Episode 39: Is Hell Forever? Chris Date and Phil Fernandes Debate Hell

On Saturday, September 28th, 2013, Dr. Phil Fernandes and Rethinking Hell contributor, Chris Date, debated the proposition, “The punishment of hell will be annihilation: the everlasting loss of life and conscious existence.” Date affirmed, articulating and defending conditional immortality and annihilationism. Dr. Fernandes denied, articulating and defending the traditional view of hell as eternal torment.

Both presenters’ opening statements, first rebuttals and notes are available in a book available at Amazon here.

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  • I think that Christ Date does quite a nice job showing that, at the very least, eternal hell is Biblically speaking not compelling at all.

    Generally, I think he won the debate and that many of Dr. Fernandenz answers were very wanting.

    I am not an Evangelical but a non-denominational Christian leaning towards (progressive) Catholicism so I am certainly not following the same approach as the contributors of this podcast.
    But I think that they are doing an admirable job due to the fact the traditional view has caused many people to become or stay atheists.

    On philosophical grounds, I believe that God is a perfect being and that He is always going to try to save people on both sides of the grave:


    What are your thoughts on that?

    Lovely greetings from France.

    • givemhell
      • Maybe there are more diplomatic ways to express your disagreement ;-)

        2013/10/10 Disqus

        • givemhell
          • givemhell

            Seriously though, I am never going to be your fairy princess godmother but I want to help you and if you give me permission to reproduce your writings I will copy some of your material and go through it bit by bit, pointing out where and how you have departed from the scriptures and it might help you to understand the bible a little bit better. I don’t have all of the answers but I think that I can help you.

  • givemhell

    I’ve been looking forward to hearing this debate for a long time. I think that there are plenty of smart people who are going to listen to this debate and realize:

    1. One of Phil’s major arguments was simply an argument from authority.

    Just because the majority of Christians believed that hell is eternal conscious torment doesn’t make them correct. There are many traditions that the majority of Christians believed historically that are incorrect. Haven’t you heard of purgatory? Also, did you notice that his argument for the Church fathers was also simply an appeal to authority?

    2. Another of his major arguments was an association fallacy.

    So, because Jehovah’s Witnesses believe something that we also believe, we are somehow tainted? If that wasn’t the point of bringing up the JW’s and other cults, than what was the point of mentioning them at all?

    3. His other major argument was the slippery slope fallacy.

    Even his line of questioning seemed intended to show how “weird” Chris’s theology was as if to say “look, you can’t believe him because he believes something different than you about the soul. If you believe the same as him you will start believing weird things as well” What does one thing have to do with the other? It certainly doesn’t disprove his view of hel. Lets say Chris believed that he was really an apple from the planet Neptune. If Chris the apple said “2+2 is 4″ I wouldn’t think, “wow, that can’t be right because hes a wacko”. No, each statement has to be judged on its own merit. Was this simply a form of ad hominem argumentation intended to discredit Chris as a theologian?

    At one point he even says outright that it isn’t the slippery slope fallacy to say that believing in hell will lead to believing other “non-traditional” doctrines. Well, why not? He never says. He needs to be able to demonstrate why one thing leads to another. He doesn’t even try. Why will believing in annihilationism lead to believing in soul sleep or physicalism? You have to demonstrate why this is the case in order to avoid the slippery slope argument. This is definitely a good example of a slippery slope argument.

    The thoughtful Christian is going to listen to this debate and realize that the man barely interacted with the annihilationist’s argumentation, that his arguments were full of holes and that Chris made some great points.

    I have to commend both of you though for being very respectful and kind to each other. While I enjoy a bit of passion and blunt honesty I realize that it provokes emotional reactions from people and sometimes when people turn on their hearts they turn off their brains.

    I really wish that the debate had been longer so that they could have explored more material. There really is so much material to deal with on this subject and a short debate like this never really does the topic justice. At the same time, it is enough to get people to realize that we annihilationists make a darn good case and is probably a great motivator to get people to do a bit more research which is exactly what we need.

    • Chris Date

      Thanks, Givemhell :)

