Annihilation and Hermeneutics Part I

Over on TurretinFan’s blog, I have run into a group of people who call themselves “annihilationists.” When I studied eschatology at TEDS, we studied the viewpoint, but didn’t give it much time. However, what I have found is that there is an entire website> now devoted to “evangelical conditionalism,” and entire books by men such as Edward Fudge. What is most disconcerting to me, as I have interacted with these folks, is that, although they seem to be very sincere, they tend to be “Rethinking Hell” in a very uncritical, and sometimes very careless manner.

The purpose of this post and subsequent posts in this series is to address a couple of aspects of the hermeneutics of this movement. The first is the notion of “destruction” as it is used of the human soul, and the rest, of course, is going to involve my specialty, and that is Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew.

There are many texts which Annihilationists use which involve the word “destruction.” Here is a sampling of arguments from the Rethinking Hell website:

However, once we apply such limiting criteria, what we immediately find is that the range of meaning that was present in the entire apoleia word group is now filtered out entirely, and one clear emphasis of meaning remains. This is because in every single instance of the word apollumi where these criteria are met – The example is in the Synoptic Gospels, the active voice is used and the word clearly refers to the actions of one person or agent against another, the term apollumi – setting aside Matthew 10:28 – always refers to the literal killing of a person, with not a single exception. I will list just seven representative examples, but the reader is encouraged to check this for themselves:

In Matthew 2:13, Herod wants to kill the baby Jesus.

In Matthew 12:14 the Pharisees conspired together about how they might kill Jesus.

In Matthew 21:41 (story of the wicked tenants) the vineyard owner kills the wicked tenants.

In Matthew 27:20, the elders and chief priests urge the people to have Barabbas released and Jesus killed.

In Mark 3:6, the Pharisees plot to kill Jesus.

In Mark 9:22, the parents of a boy with an unclean spirit tell Jesus that the spirit often throws the boy into water or into a fire, trying to kill him.

In Luke 6:9, Jesus asks if it is lawful on the Sabbath to save life or kill.

In each and every other instance where all these criteria are met, the meaning is the same. There literally is no semantic range in these cases. Some claims in biblical interpretation are matters of opinion and open to question, but this is not one of them. [The meaning of “apollumi” in the Synoptic Gospels]

Other passages that mention the “destruction” of the resurrected body and soul are similarly brought up, and treated in much the same way, being compared to passages which speak of the destruction of a city or a physical object.The main problem with this line of argumentation is the assumption of a one to one relationship between the destruction of earthly, physical things such as a human body, or a city, and the destruction of the non-physical soul and resurrected body, as if the two are exactly alike. For example, in the first quotation, the author cites the destruction of physical human bodies here on earth, and physical human bodies alone, but then wants to apply it to the human soul and the resurrected body. In other words, even if the two are in totally different context, you can import the entire meaning of the phrase back into a discussion of the resurrected body and the soul. Hence, words like “kill” and “destruction” are brought up in the context of the punishment of things here on earth, and applied with the same meaning in the context of eternal punishment and the resurrected body and soul in eternity.

The reason why this is problematic is because of the medieval discussion of predication of speech about God. I suppose a few words about this debate might be helpful, before we move into more recent observations about natural language based upon that debate which will demonstrate exactly how this is relevant to this argument for annihilationism. The debate really begins with Maimonides, the great Jewish scholar. Maimonides argued that God is so far above us, that we really cannot say that we know any positive statements about God. All we can really say is what God is not. For example, rather than saying that God is holy, we say that he is not evil. Rather than say that he is loving, we say that he is not hateful. Rather than say that God is powerful, we say that he is not impotent. This line of thinking actually became very popular, and would later come to be known as apophatic theology. As far as I know, within the Greek Orthodox church, there are many who subscribe to apophaticism.

Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, takes up Maimonides’ argument, and points out something that is apparent to any logician examining the argument, and that is that the double negation of a proposition is really the assertion of the truth of that proposition. For example, if I say that it is not the case that it is not raining tonight, then I am asserting that it is raining tonight. Hence, Aquinas rejects Maimonides’ argument, but does state that we have to be careful about predication of our language to God. He points out that we must not understand our use of language about God to be univocal or equivocal language, but that our language about God must have similarities as well as differences to how it is used in ordinary contexts. For example, when we say that God is good, it is similar, but different to saying that John down the street is good. When we speak of a human judge as being just, it is similar, but different to saying that God is just. The crucial element of Aquinas’ view of the predication of language to God is that it is analogous with how we use our language in other contexts.

James F. Ross, in the 1970’s, takes up this controversy again, this time in the context of reworking the quickly failing arguments of logical positivism. In this context, the concern is, if we speak about God using normal human language, we will be plucking language from its normal language game, and will be, therefore, using language without a relevant foundation for understanding what is meant by language about God. After pointing out the similarity to the medieval debate, Ross presents what he calls “the analogy hypothesis,” and states, “The hypothesis will apply to “religious discourse” because it applies to every discourse environment for which natural language is used, including “physical discourse,” “gambling discourse,” “architectural discourse” and so forth1.” Ross presents his analogy hypothesis as follows:

(1) The sets of same-term occurrences to be found within the available corpus of utterances and inscriptions in English almost universally exhibit internal multiplicity of meanings.

(2) That multiplicity of meaning is not a manifestation of simply equivocation in most cases (equivocation by chance, a casu), but manifests meaning derivation that results from meaning-differentiation-in-use. (meaning differentiation, not by a speaker’s design, deliberation, or intent, but by semantic contagion).

(3) The meaning-differentiation-in-use that can be observed within sets of same-term occurrences, exhibits certain regularities which are to be found in a significant sample of sets of same-term-occurrences.

(4) These regularities of meaning differentiation are synchronic regularities (as distinct from the diachronic regularities which are exhibited in the evolution of language and which in some cases have corresponding synchronic regularities).

(5) When the regularities exhibited by the meaning-differentiation-in-use within sets of same-term occurrences are expressed in law-like or rule-like generalizations, having “initial conditions” and “derivation conditions” to be satisfied by a pair of same-term-occurrences, we call the resulting rules analogy rules and say that the meaning-differentiation-in-use for sets of same-term occurrences in English, considered synchronically, occurs on the whole in accordance with analogy rules.

(6) A same-term occurrence t2 in a discourse context (2) that is meaning-derived with respect to an analogy rule for E from a same-term occurrence t1 that occurs in a discourse context (1) that is cognitively significant, is also cognitively significant. (Meaning derivation by analogy is cognitivity-preserving)2

Ross’ case for this is quite convincing. For example, does the word “has” mean the same thing in “John has a comb” and “John has a problem?” Well, no, but there is some relationship between the two senses of “has.” Take the word “know” in the statement “John always knows he is right, but seldom is.” Is that the same as “know” in the statement “I know Jennifer,” or the statement “I know that DOPA is the precursor of dopamine?” No, but, again, there are similarities in the meanings of “know” in each of the usages of these terms. Is “catching” a baseball the same as “catching” a cold, and is that the same as “catching” a movie? No, but there are similarities in the semantics of each usage. Even phrases such as “in Arabic” have different, but analogous meanings. Are there not differences in similarities between the statement “The letters are in Arabic” and “His studies are in Arabic?” Obviously. Hence, Ross’ examples seem to make a very strong case that the uses of words with different subject and different discourse contexts will produce analogous meanings.

Now, this poses a problem for the simple examination of the word “destroy” by annihilationists. The reason is that the context of “soul” and “resurrected body” is going to be different than the context of “body here on earth.” Hence, if the destruction is eternal in one instance, but not eternal in the other instance, it would simply be a matter of analogy. The destruction of the resurrected body and the soul would be analogous, similar but not the same as the destruction of a human body here on earth.

