Under the systematic heading of eschatology, there are topics more controversial, but none more hated than the doctrine of Hell. The doctrine of Hell is more repulsive to the natural man than any other doctrine save that of the holiness and sovereignty of God. In fact, the two are tied together with unbreakable bonds. All of Theology proper is bound up with the doctrines of Eschatology, as are all of the doctrines of Christology, Soteriology, Anthropology, and even Ecclesiology similarly bound. What affects one, affects the others unalterably. Christianity is a cohesive, coherent unit, therefore the modification of one doctrine has a cascading effect throughout all of your theology in a systematic fashion.
The doctrine of Hell is no exception. The Scriptures testimony to the existence of Hell is extensive. The testimony to the nature of that Hell is similarly extensive. The following passages will likely be the central ones discussed in the upcoming debate.
In Genesis 6 and 7, Edward Fudge (among others) concentrates on the language used to describe the destruction of the wicked. He notes the terminology employed in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in chapter 19. In fact, in one place, he states the following:
Is the OT silent concerning the wicked’s final fate? Indeed it is not. It overwhelmingly affirms their total destruction. It never affirms or even hints at anything resembling conscious unending torment. The OT uses about 50 different Hebrew verbs to describe this fate, and about 70 figures of speech. Without exception they portray destruction, extinction or extermination. Not one of the verbs or word-pictures remotely suggests the traditional doctrine. 1
Quite the ambitious claim! When I receive his full-length book on the subject (Thank you, dear reader!), we will discuss examples in a more specific manner. In any case, we’ll continue laying out the verses I believe will be central to the debate.
Isa 66:24 – this is the verse that Christ quotes in Mark 9. It’s exegesis will be important to the debate.
Prov 11:10 – the word “abad” is said to mean “destruction”, which is thought to mean “annihilation”.
Psalm 37 – appealed to by both Fudge and Pinnock as supporting their contention
Matt 2:13, 12:14, and 27:4 (and elsewhere) use the verb apollumi, which means “destroy,” and the noun apoleia, which means “destruction” – with Stott, for example, these are said to mean total annihilation of the soul.
Perhaps their penultimate verse (but time will tell as to whether this is considered such in the debate) is Matt 10:28, for obvious reasons.
We should see 1 Cor 1:18, 2 Cor 2:15; 4:3, 2 Thess 2:10 come up, as well.
Pinnock cites Malachi 4:1.
We should see Matt 3:12/Luke 3:17 discussed, as well as Jude 7.
Rev 14:11 will likely come up, as will, of course, Matt 25:46 and Rev 20.
In short, there is a lot of Scriptural ground to cover, so I’m glad our opening statements will give us plenty of time to discuss our positions, and that we have ample time to prepare. I look forward to receiving Fudge’s book so that I can address his argumentation in detail prior to the debate, and hopefully make it all the more valuable to the body by bringing the presuppositional commitments of Fudge, Pinnock, and Stott into the open, while laying the commitments of CT out on the table as well in a clear and systematic fashion.
Also, see here on Monergism.com for their listing of resources on the doctrine of Hell.
I will have more verses to list as I continue to prepare, so watch this post for updates and additions.
As an aside: Did you know that Edward Fudge has a movie coming out about the circumstances surrounding his denial of the Biblical doctrine of Hell? Find the promo material here. I have to admit – it perturbed me when I heard of it in the Theopologetics interview with Mr. Fudge.
- Fudge, The Final End of the Wicked, 326 ↩