Episode 51: Questioning the Bible Answer Man: A Response to Hank Hanegraaff, with Nick Quient and Ronnie D

Rethinking Hell contributor Nick Quient joins guest contributor Ronnie D to respond to various comments made about hell and annihilationism by Hank Hanegraaff, the “Bible Answer Man” and President of the Christian Research Institute.

Discussed Texts

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might
2 Thessalonians 1:9 (ESV)
if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly
2 Peter 2:6 (ESV)

Links

“Why Should I Believe in Hell?” by Hank Hanegraaff
http://www.christianity.com/blogs/hank-hanegraaff/why-should-i-believe-in-hell.html
“Torture,” by Ronnie
http://conditionalism.net/blog/2012/10/torture/
“An open letter to my traditionalist friends,” by Glenn Peoples
http://www.rightreason.org/2011/an-open-letter-to-my-traditionalist-friends/
Bible Answer Man 02/28/2014: “The Error of Annihilationism, and Q&A”
http://www.equip.org/audio/error-annihilationism-qa/
Bible Answer Man 04/12/2011: “Questions and Answers with Hank”
http://www.equip.org/audio/questions-and-answers-with-hank-342/
Bible Answer Man 01/17/2014: “Q&A: Old Testament Canon, Heaven, and the Authorship of James”
http://www.equip.org/audio/qa-old-testament-canon-heaven-authorship-james/
One Minute Apologist #233, with Hank Hanegraaff
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnBYmzDKpLQ
Hanegraaff Afterlife Lecture at South Mountain Community Church
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUhT8QFAoVE

Rethinking Hell Book and Conference Links

Rethinking Hell Book Announcement
http://rethinkinghell.com/2013/12/rethinking-hell-book-announcement
Rethinking Hell Conference Announcement
http://rethinkinghell.com/2013/12/rethinking-hell-2014-conference-announcement
Conference Website, with Details, Call for Papers, and Registration
http://www.rethinkinghellconference.com
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  • The Remonstrant

    Whether or not Hanegraaff is fully aware, Clark H. Pinnock (1937-2010) never was a universalist (at least not to the best of my knowledge). Here is an insightful quote of his from the nearly two decades old Counterpoints volume, Four Views on Hell (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), ed. William V. Crockett (pp.165,166):

    In the current situation, given the difficulties that attend the traditional view of the nature of hell, I think it is possible that changing our view would be a wise step. Rather than threatening the doctrine of hell, it may actually preserve it. The fact is that the tradition of everlasting conscious torment is causing more and more people today to deny hell altogether and to accept universal salvation in order to avoid its sadistic horror; on the other hand, the view of the nature of hell that I am proposing does not involve sadism, though it does retain belief in the biblical category of the second death. In any case, the objections to the traditional view of the nature of hell are so strong and its supports so weak it is likely to soon be replaced with something else. The real choice is between universalism and annihilationism, and of these two, annihilation is surely the more biblical, because it retains the realism of some people finally saying No to God without turning the notion of hell into a monstrosity.

  • Frank

    I haven’t read Pinnock, but that’s a great quote.
    One of the things Hanegraaf kept saying in those clips, which I’ve heard a lot from other traditionalists, is the rationale that the concept of eternal concsious torment shouldn’t be so repugnant to us because, after all, it’s what people choose. But this seems patently absurd to me. I recently had a chat conversation with a Christian who wrote this:

    “People end up away from God precisely because that’s where they’ve chosen to be. God has no reason to force people to be with him if they are determined not to be. He gave us free will at the beginning, and he doesn’t violate that. He’s all about choice. He gave us a distinct, sure way out of eternal separation from him – or, more to the point, INTO eternal togetherness with him – but we have to choose it.”

    I think they’re mistaken when they talk like this because they’re only half-right. Of course it’s true that many people choose to be separated from God. They want to be far away from Him and they make that choice. But let’s be clear about one thing, no one chooses eternal torment! No one ever chooses to be burned alive for billions and trillions of years (which would not even register as a blip on the screen of “eternity”). Calling that a “choice” is the rationalizing that proponents of the eternal conscious torment doctrine use as a way to make them feel more comfortable with the idea of God actively sustaining someone in existence forever for the sole purpose of Divine retribution. The doctrine of eternal conscious torment is so offensive to the human mind that they have to construct a justification that says, “they chose it.” But nobody chooses torment or torture.