If you reject this, you are in serious danger, not only of destroying the way in which human language operates, but also in throwing away other key doctrines of the Christian faith. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses will argue that the Greek term χαρακτηρ in Hebrews 1:3, in every other instance, always involves temporal succession. In other words, to say x is a copy of y, one must say that x temporally precedes y. Such, obviously produces the Arian slogan “There was a time when the son was not.” However, if you allow for an analogous relationship to the notion of an impression being a copy of a seal to the Son being a copy of the father, then Arianism is not the result, since temporal succession would merely be one of the areas in which the statements “the impression is the copy of a seal” and “The son is a copy of the Father” are different. If you demand that the two mean exactly the same thing, even though the contexts are different, and you ignore the analogous nature of language demonstrated above, then Arianism is the result.

As another example, Jehovah’s Witnesses will likewise point to the fact that the Greek word πρωτοτοκος is followed by a genitive, πασης κτισεως. They will point out that, whenever you have the word πρωτοτοκος followed by the genitive, the genitive is *always* a partitive genitive. Again, if we follow this logic, then Jesus is part of creation, and we again have Arianism. This is what a failure to understand the analogical nature of human language results in. It is a hermeneutic that does violence to human language.

However, this is this very same hermeneutic that annihilationists are using to get their position. Because the context of the resurrected body and soul is different from the context of the body here on earth, to read into the text the notion of “destruction” in the way a physical body is destroyed here on earth is to beg the question. There are obvious similarities between the destruction of a physical object, or a physical body here on this earth, and the traditional understanding of the destruction of a resurrected body and soul in hell. Both involve punishment. Both involve harm and pain. If then, we say that there is a difference in that the destruction of the resurrected body and soul in hell is eternal in character, it would simply be a matter of analogy, which is exactly what Ross has already demonstrated is something that is common in natural language. Hence if the concepts of destruction between the human body here on earth, and the resurrected human body and soul in hell are analogous in that sense, one is justified in believing that the destruction of the wicked in hell is eternal, while the destruction of the human body here on earth is temporal.

Now, this is *not* meant to prove the traditionalist position. Obviously, one would have to go on to demonstrate the eternal nature of the destruction in hell. However, what it does show is that the annihilationist reliance upon passages that speak of destruction in contexts other than that of the resurrected human body and soul to prove their position is misguided, and does not prove what they want it to prove. Other contexts where words like απολλυμι is used of things other than the destruction of the resurrected body and soul are therefore utterly irrelevant to the context of the destruction of the resurrected body and soul in terms of its eternality, since an analogical relationship can be established if the destruction of the resurrected body and soul is eternal. In other words, the notion of “destruction” as being eternal in hell is perfectly compatible with the use of “destruction” in other contexts to mean a temporal action with a finite end, since that relationship exists amongst many words in both English and in Greek.

Also, given the usage of the destruction of things in the natural, temporal, world, I am concerned about an implicit naturalism in these arguments. Should we run off to instances of “life” that are found here on this earth, show that, in every instance, the “life” that is spoken of ends by death? That must mean that eternal life ends with death, and the phrase “eternal life” merely speaks of the results of the new life we have in Christ, and not the duration of that life. There is also a strong relationship between Israel’s ability to live in the land, and the eternal life we now have as Christians. Therefore, since Israel died in the land, we too will die, and our life will not be eternal in its duration. Such a hermeneutic is the death blow, not only to eternal life, but also to all of the supernatural as a whole. If we do not allow for the analogical nature of human language, then we simply cannot get beyond our own experience, even to understand God himself. All we are left with is the empirical, with no way to describe anything beyond our experience.

1Ross, James F. Analogy and the Resolution of Some Cognitivity Problems Journal of Philosophy 67 (1970):725-746. Reprinted in Brody, Baruch A. Readings in Philosophy of Religion; An Analytic Approach. Prentice Hall, Inc. Englewood, N.J. 1974. p.293.

2Ibid pgs.293-294.

