Shortly after participating in my second formal debate on final punishment, 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. 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.”
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.'” 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?” 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,” 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” →