Keep CARM and Carry On: Responding to Matt Slick and CARM.org (Part 1)–What is Annihilationism, Really?


In 2009, apologist Matt Slick published an entry on annihilationism in his online dictionary at CARM.org.1Matt Slick, “Annihilationism” [dictionary entry], CARM.org, 10/12/2009 (accessed 2/2/2021), https://carm.org/2009/10/12/annihilationism/. CARM stands for Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. “Annihilationism is the teaching,” Slick claimed, “that when a person dies, he is annihilated.”2Ibid.; emphasis added. Unfortunately, this is false and misleading. A year later he repeated the caricature in an article purporting to debunk annihilationism, in which he wrote, “Annihilation is the teaching that the non-Christian ceases to exist after death,” either “automatically” or “after an appropriate amount of time of suffering.”3Matt Slick, “Is Annihilationism True?” CARM.org, 10/30/2010 (accessed 2/2/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/is-annihilationism-true/; emphasis added. Conspicuously missing was any awareness that evangelical annihilationists believe this to be the fate of the lost only after future resurrection and final judgment, not when a person dies. We don’t deny the resurrection of the unsaved, which is part of Christian orthodoxy. We affirm these things regardless of whether the souls of the deceased continue to consciously exist between death and resurrection. I myself didn’t realize that at the time—and neither, of course, have many visitors to Slick’s website ever since.

I first encountered Matt Slick and his website in the early 2000s, having recently converted from atheism to Christianity. Slick’s articles helped to ground me in the basics of my newfound faith and protect me from falling prey to the heresies of pseudo-Christian cults. Several years ago, I had the pleasure and honor of meeting and talking with Matt in his Idaho home. I brimmed with pride when I impressed him by checking the chamber of a pistol he handed me, to make sure it was empty, despite having just watched him do the same. I’ll always have fond memories of my time with him, and I’ll forever be grateful for his impact upon me in my spiritual infancy.

Sadly, things began to turn sour between Slick and me when, not long after he published those articles, I discovered what annihilationists really believe and was becoming convinced of it. At first, we remained on friendly terms, and Slick agreed, on multiple occasions, to debate me at some point on the nature and duration of hell. However, after spending some time in the Rethinking Hell Facebook group to better understand what conditionalists believe, he started refusing a debate on hell specifically, saying that now he’s only willing to debate with a focus on human constitution and the intermediate state, topics that are not relevant to the nature, duration, and purpose of hell. Many fans of both our ministries, who’d hoped to see a serious but friendly debate between us, have unfortunately been left disappointed.

Thankfully, Slick’s more recent articles, published after his brief interaction with us, represent a somewhat improved understanding of annihilationism—at times, at least. Thus, nearly a decade after his original articles on annihilationism, today he more accurately identifies annihilationism as the “teaching that all people who have not trusted in Christ as Savior will, upon the Day of Judgment or sometime afterward, be annihilated.”4Matt Slick, “What is Annihilationism and is it Biblical?” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/4/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/what-is-annihilationism-and-is-it-biblical/; emphasis added. With even greater specificity, Slick rightly observes that annihilationists think that “sometime in the future, the person is resurrected, reunited with his physical body, and is then judged” and subsequently annihilated.5Matt Slick, “What is Conditional Immortality?” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/4/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/what-is-conditional-immortality/; emphasis added. Fortunately, Slick’s time in our Facebook group wasn’t altogether wasted.6One wishes, though, that Slick would correct his older articles.

Nevertheless, these newer articles are fraught with inaccuracies and misrepresentations, as is the larger collection of which they’re a part.7Matt Slick, “Annihilationism” [landing page], CARM.org, 10/12/2020 (accessed 2/4/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism. Because a debate is now off the table, we at Rethinking Hell will settle for the next best thing and respond to this collection with a series of our own.8We’ll also be responding in a series of podcast episodes, some of which have already been recorded. Slick’s articles are numerous and overlap significantly in content, so we won’t respond article-by-article, but we do intend to address all of his arguments by the time we are done. In this first article in our series, I’ll correct a few of Slick’s many mischaracterizations of annihilationism and conditional immortality.