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5 Responses to “Annihilation and Hermeneutics Part I”

  1. Glenn Says:

    Just a quick comment:

    For example, in the first quotation, the author cites the destruction of physical human bodies here on earth, and physical human bodies alone, but then wants to apply it to the human soul and the resurrected body.

    In fact the other examples that the author sought out were examples: 1) that also occurred in the synoptic Gospels, 2) that used the active voice (as Matt 10:28 does), and 3) where the action is of one person or agent against another

    To include in this survey examples that speak about hell and to use them as examples would be to engage in the fallacy of begging the question, since those are the passages where the meaning is in question. So what we have to do is to find out what this term most likely indicates as a general rule, and then bring that evidence to the passages that meet all the same criteria and where the subject is final punishment. If we appealed to other examples where the term apollumi is used in relation to hell and said “See? There’s another case where it means annihilation, so let’s use that for comparison,” you would justifiably complain about circular reasoning.

    By contrast, what this blog post has done is to say: Yes, I grant the observation about what the word means in every other instance int he synoptics where the same grammatical criteria are met, but the word must have a different meaning in the passages that speak about hell, because we just know that the lost after the resurrection won’t be destroyed.

    But the trouble is, that’s what the language in those passages claims. To disallow that meaning just because of the theological concepts that you associate with the lost after the resurrection is not a legitimate way of doing exegesis. This, in fact, is a textbook case of circular reasoning (begging the question), for it merely assumes the very thing in dispute.

    The reference to “implicit naturalism” here is simply a red herring. There is nothing naturalistic about the view that God will destroy people in the way that things are destroyed in the world around us. Indeed, the moment a person introduces God as the agent and contrasts this fate with the eternal life of those in Christ, naturalism is ruled out altogether. Adding to the earlier fallacy of begging the question, this is the fallacy of poisoning the well.

    I encourage your readers to read the article that you linked to and to consider the exegetical evidence that it presents.

    All the best
    Glenn Peoples

  2. otrmin Says:

    Glenn,

    In fact the other examples that the author sought out were examples: 1) that also occurred in the synoptic Gospels, 2) that used the active voice (as Matt 10:28 does), and 3) where the action is of one person or agent against another

    To include in this survey examples that speak about hell and to use them as examples would be to engage in the fallacy of begging the question, since those are the passages where the meaning is in question. So what we have to do is to find out what this term most likely indicates as a general rule, and then bring that evidence to the passages that meet all the same criteria and where the subject is final punishment. If we appealed to other examples where the term apollumi is used in relation to hell and said “See? There’s another case where it means annihilation, so let’s use that for comparison,” you would justifiably complain about circular reasoning.

    Glenn, I would not complain of circular reasoning if you could demonstrate that, when those words are used, the eternal state presents a clear end to the punishment itself. However, that is the whole issue between us. Does the Biblical presentation of hell present an end to the punishment of the wicked? Hence, going to terms like “destruction” not in the context of eternal punishment, when the possibility exists that there is an analogical relationship is linguistically fallacious.

    By contrast, what this blog post has done is to say: Yes, I grant the observation about what the word means in every other instance int he synoptics where the same grammatical criteria are met, but the word must have a different meaning in the passages that speak about hell, because we just know that the lost after the resurrection won’t be destroyed.

    But the trouble is, that’s what the language in those passages claims. To disallow that meaning just because of the theological concepts that you associate with the lost after the resurrection is not a legitimate way of doing exegesis. This, in fact, is a textbook case of circular reasoning (begging the question), for it merely assumes the very thing in dispute.

