Friday, October 21, 2011

Episode 63: Lake of Fire

Episode 63 of the Theopologetics Podcast is now available! Dr. Larry Dixon, author of The Other Side of the Good News, joins me to discuss why he believes the traditional view of hell, and not annihilationism, is the biblical teaching concerning the fate of the wicked. This episode is part 2 of the interview; for part 1, listen to episode 62, "The Other Side."


  1. You don't misunderstand what annihilationists mean, Chris.

    Existence is a question of consciousness, being alive in any sense, etc. If corpses are left over, that is just fine. Granted, they probably won't be around forever (I personally think it will be relatively quick), but even if they were, corpses cannot feel, think, or anything else. They no longer "exist" as a person.

    Since Mark 9:48 was a point of contention regarding the worms, I would argue this: the picture of undying worms does fit with a consuming agent and temporary existence of the (unliving) source of food. Here is why:

    In nature, a single worm cannot eat all that much in a lifetime. Considering the worm's size, its remarkable how much they do eat, but on an absolute scale, not a lot. If they consume their host, they don't die. Rather, they move on. The contrast would be a worm that dies before it finishes (since humans are enormous compared to worms). Thus, the worm that does not die is the worm that consumes its host. Isaiah, I believe, is using a picture from nature. The worm outlives (used in a metaphorical sense) its food supply, and would live and move somewhere else.

    Of course, taken literally, if it keeps eating, then Isaiah is saying it is eating a dead corpses, which, though not what I think happens, certainly doesn't mean eternal torment (as these would be supernatural corpses, not supernaturally immortal people).

    It COULD be used as a loose metaphor for general continued existence, as Dixon and others argue, but that is not the only meaning, and I hardly think it is the most evident one.

  2. Hey, Joey. Thanks for listening! I'm glad I didn't misunderstand annihilationists. It seems traditionalists read too much physics into what annihilationists mean when they speak of "ceasing to be." Would you say it's fair to say that in one sense, a person does not cease to exist when they die, since no "part" of the person is gone, but in another sense, that which you described, they do cease to exist? And so, whether a dualist or a physicalist, an annihilationist could say Jesus was fully annihilated on the cross, but only "ceased to exist" in the sense that He was fully dead? But that is not the kind of metaphysical cessation of existence that would cause a problem for the hypostatic union? That seemed to be where Dixon's problem was.

    I agree with at least some of what you've said about the undying worms. I'm not sure, but it seemed like Larry missed the point: Whatever WE think of when we read the language of undying worms, how did the biblical authors use that language, to which Jesus was hearkening? They used it to describe worms which are eating a pile of lifeless, unconscious, decaying corpses. What justification do we have, then, for transferring that to worms which are forever eating living, suffering people? I just don't get it.

  3. Well, it means eternal torment, because Jesus talked about it, and He talked about Hell (as in eternal torment)...

    Some go a lot further than Dixon. I don't know if you've read it yet (I know it was on your list as mentioned on Facebook), but in Hell on Trial, Robert Peterson says the following: "Proper theological methodology involves allowing New Testament writers to move beyond their Old Testament background in keeping with the progress of revelation. Fudge Errs by reading his supposed meaning of Isaiah 66:24 into the New Testament, where it does not fit" (64). Yep, he said that...

    What surprised me was how hard it seemed for Dixon to comprehend what the annihilationist means by existence. I understand why the term "annihilation" would be misleading, and why one might be surprised when they first hear an annihilationist saying dead bodies being left over is still annihilationism. However, it seemed he just could not get above his previous misunderstanding no matter how many times you explained it to him.

    Really, in a lot of ways, you put him on the defensive, but in a good way. He was clearly very frustrated and flustered, but it wasn't because you were being in anyway ungracious or rude or hostile. You brought up good points, a lot of them, that he couldn't answer. With Matthew 25:46, for example, he contradicted himself. He made the point that the executed criminal is punished by being deprived of the oppurtunity for joy and so forth (at which point I applauded). But when you made the point that it's the exact same thing, he couldn't get over the fact that they are not conscious after. But, neither is the executed criminal (or even if they are in soul form, they aren't going to be reflecting on their deprivation of earthly life, but either on their far worse current torment, or immeasuarably sweeter intermediate life in Heaven).

    Now, I do just want to add that I think that there is a reasonable and coherent explanation for Revelation 20:10 (a couple really, though some less so than others). I still definitely recommend Glenn Peoples' Podcasts on it if you haven't listened already. If you're really brave, I did tackle the issue a bit myself in a paper I wrote on my website. It's pretty much the same thing that peoples says, but I go a lot more in depth (I devote 30 pages to that verse alone). Just throwing it out there :)

    Anyway, I thought you did great, and handled the clearly irate professor with courtesy and patience.

  4. Also, I do think you there is a reason why your "Devil's Advocate" approach went over so much more smoothly with Dee Dee Warren and Edward Fudge - what they were saying was biblical! They had good answers because there were good answers.

  5. At the risk of blowing up this blog (the way boys blow up K$sha's phone), I gotta just say this:

    Regarding Matthew 25:46 once you grant that eternal nouns of action can refer to a one-time action that has eternal results (like Mark 3:29, Hebrews 5:9, 6:2, 9:12, and 9:15), which Dixon does concede because it is totally unavoidable, the consciousness problem is solved. At the time the person is actually punished, they are conscious. The infliction occurs on a living, conscious being. God punishes them once by making them non-existent. The result, the punishment, is that they are non-existent. If the consequence is what is eternal (which it could be and is under the annihilationist scenario), then their being non-existent is what is eternal.

    The same thing is to be said of being separated from God (e.g. in 2 Thessalonians 1:9). People assume that if the consequences of sin is being cut off from God, the lost must exist for eternity, since you can't be cut off if you don't exist. But, the unsaved person is consciously existent when they are cut off from God. Then (probably as a result of being cut off), they are destroyed.

    Lastly, despite Dixon's claims about the Old Testament, I would argue that given what God says in Chapter 3, the pronouncement of Malachi 4:1-3 is clearly eschatological, referring to the final judgment, and not to Israel's enemies on earth.

  6. Will I be cut off if I admit that I really like some of Ke$ha's music? :)

  7. "Will I be cut off if I admit that I really like some of Ke$ha's music?"

    I'm cancelling the debate.

  8. As long as you don't hire Ke$ha to permanently replace Glenn's intro music, you're fine.

  9. That was the most well mannered annihilation of an unbiblical viewpoint I can remember. You could see though, how much in torment the poor guy was - must have seemed like a really long time to him. I was putting up Christmas lights while listening and almost fell off the roof (figuratively) when he said something like "you annihilationist are always insisting on defining biblical terms by their previous (OT) use..." Whats the alternative - make stuff up however we like?
    I was also surprised how many times he said "I'll have to do a word study on that" given that it appeared he had the questions ahead of time.
    Anyway, this was your best episode yet.

  10. I think my previous comment may have come across as a little harsh, so if you read this Dr. Dixon, sorry about that. It's partially because I was pushing the puns (I should be "pun"nished for that as my grandmother would say) and partly because I think the error of eternal conscious torment has been very damaging to the kingdom. Thank you, though, for being willing to engage in the conversation.