Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Confession and Belief: Confirmatory or Essential?

It’s good once more to return to The Center for Theological Studies. I acknowledge that I haven’t posted in months and do apologize for this. A number of things have transpired this semester between work and school that have prevented this. All in all, it’s good to be back. I feel like this is a “Blog Reunion” of sorts J

I was submitting some work for one of my bosses today and got to thinking about Calvinism and Arminianism and the constant disagreement that goes on between these two soteriological camps. Of course, when you throw Molinism in the mix, it’s a battle of a time!

Today, though, I wanna focus on salvation itself and talk about confession and belief, components of the Gospel. I tackle this question here today because a lot of Calvinists who hold to irresistible grace do so because of “the sovereignty of God,” they often say. First off, they act sometimes as if Classical Arminians such as myself have no notion of the sovereignty of God...and they often cannot distinguish between Classical Arminians and Open Theists. Even the late Dr. Clark Pinnock, most renown five-point-Calvinist-turned-Open Theist, could distinguish the two camps.

So what happens in salvation, according to the Scriptures? More specifically, how does one become saved? What does the Bible specifically tell men and women to do in order to be saved? Calvinists believe that the Lord first regenerates a person, changes them from the inside out---and then, they confess and believe (as though confession and belief are merely confirmatory signs of a predetermined salvation that God has already done).

Let’s take a look at this, however: if the Calvinist ordo salutis (order of salvation) is correct, then why must the individual confess and believe? The Calvinist notion of salvation is the same thing as saying that a person must first go buy a chainsaw in the store to work on their yard and then, the store owner will let them in to buy the chain saw! Does this make sense? Not at all! How can someone buy a chain saw if he doesn’t first enter the store? If it is “necessary” to enter the store, how then, can entering the store be “merely confirmatory”? If something is confirmatory, it is significant but more optional than necessary. The words “necessary” and “optional” are opposites (not synonymous).

If we apply this to salvation, the question we must ask ourselves is, “If confession and belief are required for salvation,” are they necessary? Yes they are. I’m sure that many Christians would not disagree with that statement. The problem, however, comes when you tie in the necessity of confession and belief with the sovereignty of God. Calvinists, in their attempts to focus on the sovereignty of God, minimize the very salvation process that God’s sovereignty created. They give with one hand what they take away with the other.

Can we not find a solution that equally holds to both the sovereignty of God and the necessity of confession and belief---without sidelining either? Calvinists show through their minimization of confession and belief that they cannot find a solution that fits with their notions of irresistible grace and unconditional election. And this explains why they often have to appeal to mystery or say, “It’s all in the mind of God” as a defense mechanism to cope with the problems and contradictions of their own system. Molinists battle the same problem: their notion of unconditional election forces them to say that the individual in question would have been saved, had he never confessed and believed (because these are conditions and election is “unconditional”). 

“No, that’s not what Molinists would say!” some tell me. Molinists would say that confession and belief are necessary conditions for salvation; however, they would then turn around and say that God had already chosen the church (and those who make up the church) before the foundation of the world (appealing to Ephesians 1). How could God have chosen these individuals before they fulfilled the conditions? The Molinist answer would be that God foreknew who would choose Him (this is where they sound like a Classical Arminian)...but they would then veer left and say, “But God sovereignly chose the world in which these individuals ‘happened’ to choose Him”---and God foreknew all that would happen. This may suffice for the Christian who cares about his or her own election and takes no thought to the perishing and ungodly in the world; but this doesn’t suffice for me. I strongly believe in the sovereignty of God, such that God could have saved the entire world (and never granted freedom of choice to begin with). However---and this is where I draw the line---God did grant humans the freedom to choose to either be saved or be damned. God’s sovereignty is responsible for man’s freedom. I would say to any Calvinist that, if you think God’s sovereignty didn’t grant freedom, think again---it did!

