers: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_SCP_MindSpiritSoulBody.htm In it, he argues that the Biblical understanding of man is one of integration, rather than duality. An excellent read by an eminent scholar and Christian.

7:46 AM, May 12, 2011  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...

Good post, Fred. Dr. Morey's book above, is one of his better works, and definitively destroys the annihilationist view.

From my view, it's hard to read Scripture and come to annihilationism. It seems you have to first question God's righteousness and then reinterpret Scripture according to man's own view of what justice is.

9:04 AM, May 12, 2011  
Blogger keo said...

What happened to the comments from yesterday?

10:30 AM, May 13, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Sorry, blogger ate them when the entire system crashed yesterday. I even had to repost this article. Thankfully I had a copy in my Live Writer program or it would had been lost forever. You can always try to cobble together your response from memory and post it again.

10:33 AM, May 13, 2011  
Blogger keo said...

OK. I'm curious why you refer to man as a "dual creature," rather than as having three parts. I Thessalonians 5:23 seems to classify us as "spirit soul and body." Paul seems to view soul and spirit as two different things here, yes? Different words, different concepts.

You, by contrast, mix together Matthew 10:28 and James 2:26 to prove "a dichotomy with man between body and soul," though James 2 doesn't even mention the soul. I suppose one might interpret the two words as meaning the same thing if one already held that belief, but that would be a circular proof for the dual nature of man (along with making 1 Thess. 5:23 more puzzling).

I'm also curious about your thoughts on "destroy both body and soul in hell." Or in Gehenna, really, hell not really being a word in Greek. If the soul departs the body at death, as you say, then how does the body get destroyed in Gehenna? Isn't the body in the ground? Where is Gehenna that both the soul and the physical body can go there?


12:59 PM, May 13, 2011  
Blogger The Seeking Disciple said...

Great post. Thanks brother for defending biblical teachings on hell.

1:23 PM, May 13, 2011  
Blogger thomas4881 said...

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

11:04 PM, May 14, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Keo writes,
OK. I'm curious why you refer to man as a "dual creature," rather than as having three parts. I Thessalonians 5:23 seems to classify us as "spirit soul and body." Paul seems to view soul and spirit as two different things here, yes? Different words, different concepts.

I don't believe there is a trichotomy any more than there is a quadotomy, Mark 12:30 or Luke 10:27. Soul and spirit are two words describing the same thing and are used interchangeably throughout the NT. What is clear is the biblical writers make a distinction between a material and non-material part of man. There are two parts, hence the reason for the imagery of dualism in James 2, where James contrasts faith and works (two things working together as one) and body and spirit (two things working together as one). It doesn't matter if James uses the term "soul." He uses the term spirit, which is just a synonym for soul.

If the soul departs the body at death, as you say, then how does the body get destroyed in Gehenna? Isn't the body in the ground? Where is Gehenna that both the soul and the physical body can go there?

I thought we already discussed this in an earlier comment thread with regards to the Resurrection. All the dead will be raised in Resurrected bodies. Both the wicked and the righteous.

6:32 AM, May 17, 2011  
Blogger keo said...

Interesting stuff. So do you think that everything but the body is synonymous in those verses? The mind and heart, as well as the spirit and the soul? When I see verses that say "body, soul, and spirit," or that mention heart, soul, and mind, it seems more likely that these are distinct things. Are there other verses that show us that these writers used interchangeable nouns in series -- for any noun but the soul? I don't believe that they had writing styles that employed lists of synonymous nouns but maybe I'm wrong.

Can you give me some examples that prove these words are used interchangeably? We can see many verses that show differences between these two words, but interchangeable?

You are aware of the common view that the OT presents a unified personhood rather than a duality? On what OT basis do you reject this? You reference Morley's extrabiblical stuff but nothing from the OT itself. The Jews came up with a lot of other stuff (including the Pharisee and Sadducee doctrines during the intertestamental period), much of which is rejected by Christianity, so Morley's reliance on that collection isn't convincing. What does the Bible actually say in the OT? I don't believe Hebrew even has a word for soul, so I'm curious where you find this doctrine there.

Or is this just another case of the "progressive revelation" that Morley (like the Mormons) leans so heavily upon? Did God never reveal that we have souls until after the Greeks came up with it ... during the same period between the OT and NT? Did God, without the benefit of prophet or new book in the canon, provide revelation by other means during that golden age of crazy new ideas?

2:39 PM, May 17, 2011  
Blogger Highland Host said...

Froom was an Adventist, the Adventist view of Conditionalism is one of many, not the vanilla view. Many Conditionalists do not believe in soul-sleep and are dichotomists. They're still wrong, but I do think that this needs to be said in the interest of fairness.

6:55 AM, May 19, 2011  

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