    • The Remonstrant

      Dare I say the overriding presupposition of universal human immortality controls the exegesis of most Christians. It is the filter through which they view the Scriptures. Where do people get the idea that immortality is in some way inherent or innate to God’s creatures as made in his image from the Bible? One does not get this notion from the biblical data. Instead we learn God alone is innately immortal and only those united to Christ will receive lasting life in the age to come. Believers need to come into harmony with the view of the scriptural testimony and learn to view immortality as God’s gift granted to us through Christ, not something common to fallen humankind. The loss of everlasting life extends all the way to the early Genesis account. The original transgression of our first parents resulted in their expulsion from Eden where they not only lost their intimate communion with God, but access to the Tree of Life.

    • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lotharson

      This is pretty much what I just said above.

      Annihilationism is the only way for God to leave people with a genuine choice.

  • A.D.Thomas

    I listen to Mr. Hanegraaff several times a week and have enjoyed him a lot. I have even purchased a couple of his books. I do think that starting with Conditionalism and then jumping to Universalism, was a little disingenuous, and unfortunately he often comes across as polemic and condescending at times. Where I respectfully disagree with him is in this area of the intermediate state, the immortality of the soul and the ultimate end of the wicked. The question of what happens to a person after they die often comes up on his show and he always responds with the 2 Corinthians 5:8 and talks about his father. As to eternal suffering in hell he seems to take the “dualist” view that since a redeemed soul is conscious in heaven then a condemned soul is conscious in hell but of course comes back to his traditionalist mindset. One of the many things he habitually repeats is that people need to “mine the bible for all it’s worth.” I just wish that at least regarding these issues he would be a little more diligent.

    I really do love Hank as a brother in Christ and think he should be given an invitation and free registration to the “Rethinking Hell Conference 2014″. I can only imagine how great a resource he and his radio program would be should he ever come to embrace Conditionalism and dare to promote it on air! He of course would be attacked by mainstream traditionalist but the bad press would draw new listeners. I personally think that in the end telling the biblical truth would lead to blessings and perhaps even help solve the often financial woes of Christian Research Institutes.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lotharson

    Hello Nick and Ronnie, thank you for this terrific episode!

    While as a progressive Christian I don’t start with the same presuppositions, I truly appreciate your openness, serious scholarship and sharp-sightedness.

    I think you represent the very best Conservative Evangelicalism has to offer and this is the reason why I interviewed Chris Date.

    I think you were very successful in debunking the traditionalist arguments of Hanegraaf who wasn’t obviously attempting to understand what the texts really say.
    You are entirely right that giving in to the Zeitgeist would mean embracing Universalism and not Conditional Immortality.

    I think that Hank’s (and C.S. Lewis’s) theory of hell being “locked from the inside” does not hold water at all.
    After millions or billions of years in pain I am pretty confident that even the darkest sinner would repent and consequently be reconciled with God.

    So if this theory were true, I think that Universal Reconciliation would almost inevitably follow.

    I am not, however, an universalist, because I believe that there are people not sincerely desiring God who won’t inherit everlasting life.

    Yet I am an inclusivist believing in post-mortem conversions and I was consequently taken to task and called “an universalist” in a way very reminiscent of the inquisition.

    It is extremely disappointing to see many Conservative Evangelicals unwilling to first try to grasp a view before exposing it, thereby spurning the Golden Rule.

    I think that the fruitless debates taking place in the Evangelical world often stem from the assumption that inerrancy HAS to be true .

    So when debating about apparently conflicting texts, each Evangelical side has its favorite and reason like this.

    1) both texts have to be true (when properly interpreted)
    2) our interpretation of our favorite text is obviously correct
    3) therefore the opposite text HAS to say the same thing despite all appearances .

    To my mind this is not a scholarly and honest way to approach things.

    The alternatives ( mitigated by probabilities ) should rather be

    1) both texts are coherent and our interpretation is the right one
    2) both texts are coherent and their interpretation is the right one
    3) both texts have really conflicting voices so that inerrancy has to be rejected.

    Folks both believing in inerrancy and following this principle tend to be much less dogmatic in their conclusions and much more open to genuine dialogs.

    Keep the good work, it is always a true pleasure to listen to this podcast!

    • Nicholas Ahern

      Hey Lotharson,

      Thanks for your kind words. However, I don’t think I could necessarily be counted as a conservative evangelical. In my experience, both conservatives and progressives find something about me to gripe about. Including my habit of ending sentences with prepositions. ;)

      I would entirely agree that if Hanks (and Lewis’) view is correct, universalism is a most certain result given their more Arminian theology (one I tend to share). Again, I cannot thank you enough for your kinds words. My heart is warmed.

      In Christ,

      –Nick

      • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lotharson

        And thanks for your gracious late response :-)

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