5 Questions Advocates of the Conventional View of Final Punishment Must Answer.
What follows below are five questions that I believe advocates of the conventional view of final punishment as everlasting conscious torment need to seriously address before any headway can be made in the “traditionalist”-annihilationist dialogue:
- What is the ultimate penalty or end result of sin according to the Bible?
- Is it exegetically sound to interpret “death” anywhere within the biblical canon as everlasting life in misery?
- If the unrighteous are to endure ECT, why is it that the biblical authors only attribute immortality, imperishability and everlasting life as divinely bestowed on the righteous (i.e., those finally saved) and not once in relation to the unsaved?
- Are we to interpret the many passages of Scripture that teach the end of the unrighteous results in death and destruction in light of a few ambiguous passages (e.g., Matthew 25:41,46; Revelation 14:9-11) or should we seek to interpret the few (ambiguous passages) in light of the many?1
- Is the Bible to be taken as the sole authoritative source of truth or is tradition to be taken in some way as co-equal with Scripture?2
Upon studying the doctrine of final punishment on and off for 6 years, I have not yet seen one of these five questions seriously addressed by an advocate of the conventional view of final punishment. “Traditionalists” more or less seem to assume that everlasting conscious torment is sufficiently demonstrated merely by referencing a few texts from the NT with little or no explanation.3
If the doctrine of everlasting conscious torment is indeed the position the biblical authors held, I can only wonder why the teaching does not appear to be clearly taught throughout their writings. Evidently one has to approach the scriptural texts with the extra-biblical teaching of universal human immortality already in hand and superimpose the concept on all the passages in the Bible that teach or allude to the end of the unrighteous in order to arrive at the conclusion that the wicked will suffer torment without end. The utter lack of biblical evidence for the everlasting conscious torment of the lost is ultimately the reason I have rejected the notion that unbelievers will be made immortal for the purpose of enduring unending suffering (i.e., everlasting life in misery). Unless and until the five questions posed above are adequately addressed by advocates of the conventional view of final punishment, I will remain an annihilationist.
- Even those who subscribe to the conventional view of final punishment must admit that there are relatively few scriptural passages which even appear to teach the doctrine of everlasting conscious torment (explicitly, at least). [↩]
- If the latter, then the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (Scripture alone) must be dispensed with. [↩]
- Not to mention the fact that the doctrine of ECT is completely absent from the OT even in the form of hyperbole (whereas the author of the NT book of Revelation, for example, arguably employs this literary device in 14:9-11 and 20:10 of the Apocalypse). [↩]