Annihilationism is Not: Unconsciousness in Death

In what may be Slick’s most oft-repeated mischaracterization of annihilationism, he says it denies that human beings are conscious while dead and awaiting resurrection, in what theologians call the intermediate state. This falsehood is stated in a variety of ways and in many of his articles. Consider, for example, the entry on “Death” in what Slick purports to be a dictionary of terms as annihilationists understand them.9Matt Slick, “Dictionary of Terms Related to Annihilationism,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/dictionary-of-terms-related-to-annihilationism-annihilationists/. “Annihilationists,” he claims, “teach that death is the cessation of biological life and that simultaneous with that death is either nonexistence of the soul or soul sleep.”10Ibid.; emphasis added. One might be tempted to think Slick elsewhere makes room for annihilationists who believe in a conscious intermediate state, writing, “according to the majority of conditionalists, we enter a state of soul sleep.”11Slick, “What is Conditional Immortality?” However, the implied minority, in Slick’s thinking, are conditionalists who believe the soul ceases to exist altogether at death, not those who believe it remains conscious. For even when acknowledging that “annihilationists have slightly different ideas,” Slick nevertheless insists we all believe the dead are unconscious, either because they’ve ceased to exist or because their souls are asleep.12Slick, “What is Annihilationism and is it Biblical?” He repeats this dichotomy as a core assumption of conditionalism;13Slick writes, “Conditionalists unite the body and soul very closely. They assume that when the physical life ceases the soul cannot continue. Some see this as immediate annihilation while others adopt a soul-sleep position.” Matt Slick, “What Are the Basic Assumptions of Conditionalism, Also Known as Annihilationism?” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/what-are-the-basic-assumptions-of-conditionalism-also-known-as-annihilationism/. and again as that which the conditionalist asserts about death;14Slick writes, “the conditionalist asserts that physical death means soul sleep and or nonexistence because they equate the body and the spirit as one united whole.” Matt Slick, “How Did Jesus Speak of Death and Dying and What Did He Mean By It?” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/how-did-jesus-speak-of-death-and-dying-and-what-did-he-mean-by-it/. and again as a presupposition we defend by imposing the meaning of Old Testament texts onto the New Testament.15Slick writes, “One of the most commonly quoted verses from conditionalists in support of their soul sleep/nonexistence of the person after physical death is to quote Ecclesiastes 12:7,” and “annihilationists . . . submit New Testament revelation to the Old Testament. They do this in order to support their preconceptions.” Matt Slick, “The New Testament Interprets the Old Testament, Not the Other Way Around.” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/the-new-testament-interprets-the-old-testament-not-the-other-way-around/; emphasis added.

Of course, this is simply untrue—and Slick knows it. After all, his collection of quotes from annihilationists includes quotes offering a third option, namely, a conscious intermediate state. For example, he quotes Rethinking Hell’s own Statement on Evangelical Conditionalism: “Evangelical conditionalists also differ . . . about whether people are conscious in the intermediate state . . . Some are anthropological physicalists or materialists . . . others embrace a traditional body/soul dualism and contend that the immaterial souls of human beings live on consciously after death.”16Matt Slick, “Various Quotes Used in Research on Annihilationism,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/various-quotes-used-in-research-on-annihilationism/. Quoted from Rethinking Hell, “Statement on Evangelical Conditionalism,” RethinkingHell.com, accessed 2/5/2021, http://www.rethinkinghell.com/Rethinking-Hell_Statement-on-Evangelical-Conditionalism.pdf. Slick also quotes annihilationist Edward Fudge as saying, “The nature of the human creature does not determine the outcome in our debate. Dualists, who teach that the soul consciously survives the death of the body (dualism), acknowledge that God is able to destroy both soul and body in hell if he so desires.”17Slick, “Dictionary.” Quoted from Edward William Fudge, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, 3rd ed. (Cascade, 2011), 367. Slick therefore knows that annihilationists are generally comfortable with differing views in that area, which simply do not determine our annihilationist views. He knows that only some annihilationists happen to think that the soul sleeps or ceases to exist at death, and yet he’s evidently willing to mischaracterize the larger conditionalist movement this way. One can’t help but suspect that Slick wants annihilationism to entail soul sleep so he can dismiss the one along with the other.18A future article in this series will cover the (non-) relationship between annihilationism and so-called “soul sleep.” He certainly appears to want his readers to think so.

