What I would have to deny in order to teach eternal torment

For some people, the concept of hell as a state of eternal torment is so central to their faith and their portrait of God that giving it up would mean giving up the faith altogether: giving up the authority of Jesus; giving up, in principle, the authority of Scripture; discarding the testimony of the church; and ultimately denying the gospel. This is the stance Tim Challies takes, somberly telling his readers that “If I am going to give up hell, I am going to give up the gospel and replace it with a new one.” Of course, by “hell,” he means eternal torment, not the biblical picture of final judgement and the loss of life and being forever.

Setting aside more popularist visions of hell like that of Challies and turning to the biblical account of life, death, judgment, and eternity, we could ask a similar question: If we were to give up the biblical position of immortality and eternal life found in Christ alone and to instead embrace the doctrine of eternal torment, what would we have to give up? What would be the cost of embracing the traditional view instead of the biblical one?

Continue reading “What I would have to deny in order to teach eternal torment”

No Retreat on Nouns of Action: TurretinFan's Premature Celebration

Shortly after participating in my second formal debate on final punishment,1 I wrote an article correcting pseudonymous blogger TurretinFan’s misunderstanding of what I had said in my opening presentation concerning the nature of the word punishment.2 Nearly a year later TurretinFan responded, contending that my article exhibited a retreat from what I had argued in my debate. “Over at ‘Rethinking Hell,'” he writes, “Mr. Chris Date has retreated a few steps in his discussion of the meaning of the term ‘punishment.’ Recall that the argument that ‘punishment’ in this case was a ‘result’ noun was one of Mr. Date’s first supposedly ‘positive’ arguments for his position. Now, Mr. Date tries to argue for ambiguity.”3
In fact, I had argued for ambiguity in my opening statement. It is true that I said, “My position, therefore, is that ‘punishment’ in this text is likewise a deverbal result noun referring to the effect or outcome of the transitive verb ‘punish.'”4 But I was not, as TurretinFan suggests, arguing positively for my position. Rather, I was merely stating my position, and in order to underscore the ambiguity of the phrase “eternal punishment” I had asked the questions, “What is the nature of eternal punishment? Is it everlasting conscious suffering in a body and soul which never die? Or is it the permanent end to the conscious existence of the entire person?”5 In order to argue positively for the position I had just stated, I did not allege that “punishment” always, or even normally, carries a result reading. Rather, I argued from context, saying, “And the answer is clear from Jesus’ reference to the ‘eternal fire,’ a phrase found in two other places in the New Testament,”6 at which point I went on to argue for my understanding from the other uses of that phrase.
Putting aside TurretinFan’s mistaken assessment of my article as a retreat, he does try taking me to task on both my treatment of the word punishment as a polysemous deverbal noun as well as my argument in favor thereof from the phrase “eternal fire.” Let us see if his attempt was successful. Continue reading “No Retreat on Nouns of Action: TurretinFan's Premature Celebration”

  1. “Episode 88: Death Eternal,” Theopologetics

    , hosted by Chris Date, June 16, 2012, http://www.theopologetics.com/2012/06/16/episode-88-death-eternal/ (accessed May 27, 2013). This episode contains part one of the debate, including my opening presentation. Parts two and three are available here and here, respectively. []
  2. Chris Date, “‘Punishment’ and the Polysemy of Deverbal Nouns,” Rethinking Hell [blog] (posted June 19, 2012), http://rethinkinghell.com/2012/06/eternal-punishment-and-the-polysemy-of-deverbal-nouns/ (accessed May 27, 2013). []
  3. TurretinFan, “Pressing Chris Date’s Retreat,” Thoughts of Francis Turretin [blog] (posted April 9, 2013), http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2013/04/pressing-chris-dates-retreat.html (accessed May 27, 2013). []
  4. Date, 00:16:54. []
  5. Date, 00:17:55. []
  6. Date, 00:18:05. []

The Same Before and After: A Response to Matt Slick

I like Matt Slick, President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. I’ve called into his radio show several times and have even interviewed him on the topic of complementarianism. (For an egalitarian response to Matt, you can listen to my two-part interview with Dr. Philip Payne.) Generally Matt is smart and knowledgeable and I appreciate his ministry, but when it comes to the topic of final punishment he is not a sound thinker.
Approximately 31 minutes into the 26 June 2012 episode of CARM radio, a caller asked Matt about physicalism,1 which led to a conversation that also included conditionalism. In addition to his arguments against physicalism he offered an argument against annihilation as final punishment, wherein he labeled a man’s state prior to conception as A,2 his state after conception as B, and his state following annihilation as A again since it is allegedly identical to his state prior to conception, that of non-existence.
Matt concluded that since the first A state could not be called a punishment, neither can the second A state. So this might be called the “A, B, A” argument against conditionalism. Were I his teacher, I would give Matt an F.
Continue reading “The Same Before and After: A Response to Matt Slick”

  1. Physicalism is a monistic view of man which denies the existence of an immaterial soul or spirit that lives on after death. To learn more, you can check out my interviews on the topic. []
  2. Since a man does not exist prior to his conception, technically this is not a “state,” but to keep things simple I’ll use the term to refer even to the state of non-existence. []

"Punishment" and the Polysemy of Deverbal Nouns

In the opening statement from my recent debate I had said,

What we disagree on is the meaning of punishment. Traditionalists see it as suffering forever, whereas annihilationists see it as the everlasting effect of being executed. Linguists call this a deverbal result noun, a noun referring to the results of its corresponding verb, and it’s a phenomenon found both in Scripture and in modern language.

This was recently misunderstood by pseudonymous blogger TurretinFan, and understandably so—excuse the pun—because it didn’t come across quite right. I did not mean to say that linguists call “punishment” a deverbal result noun; I meant that they call the object to which I was referring—namely, a noun that refers to the results of its corresponding verb—a deverbal result noun. What’s more, I neither said nor implied that “punishment” is in every case a deverbal result noun, but that it is in the case of .
Nevertheless, TurretinFan argued that the “noun ‘punishment’ is a deverbal noun, but it is not a deverbal result noun” (emphasis his), going on to seemingly argue that this is inherent in the meaning of the noun. Let us examine this claim.
Continue reading “"Punishment" and the Polysemy of Deverbal Nouns”

46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”