Episode 66: A Response to the Mohler-Date Debate, Part 2

On the January 3, 2015 episode of the Unbelievable? radio show with Justin Brierley, our very own Chris Date debated Dr. Albert Mohler on the topic of conditionalism. In episode #65 of the Rethinking Hell podcast, Chris was joined by Rethinking Hell contributors Daniel Sinclair and Peter Grice for a debate debrief. Here’s the fascinating remainder of their discussion.

Links

The debate between Chris Date and Al Mohler on Unbelievable
http://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Should-Christians-rethink-Hell-Dr-Al-Mohler-Chris-Date-debate-the-traditional-conditionalist-view
Conditionalism and Evangelism
http://www.wholereason.com/2014/07/conditionalism-and-evangelism.html

Rethinking Hell Book and Conference Links

Rethinking Hell Book Ordering Information
http://rethinkinghell.com/2014/04/order-now-rethinking-hell-readings-in-evangelical-conditionalism/
Rethinking Hell Conference Videos
https://www.youtube.com/user/rethinkinghell
Conference Website, for Unfolding 2015 Conference(s) Details
http://www.rethinkinghellconference.com
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  • HaakAway

    Thanks for all of you taking the time on this resource. I listened to it, downloaded a copy and have it for others now. I cannot say enough about how your good emphasis on debating the Scriptures is our request. The power of that is two-fold:
    1) It directly faces the chief criticism CI faces: that we deny Scripture and
    2) It uses the very authority that ECT wants to claim as its’ own; better Bible study.

    As a working pastor this is proving more useful all the time. Looking forward to Pasadena.

    • Peter Grice

      Appreciate your feedback and encouragement always, John.

  • jim ottaway

    Thanks so much for all your work in all phases of getting all of this online. Daniel mentioned that IIThes 1:9 can be an explanation of the nature of the punishment mentioned in Mt 25:46. Would not Mt 3:12; 10:28; and 13:36-42 also be valuable in that sense?

    Again, thank you all for your work on this site. I hope the discussion with Dr. Mohler is a bit of a breakthrough for the topic being an acceptable point of conversation among conservative pastors and theologians.

    • Peter Grice

      Thanks, Jim! Those are excellent verses in their own right, yes, and they have a certain relevance being all from Matthew’s hand.

      But the way in which II Thess 1:9 unlocks Mt 25:46 is a little more direct, or simple.

      I think the issue runs like this. Traditionalists will insist that “eternal punishment” must mean eternal conscious punishment, which is roughly the same as eternal torment.

      This only works, however, if we disallow punishment on its own to admit anything other than conscious punishment, a.k.a. corporal punishment. But the Greek word kolasis certainly doesn’t mean that. There are examples in places like Josephus and the Apocrypha were it is used, when capital punishment is clearly in view. In fact one could even make a weak etymological argument that the word connotes death by beheading, because its root means “lopping off,” as you would lop off the branch of a tree. Universalists tend to argue that it means “pruning,” but it just doesn’t, even if the root word was commonly used that way. It means no particular kind of punishment—for it just means “punishment”!

      So it is a category, in need of being filled with something more specific, but linguistic arguments won’t get you there.

      Helpfully, that naturally throws up the question “What kind of eternal punishment is it?”

      And if you had no idea how to answer that question, you could at least come up with this criterion for an answer: we are looking for some kind of statement which ideally says: “Eternal punishment is X!!!”

      That would be so handy! Are there any variations we might accept? How about, “The punishment is eternal X!!!”

      I think most people would find that a very reasonable way forward. If only such a clear phrase could be found.

      Exhibit A: “…the punishment of eternal destruction…” (II Thess 1:9)

      It turns out, that does fit the very reasonable criteria for answering what kind of punishment maps to the category in Mt 25:46. We found our answer: the eternal punishment is destruction.

      Now there is more to say about that verse. The NIV notoriously inserts “shut out from” as though this is about God sending someone passively away from His *powerful* presence. And anyone who has studied the motifs of Shekinah Glory and O.T. theophanies can see immediately that it is talking about a violent destruction BY and away from God (to be closely linked to the same idea in II Thess 2:8).

      But you can see how this can be a valid link to make, and also very rhetorically effective if a person is willing to listen to the question-answer dynamic we are presenting.

      • Peter Grice

        And of course another point of contention is the word translated “destruction.” There is lots to consider there, but in this instance, the theological motif should be brought to bear as part of the contextual study.

        I also think the NRSV rendering of II Thess 2:8 is helpful to quote, as well as a little cheeky:

        “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will DESTROY with the breath of his mouth, ANNIHILATING him by the manifestation of his coming.”

        • jim ottaway

          Thanks for these thoughts, Peter.

  • Adam Gadomski

    Richard Bauckham’s book, “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”, is a great book as well!

    Just saying. ^_^

  • Comacct

    The comments from Chris, Daniel, and Peter from 32:30 onward are really helpful. In small part:

    “When we shift our view of hell, it shifts our emphasis in evangelism, and it shifts it away from the trauma of eternal torment and towards the potential loss of eternal life.”

    “If you stop living, then what are you losing? … You’re losing the life, the potential to live forever with the God of love in a restored universe where there’s no sickness, there’s no suffering, there’s no death ….”

    I agree. Paul encourages his readers by telling them that they will “always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17), and Rev 21 tells us that in the end “the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

    That also reminds me of a related comment from one of the guys in this or the previous episode, which accords with what I’ve thought before: The CI view is not so different from ECT unless one views the physical and/or emotional suffering as the main “bad thing” about hell.

    But I think both views would acknowledge that the lost opportunity to have eternal life as one of God’s people is the greater tragedy, and both CI and ECT affirm that loss.

    That’s a big deal. It also seems like an area where CI has a lot in common with ECT.

Featured audio: Dr. Al Mohler & Chris Date debate
"Should Christians rethink Hell?" on Unbelievable?