Annihilationism is Not: the Punishment of Nonexistence

If there’s one mischaracterization of annihilationism that Slick repeats as frequently as the aforementioned one, it’s that we annihilationists think final punishment is everlasting nonexistence. Alleging to define annihilationism, Slick claims we “equate eternal punishment with eternal nonexistence.”19Slick, “What is Annihilationism and is it Biblical?” He insists that “conditionalists equate God’s eternal punishment with a person’s nonexistence.”20Matt Slick, “Conclusion on Annihilationism,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 1/28/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/conclusion-on-annihilationism/. He lists this equation as one of conditionalism’s core assumptions;21Slick writes, “Conditionalists equate God’s eternal judgment, His eternal punishment with a person’s nonexistence.” Slick, “What Are the Basic Assumptions of Conditionalism, Also Known as Annihilationism?” he calls it one of our “responses and interpretive twists”;22Matt Slick, “What Did Jesus Say About Hell and the Final Judgment?” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/what-did-jesus-say-about-hell-and-the-final-judgment/. he inserts it into biblical texts to mislead readers into thinking it’s “the conditionalist slant” on Scripture;23Matt Slick, “The Conditionalist Bible,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/the-conditionalist-bible/. he even includes it in the very titles of two of his articles.24Matt Slick, “Philosophical Challenges to the Conditionalist View of Eternal Punishment Being Nonexistence,” CARM.org, 10/12/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/philosophical-challenges-to-the-conditionalist-view-of-eternal-punishment-being-nonexistence/; Matt Slick, “Conditionalism and Conflating Eternal Punishment with Non-Existence,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/conditionalism-and-conflating-eternal-punishment-with-non-existence/.

Of course, conditionalists do think the resurrected lost will be destroyed and never live or even exist again, but we don’t, in fact, “equate” eternal punishment with everlasting nonexistence. Instead, we identify eternal punishment with judicially appointed death: the punitive, everlasting privation of embodied life, a capital punishment inflicted after the resurrected wicked are found guilty of their sin and sentenced to suffer its wages (Rom 6:23). Thus, Rethinking Hell’s Statement explains, “Conditionalism is the view that life”—life, not mere existence—“is the Creator’s provisional gift to all, which will ultimately be . . . revoked forever from the unsaved,” and, “When the penalty is carried out, they will be permanently excluded from eternal life by means of a final death.”25Rethinking Hell, “Statement on Evangelical Conditionalism”; italics in original. Likewise, Fudge points out that the Greek word translated “punishment” in Matthew 25:46 (“eternal punishment”) refers at times to the death penalty in the Septuagint, and then he goes on to defend the appropriateness of identifying “Irreversible Death” as genuine, indeed severe, punishment.26Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 138–9. Yes, we conditionalists believe and say that, when life is finally and forever deprived from the wicked, they will also cease to exist, but it’s the everlasting privation of their lives that we identify as the “eternal punishment” about which Jesus warned.27Future articles in this series will cover the meaning of the phrase “eternal punishment” and what it means for God to destroy finally impenitent sinners. The death penalty, after all, isn’t about being confined to a coffin and buried indefinitely; neither is the final, cosmic death penalty about being consigned to non-being forever. It’s about missing out on eternal life.

Annihilationism is Not: Wishful or Philosophical Thinking

Like many traditionalist critics of conditional immortality and annihilationism, Slick thinks—or at least wants readers to think—that we annihilationists are motivated to believe what we believe by philosophy and sentimentality. Professing to define annihilationism, Slick calls it “the philosophical teaching that all people who have not trusted in Christ as Savior will . . . be annihilated.”28Slick, “What is Annihilationism and is it Biblical?”; emphasis added. Raising the question of why some Christians are annihilationists, Slick answers with two philosophical arguments: “Some say that it is too horrible a thought that a loving God would allow someone to undergo eternal conscious torment,” while others “say that it is wrong for God to punish someone eternally for finite sins committed here on earth.”29Ibid. Slick goes on to offer one and only one biblical reason why some Christians are annihilationists, but it’s not among the dozens of texts annihilationists will typically offer when asked why they believe what they believe, and it’s something of a caricature. Slick lists both of these philosophical arguments as core assumptions of annihilationism.30Slick, “What Are the Basic Assumptions of Conditionalism, Also Known as Annihilationism?” Clearly, he intends readers to leave his site thinking such issues are what generally motivate annihilationism.

