Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 3)

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) recently published an article entitled “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong.”1 In it, TGC reproduces four arguments Packer originally offered against annihilationism in his 1997 article, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review.”2 In Part 1 of Rethinking Hell’s response, we demonstrated that Packer’s first argument fails at every point.3 In Part 2, we refuted most of Packer’s second argument, demonstrating that the texts he cites actually support annihilationism.4 In this third and final installment, we will wrap up our response to Packer’s second argument and refute his third and fourth arguments as well.
Continue reading “Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 3)”

  1. Gavin Ortlund, “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong,” The Gospel Coalition, posted October 7, 2015, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/j.i.-packer-on-why-annihilationism-is-wrong (accessed October 8, 2015). Ortlund was a breakout speaker at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference. An audio recording of his presentation is available for free download here. []
  2. J. I. Packer, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review,” Reformation & Revival 6, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 37-51. Online: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/research/critical/j-i-packer. []
  3. Chris Date and Nicholas Quient, “Why J. I. Packer is (Mostly) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1),” Rethinking Hell [blog], posted October 23, 2015, http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2015/10/why-j-i-packer-is-mostly-wrong-a-response-to-tgc-part-1 (accessed October 23, 2015). []
  4. Chris Date and Nicholas Quient, “Why J. I. Packer is (Mostly) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 2),” Rethinking Hell [blog], posted October 23, 2015, http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2015/10/why-j-i-packer-is-mostly-wrong-a-response-to-tgc-part-2 (accessed October 23, 2015). []

Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 2)

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) recently published an article entitled “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong.”1 In it, TGC reproduces four arguments Packer originally offered against annihilationism in his 1997 article, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review.”2 In Part 1 of Rethinking Hell’s response, we critiqued TGC for calling into question the motives of annihilationists and doubting our commitment to the authority of Scripture, and demonstrated that the first of Packer’s reproduced arguments fails at every point as a challenge to annihilationism.3 As we shall see, Packer’s remaining arguments fare no better.
Continue reading “Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 2)”

  1. Gavin Ortlund, “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong,” The Gospel Coalition, posted October 7, 2015, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/j.i.-packer-on-why-annihilationism-is-wrong (accessed October 8, 2015). Ortlund was a breakout speaker at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference. An audio recording of his presentation is available for free download here. []
  2. J. I. Packer, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review,” Reformation & Revival 6, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 37-51. Online: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/research/critical/j-i-packer. []
  3. Chris Date and Nicholas Quient, “Why J. I. Packer is (Mostly) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1),” Rethinking Hell [blog], posted October 23, 2015, http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2015/10/why-j-i-packer-is-mostly-wrong-a-response-to-tgc-part-1 (accessed October 23, 2015). []

Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1)

In its eschatology-themed, Spring 1997 issue, Reformation & Revival magazine published an article by J. I. Packer entitled “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review.”1 In it Packer attempts to refute what he understands to be several arguments advanced in favor of annihilationism, though he has some refreshingly charitable things to say about those who offer them. Reproducing quotes from John Wenham and John Stott in which they warn against the unreliability of emotion and its ability to cause us to twist Scripture, Packer acknowledges that these men embraced annihilationism from a commitment to the authority of Scripture, and not from emotionalism or sentimentality. In the end he calls them and other evangelical annihilationists “honored fellow-evangelicals,” and says “it would be wrong for differences of opinion on this matter to lead to breaches of fellowship.”
Packer also concludes, however, that John Stott was wrong to suggest that “the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment.”2 Packer says Stott “asks too much, for the biblical foundations of this view prove on inspection, as we have seen, to be inadequate.”
Much ink has been spilled in defense of annihilationism in the nearly twenty years since Packer’s article.3 It seems strange to some of us, therefore, that The Gospel Coalition (TGC) would republish some of Packer’s arguments without dealing with the responses annihilationists have since offered, but that’s what they did in a recent article entitled “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong.”4 Stranger still, the article’s author says of these arguments that they “are some of the more pithy and incisive points I’ve read regarding annihilationism, and are still relevant today.”5 In reality, Packer’s arguments do not hold up to scrutiny as challenges to annihilationism, and TGC’s commentary reflects uncharitable and inaccurate assumptions concerning the motives of annihilationists, assumptions Packer demonstrates to be false in his own article. Continue reading “Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1)”

  1. J. I. Packer, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review,” Reformation & Revival 6, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 37-51. Online: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/research/critical/j-i-packer. []
  2. David L. Edwards & John Stott, Evangelical Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue (InterVarsity, 1988), 320. []
  3. See, for example, David J. Powys, ‘Hell’: A Hard Look at a Hard Question: The Fate of the Unrighteous in New Testament Thought (Wipf & Stock, 2007); Edward W. Fudge, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, 3rd ed. (Cascade, 2011); Edward W. Fudge, Hell: A Final Word (Leafwood, 2012); J. Webb Mealy, The End of the Unrepentant: A Study of the Biblical Themes of Fire and Being Consumed (Wipf & Stock, 2012); Kim Papaioannou, The Geography of Hell in the Teaching of Jesus: Gehena, Hades, the Abyss, the Outer Darkness Where There Is Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth (Pickwick, 2013); J. Gregory Crofford, The Dark Side of Destiny: Hell Re-Examined (Wipf & Stock, 2013). See also David Hilborn, The Nature of Hell: A Report by the Evangelical Alliance Commission on Unity and Truth Among Evangelicals (ACUTE) (Paternoster, 2000), as well as Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle, Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up (David C. Cook, 2011), both of which side with the traditional view but acknowledge annihilationism as a plausible reading of Scripture. Books which attempt to present both views of final punishment neutrally include Douglas A. Jacoby, What’s the Truth About Heaven and Hell? Sorting Out the Confusion About the Afterlife (Harvest House, 2013); Steve Gregg, All You Want to Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin (Thomas Nelson, 2013). []
  4. Gavin Ortlund, “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong,” The Gospel Coalition, posted October 7, 2015, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/j.i.-packer-on-why-annihilationism-is-wrong (accessed October 8, 2015). Ortlund was a breakout speaker at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference. An audio recording of his presentation is available for free download here. []
  5. Ibid. []