    No, you are misrepresenting me. It is actually a very bad misrepresentation, considering this is a series of posts, which will deal with several issues related to this topic, including the one I just finished in response to Chris Date, but what I said was that the *possibility* exists of an analogous relationship between the way scripture speaks of destruction in this world and in the eternal state. I never said that it *was* the case. In fact, if you go back to my article, here is what I, in fact, said:

    Now, this is *not* meant to prove the traditionalist position. Obviously, one would have to go on to demonstrate the eternal nature of the destruction in hell. However, what it does show is that the annihilationist reliance upon passages that speak of destruction in contexts other than that of the resurrected human body and soul to prove their position is misguided, and does not prove what they want it to prove. Other contexts where words like απολλυμι is used of things other than the destruction of the resurrected body and soul are therefore utterly irrelevant to the context of the destruction of the resurrected body and soul in terms of its eternality, since an analogical relationship can be established if the destruction of the resurrected body and soul is eternal. In other words, the notion of “destruction” as being eternal in hell is perfectly compatible with the use of “destruction” in other contexts to mean a temporal action with a finite end, since that relationship exists amongst many words in both English and in Greek.

    My point was that your analysis did not take into account a common, and I would say, easily demonstrable relationship between the same word in different language games, and that is one of analogy. Hence, my conclusion was not “destruction does not entail a finite end in passages dealing with eternity], but, rather, to point out that your argument doesn’t prove that it *does* have an end, because your methodology is flawed.

    To give you an example, one of the first Hebrew word studies I ever read was of the Hebrew term כבש. In every other instance, that term means “to subdue” with bad and violent connotations. However, the author of the study [I think it was Robert Chisholm] gave the meaning in Genesis 1:28 as “to use for one’s own benefit, with no concept of violence.” He recognized that the possibility of an analogical relationship existed, and that the notion of violence and abuse was not part of the context, and hence, gave an analogical definition.

    Now, let us say that there is some wacky anti-environmentalist that says that we should do violence to the earth and creation. He uses the notion that, everywhere else the Hebrew term כבש is used, it always has violent and abusive connotations. When you point out to him that none of his instances are in the context of subduing the earth, and that one should consider the possibility [not actuality] of an analogical relationship, he replies that doing so would be begging the question, as the meaning of the word in the context of the earth is what is in dispute, and then goes on to say:

    “By contrast, what you are doing is to say: Yes, I grant the observation about what the word means in every other instance in the OT where the same grammatical criteria are met, but the word must have a different meaning in the passages that speak about the earth, because we just know that we are not to do violence to the earth.

    But the trouble is, that’s what the language in those passages claims. To disallow that meaning just because of the theological concepts that you associate with the lost after the resurrection is not a legitimate way of doing exegesis. This, in fact, is a textbook case of circular reasoning (begging the question), for it merely assumes the very thing in dispute.”

    Or, we could use any other argument that I posted above, for example, from the word χαρακτηρ in Hebrews 1:3:

    “By contrast, what this blog post has done is to say: Yes, I grant the observation about what the word means in every other instance in the NT where the same grammatical criteria are met, but the word must have a different meaning in the passages that speak about Christ, because we just know that the Christ is God.

    But the trouble is, that’s what the language in those passages claims. To disallow that meaning just because of the theological concepts that you associate with the lost after the resurrection is not a legitimate way of doing exegesis. This, in fact, is a textbook case of circular reasoning (begging the question), for it merely assumes the very thing in dispute.”

    When you have a hermeneutic that destroys the deity of Christ you might want to go back and rethink your hermeneutics. There are many instances where, every other place you look in the Bible something has the same meaning, but it would make utter nonsense out of the text, and make the Bible inconsistent with itself if you read that meaning into that one text where it doesn’t mean that. I actually collect examples of this, and could give several. It is simply bad hermeneutics to try to go to every other instance of a word, and then read it back into that one place without considering other factors.

    What I was saying is that your methodology is invalid, because although the grammatical forms are the same, and they are all in the synoptics, they are not part of the same language game, and hence, an analogical relationship cannot be ruled out. It is not “what the language of those passages say,” because of the illegitimacy of leaping from context to context like this. It is an example of what D.A. Carson calls “Illegitimate totality transfer,” and it makes nonsense out of language if taken to its logical conclusion. Hence, all I need to add is that all of these other examples of the same grammatical form in the synoptics are found in a different language game, and hence, the possibility of an analogical relationship cannot be ruled out. If I say that, I don’t beg the question, and I refute your entire exegesis.