Consider, too, the question Slick asks at the very top of his landing page on annihilationism. Is it “a biblical position,” he asks, “or is it the wishful thinking of those who don’t like God’s eternal judgment?”31Slick, “Annihilationism” [landing page]. The problems with this statement disguised as a question are manifold. First, it begs the question by assuming that the biblical phrase “eternal judgment” (Heb 6:2) just is the eternal torment in which annihilationists don’t believe, when in fact we affirm that God’s final judgment will be eternal, as explained above. Second, it’s an implicit ad hominem, inasmuch as the question should be whether annihilationism is true, not whether annihilationists are “those who don’t like” that biblical phrase (not to mention the claim about “wishful thinking”!). Third, it’s a textbook example of a false dilemma, a fallacy committed when two options are presented as if no other alternatives exist. By it, Slick implies that if he convinces the reader that annihilationism isn’t biblical, then the alternative is what they should believe, leaving the ad hominem implied. Fourth, since this fallacy occurs at the start of his critique, Slick commits another fallacy—poisoning the well—by attempting to discredit annihilationists and thereby predispose readers to accept his arguments against annihilationism.

Of course, this rhetorical framing doesn’t present the debate realistically. Annihilationists are committed to the authority and primacy of Scripture, and as most of us accepted the doctrine of eternal torment for years before changing our minds, we are not motivated by mere discomfort. We have nevertheless become convinced that the Bible teaches annihilationism, though we remain open to being proven wrong. As Rethinking Hell’s Statement puts it, “We have been convinced primarily by direct statements of Scripture that the penalty God has outlined for those who reject his offer of life is clearly the eternal punishment of the ‘second death,’ rather than endless torment.”32Rethinking Hell, “Statement on Evangelical Conditionalism”; emphasis added. In fact, in my first ten years as a Christian, I never had any moral or philosophical objections to the doctrine of eternal torment, and I embraced and defended it as what I thought was clearly taught in God’s word. I embraced annihilationism—despite desperately wishing not to33I wished then, and I still wish now, that I could believe in the doctrine of eternal torment, because it would make my life a lot easier as a conservative, Reformed evangelical. It would open doors of opportunity currently closed to me, for example, in the local church, global ministry, and Christian higher education.—because I became convinced Scripture clearly teaches it. Despite the message Slick seems to want readers to take away from his research and findings, annihilationism is a belief motivated by the express teaching of Scripture from cover to cover; it is not wishful or philosophical thinking.

Excursus—Was Slick Really Open-Minded?

Slick presents himself as if he sincerely sought to understand what we conditionalists believe and why, but his interactions and writings on annihilationism don’t seem to bear that out. “I went to God in prayer and asked that he guide me in my study,” he explained.34Matt Slick, “Being Open Minded About Annihilationism,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/7/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/being-open-minded-about-annihilationism/. “I did not want to approach His Word with a foregone conclusion . . . I did the best I could to remain open-minded. I was open to changing my perspective.”35Ibid. We cannot read hearts and minds, but we have reluctantly concluded that, in practice, Slick made little effort to understand conditionalism and annihilationism.

In addition to the examples above, Slick misrepresents annihilationism in his treatment of the word “destruction.” Annihilationists, Slick claims, think “destruction means nonexistence when it is related to unbelievers.”36Slick, “Dictionary.” No, we don’t. We think the destruction of human beings is the cessation and ongoing privation of their lives. Thus, Fudge writes concerning Matthew 10:28, “God can kill both soul and body, both now and hereafter. We see that in Matthew’s account, Jesus equates ‘kill’ and ‘destroy,’ making them interchangeable. That . . . flies in the face of traditionalists who always define ‘destroy’ as alive but wishing not to be.”37Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 123; emphasis added. Likewise, Glenn Peoples explains that when used of the lost, destroy means “destroy in the strong sense of literally kill or wipe out.”38Glenn Peoples, “The Meaning of ‘Apollumi’ in the Synoptic Gospels,” Rethinking Hell [blog], 10/27/2012 (accessed 1/30/2021), https://rethinkinghell.com/2012/10/27/the-meaning-of-apollumi-in-the-synoptic-gospels/; emphasis added. So, annihilationists think the destruction of people means they are slain. Yes, conditionalists think the lost will finally cease to exist, but that’s because God will slay the souls of the lost in the second death, and not only their bodies.