Because God granted the freedom to choose whether one is saved or lost, the question becomes, “Why didn’t He choose that the entire world be saved?” What I mean by this is, if God is sovereign in the Calvinist sense (that He irresistibly saves whom He pleases), then God has an awful lot of explaining to do. Somewhere along the way, He only decided to save 18 people out of a pool of 50 people drowning (an example often used), while the other 32 perished. Why didn’t God save the others who were perishing? The answer? “Because God didn’t want to.” Now the question after this is: “If God didn’t want to save those other 32, who’s to say that God wants to save me?” I could be a member of the church and think I’m saved, but how do I know? What about if, in the end, I’m not one of the elect (due to some invisible election decree)? The sad reality is, if there is one person on earth that God does not want to save, who’s to say that God wants to save anybody?

Have any of us ever seen the invisible election decree? No. How then, can we believe God loves us, as opposed to the ungodly? This is where Calvinists would start to name things in their lives that have changed, their love for the things of God, how God is teaching them...experience then becomes the reason as to why they “know” God loves them. But this is a problem. Where does Ephesians 1 ever say anything about “God validating our election with experience” before the foundation of the world? Where does it say that the election decree will be confirmed by experience? Nowhere do the Scriptures teach this. If there is an invisible, unconditional election decree, then confession and belief are not needed for salvation---they are merely confirmatory signs of an eternal regeneration (that is, Christians were “born saved”).

I could go on, but I think Romans 10:9 can stand by itself. As I close, though, ask yourself: “What did Jesus spend the majority of His time teaching?” What pervaded Jesus’ gospel message while He was on earth? If you do the right kind of digging, you’ll find that He spent far more time on the conditions of confession and belief than He did the invisible election decree and irresistible grace. God bless. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Update

                                                   Dear CTS Readership,

 It is your blog owner, Deidre here. I just wanted to write and give you an update about where I've been and what I've been up to for the entire month of October.

I did find work, and I have been publishing some stuff around the Web. For those of you who are curious as to what I've published, see the last post. I have published something this past month (October 2011) that you may find intriguing. It is another post at the "Residence Hall Linens" blog, titled "No Taxation With Education: Three Strategies in the Textbook Revolution You Should Join" (http://www.rhl.org/blog/blog/date/2011/10/page/3/). It's the last post at the bottom of the page link. I actually liked the picture they provided. What I liked most, though, was the genius idea the Lord provided about textbooks. Somehow, I combined my history background in my undergrad at UNC-Chapel Hill with my love of knowledge and being "in the know," and...VOILA! The article was born.

Other than publishing online content, I've been busy preparing my bibliography for the Master of Theology program. Annotating books late at night until 7am or 8am has not been fun, but looking at the books has reignited a spark in me to return to theological research and all the things I love about it. A few of the books I checked out from the seminary library are actually books that I've been wanting to buy for the longest time but forgot to. It's pretty awesome when you meet the books you crave on your bibliography!

This semester has been a semester off from blogging as usual, but I'm not done with this place. I intend to return and resume my defense of the Christian faith and all that such a defense entails. Whenever I get the chance, I will continue to return to CTS and update my readers as to my whereabouts. For those of you who desire to contact me, just send me a line here or look me up on facebook. If you contact me at facebook, let me know you're a follower in the e-mail when you attempt to facebook friend me. That way, I won't think you're a stalker or something (trust me: stalkers are on facebook these days!)

It sure feels good to come back here and write. Just so you know, I've missed CTS too! Life hasn't been the same with work and bibliographical research. However, I intend to make a full return here once the bibliography has been completed...so watch and see. If you have any questions, leave them here in the comments section. I pray that the Lord is doing amazing things in your lives and that you are living each day for His glory and His glory alone.  Soli Deo Gloria, Deidre

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Update: My Whereabouts

                                 Dear Readership,

 It has been an entire week today since I last made my way to The Center for Theological Studies! It feels good to check in on things here and to brief you about my whereabouts.

 Just for the record, I have not given up blogging. I intend to return and blog on topics of interest when free time allows. I desire to continue my work on Edward Fudge's "The Fire that Consumes," so don't think it's over and done yet. There is more to cover, and I will cover it as time permits.

