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Iron and Clay: Mixed Messages From Clay Jones on What We Should Fear

Clay Jones, a professor of apologetics at Talbot Seminary, has recently written a blog about annihilationism—sort of. It’s called “The atheist shall lie down with the annihilationist,” a title that quite evidently calls to mind the thought that the atheist and the annihilationist have a sort of peace or union over an issue, in much the same way that “the lion shall lay down with the lamb” in peaceful coexistence. The article is just not very good (sorry), and in his better moments (such as when writing a recent and excellent book about the human fear of death), I would hope that the author would recognize this. Tainted by Association This rather scandalous sounding title is followed up with such section titles as: “The Sadducees Expected Annihilation,” “Naturalists Expect Annihilation,” along with other headings citing Epicurus, Sam Harris, and Mark Twain. You might well wonder (if you’re a bit on the innocent side), right at the outset, what is going on here. When you then scan to then end of the article to see where all of this was supposed to be leading, however, you’ll notice that there is no conclusion. What exactly was the point of all this? Was there a central truth claim in play that the author was trying to defend? I’ll get into the apparent logic behind what these sections contain shortly, but the fact that this short article is essentially a series of statements linking annihilation to people and groups who reject Christianity is doing something non-cognitive. That is, the presentation is doing something that is not a matter of persuasion by fact and reason, but is something more emotive. The author has already said that he is not arguing that annihilationism is not true (fortunately, as nothing in the article seems to lend support to that claim). Instead, the emotive impact of a piece like this is that the doctrine of annihilationism is associated with a list of boogeymen, points of view that the Christian quite understandably wants nothing to do with. I pointed this out when Clay shared his article on Facebook, and the response, unfortunately was one of indignation—do I have the ability to read his heart and assess his motives? Naturally, it is awkward to be confronted with the claim that you are doing something like insinuating guilt by association, but in all honesty the response to the question of “can you read my heart?” is: Look, we’re not idiots. Just look at the title of this article. It’s not “Annihilation just isn’t a threat,” or “Eternal torment is punishment. Annihilation isn’t.” No, it’s “And the Atheist Shall Lie Down with the Annihilationist”! We are,

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