Similarly, Slick ends up misleading readers as to what annihilationists think about the second death. “According to annihilationists,” he writes, “the second death is annihilation,” by which he means the cessation of existence.39Slick, “Dictionary.” No, we don’t. Again, we do think those who suffer the second death will cease to exist, but that’s not what we think the second death is. Rather, we think the second death is precisely what it sounds like: dying a second time. Fudge therefore likens the second death to the deaths of those killed in Noah’s flood. “The death by Flood,” he explains, “killed only the body; the second death awaiting the wicked will kill the whole person.”40Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 62. Later, Fudge insists that “Paul never gives reason to suppose that eternal death is anything other than the absence of life . . . sentient, personal, embodied existence itself.”41Ibid., 211. We at Rethinking Hell have put it this way: “Conditionalists, recognizing [‘the second death’] as the divine interpretation of the cryptic lake of fire imagery, take the interpretation in a quite straightforward way: those who die apart from Christ will rise and die a second time.”42Chris Date, “Traditionalism and the (Not So) Second Death,” Rethinking Hell [blog], 9/6/2012 (accessed 1/31/2021), https://rethinkinghell.com/2012/09/06/traditionalism-and-the-not-so-second-death/. Yet again, in practice, Slick ended up failing to accurately represent the objects of his critique.

In what may be one of Slick’s most bizarre mischaracterizations, he attributes to annihilationists a defining belief that is far, far more common among defenders of eternal torment. In his entry on “Hell,” Slick writes, “Annihilationists say this [hell] is separation from God.”43Slick, “Dictionary.” Um, no. This is almost uniformly what believers in eternal torment say, and the examples are easily multiplied.44E.g., G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Eerdmans, 1999), 1059; Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th ed. (Eerdmans, 1996), 261; Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, The New American Commentary (Broadman and Holman, 1992), 80, 374; Edwin A. Blum, “John,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, 2 vols. (Victor Books, 1983), 2:304; Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms (Ambassador, 2002), 336; Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Kregel, 1976), 1:247; 2:155, 314, 362; 4:416; 6:234; Larry Dixon, The Other Side of the Good News: Confronting Contemporary Challenges to Jesus’ Teaching on Hell (Christian Focus, 2003), 67, 134; Walter A. Elwell (ed.), Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Baker Book House, 1988), 592, 604, 1299; John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him (Crossway, 2001), 347, 360; Alger M. Fitch Jr., Revelation: Unlocking the Scriptures for You (Standard, 1986), 41–42, 70; Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Victor Books, 1995), 235, 418, 475; Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling (eds.), Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (InterVarsity, 1999), 34; Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Inter-Varsity, 2004), 505, 516, 577, 657, 790, 1146; Paul S. Karleen, The Handbook to Bible Study (Oxford University Press, 1994), 243, 319, 322; Chris Morgan, Jonathan Edwards and Hell (Mentor, 2004), 131; Robert A. Morey, Death and the Afterlife (Bethany House, 1984), 30, 101, 155; Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, Life in the Spirit (HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), 372, 380, 381, 386, 455; John Piper, “If Our Sins Are Punished By Eternal Separation From God, Why Did Jesus Only Have to Suffer Momentary Separation?” Desiring God, 6/12/2009 (accessed 1/31/2021), https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/if-our-sins-are-punished-by-eternal-separation-from-god-why-did-jesus-only-have-to-suffer-momentary-separation; Ralph E. Powell, “Hell,” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 953; Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Moody, 1999), 145, 268; Norman Shepherd, “Fall of Man,” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 766; John A. Witmer, “Romans,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 2:465. In fact, it’s what Slick himself says. As he puts it elsewhere, “breaking God’s law brings judgment which is separation from God. . . . The judgment is known as damnation which is the righteous judgment of God upon the sinner.”45Matt Slick, “What is sin?” CARM.org, 11/21/2008 (accessed 1/31/2021), https://carm.org/answers-for-seekers/what-is-sin/; emphasis added. What conditionalists say is that, if hell is considered separation from God—as Slick and other defenders of the traditional view of hell say it is—then annihilation as a complete separation is what one would expect to happen in hell. As Fudge writes, “That language squarely fits conditionalism’s vision, for how can anyone continue to exist forever who is totally cut off from relationship and connection with the only source of life and ground of existence?”46Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 196. So, while we will occasionally make this kind of rejoinder in passing, we do not say that separation is just what hell is.