Episode 79: Almost Heretics, a Response to Todd Friel (Part 2)

Rethinking Hell contributor Joey Dear joins Chris Date to respond to some clips of Todd Friel of Wretched Radio offering his own unique brand of criticism of annihilationism. This episode contains the second half of their two-hour discussion; listen to episode 78 for part one.
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Episode 78: Almost Heretics, a Response to Todd Friel (Part 1)

Rethinking Hell contributor Joey Dear joins Chris Date to respond to some clips of Todd Friel of Wretched Radio offering his own unique brand of criticism of annihilationism. This episode contains the first half of their two-hour discussion; stay tuned for part two in episode 79.
Continue reading “Episode 78: Almost Heretics, a Response to Todd Friel (Part 1)”

Episode 73: No Penitent in Hell, a Response to James White (Part 2)

Rethinking Hell contributors Glenn Peoples and William Tanksley join Chris Date to play and respond to some clips from the Dividing Line and Unbelievable? programs, in which Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries critiques conditional immortality and annihilationism. This episode contains the last hour-and-a-half of their two-and-a-half hour discussion. Listen to episode 72 for part 1.
Continue reading “Episode 73: No Penitent in Hell, a Response to James White (Part 2)”

Episode 72: No Penitent in Hell, a Response to James White (Part 1)

Rethinking Hell contributors Glenn Peoples and William Tanksley join Chris Date to play and respond to some clips from the Dividing Line and Unbelievable? programs, in which Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries critiques conditional immortality and annihilationism. This episode contains the first hour of their two-and-a-half hour discussion. Listen to episode 73 for part 2.
Continue reading “Episode 72: No Penitent in Hell, a Response to James White (Part 1)”

Conditional Immortality, Origen, and the Second Council of Constantinople

In the discussion regarding hell amongst evangelicals, Scripture should be our starting point and final authority. Of course, this doesn’t mean that historical theology is irrelevant. How the biblical texts have been interpreted throughout almost 2000 years of Church history matters in a very real sense. The Church Councils can be informative for our doctrine, but are not supposed to take precedence over Scripture. Sola Scriptura does not mean tradition doesn’t matter, but that Scripture is over tradition. But it’s worth looking at historical theology when trying to shed light on biblical interpretation when it comes to the doctrine of final punishment/hell.
In the discussion of final punishment, the Councils give us precious little to go on. However, some evangelicals have turned to the Second Council of Constantinople to assert that the early Church condemned all views other than eternal conscious torment. Continue reading “Conditional Immortality, Origen, and the Second Council of Constantinople”

A Response to Joshua Ryan Butler's The Skeletons in God's Closet

Hell is on a lot of people’s radars these days. We here are obviously not the only ones rethinking hell. Rob Bell’s Love Wins brought the discussion to the popular level. Love it or hate it, Love Wins got people talking.
Another, more recent book has many talking again. Joshua Ryan Butler (pastor of local and global outreach at Imago Dei Community in Portland) has recently published The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War. The book covers more than just the doctrine of hell/final punishment, but for our purposes, I will only address the first part, in which Butler examines the topic of hell (look for responses to parts 2 & 3 on my own blog). Joshua was kind enough to supply me with a free copy to review (two, in fact. One will be given away through my own blog, so stay tuned if you want to dive into this yourself). After two attempts to get the book to me and over a month of frustration, it finally arrived. Continue reading “A Response to Joshua Ryan Butler's The Skeletons in God's Closet”

Clark Pinnock, Hell and the Holiness of God

I recently had a very brief exchange with a colleague regarding conditionalism. He knows I’m a conditionalist, and he is not. He had just finished Clark Pinnock’s argument in Four Views on Hell,1 and stated that it was not a compelling argument, and that Pinnock began with a strawman- that God is love and therefore would not inflict people with torment forever (I don’t think this qualifies as a strawman, but that’s not my purpose here). This colleague argues that God is holy- this was the basis for rejecting Pinnock’s argument. Is this valid? Does God’s holiness stand in opposition to conditional immortality (CI)? Is God’s holiness grounds for believing in eternal conscious torment (ECT)? The purpose here is to examine what (if anything) God’s holiness contributes to our understanding of final punishment.
Continue reading “Clark Pinnock, Hell and the Holiness of God”

  1. Clark H. Pinnock. “The Conditional View”. Four Views on Hell. Stanley N. Gundry & Willian Crockett (eds). (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994). Hereafter: Pinnock, Four Views. []