 Having said that, I would like to announce that the Lord is faithful. I received the job as a theology writer with the international writing corporation I mentioned one week ago. I just wrote my first paper two days ago---and it was actually a paper comparing and contrasting two sculptures. I wrote the paper well and was awarded a nice little bonus from the corporation. Who knew that hard work could literally "pay" off? :-)

I have also been blessed to be named the Research Assistant of "What's Your Impact?" Magazine, an international magazine based in Montreal, Canada that is devoted to preventing global warming at all costs. My first project for the magazine will be to talk about gasoline cars vs. hybrid cars, as well as the negative effects of gasoline cars on the environment. I can't wait for hybrid cars to become more affordable so everyone can have a hybrid!

In addition to these jobs, I also took on a corporate writing job with a corporate writing firm. My boss, named Lisa, and I have a great working relationship. We talked on the phone for the first time some days ago, and she told me, "You have a lot of potential in this business." I sure pray so. My desire is to do great work for my boss (or bosses) and make a great income. I am depending on it in order to eat and live. In some ways, you can call me a "corporate businesswoman," to use my mother's terminology: I work for a corporate firm and I make corporate pay rates. Thank you Lord, for such blessing in my life...

I just wanted to write and update you all on the vast amount of work I've taken on myself. I know it's a lot, but I have a lot of bills that require money. Losing my mother was the hardest thing for me, but now, I've got to step in her place and afford the big bills. Still, though, I've gotten to write a bit. If you want to see some of the work I've done (though anonymously labeled), please see the following blog posts at the Campus Living blog on the Residence Hall Linens site (http://www.rhl.org/blog/):

 (1) "Dorm Room Theft Prevention Tips"

(2) "The Best and Worst Study Places in College"

(3) "Don't Settle for Less: How to Make College Life Work for You"

This will do for now. Thanks again for tuning in to read about where I've been and what I've been up to. Pray much for me that I will please my employers and the Lord in my jobs. It is because I take these jobs that I can return to CTS and do what I really love: write theology to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. God bless.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Where the Inconsistency Lies: The Inclusivist Denial of the Greater Revelation

“The explanation for the salvation of these Old Testament saints [Moses and David] is, typically, that they are saved by the blood of Jesus--- in the same way we are saved. This is undoubtedly the case. However, they then constitute people saved by Jesus without explicitly accepting him---in other words, they are saved via inclusivist means. Why separation from Jesus chronologically should permit inclusivist salvation while separation from him geographically or culturally cannot, is a puzzle exclusivists must solve if they are not to fall into a blatant inconsistency” (James F. Sennett, “Bare Bones Inclusivism and the Implications of Romans 1:20.” EQ 77.4 (2005): 316).

Today’s post is a bit of a detour from the series on annihilationism I’ve been writing here at The Center for Theological Studies for the last two to three weeks. I realize that I need to provide an update to my readership as to my whereabouts and activity...so before I get started with today’s post, let me provide a quick update here.

For the last near two weeks, I have been reading for my new degree. Having graduated from Southeastern Seminary this past May 2011, I then turned to Southeastern’s Master of Theology (ThM) program, which constitutes the start of doctoral studies. In other words, I’m well on my way to obtaining a PhD...though it will take another four to five years before I obtain it. In any case, between that and looking for full-time positions of work, I’ve had my hands tied. I am currently applying for a full-time position of theological researcher at an international writing company. Still though, I don’t yet have a decision from them. Pray that all goes well---and that I can get the job.

Now, on to the task at hand. Sennett seems to posit that there is an inconsistency in the exclusivist argument, since exclusivists argue that the OT saints can be chronologically disabled from explicit faith in Jesus while people today cannot be geographically or culturally hindered. But this claim of Sennett’s is problematic.

First off, let’s notice that the OT saints were hindered from explicit faith in Christ because of chronology, the time in which they lived. People today are not chronologically hindered from Christ. Christ had not yet come in the Old Testament. He has come today (Romans 3:24-26; Acts 17:30-31). Men can no longer claim ignorance because Christ has come. Though it may not seem true, the person on the island today has been given more revelation (because Christ has come) than persons on the island in the days before Christ. That in and of itself indicates a greater responsibility toward the gospel.

Now let’s tackle the idea of what Sennett calls “inclusivist means.” What about Old Testament Gentiles such as Rahab and Ruth? Were they saved by “inclusivist means”? I think not! The story of Ruth shows that Ruth left Moab, her homeland, and her family in order to join herself to Naomi and her God:

“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people; and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16, NASB).