The apparent lack of open-mindedness is also seen in the disparaging way Slick characterizes annihilationists’ behavior. He likens us to universalists, who he says are “extremely loyal to their particular dogma and were incessant in their need to vindicate and establish their view is [sic] being true.”47Matt Slick, “Matt Slick to Those who Want Me to Respond to Their Responses to These Articles,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 1/26/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/matt-slick-to-those-who-want-me-to-respond-to-their-responses-to-these-articles-conditionalists-annihilationism/. Allegedly like us, “They too were persistent, never-ending, and dedicated to their position.”48Ibid. We are, he alleges twice in the same article, “excessively loyal to [our] topic,” and he adds that we “want nothing more than to substantiate [our] position.”49Ibid.; emphasis added. Slick repeats this characterization in “Conclusion on Annihilationism,” saying we “appeared to be more dedicated to defending annihilationism than in defending Christ, his work, and the necessity to spread the gospel.” While this is a possible (but particularly uncharitable) interpretation of what Slick has witnessed, perhaps instead annihilationists are simply convinced Scripture teaches our view, find Slick’s arguments against it unconvincing and fraught with errors, and are quick to rebut such arguments whenever they’re offered, having already heard and considered them before and being therefore ready to deploy a standard response. After all, nearly all evangelical conditionalists previously accepted the doctrine of eternal torment and have thought through the issues already, thereby demonstrating they are open to having their minds changed. Open-minded visitors to Slick’s website, looking sincerely into the topic of annihilationism, are not well served by such an extremely uncharitable interpretation of our interactions with him.

Fairly representing the people one critiques is an indication that a critic has been open-minded and sincere in one’s investigation of a topic, but Slick often fails to do so. He quotes Edward Fudge, for example, as saying, “Death is lack of relationship with God.”50Matt Slick, “Various Quotes Used in Research on Annihilationism,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 1/26/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/various-quotes-used-in-research-on-annihilationism/. Fudge does indeed pen this statement and affirm it, but Slick fails to reproduce or even mention its original context and thereby misleads readers into thinking this is how Fudge defines death. Of course, anyone even remotely familiar with the intramural Christian hell debate knows that it’s believers in eternal torment, not conditionalists, who define death as a relational separation from God.51E.g., Beale, “The Revelation on Hell,” 121; Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 258–9; Grudem, Systematic Theology, 657; Morey, Death and the Afterlife, 40; Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker Academic, 1998), 272. Indeed, Slick himself does so, writing elsewhere, “God refers to death as spiritual separation from him.”52Matt Slick, “If Jesus Paid All of Our Sin Debt, Then Why do we Still Have Physical Death?” CARM.org, 5/31/2012 (accessed 1/31/2021), https://carm.org/about-salvation/if-jesus-paid-all-of-our-sin-debt-then-why-do-we-still-have-physical-death/. More to the point, Fudge doesn’t offer this statement as a definition of death. Rather, he is acknowledging that the grave significance of death extends beyond the cessation and ongoing privation of biological life (as terrible as that is). “Traditionalists are absolutely correct,” he writes, “when they point out that ‘life’ means far more than bare ‘existence.’ . . . The opposite of this is also true. The most notable characteristic of the dead in the Old Testament is that they are cut off from God. Death is lack of relationship with God.”53Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 48; emphasis added. So, in context, Fudge isn’t defining death; he’s simply acknowledging that death, like life, is about more than biology. Evidently, Slick wants readers to think otherwise.

It’s very difficult to believe that someone who has been genuinely and consistently open to understanding and considering annihilationism would so flagrantly misrepresent and disparage it and its adherents. The above examples are indicative of someone who consistently reads his biases and presuppositions into his interactions with annihilationists and his reading on the subject. They require ignoring the statements of countless annihilationists who expressly don’t understand things the way Slick went on to claim they do. What he has written seems to reveal a desire, for whatever reason, to think annihilationists believe what he says we do, to reject or ignore our claims to the contrary, and to refuse to consider even the possibility that he’s misunderstood us.

Keep CARM and Carry On

We at Rethinking Hell are thankful for the good fruit Slick’s ministry has borne in Christians across the globe. We welcome his published thoughts on (what he thinks is) our view, and we invite you to read them for yourself. However, we want to help you read them critically. Critically analyzing and evaluating arguments, as objectively as possible, is always extremely important. For as the proverb reminds us, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17; emphasis added). Therefore, if you have read or intend to read Slick’s articles on annihilationism, please stay tuned to our website for further installments of this series, including our podcasts as they become available. Read and listen to them critically as well, of course; we are fallen sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, too, and therefore capable of being uncharitable and misleading in our responses. Still, do yourself the service of reading what both sides have to say, and in all things, “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess 5:21).

