Monday, September 25, 2017

The general resurrection

Chris date is a propagandist for annihilationism. Jonathan McLatchie recently did a webinar in which Date was the speaker. I'll make some brief comments about Date's presentation. 

1. One of Date's basic arguments is that in the NT, "eternal life" is a gift to/for the saved. By implication, the damned will not enjoy eternal life. Relatedly, the saved will be resurrected. By implication, the damned will not be resurrected. 

i) This raises a question of systematic theology. On the one hand are passages about the resurrection of the just. On the other hand are passages about the general resurrection. How should these be harmonized? Date only quotes one side of the evidence. If there's a point of tension in the "traditionalist" position, it doesn't originate with "traditionalism", but goes back to the witness of Scripture. 

Someone who denies the inerrancy of Scripture would say the Bible itself has divergent theological traditions regarding the fate of the damned. Date doesn't take that route, but in that event, the onus is on "traditionalists" and annihilationists alike to explain, if they can, how these two sets of passages can be integrated. Date acts as if that's a problem unique to "traditionalists". 

ii) In addition, passages for the general resurrection create a point of tension for the annihilationists. In that case, the resurrection of the body isn't confined to the saved. Yet Date wants to argue that resurrection entails immortality in the case of the saved. 

Moreover, what's the point of restoring the damned to life if God destroys them all over again?

iii) One possible explanation, from a "traditionalist" perspective, is that "life" and "death" in some eschatological passages have a figurative significance that goes beyond biological life and death. So even though both the saved and the damned will be resurrected and exist forever, there will be a drastic difference in their respective quality of life.

2. Another issue is Date's flat reading of Scripture, where he assumes that when the NT uses imagery from the OT, that must retain the same meaning, as if NT usage can't be metaphorical. To take a comparison, consider statements about Jesus: Jesus is the paschal lamb, Jesus is manna, Jesus is the light of the world, Jesus is the vine. The imagery has OT antecedents, which are literal in the original context, but figurative in the NT context.

3. He deploys a self-defeating argument about how death and hades are thrown into the lake of fire, which he takes to mean nobody will ever die again. Yet that's an argument for everlasting conscious punishment rather than annihilationism.

4. Date uses an odd argument regarding vicarious atonement. Problem is, Jesus didn't die for sinners in the sense of dying our death, as if he died so that we won't. Each of us dies his own death. Jesus didn't die in place of my own death. It's not vicarious in terms of death, but punishment. He death doesn't take the place of my death, but the place of my punishment. (I'd say he died for the elect, but that's secondary to the immediate point at issue.)

Date misrepresents Beale's stated position (in the quote from his commentary):

i) Date defines "death" as biological death. But it doesn't follow that Beale defines "death" as biological death in terms of what "death" means in Revelation. There's an equivocation here, on whether "death" in Revelation is a metaphor for damnation. 

ii) Moreover, Beale says the redeemed won't have to suffer in the age to come. But Date turns that upside down, as if Beale says the damned won't have to suffer in the age to come.

5. One point of clarification: the orthodox position doesn't entail eternal "torment". Punishment is not synonymous with torment. There can be degrees of punishment. Different kinds of punishment. "Torment" has a narrow connotation (i.e. torture). Eternal "misery" would be more accurate.

To use the word "torment" as a synonym for everlasting punishment implies that all the damned suffer torment. But while some of the damned may well suffer torment, and deservedly so, is that a universal feature of damnation?

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