The last statement Ruth makes is “your God [shall be] my God,” a statement that indicates an explicit confession in the Lord God of Israel, Yahweh. It is at this point in the narrative of the book of Ruth that Ruth says, “I claim your God as my own God. Yahweh is Lord of my life, Naomi, just like He is Lord of yours.” Does this indicate inclusivism of any sort, inclusivism in the manner James Sennett seems to think it does? Of course not! After all, the Lord was known in the days of Naomi as “Yahweh”...so Ruth’s ownership of the God of Israel was her very own personal confession of faith in God. This contradicts Sennett’s claim to inclusivism---for Ruth had an explicit confession, recorded in Ruth 1:16, that Yahweh would be her God.

Thus, there is no inclusivism in the Old Testament, for explicit faith is there in the text. The second problem with Sennett’s claim is his statement that individuals today are culturally and geographically hindered from explicit confession of faith in Christ. Is this true? No! This is where making distinctions is so vital to the theological profession.

There is a difference between “hindered from a human messenger” and “hindered from Christ.” Can individuals of today be hindered from a human messenger? Of course. There are still countries in which human missionaries are denied access. There are still countries in which missionaries cannot work and live. Such countries do not want to know the God of the Bible, and do not want missionaries to come in the country for fear of converting their people. In such situations, missionaries are denied access and cannot give gospel presentations. But does the limited access of missionaries indicate that the Missio Dei, the mission of God, is limited? Not at all. Paul said it best in 2 Timothy 2:

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned” (2 Timothy 2:8-9, NASB).

Paul was imprisoned, but the Word of God was not. And today, there are many missionaries who are imprisoned...but the Word of God is not. Sometimes in this discussion, inclusivists do not understand that when they synonymize the message and the messenger, they negate the sovereignty of God to take the gospel to those who are denied access to a human messenger.

I think the real inconsistency does not lie in exclusivist claims to distinguish the pre-Christ and post-Christ eras, but rather, to inclusivists who claim that Christ must atone for sins (necessary atonement) but that one can believe in Him for salvation or not (optional faith). Will a husband give himself for his wife and yet, allow his wife to go have an affair with another man? Hardly any. And if a husband is this jealous for his wife’s affections, why wouldn’t the Lord be even more jealous for the praise of the humanity for which Christ died? God bless. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Forsaking Half the Gospel: The Connection of Salvation and Condemnation

Like Jesus, he adds to the Old Testament picture---not gory details of unending tortures, as did some of his contemporaries and many of his successors, but the shining, single beam of the gospel.”

In my last post, I tackled Fudge’s prooftext of Romans 2 and how the chapter itself did not mention conscious torment or “unending tortures.” While the text does not explicitly mention those things, Romans 2 does implicitly reference conscious torment---with its use of the words “tribulation and distress.” There are two other words the chapter uses to discuss the end---“wrath and indignation.” It seems that, contra Fudge, the text is not as silent on the subject as annihilationists would like to have us believe.

In today’s post, I will continue to examine Fudge’s quote about how the Scriptures themselves disagree with conscious torment. As I said in the last post, Fudge seems to separate conscious torment from the gospel. For Fudge, the “gory details of unending tortures” is opposed to the “shining, single beam of the gospel.” But is this true? Fudge seems to think so. This is what he wrote about the Doctrine of Eternal Judgment and the Christian faith at the beginning of his work:

“Such generosity of spirit (towards those who disagree) flows more naturally when we rank our issues the way Jesus and the New Testament writers weigh them---in proportion to their relationship to the gospel. That means, as Randy Harris explains, that we ‘imagine concentric circles with the cross at the middle’ so that ‘conversations at the center carry a great deal more weight than conversations in one of the outer circles.’ Assessing an issue’s relationship to what is most central---the gospel itself---puts it in biblical perspective” (Edward William Fudge, “Crediting Others With Good Faith,” from The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011).

For Fudge, the issue of the nature of hell (not to mention the doctrine of hell) constitutes an issue that is located in the “concentric circles” that extend beyond the middle, which contains the cross. Thus, the salvation of humanity is more important than a biblical discussion of hell. Hell is secondary when compared to the cross.