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References
1 Matt Slick, “Annihilationism” [dictionary entry], CARM.org, 10/12/2009 (accessed 2/2/2021), https://carm.org/2009/10/12/annihilationism/. CARM stands for Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.
2 Ibid.; emphasis added.
3 Matt Slick, “Is Annihilationism True?” CARM.org, 10/30/2010 (accessed 2/2/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/is-annihilationism-true/; emphasis added.
4 Matt Slick, “What is Annihilationism and is it Biblical?” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/4/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/what-is-annihilationism-and-is-it-biblical/; emphasis added.
5 Matt Slick, “What is Conditional Immortality?” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/4/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/what-is-conditional-immortality/; emphasis added.
6 One wishes, though, that Slick would correct his older articles.
7 Matt Slick, “Annihilationism” [landing page], CARM.org, 10/12/2020 (accessed 2/4/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism.
8 We’ll also be responding in a series of podcast episodes, some of which have already been recorded.
9 Matt Slick, “Dictionary of Terms Related to Annihilationism,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/dictionary-of-terms-related-to-annihilationism-annihilationists/.
10 Ibid.; emphasis added.
11 Slick, “What is Conditional Immortality?”
12 Slick, “What is Annihilationism and is it Biblical?”
13 Slick writes, “Conditionalists unite the body and soul very closely. They assume that when the physical life ceases the soul cannot continue. Some see this as immediate annihilation while others adopt a soul-sleep position.” Matt Slick, “What Are the Basic Assumptions of Conditionalism, Also Known as Annihilationism?” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/what-are-the-basic-assumptions-of-conditionalism-also-known-as-annihilationism/.
14 Slick writes, “the conditionalist asserts that physical death means soul sleep and or nonexistence because they equate the body and the spirit as one united whole.” Matt Slick, “How Did Jesus Speak of Death and Dying and What Did He Mean By It?” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/how-did-jesus-speak-of-death-and-dying-and-what-did-he-mean-by-it/.
15 Slick writes, “One of the most commonly quoted verses from conditionalists in support of their soul sleep/nonexistence of the person after physical death is to quote Ecclesiastes 12:7,” and “annihilationists . . . submit New Testament revelation to the Old Testament. They do this in order to support their preconceptions.” Matt Slick, “The New Testament Interprets the Old Testament, Not the Other Way Around.” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/the-new-testament-interprets-the-old-testament-not-the-other-way-around/; emphasis added.
16 Matt Slick, “Various Quotes Used in Research on Annihilationism,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/various-quotes-used-in-research-on-annihilationism/. Quoted from Rethinking Hell, “Statement on Evangelical Conditionalism,” RethinkingHell.com, accessed 2/5/2021, http://www.rethinkinghell.com/Rethinking-Hell_Statement-on-Evangelical-Conditionalism.pdf.
17 Slick, “Dictionary.” Quoted from Edward William Fudge, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, 3rd ed. (Cascade, 2011), 367.
18 A future article in this series will cover the (non-) relationship between annihilationism and so-called “soul sleep.”
19 Slick, “What is Annihilationism and is it Biblical?”
20 Matt Slick, “Conclusion on Annihilationism,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 1/28/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/conclusion-on-annihilationism/.
21 Slick writes, “Conditionalists equate God’s eternal judgment, His eternal punishment with a person’s nonexistence.” Slick, “What Are the Basic Assumptions of Conditionalism, Also Known as Annihilationism?”
22 Matt Slick, “What Did Jesus Say About Hell and the Final Judgment?” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/what-did-jesus-say-about-hell-and-the-final-judgment/.
23 Matt Slick, “The Conditionalist Bible,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/the-conditionalist-bible/.
24 Matt Slick, “Philosophical Challenges to the Conditionalist View of Eternal Punishment Being Nonexistence,” CARM.org, 10/12/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/philosophical-challenges-to-the-conditionalist-view-of-eternal-punishment-being-nonexistence/; Matt Slick, “Conditionalism and Conflating Eternal Punishment with Non-Existence,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/5/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/conditionalism-and-conflating-eternal-punishment-with-non-existence/.
25 Rethinking Hell, “Statement on Evangelical Conditionalism”; italics in original.
26 Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 138–9.
27 Future articles in this series will cover the meaning of the phrase “eternal punishment” and what it means for God to destroy finally impenitent sinners.
28 Slick, “What is Annihilationism and is it Biblical?”; emphasis added.
29 Ibid. Slick goes on to offer one and only one biblical reason why some Christians are annihilationists, but it’s not among the dozens of texts annihilationists will typically offer when asked why they believe what they believe, and it’s something of a caricature.
