Final Thoughts on A. J. Pollock’s “HADES and Eternal Punishment”
I finally feel compelled to finish my series of posts on A. J. Pollock’s “HADES and Eternal Punishment.” Frankly I haven’t been sure what to say about this whole exercise so I have allowed myself to procrastinate. Some of what I am going to write is my own opinion and I expect no one to treat it as divinely inspired; in other words I am under no delusions as to my infallibility. However, if we are honest with ourselves, all Christians hold personal beliefs about God and the way “things” work that we know are matters of personal belief and opinion. As long as we don’t contradict clear teachings of scripture it should not be held against us.
- What Was the Original Question?
I want to remind anyone who has been following these posts what the original question was that I was looking at: How exegetically solid is the case for eternal suffering of the unbeliever in the Lake of Fire? My question has never been: “does the unbeliever suffer in the Lake of Fire?” I do believe that the Lake of Fire exists and there will be suffering there. I also do not believe that there is any hope of reconciliation between the unbeliever and God after death. Rather the question for me is one of duration: will unbelievers suffer forever in the Lake of Fire or will the eventually be annihilated?
- Have I Come to a Definitive Conclusion?
In a word: No! I am not prepared to dogmatically state I believe either eternal conscious torment (ECT) or annihilationism to be the correct doctrine. I will say that when I started researching this I did expect the traditional ECT argument to have the stronger support but I no longer believe that. What I have concluded is that there is tradition involved and creeds of different denominations to be defended. These forces are very powerful and we all (including myself) tend to defend what we have been taught without always thinking it through.
I do believe that scripture is a complex network or interleaving of principles revealing who God is and showing us the way we should live our lives. It is rare that one principle can be changed without it affecting other principles. What I plan on doing is to continue studying God’s word, I am confident that as time goes by I will find other doctrines affected by the ECT/annihilationism debate and I will pay particular attention to these doctrines. I don’t see why this shouldn’t shed much light on this.
- Don’t Heretics Hold to Annihilationism?
One of the common charges I have seen made in this debate is that what are considered heretical groups hold to annihilationism. Specifically this includes the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I don’t want to dwell on this too much since it isn’t the point of these articles however I think I need to make my position clear.
I believe Seventh Day Adventists to be Christians while I do not believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses to be Christians. The reason that I do not believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses to be Christian is because of their teachings about the person of Jesus Christ.
Should that in and of itself make belief in annihilationism impossible for me? I have decided that the answer to that is “no.” I will bet you money (figuratively speaking) that if I carefully go through the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that I can find some points in agreement with whatever creed you hold. Does that mean you should immediately abandon those teachings? I think most people would say “no” to that and I would agree with them.
However if you still think that Jehovah’s Witness teaching taints annihilationism so much that it should be abandoned then I would like to point something out to you. If you are not a member of the Roman Catholic Church then you should consider abandoning the doctrine of eternal conscious torment (ECT). The teaching of ECT was cemented in church history by Augustine of Hippo who is a doctor of the RC Church. The teaching that Jesus paid an infinite price for our sins on the cross and that requires and infinite and eternal suffering of the unbeliever in the Lake of Fire comes from Anselm of Canterbury who was also a RC priest. If you are a protestant you should be very hesitant to accept Roman Catholic doctrine.
- What Am I Willing to Say Dogmatically?
Here is the one thing that I will state without doubt: my Lord and savior Jesus Christ is God and creator. He possesses infinite wisdom, justice, and righteousness and whatever He chooses to be the eternal destiny of the unbeliever is truly good and just. He has not chosen to provide me the details of many things but I am still confident in His character and will always strive to uphold his good name before the world.
If anyone would like to start at the beginning of this series of posts please follow this link to my first post: Is There a Case for Annihilationism? I have tried to daisy chain the posts so that by clicking on the link at the bottom of each post you can go to the next one in the series.