    The reference to “implicit naturalism” here is simply a red herring. There is nothing naturalistic about the view that God will destroy people in the way that things are destroyed in the world around us. Indeed, the moment a person introduces God as the agent and contrasts this fate with the eternal life of those in Christ, naturalism is ruled out altogether. Adding to the earlier fallacy of begging the question, this is the fallacy of poisoning the well.

    No, what did I say? Your argument assumes a one to one correspondence between the eternal realm and the present reality, and, of course, it does. Your argument has to assume that there *is* no analogical relationship between this realm and the eternal realm in terms of punishment, and thus, there is a one to one relationship between the two. However, not only is *that* begging the question, but it also implicitly assumes that there is no distinction between the natural and the eternal realm. You have, artificially, applied this term in a one to one fashion from the present realm into the eternal realm, and yes, that is implicitly naturalistic, saying that the eternal realm, at least in this regard, is the same as the natural realm.

    I encourage your readers to read the article that you linked to and to consider the exegetical evidence that it presents.

    I encourage them to do so as well, and that is why I linked to it, but to do so with the realization that your entire post is hanging on this one assumption:

    So what we have to do is to find out what this term most likely indicates as a general rule, and then bring that evidence to the passages that meet all the same criteria and where the subject is final punishment.

    That is simply inconsistent with what we know about natural language. Not only is it inconsistent with what Wittgenstein said in his Philosophical Investigations, it is inconsistent with modern sociolinguistic understandings of language, and changes in discourse that are affected by changes in topic, as discourse analysts have shown. You can’t leap across contexts like this, because what a term indicates is not usually a “general rule,” but usually depends on the language game in which it is found, the context in which it is found, and the topic that is being addressed. For example [I hope Indians fans will excuse my shameless reference to Flow, but], why is a strike bad in baseball if it is good in bowling? When you change language games, although the relationship is going to be analogical, there is a good chance there are going to be differences, and hence, leaping across language games like this is nothing more than begging the question.

    So, what could you have done instead? What you could have done is to argue from the nature of the punishment of the eternal realm itself. Does the Bible present it as eternal, or only as temporal? That doesn’t require simply going to the term “punishment.” Instead, it requires understanding how the Bible conceives of eternal punishment as a whole, and understanding the language game of “eternal punishment” in the Bible, before understanding how it uses those terms. When you do that, you won’t beg the question, and you will be linguistically sound.

  3. Glenn Says:

    Thanks for your reply. I’m confident in the clarity of my earlier response, and think the reader will see the truth of it, your disagreement notwithstanding.

  4. Glenn Says:

    Actually before I go – just one observation. The language game you’re engaged in is effectively a safeguard against evidence. If the Bible directly and emphatically states that God will destroy the lost – as indeed it does – you play this game in such a way that you are not obliged to accept that this is the intended meaning. All you need to do is to say that in every case when the Bible is not speaking of final punishment, it is not speaking of the eternal state (an obvious truism), so we are disallowed from drawing a connection between usage in general and meaning (for all other cases are not the eternal state, and hence they are “natural” and could only ever be an analogy) – even in the face of a universal pattern. The possibility that God actually intended to use clear language that we already have a handle on because of our familiarity with its use in everyday life seems to be regarded with an unhealthy suspicion. It must be an analogy or nothing!

    Of course, this lets everybody off the hook. If the Bible directly and emphatically claimed that God would torment the lost forever in hell, I could simply deny that this suggests eternal torment because I dispute the meaning of “torment.” And if a traditionalist pointed out that everywhere else in Scripture, the word implies conscious suffering, I could say “True enough, but none of THOSE examples refer to hell, so the context is different. And if you’re going to tell me that the way that word is used in the case of the temporal should show us what it means in general, including the eternal, then that’s naturalism!”