  • Chessman

    Chris (and Dr. Phil if you have an opportunity to review the debate
    comments here),
    I enjoyed the debate tremendously. I thought that for the time
    available (~2.5 hours) you both covered this Biblical eschatological
    topic well, comprehensively and presented many arguments (most Biblical
    and some secular) supporting your differing positions and denying the
    other’s extremely clear and efficiently. To me, it’s a model debate for
    any topic in its style, preparedness and your mutual respect for the
    differing side’s opinions/evidence. Frankly, I cannot think of another
    debate on any topic by any two other people where both sides honestly
    and respectfully addressed each other’s points with as much respect and
    thought, yet still clearly disagreeing on them. Due to this, we now
    know why you disagree and can evaluate the evidence for ourselves (the
    proper goal of any public debate, I suppose). I’ve listened to many
    atheists versus Christian apologist debates (for example) and they do
    not come anywhere close in their quality that you both presented here.
    I’m biased so I’ll just say it recognizing this bias; I’d expect that
    from the atheist’s side but all too often I’ve seen the Christian side
    stoop to the same level of disrespect, off-topic comments, avoidance of
    the opponents counterpoints or worse straight out ridicule. None of
    that found here. My point is, even though you disagreed, you did so
    with appropriate respect even while directly addressing the
    disagreements for the most part, using the Biblical text. I wish all
    debates were conducted in the way you two did. Think how much good
    information could be shared if they were. Anyway, truly the debate was
    a great one by you both. I’m confident the reason emanates from the
    fact that you both love the Lord, His Word and each other in addition to
    your in-depth study of this topic.
    Thanks for taking the time to do this debate and publish it here.
    BTW, I thought Chris won the debate for several reasons.

    • Chris Date

      Thanks, Chessman! And not primarily for saying you think I won :) Thanks primarily for the very kind words about our debate.

  • Roy Soliman

    Great debate Chris!

    Interesting to reflect on this debate. In terms of who was perceived to win the debate, on Dr Phil’s side he started with more confidence and also had familiarity on his side, ie most people are familiar with the doctrine of eternal torment and so it naturally seems more ‘right’ – because that’s what people already believe.

    I think towards the end Chris, you showed your confidence and the strength of your case, which showed you won the debate. I think too, Dr Phil agrees that you won the debate, because he said a few times he wasn’t coming in to win the debate but to sound an alarm. (But surely winning the debate is the loudest way an alarm could be sounded)

    Chris, just a few thoughts I’d like to pass on. (Please don’t see this as criticism, because I think you did a fine job and know it’s far easier to be on the side-lines than in the game):

    * I think it would have been helpful to the audience if you challenged them to a) count the number of verses Dr Phil used and b) to listen very carefully to how accurately Dr Phil renders the verses he does use.

    * Dr Phil showed how messy it could get with the soul leaving the body and the spirit doing something or rather. Thought you navigated that well.

    * Also, I’ve been thinking about that verse “… and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” … I’m wondering if the phrase “with the Lord” means what it means in 1 Thess 4:17, “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”. What are your thoughts on this?

    * I think a standard question in these debates in the cross-examination bit should be: ‘What do you understand ‘annhilation’ to mean?’ I think this is a stumbling block because they interpret annhilation as obliteration (all our particles will be scattered thought out the universe) and the Bible doesn’t say anything about being obliterated as such.

    * I think when you referred to John 3:16, you should have also given a dictionary definition of the word ‘perish’, again because people interpret ‘perish’ as in ‘rotting away’, which would then ‘imply’ eternal conscious torment.

    Would love to hear your feedback on this feedback!

    Thanks to both you and Dr Phil! Stay strong in the Lord.

    • Thomas Rem

      currently only 2 places man goes right now the 3rd heaven aka paradise and Hades aka the bottomless pit or the grave. The white throne judgement has not come yet so no one is in the new heaven or new earth and likewise no one in Hell yet

      • Roy Soliman

        Thanks. Not sure of the relevance of your comments to mine?

        • Thomas Rem

          just answering the obliteration and perish? also no man(encluding Enoch,Moses and Elijah) has ascended or been rapture to the third heaven yet except for Jesus Christ.

  • Guest

    The last question (in the debate) and story that followed was the perfect ending. Thanks to both of you for demonstrating unity in such a warm way.

    Grace and peace be with us, jeremiah

  • Allan Swinson

    As many have said here, great debate. I have a question: You mentioned a Jewish story about a rich man who goes to heaven and a poor man who goes to hell, which Jesus presumably turned upside down in the Rich Man and Lazarus story. Can you please tell me your source for that? I’d love to see it in print myself. For me, that would seal the deal on the Rich Man and Lazarus (which is by far the most problematic passage for me to handle when talking to traditionalists). Thanks in advance!

  • Webb Mealy

    Dr Fernandes makes an out-and-out incorrect statement about Gehenna in the NT right out of the gate, claiming that Gehenna is a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This is incorrect. The two expressions (Gehenna, weeping and gnashing of teeth) never go together in one saying.

  • Pingback: The Inconsistency of Arguments for Eternal Conscious Punishment | Cantus Firmus()

  • Jeff Heileson

    Great debate! One comment, repeated a couple of times, threw me off (and is off topic) about Seventh Day Adventist being a cult. The word cult comes with it negative connotations.SDA is a Christian denomination….am I missing something?

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