30 Slick, “What Are the Basic Assumptions of Conditionalism, Also Known as Annihilationism?”
31 Slick, “Annihilationism” [landing page].
32 Rethinking Hell, “Statement on Evangelical Conditionalism”; emphasis added.
33 I wished then, and I still wish now, that I could believe in the doctrine of eternal torment, because it would make my life a lot easier as a conservative, Reformed evangelical. It would open doors of opportunity currently closed to me, for example, in the local church, global ministry, and Christian higher education.
34 Matt Slick, “Being Open Minded About Annihilationism,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 2/7/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/being-open-minded-about-annihilationism/.
35 Ibid.
36 Slick, “Dictionary.”
37 Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 123; emphasis added.
38 Glenn Peoples, “The Meaning of ‘Apollumi’ in the Synoptic Gospels,” Rethinking Hell [blog], 10/27/2012 (accessed 1/30/2021), https://rethinkinghell.com/2012/10/27/the-meaning-of-apollumi-in-the-synoptic-gospels/; emphasis added.
39 Slick, “Dictionary.”
40 Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 62.
41 Ibid., 211.
42 Chris Date, “Traditionalism and the (Not So) Second Death,” Rethinking Hell [blog], 9/6/2012 (accessed 1/31/2021), https://rethinkinghell.com/2012/09/06/traditionalism-and-the-not-so-second-death/.
43 Slick, “Dictionary.”
44 E.g., G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Eerdmans, 1999), 1059; Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th ed. (Eerdmans, 1996), 261; Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, The New American Commentary (Broadman and Holman, 1992), 80, 374; Edwin A. Blum, “John,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, 2 vols. (Victor Books, 1983), 2:304; Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms (Ambassador, 2002), 336; Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Kregel, 1976), 1:247; 2:155, 314, 362; 4:416; 6:234; Larry Dixon, The Other Side of the Good News: Confronting Contemporary Challenges to Jesus’ Teaching on Hell (Christian Focus, 2003), 67, 134; Walter A. Elwell (ed.), Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Baker Book House, 1988), 592, 604, 1299; John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him (Crossway, 2001), 347, 360; Alger M. Fitch Jr., Revelation: Unlocking the Scriptures for You (Standard, 1986), 41–42, 70; Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Victor Books, 1995), 235, 418, 475; Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling (eds.), Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (InterVarsity, 1999), 34; Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Inter-Varsity, 2004), 505, 516, 577, 657, 790, 1146; Paul S. Karleen, The Handbook to Bible Study (Oxford University Press, 1994), 243, 319, 322; Chris Morgan, Jonathan Edwards and Hell (Mentor, 2004), 131; Robert A. Morey, Death and the Afterlife (Bethany House, 1984), 30, 101, 155; Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, Life in the Spirit (HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), 372, 380, 381, 386, 455; John Piper, “If Our Sins Are Punished By Eternal Separation From God, Why Did Jesus Only Have to Suffer Momentary Separation?” Desiring God, 6/12/2009 (accessed 1/31/2021), https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/if-our-sins-are-punished-by-eternal-separation-from-god-why-did-jesus-only-have-to-suffer-momentary-separation; Ralph E. Powell, “Hell,” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 953; Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Moody, 1999), 145, 268; Norman Shepherd, “Fall of Man,” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 766; John A. Witmer, “Romans,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 2:465.
45 Matt Slick, “What is sin?” CARM.org, 11/21/2008 (accessed 1/31/2021), https://carm.org/answers-for-seekers/what-is-sin/; emphasis added.
46 Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 196.
47 Matt Slick, “Matt Slick to Those who Want Me to Respond to Their Responses to These Articles,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 1/26/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/matt-slick-to-those-who-want-me-to-respond-to-their-responses-to-these-articles-conditionalists-annihilationism/.
48 Ibid.
49 Ibid.; emphasis added. Slick repeats this characterization in “Conclusion on Annihilationism,” saying we “appeared to be more dedicated to defending annihilationism than in defending Christ, his work, and the necessity to spread the gospel.”
50 Matt Slick, “Various Quotes Used in Research on Annihilationism,” CARM.org, 10/11/2018 (accessed 1/26/2021), https://carm.org/annihilationism/various-quotes-used-in-research-on-annihilationism/.
51 E.g., Beale, “The Revelation on Hell,” 121; Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 258–9; Grudem, Systematic Theology, 657; Morey, Death and the Afterlife, 40; Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker Academic, 1998), 272.
52 Matt Slick, “If Jesus Paid All of Our Sin Debt, Then Why do we Still Have Physical Death?” CARM.org, 5/31/2012 (accessed 1/31/2021), https://carm.org/about-salvation/if-jesus-paid-all-of-our-sin-debt-then-why-do-we-still-have-physical-death/.
53 Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 48; emphasis added.