Is There a Case for Annihilationism?
This is an introductory post for a series I am planning to write on annihilationism (the teaching that unbelievers are completely destroyed after a finite time in the Lake of Fire). The majority belief among conservative protestant Christians is that all unbelievers suffer eternal (unending) conscious torment in the Lake of Fire so this teaching is considered to be “unorthodox” in many of the conservative protestant circles I run in.
I decided to begin studying the topic about a year ago and was surprised to find the case for annihilationism was stronger than I thought it would be. This doesn’t mean I am now advocating for the position but it has made me think very hard about some teachings I had previously taken for granted.
Any honest student of the scriptures knows he needs to test every idea while studying, to get a good handle on any Bible teaching scripture must be compared with scripture. A real luxury we Christians have in this high tech era is access to a tremendous amount of scriptural teaching and research done over the last two thousand years. Add to that how accessible other Christians are via the internet and the ability to double check ideas is much easier. That is why I decided to contact Kevin Lane of the On My Walk blog and ask him to challenge the teaching of the annihilationism proponents. I know Kevin has a solid approach to interpreting scripture and any comments of his would be constructive. He recommended I study a booklet written sometime between the two world wars titled “HADES and Eternal Punishment” which strongly contests, among other things, annihilationism. The author of the booklet is A. J. Pollock who, according to his Wikipedia entry, was a member of the Plymouth Brethren and dispensationalist like me. His writing should indeed provide the solid test I need.
I told Kevin I would read Mr. Pollock’s booklet carefully and I think I have. After a couple of posts providing background information I will begin posting articles covering Mr. Pollock’s entire booklet looking for common ground as well as areas of disagreement.
I want to make clear that being a dispensationalist I do hold to what is called The Grammatico-Historical Method of interpreting scripture which among other things holds to the following principle:
When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.
I now believe the case for annihilationism can be made while holding to that principle.
Just in case someone happens by and wants to give me a hard time for being too open to annihilationism I am including a quote from Dave Hunt below. As long as I do not make any of the gross errors listed below I consider myself to be in the conservative protestant/evangelical camp. If a commenter can show me where I make the mistake of denying the authority of scripture, per the cults, in any of the posts in this series then please point it out to me.
There are three ways that cult leaders have tried to justify their contradiction of historical biblical Christianity: 1) by rejecting the Bible completely as infallible revelation from God; 2) by saying that the original manuscripts God’s word, but the copies we have today are inaccurate and thus unreliable; or 3) by insisting that they alone have the insight from God to properly interpret the Bible.
All three of these positions are unreasonable. It hardly makes sense to say God has never given man a reliable revelation of Himself and of His purposes for the human race, or that there has been no revelation from God in all the thousands of years of human history, but that now at last God has broken His silence to speak through “Cult Leader X”! Nor is it any less irrational to believe that, having given mankind His Word through apostles and prophets, God would either allow scribes and heretics to accidentally or deliberately distort and corrupt every copy on earth, or that God would give people a revelation so obscure that only one person on earth could interpret it!
The Cult Explosion: An Expose of Todays Cults and Why They Prosper
by Dave Hunt
[Click on link to see the next installment in this series: Theological Models of Man]