    Somehow I doubt that traditionalists would be moved by such a strange argument – and neither should they be. For the same reason, I am unmoved by your argument. Drop the names of more philosophers of language if you like, but the argument you are trying to make is poor and I think that whether the reader is a traditionalist or an annihilationist, this will be painfully apparent.

    The reality is, your resistance to ordinary exegesis really is driven by theological presuppositions as to what the eternal fate of the lost is like. Otherwise there should be no resistance to using ordinary, natural, everyday understandings of the terms that Scripture uses to describe it.

    Take care “otrmin.” I’ll leave the last say with you.

  5. otrmin Says:

    Glenn,

    Actually before I go – just one observation. The language game you’re engaged in is effectively a safeguard against evidence. If the Bible directly and emphatically states that God will destroy the lost – as indeed it does – you play this game in such a way that you are not obliged to accept that this is the intended meaning.

    Glenn, you still do not understand the issues involved. The issue is not the evidence, but how we *interpret* that evidence. You have to take into account features of natural language, such that you allow for analogous relationships between various language games. Do you disagree with Ross on that? Do you disagree with the examples both he and I have given? And if so, why do you disagree? You have just glossed over that, and ignored that the issue here is with how you are *handling* the evidence. It is completely and totally linguistically unsound. Not only that, I am quoting linguists and philosophers of language who have probably never heard of your arguments. Did Wittgenstein, Aquinas, and Ross all develop their arguments to “safeguard” against this evidence? Or, were they dealing with the *way* in which the evidence must be handled? That has been the issue all along.

    All you need to do is to say that in every case when the Bible is not speaking of final punishment, it is not speaking of the eternal state (an obvious truism), so we are disallowed from drawing a connection between usage in general and meaning (for all other cases are not the eternal state, and hence they are “natural” and could only ever be an analogy) – even in the face of a universal pattern.

    “Could only ever be an analogy” was not my argument in the first place. I pointed out that such a relationship cannot be *ruled out* as being analogous, and hence, you can’t directly read the meaning of the language game of the natural realm into the language game of the eternal realm. The only way to decide the relationship is between punishment in language games is to go to the text and see how it presents that punishment. However, that is precisely the issue involved. That is why my hermeneutics professor, Dr. Grant Osborne, used to speak of a fallacy of trying to solve theological issues by the use of a single word. Theology involves concepts, and how language relates to the reality of the author, and ultimately God himself. Hence, while individual words are relevant 1. they must be handled with care and 2. individual words cannot be arguments to settle theological disputes.

    Now, as far as universal patterns go, I don’t think you really mean that. Christians have been using the term “punishment” for years to refer to the eternality of hell. I think what you are referring to is how the text is used in the Bible outside of the context of the eternal state. However, again, such argumentation is fallacious. Universally, as you use the term, the Greek term χαρακτηρ *always* has the connotation of some kind of temporal succession. And yet, in the face of that, you don’t take that meaning in Hebrews 1:3. Why not? That is why I said, you really have not understood the issue yet. The issue is not the evidence you bring forward, but how you are *treating* that evidence. Your view of human language is simply insufficient to account for the very way in which scripture speaks of other doctrines you gladly accept, such as the deity of Christ, and would gladly accept my language game analysis here.

    The possibility that God actually intended to use clear language that we already have a handle on because of our familiarity with its use in everyday life seems to be regarded with an unhealthy suspicion. It must be an analogy or nothing!

    Of course, I never said that either. What I said was that we must understand how the Bible *presents* its language about the eternal state. I don’t like to take people into the kitchen to see how the meat and potatoes are being made, but my goal here is to deal with the positive arguments for your position, and then to go in and demonstrate that the way in which you are handling the scriptures in regards to the eternal state flies in the face of the way in which the Bible presents the eternal state. I will demonstrate an analogical relationship when I get to the second half of these articles. For now, my main criticism is that you have ruled out the *possibility* of an analogical relationship, and hence, have begged the question. Analogy is a real possibility, and you have rejected it in your article a priori. I want to know why, as would any linguist or philosopher of language.