But is this true? Is it right to think of hell as nothing more than just “an evangelical, academic discussion” about matters that are really not all that important? Not if we pay attention to what Jesus says in the gospel! Let’s read a familiar passage most believers know well, John 3:16ff---

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18, NASB).

Notice that in John 3:16-18 above, Jesus talks of “judgment” or “condemnation” (King James, New King James translations) twice? This should dispel the notion that condemnation has nothing to do with the gospel. If the gospel involves salvation, and condemnation (or hell) is the exact opposite of salvation, is condemnation not a part of the message of the gospel? If condemnation is not part of the gospel, I don’t see why we would warn men and women that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). I don’t particularly see the reason for Paul’s statement that “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11) if condemnation is not part of the gospel.

If condemnation is part of the gospel, and the gospel (the cross) is at the center of evangelical discussion, does this not place hell in the middle of the “issues diagram,” where the cross is, with the other issues being placed in concentric circles? I think it is here that we see that Fudge’s attempt to show Christian courtesy and unite evangelicals around salvation is nothing more than a “Let’s be cordial and agree on the essentials,” forgetting that hell, being a part of the gospel message, is, in and of itself, an essential as well.

I will leave you with this: if hell is an essential part of the gospel message, how can we proclaim something to be true that we know so little about? When it comes to discussions of heaven, we can talk to the unbeliever because the Bible provides sufficient information. While we do not know everything about heaven, we do know that the Lord Jesus went away to prepare heaven for His children (John 14:2), and that no one can come to the Father (Heaven, the place of the Father’s dwelling) without coming “by Jesus” (that is, by a confession of faith in the Son of God, see John 14:6). We know that Heaven will be a place of bliss, that the saints of God will experience conscious pleasure in the new heaven and new earth, that the Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes and that there will be no sorrow, no death, no pain, for “the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). We know these basic things about heaven...but what about hell? Depending on who you ask, you may receive different answers as to the nature of hell. How then, can we preach the entire gospel (involving condemnation and hell) if we don’t know the nature of condemnation, if we don’t know whether hell will involve conscious torment or unconscious torment?  Perhaps Fudge could be right; maybe I’m making more out of the Doctrine of Hell than I ought to. But it could also be the case that Fudge (and many Christians) aren’t making as big of a deal out of the Doctrine of Hell as they ought...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Conscious, Eternal Torment: The Bad News of the Gospel

“Is not Paul making the same point [Romans 2]? Not once in this passage does he mention everlasting torment. Immortality for him is always God’s gift to the saved, as are incorruption, glory, honor and eternal life. Like Jesus before him, Paul freely borrows from the Old Testament’s prophetic vocabulary. Also like Jesus, he adds to the Old Testament picture---not gory details of unending tortures, as did some of his contemporaries and many of his successors, but the shining, single beam of the gospel. Illuminated most brightly in that light is the figure of Jesus Himself. Jesus, not lurid details of conscious torment, is the contribution the New Testament makes to the Old Testament’s apocalyptic literature” (Edward William Fudge, “Romans 2:6-11,” from The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011).

I discussed (to some extent) the fact that the Greek word for “destruction,” phthora (and its verb, phtheiro) refer to the destruction or ruin of a number of things: house, reputation, virginity, food, etc. Still though, when one uses the word “destruction” or “ruin” as regards these various contexts, there are differing connotations that the word provides. For example, the destruction of a house is not the same as the wasting away of food. This is the key to the debate between traditionalists and annihilationists: while annihilationists hold that the word “destroy” with regards to humans indicate that humans are destroyed like a house, traditionalists disagree. Why? Because the Scriptures themselves show us that man is worth more than the animal kingdoms and other natural elements. While the Lord used the dust of the ground to make man, the Lord placed His image upon man and also gave him intellect and dominion over the earth. The natural elements could not provide those things; God Himself provided them because man was the crowning glory of His creation.

Here we find ourselves tackling Fudge’s commentary on Romans 2. In this chapter, he points to immortality, connects it to eternal life, and states that “Not once in this passage does Paul mention everlasting torment.”

