Episode 25: A Response to Thomas Dollahite, with Joey Dear and Chris Date

In a 2011 conference on eternal punishment at Sovereign Grace Bible Church in Phoenix, Arizona, Dr. Thomas Dollahite, professor and Dean of Academics at Christ Seminary in Albuquerque, New Mexico, delivered a lecture critical of annihilationism entitled Annihilationism Considered. In this episode, fellow Rethinking Hell contributor Joey Dear joins Chris Date to share their thoughts in response. Stay tuned for part two in the next episode.

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  • Givemhell

    I really appreciate these episodes. I especially enjoy this kind of episode where you respond to our critics.

  • The Remonstrant

    First, thanks again for another podcast.

    Second, if I may be
    quite forthright, I have despaired of hearing a good case for the
    conventional view based on the Bible alone. Whether it’s (a)
    eavesdropping in on an exchange between a “traditionalist” and an
    annihilationist, (b) listening to traditionalist advocates presenting a
    case for their view or (c) against the final destruction of the lost,
    the arguments I have heard thus far are incredibly weak. Dohallite is no
    exception.

    What we have here is yet another confused
    traditionalist presenting all manner of strange arguments against
    annihlationism along with confusing arguments apparently intended to aid
    in “proving” the conventional view of everlasting conscious torment
    (ECT). I do not get the sense that Dohallite is at all well-read in
    evangelical annihilationist literature. He has not sufficiently
    demonstrated (to my mind at least) that he clearly understands precisely
    what annihilationists are arguing for or against.

    That said, what follows below are five serious questions advocates of the conventional view of final punishment need to answer:

    1. What is the ultimate penalty or end result of sin according to the Bible?
    2.
    Is it exegetically sound to interpret “death” anywhere within the
    biblical canon as everlasting life in misery (i.e., unending conscious
    torment)?
    3. If the unrighteous are to endure ECT, why is it that the
    biblical authors only attribute immortality, imperishability and
    everlasting life to the righteous (i.e., those finally saved)?
    4. (a)
    Are we to interpret the many passages of Scripture that teach the end
    of the unrighteous results in death and destruction in light of a few
    ambiguous passages (e.g., Matthew 25:41,46; Revelation 14:9-11) or (b)
    are we to interpret the few in light of the many?
    5. Is the Bible to
    be taken as the sole authoritative source of truth or is tradition to be
    taken in some way as co-equal with Scripture? If the latter, then the
    Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (Scripture alone) must be
    dispensed with.

  • Descriptive Grace

    There is no way to interpret Psalm 37 other than annihilationism: either accept annihilationism or throw Psalm 37 out of the canon; that’s the end of the whole thing right there. Its all the Psalm is about! Its only because Christians don’t read the Psalms that eternal conscious punishment ever began to be believed.

    • wtanksleyjr

      James, I was stunned at the difference between reading Psalm 37 when I didn’t know about annihilationism, and knowing about it. The text just opens right up — it’s a clear reference to the post-death judgement and punishment of the unrighteous, specifically of those seemingly fortunate wicked people who spend their whole life high-on-the-hog and enjoying themselves even up to their painless and happy deaths.

      This Psalm made it impossible for me to continue pushing off the decision on annihilationism. And now I see what I never saw before — those Psalms that seem so Pollyanna about the wicked always being punished and having to die horribly, or about the righteous always recovering… They’re not Pollyanna if they’re talking about final judgement. And if the final judgement is annihilation, they’re not a coded reference; they’re starkly explicit.

      Without annihilationism, the Old Testament barely talks about final punishment, and the New Testament talks about it only in the Gospels, the final general epistles, and Revelation. WITH annihilationism, almost every book in the canon preaches final punishment.

      Far from annihilationism making us have less to say to unbelievers about the wrath of God, I think it gives us far more to say. Not to mention having far more inspired examples of how to preach.

  • Chris

    I have a response, not to conditionalism, but to limited atonement. I don’t really see this as an issue of salvation, but just want to clarify our position. I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient for all, but granted only to the believer. This is why only believers, or those called of God, or the sheep as Jesus would say, or the body of Christ as Paul would say can be atoned for. Unless a person excepts Christ’s atonement they will die in there sin, but the cross was good enough to atone all sin. With this understanding it would be impossible to except universalism. However, conditional immortality fits perfect in my understanding. Thanks for your podcasts, they are the reason I am a conditionalist today. Great work!

    • Chris Date

      Thanks for your thoughts, Chris, and thanks for your kind words!

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