Sunday, December 30, 2012

10 Honest Questions for Annihilationalists

I have some problems with annihilationalism, but I don't think those who hold it are outside the bounds of orthodoxy, unless they hold it because they think God would be a monster or something if the traditional view was true. However, I thought I would come up ten questions to which I would be interested in hearing the answers. A couple sound similar but are actually different in their nuances. So here they are.

1.       If some are punished more than others, how exactly does that work out in the annihilation scheme? I’m going to kill you, but I’m going to kill that guy more?

2.       If punishment is nonexistence then God is actually punishing an infinite number of humans and angels by not creating them in the first place. Furthermore, He is doing so without their having committed a single sin. 

3.       If punishment is nonexistence, God is actually giving the most wicked amongst us, those who murder others and then wish to go out of existence, what they want. He is therefore rewarding them, not punishing them. Yet, He is punishing countless people  who are guilty of lesser crimes with what they do not wish—thus, rewarding the extremely wicked and punishing those who are less so.

4.      If punishment in the Bible really has to do with eternal separation from God's communal presence, does annihilationalism really just change the nature of eternal life to living a long time versus not living a long time? And doesn't this then still give the same punishment for the wicked even though punishments are said to be in degrees?

5.       If the story of the Rich man and Lazarus is figurative, why does it use names rather than generic designations? What does a disembodied person suffering in hell represent as he says, “I do not wish my brothers to come to this place”?

6.       The word “eternal” or “everlasting” is a gloss for the “into the ages,” designating the duration of punishment. But isn’t the punishment of annihilation really just a single event with continuing effect? Why would it be described as eternal? Do we really suspect that some would have misunderstood what Christ and the apostles were saying (i.e., that God was going to kill someone’s body and soul for sin but then might remake them after that)? Is there any evidence of a view in Second Temple Judaism that would believe such a thing so as to cause the NT writers to add the modifier “eternal” in order to clarify the duration of the punishment?

7.       If judgment is annihilation, why does Jesus say that the day of judgment (the future seat of final judgment) will be more tolerable for some than others? Everyone is receiving the same punishment.

8.       If punishment is annihilation, why does the NT use terms that in the Greek world indicate, not annihilation, but eternal torment? Would not other words be more appropriate, and would not the common words need to be continually redefined and clarified in every passage? Lack of such qualifications in texts usually means that the common definitions apply, not a departure from those definitions. What warrant is there for breaking that rule?

9.       If hell is made for the devil and his angels, and they suffer day and night forever and ever, why is it that humans who go to hell do not do the same? Does annihilationalism beg the question of physicalism when it comes to human beings and the devil and his angels are eternal, but physical human beings do not have a spiritual element and would be destroyed by the fire?

10.  If the fire represents destruction in the lake of fire, why does the fire in hades represent conscious torment, for instance, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus? In other words, if it is more according to the nature of God to punish by annihilation rather than with something more conscious and torturous, why does the temporal punishment not mimic the eternal? Is it not better to suggest that the eternal is an extension of the temporal and that the temporal is a foreshadowing of the eternal? Why not?

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