    Of course, this lets everybody off the hook. If the Bible directly and emphatically claimed that God would torment the lost forever in hell, I could simply deny that this suggests eternal torment because I dispute the meaning of “torment.”

    Or, you could demonstrate that the way that punishment is presented, in terms of crime and punishment, and a legal courtroom, and that is the reality in terms of which we should understand these terms.

    And if a traditionalist pointed out that everywhere else in Scripture, the word implies conscious suffering, I could say “True enough, but none of THOSE examples refer to hell, so the context is different.

    And, the traditionalist would simply go on to point out that, not only are people talking in hell, they are also are able to be preached to, and are spoken of as weeping, and gnashing teeth, etc. The point is, when you start seeing all of *these concepts* bunched together, then you start to recognize that there is not an analogical relationship. However, you have taken one word [punishment], ignored the *possibility* of analogy, and then just ran off into never never land, with a hermeneutic that, if consistent, would destroy the deity of Christ. Yes, not *every* relationship between language games is analogous, as language games overlap. However, if it is not analogous, you must *demonstrate* that it is not analogous. Demonstration of such a fact does not deal with individual words. It deals with entire concepts that are presented by a wide range of words and phrases, and how those words and phrases relate to reality.

    And if you’re going to tell me that the way that word is used in the case of the temporal should show us what it means in general, including the eternal, then that’s naturalism!”

    No, what I am saying is that an *uncritical* accepting of a one to one relationship between the natural and the supernatural is *implicit* naturalism. If you had shown any indication that your word study took into account the way in which the Bible presents the temporal and eternal state, then I would not have said that. However, it very clearly did not.

    Somehow I doubt that traditionalists would be moved by such a strange argument – and neither should they be. For the same reason, I am unmoved by your argument. Drop the names of more philosophers of language if you like, but the argument you are trying to make is poor and I think that whether the reader is a traditionalist or an annihilationist, this will be painfully apparent.

    Well, if you were accurately representing my argument, then I would agree. However, you have lit up more strawmen here than are lit up at a fall harvest bonfire. Either you are grossly dishonest, or you just can’t read very well. I say, most probably, the latter. Dr. VanGemeren, my professor and mentor who has a degree in philosophy, told me that, when you do philosophy, you must represent a person’s argument as carefully and as accurately as possible. You have done neither of those things here. What that says about the truth of your position, I will let the readers decide.

    The reality is, your resistance to ordinary exegesis really is driven by theological presuppositions as to what the eternal fate of the lost is like. Otherwise there should be no resistance to using ordinary, natural, everyday understandings of the terms that Scripture uses to describe it.

    No, the reality is that you are driven by an ignorance of the complexity of linguistic meaning, and, when I point out those complexities, you end up misrepresenting me. Analogy between language games is a possibility, and there is not a single linguist or philosopher of language that would disagree with that. Now, you have two options. You can either deal with that possibility, and demonstrate that an analogy is not the case, and admit that your article was way too reductionistic, or you can keep erecting strawmen, and continuing to misread what I say.

    Also, as far as “ordinary exegesis,” you are aware, I would hope, that men like James Barr, Moises Silva, D.A. Carson, and others, have criticized many of these “ordinary” approaches as fallacious? Not only that, advances in fields such as Pragmatics and Textlinguistics has likewise shown that many of these “ordinary” approaches are extremely reductionistic.

    Finally, if you mean by “ordinary,” the way human language operates, I think everyone can see that I have brought up exactly that, and all you have are strawmen. That is what *you* are ignoring by obfuscation and misrepresentation. Human language has language games, and they can operate analogically. That is a fact, and you completely ignored that possibility. You didn’t deal with the way in which the language of scripture presents reality; you isolated one word, and used an argument that destroys the deity of Christ [something you never addressed] and makes nonsense out of scripture. Therefore, who is the one who is *really* ignoring “ordinary, natural, everyday understandings” of human language? I leave you and the reader with that.

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