Episode 21: Response to Matt Waymeyer (Part 2)

In the 2012 Shepherd’s Conference, an annual event sponsored by John MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary, faculty member  Dr. Matt Waymeyer delivered a lecture critical of Annihilationism, entitled Hell Under Fire. This episode of Rethinking Hell is Part 2 of our response to Matt’s lecture, featuring co-hosts Daniel Sinclair and Chris Date.

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  • James D. Gallé

    It truly is amazing…

    Time and again we hear the same tired arguments traditionalists make against annihilationism. I find it telling that traditionalist advocates of “hell” as eternal conscious torment also typically avoid answering the strongest arguments against their view and for the final destruction/annihilation of the lost. They often prefer to engage the emotional arguments and philosophical disagreements of some annihilationists all the while failing to address the strongest exegetical arguments adherents of conditional immortality have made. Some conditionalists are theological voluntarists, others are not.

    So often traditionalists present the disagreement as one group being able to stomach the “biblical” view of final punishment as eternal conscious torment for the unrighteous, while the other is simply unable to come to terms with the horror of biblical truth. This is all sophistry, of course. The heart of the matter has always been, and will always be, scriptural exegesis. While the role of church history ought not be glibly dismissed, it should never be taken as co-equal with the biblical materials (in any case, not so long as we claim to be genuinely Protestant in our approach to the Bible and doctrine).

    The strength of the annihilationist case for the final destruction of the lost following the second advent of Christ and the judgement of the just and the unjust lies ultimately in its agreement with the scriptural contents. When I have argued online with traditionalists, I have found the arguments they typically spend the bulk of their time responding to are emotional and philosophical in nature. I personally have no interest in arguing for the annihilation of the wicked in this manner. The methodology I have employed is simply in attempting to gather a cumulative case from the Scriptures regarding its teaching of the final state of the lost. Curiously, this is where traditionalists falter. The “big four” texts usually presented as “proof” of unending conscious torment are Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 16:19-31; Revelation 14:9-11; and 20:10-15. The Lukan passage is taken from a story which doesn’t even specifically address the matter(!), and the two taken from Revelation are from an apocalyptic piece of literature. Lastly, the Matthean text does not explicitly identify what function the eternal/age-lasting fire will serve (25:41) or what the eternal/age-lasting punishment (kolasis) entails.

    Clearer texts which employ horticultural metaphors in order to convey the destruction of the lost such as Matthew 3:10-12 and 13:24-30,36-43 are summarily dismissed by traditionalists. Though these texts indicate that the burning up of chaff and weeds represents the fate of the unrighteous at the end of the age, we are told they cannot indicate anything remotely akin to what the end of the wicked will actually be. Traditionalists already have it in their minds that universal human immortality is true and the unrighteous will undergo eternal conscious torment; therefore, an annihilationist understanding of these verses must be false. (At least this line of reasoning seems to be the kind often indulged in.) Supposing you are awake and reading this (i.e., not drifting out of consciousness), it should be evident that something is seriously amiss with “reasoning” such as this.

    It is simply beyond me how confident many traditionalists are of their view. The real strength of the evangelical annihilationist stance of the fate of the unrighteous lies in its biblical arguments. Our view cannot be reduced to emotional pleading or various philosophical conjectures of “wouldn’t it be nice…?”. Our case stands on the Bible alone. The proof is in the pudding.

    Not only do traditionalists typically overestimate their position, they radically underestimate the annihilationist perspective. Until traditionalists are willing to wake up and smell the coffee, we will keep hearing the same tired arguments for eternal conscious torment and the same tired dismissals of conditionalism time after time.

    Apologies to Matt Waymeyer and company.

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