What can be said about this? Well, it’s true that Paul does not mention the words “everlasting torment”; nevertheless, Paul does provide an accurate picture of God’s stance in the end. Let’s look at Romans 2:

“...the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds; to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God” (Rom. 2:5b-11, NASB).

Paul mentions a few words to describe the end punishment of the wicked: (1) “wrath,” (2) “indignation,” (3) “tribulation,” and (4) “distress.” A good way to determine Paul’s words regarding the ungodly (unbelievers) is to examine the meaning of these 4 words Paul uses.

“Wrath” means “extreme anger.” “Indignation” refers to “anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment.” “Tribulation” refers to “a cause of great trouble or suffering.” “Distress” refers to “extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.” From these four words alone, we can tell that God will have “extreme anger” towards the ungodly; God’s anger will be provoked by how wrongly the ungodly treated the Lord by not believing in Him; the ungodly will face great trouble and suffering, and will suffer from extreme sorrow, pain, and anxiety. Do these four words allow us to conceive of the final punishment of the ungodly? Yes. Look at the words “tribulation and distress.” Do these words not indicate great suffering, extreme sorrow and pain? Does this not match Jesus’ words in the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:30)? Jesus Himself said in the Parable that the end would consist of “weeping and gnashing of teeth”---synonymous for both emotional and physical torment, both of which are forms of conscious torment. So, again, I ask: how does this differ from what the rest of the Scriptures teach about the end? If anything, it doesn’t teach that the end is “unconscious” for the wicked.

How can the end contain “tribulation and distress” for the wicked unless they consciously experience this end? If they are annihilated and cease to be (as Fudge believes), then how can they experience “distress” (as in Romans 2), “torment and unrest” (Revelation 14:10-11), and the worm not die nor the fire go out (Mark 9:42-48), if they are not conscious in the experience? This is where annihilationist theology seems somewhat absurd.

There is another point to be brought out about Fudge’s quote. However, I will save that for my next post. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Word Study: "Phthora" (Destruction) in Galatians 6:8

“The Epistle ends on a similar note. ‘The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from the nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life’ (Galatians 6:8)” (“Galatians 6:8,” from The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011).

The last two posts have concentrated on Joshua 7 and Fudge’s annihilationist presupposition. Fudge posits that Joshua 7:25 refers to the deaths of Achan and his family as annihilation, when the text only speaks of cremation. To argue the concept of annihilation involves a discussion of the mortality of the soul (for the traditionalist, immortality), which then involves the metaphysical and spiritual. Achan and his family’s deaths are presented to us biblically on a physical, mortal level. The discussion of the soul is never given thought here. And, if we assume hypothetically that Fudge is right, his view is further defeated by the words of the writers in Hebrews 10:28-29, which stresses that in contrast to death as prescribed in the Mosaic Law, there is a “much severer punishment” prescribed for those who insult the Spirit of grace and trample over the blood of Christ. If the first death is annihilation, the second death cannot be the same as the first.

Today’s post will cover the word “destruction” as Fudge traces the word in both the Old and New Testaments. Fudge provides a word study of “destruction”:

In ordinary Greek this word spoke of ‘ruin, destruction, dissolution, deterioration, corruption’ according to Arndt and Gingrich. Paul uses it of perishable food (Col. 2:22) and the decaying world (Rom. 8:21). Peter applies it to animals destined to be killed (2 Pet. 2:12, NIV, ‘destroyed’). Arndt and Gingrich cite non-biblical sources where the word refers to an abortion or a miscarriage; it had the same meaning in Christian literature of the second century. ‘You shall not murder a child by abortion’ is the injunction of both Barnabas (19:5) and the Didache (2:2). ‘Abortion’ is phthora, the word Paul uses here” (Fudge, The Fire That Consumes).

The word was used in the second century to mean abortion; but again, this doesn’t do away with the idea that abortion is a physical crime. To abort a baby is to kill that baby. But, once again, this refers to nothing more than cremation does (the act of Joshua 7:25). Abortion involves the killing of the flesh, not the killing of the soul. Abortion is a physical issue, annihilation a metaphysical one. The word phthora can also refer to spoiled food, as well as the killing of animals and the decaying of this present world. The word does refer to all of these things, but the word must have different connotations when applied to these things. The decay of food is not the same as decaying of the world or the killing of animals. This is a point I have made: that Fudge cannot distinguish the different meanings when the same word is used to refer to these three different contexts.

