Monday, October 13, 2014

Questions Regarding Annihilationism

The doctrine of annihilationism says basically that the damned in hell do not suffer forever but at some point simply cease to exist. A lot is being said in the Evangelical church at large about the teaching of annihlationism, both pro and con. Dr. Mike Wittmer recently addressed that phenomena in a blog article you can find here, as well as a link to the "Rethinking Hell" web site. I will leave you to read the Dr. Wittmer's article where he sets forth a few of his objections to the annihilationist argument. For myself, two questions come to mind and those questoins are the focus of this post.

The first question: Will God annihilate those created in His own image?

"God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." ~ Genesis 1:27

“Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man." ~ Genesis 9:6

My argument here is that if God annihilates those created in His own image, then the enemy, the devil Satan, wins. He has to some degree accomplished what he set out to do in the temptation in the Garden. The reason for making that assertion is found in the second question below. Are we going to say Christ did not gain total victory over death, Satan, and hell? May it never be!

The second question: Was Jesus Christ annihilated on the cross for my sins?

If Jesus Christ was not annihilated for my sins, but the end of the unrepentant sinner is annihilation, then my sins are not fully covered by the work of Christ on the cross on behalf of guilty sinners. In my mind by the mere fact of asking that question, a stake is driven into the heart of the error of annihilationism. Jesus Christ was not annihilated, but rose again from the dead, conquering death and hell, and is ascended and now seated at the right hand of God the Father.

To sum up, exegetical questions about the Biblical passages on hell and the damnation of the unrepentant of necessity need to be answered in a way that does not diminish the importance of the clearly taught doctrines of man being created in God's image, and the full and complete victorious work of Jesus Christ on the cross on behalf of a fallen and sinful humanity. Intended or not, annihilationism diminishes both, and is thus found wanting.

~ The Billy Goat ~


Rethinking Sydney said...

Sir, are you a universalist?

I hear it as though you say: that if Jesus was not annihilated, then our atonement is not of the same order as our punishment (if the punishment is annihilation).

To that I must ask - did our Savior go to hell and suffer eternal conscious torment on your behalf? If so, why then is he raised out of death? He should still be there completing the atonement - for eternity, in fact.

That is, if you believe that there must be a 1:1 between the type of atonement, and the type of punishment due to the sinner.

Of course, the 1:1 might work if you are a universalist. Jesus was plunged into suffering and death but then raised out of it - so likewise will be all people punished by God?

I do not mean to be disrespectful Bill, but the logic is far from a 'stake to the heart'.


casual reader of Rethinking Hell.

Bill said...

Thank you for your response. Pardon me for choosing to wait to post your response until I had time to formulate my reply. Let me also say up front that though I believe the teaching of annihilationism is an error, I do not believe it is an error of the sort that would be necessarily damnable for the one holding it.

I do have a real concern for how annihilationism reflects on the person and work of Christ. Specific doctrines or teachings do not stand alone, but are organically connected within the totality of one’s theology, and how one area of that theology is viewed ripples through the whole.

I do affirm a 1 to 1 between the punishment and the atonement. “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”

The difference in “type’, if that’s the word you want to use, is between the one doing the atonement and the one being atoned for; the difference between guilty sinners unable to in and of themselves do anything of their own to make up for their sins, and the sinless Son of God, fully man and fully God, offered in our place as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the kosmos; that sacrifice that though sufficient for all, is effective for the elect.

You said, “…- did our Savior go to hell and suffer eternal conscious torment on your behalf? If so, why then is he raised out of death? He should still be there completing the atonement - for eternity, in fact.”

With all due respect, that statement does not do justice to who Jesus Christ is. God the Father accepted the work He did on the cross. Anything I or you could or would try to do would fall far short, and would never begin to make up for our sins, and I would stand before God in judgment guilty.

You and others may not see this as a “stake in the heart of annihilationism”. I do.

~ The Billy Goat ~