This is where Fudge’s words take an interesting turn:

“Metaphorically, the word could be used in a moral sense as in the ‘depravity’ of wicked men (2 Pet. 2:12). The verb (phtheiro) meant to ‘corrupt’ or to ‘ruin’ and can speak of destroying a house (1 Cor. 3:17), seducing a virgin (2 Cor. 11:3) ruining a man financially (2 Cor. 7:2), or corrupting someone’s morals (1 Cor. 15:33; Eph. 4:22; Rev. 19:2). The building is extinct as a building, the maiden’s virginity is forever gone, the man’s financial security is annihilated, and the good character that once existed now exists no more” (Fudge, The Fire That Consumes).

As Fudge says above, the verb for corruption, phtheiro, can be used to refer to the destruction of buildings, the destruction of a woman’s virginity, the destruction of someone’s reputation, and the corruption of good morals. However, does destruction in each of these contexts look the same? Can we say with certainty that the destruction of a house looks exactly like the destruction of someone’s reputation? No. While it is true that the end is the same (that is, that the house is no more and the reputation is no more), the end destruction occurs in different ways. The house is no longer, but there is still debris (traces of the elements that built the home). With the reputation, the destruction of the man’s reputation does not mean that he can never get it back. It simply means that, at the time, the good reputation he had is gone (for the time being).The one exception to the above list is the woman losing her virginity: that is something that, once she loses it, she cannot reclaim it again. Still though, it is metaphorical (she is not physically destroyed by the destruction of it).

Does destruction mean the same thing when we look at these various contexts in which the word is used? Of course not. Here at The Center for Theological Studies, I was once approached by an annihilationist commenter (someone who wanted to backup Mr. Edward Fudge in this series) and told, “Of course, every conditionalist (conditional immortalist) knows that the word ‘destroy’ has different meanings in different contexts.” He seemed to believe that I was wrong for critiquing the annihilationist on the view that destroy means “annihilate” in every context. However, this is where I will demonstrate what I have said about Fudge in posts past. Here is where I will show the readership the problem with Fudge’s word studies. In his study of the word “destruction” (Grk. phthora), Fudge will plaster the same meaning on the word for all contexts:

“According to many traditionalists, these words cannot have their normal meaning when applied to final punishment because biblical figures of ashes under foot and rising smoke do not signify literal, chemical annihilation. Having ruled out this supposed literal sense of ‘destroy,’ ‘ruin,’ and ‘perish,’ traditionalists conclude that these very words that, on their face, clearly speak of loss of life, must mean eternal conscious torment instead” (Fudge, The Fire That Consumes).

Why is it that traditionalists reinterpret the notion of destruction to refer to eternal, conscious torment? They do so (at least I can say I do) because they are convicted by the biblical text; they are convicted by passages of Scripture such as Revelation 14:9-11 and Mark 9:42-48. Traditionalists are convinced that, if the Bible teaches that the torment of the wicked will be forever and ever, and that the wicked will have no rest for all eternity, then the wicked must feel the torment (and thus, will experience eternal, conscious torment). The question to ask is, “Does the text ever argue temporary torment?” Fudge can turn the tables on the traditionalist...but does his own presupposition hold to the truth of the Scriptures?

The only response provided by Edward Fudge is that the Bible does not explicitly discuss the immortality of the wicked...therefore, the wicked cannot live eternally in torment. But passages like Revelation 14:9-11 show that the torment and unrest are eternal. Does Revelation 14:9-11 not imply eternal, conscious torment? What in the biblical text implies temporary torment and subsequent annihilation?

Does the destruction of a house equal annihilation? No. Is it true that the destruction of a house, or food, or the ruin of a person’s reputation accurately portray literal annihilation? No. As I’ve said throughout this series, the question we have to ask is, “Does ‘destroy’ mean the same thing in these contexts?” The answer is a resounding “No.” God bless.