Chris Date Receives Bad Advice

Chris Date (not to be confused with Chris Bolt!) is an annihilationist who will be debating Choosing Hats contributor RazorsKiss on the following resolution: “The final punishment of the risen wicked will be annihilation, the permanent end to the conscious existence of the entire person.”

See for example:

http://www.choosinghats.org/2012/04/debate-annihilationism-with-chris-date

http://www.choosinghats.org/2012/04/initial-thoughts-on-the-upcoming-debate

http://www.choosinghats.org/2012/04/against-heresies

When I came home tonight I saw a trackback to a post where Date quotes what is in his words some of the “best advice” he has received concerning the upcoming debate:

http://www.theopologetics.com/2012/04/10/some-of-the-best-advice-ive-received

I am not familiar with Date. I do not intend to be rude. However, Date cannot be thinking very clearly regarding the topic in question given his assertion that he has received good advice. The individual who wrote the email Date quotes from is rather confused.

For example the anonymous author of the email in question states that, “It is only by [God’s] gracious answer to prayer that you have the opportunity to debate Joshua: so be thankful.” Nothing necessarily wrong with that statement. The claim is that God graciously answered prayer and gave Date the opportunity to debate RazorsKiss. But then why does the author of the email also claim, “I will be praying that Christians will not be divided over this issue.” How can there be a debate between two Christians who are not divided over an issue? On the one hand debate, which presupposes division on some level, is a gift from God in answer to prayer. On the other hand the prerequisite and apparently Satanic division is something to be prayed against.

Elsewhere the author makes a suggestion to Date, writing, “Ask yourself this question: what if I am wrong? And mean it…We must continue to have the humility to concede possible error. If God is glorified by this debate showing that you and I are wrong on this topic. So be it.” But then the author opines, “It will do Satan wonders for his cause to convince listeners that you are a Heretic and therefore divide the Body of Christ unnecessarily.” Even conceding that Satan has this Skype debate at the top of his list of priorities – a claim I admit that I do not find overly persuasive at the moment – I am not clear as to how one may “concede possible error” while also blaming the mere thought of error on Satan. The author even says, “I believe this to be the strongest card that Satan will seek to play.”

He continues:

Do not try to defend your “Reformed-ness” in this debate. It is not essential to honouring God. Nor is it essential to this debate. Stick to your guns, and try to show (especially to the Audience) that Annihilationism is not anti-Biblical.

Lots of claims. I won’t address them all here. However, while “Reformed-ness” may not be essential to this debate, it is also not wholly irrelevant either. For example:

http://www.choosinghats.org/2012/04/why-we-should-be-reformed-catholic

There are also concerns regarding Date’s internal consistency. RazorsKiss is, after all, a Van Tilian. But it need not be the case that he relies totally on arguments based upon the observations above. It is just that insofar as Date refuses to address those arguments he loses points, loses persuasiveness, and indicates that he may have some real problems with his view at a deeper level. Problems that he wants to hide. These would be the same problems that others who hold similar positions to Date might run into were they to adopt his annihilationism. And that is significant when you are trying to bring people over to seeing things the way you do.

It is suggested that Date neglect to incorporate Reformed theology and the history of the Church into a discussion on annihilationism. That makes perfect sense. Reformed and historical theology must be jettisoned in order to hold to annihilationism. It should be obvious that an annihilationist would do all he or she could to avoid discussing those topics. Of course, that should create a lot of worries for Date. Get rid of Reformed theology and the like. But what might we put in its place? Reformed theology is the truest expression of the teaching of Scripture. Making an argument from the cultish just me, Jesus, and my Bible without taking into consideration the fact that virtually everyone in your own tradition and throughout the history of the Church has stood squarely against you  is not pious Protestantism. You are not being Luther-like. You are being foolish.

So, what other advice are we given?

Pray for our brother Joshua Whipps. Passionately.

Pray. Pray. Pray. When you think of a point for the debate, pray about it. When you sit down to learn Joshua’s points pray for humility. When you awake on the morning of the debate, do not spend two hours going over your notes, but spend at least two hours in communion with God. Pray for humility. Pray for humility again, and again. Pray for wisdom. Pray everyday for your preparation. Pray everyday for Joshua. Pray everyday for God’s glory to shine through the debate. Praise God for his marvellous answer to prayer. It is only by his gracious answer to prayer that you have the opportunity to debate Joshua: so be thankful.

This reminded me of a quote from Charles Spurgeon:

I recollect an Arminian brother telling me that he had read the Scriptures through a score or more times, and could never find the doctrine of election in them. He added that he was sure he would have done so if it had been there, for he read the Word on his knees. I said to him, “I think you read the Bible in a very uncomfortable posture, and if you had read it in your easy chair, you would have been more likely to understand it. Pray, by all means, and the more, the better, but it is a piece of superstition to think there is anything in the posture in which a man puts himself for reading: and as to reading through the Bible twenty times without having found anything about the doctrine of election, the wonder is that you found anything at all: you must have galloped through it at such a rate that you were not likely to have any intelligible idea of the meaning of the Scriptures.” (http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm)

Date was not given good advice. Rather, he was given an emotional diatribe against sound thinking concerning an exceedingly important doctrine. He was wooed by the same emotionalism that constitutes the appeal of annihilationism. An emotionalism that leads us not closer to, but further away from the truth of God’s Word.

 


23 Comments

Hiram Diaz

You took the words right out of my mouth, Mr. Bolt.

Btw, thank you for your work in apologetics 🙂 A brother in Christ and I have benefitted from some of your writing on presuppositionalism, which we have just begun to teach a class on the subject.

-h.

Glenn

“the same emotionalism that constitutes the appeal of annihilationism”

I don’t know how many people you’ve heard or seen defending annihilationism. I don’t know if you’ve heard Chris defending annihilationism – but if you have, did you observe a tendncy to appeal to his emotions rather than Scripture? This sort of tone and dissection of motives isn’t really the best thing for you to be engaged in.

RazorsKiss

Mr. Peoples,
In your comment, I noticed something perhaps unintentional, but problematic. Chris says “appeal of“, while you say “appeal to“. It seems to me that there is equivocation in view on the term “appeal”. Chris is using it in the sense of “attractiveness”, while you are using it in the sense of “argue from the authority of”. Contextually, it is normative to use “appeal of” when referring to the sense of “attractiveness”, while using “appeal to” when using it in the sense you are referring to.

It’s not obvious that you were equivocating intentionally, but it does seem to be obvious that there is an equivocation in view.

Glenn

No equivocation. I referred to somebody talking about the emotionalism that is the appeal OF annihilationism – namely C L Bolt.

But this can only be demonstrated in the case of Chris Date if Chris appeals TO his emotional attachment to the doctrine more than to Scripture, hence my question, to which I still await an answer.

This is why such peering into motives is a bad idea. it’s uncharitable anyway, but it’s also incredibly hard to substantiate.

RazorsKiss

Obviously, I don’t think that holds water. He was speaking of a property of annihilationism – ie: appeal, in the sense of attractiveness. It is the case that annihilationism is considered appealing emotionally, insofar that some annihilationists speak of how it satisfies them emotionally in one way or another – for instance, when Stott speaks about the subject of eternal punishment, at one point he says the following: “Emotionally, I find the concept intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterising their feelings or cracking under the strain.” There is, then, quite obviously an emotional appeal, or attractiveness, contra the emotional disgust, or distaste present concerning the doctrine of eternal punishment – it is appealing, at least in comparison, as he can tolerate it, while he cannot tolerate eternal punishment. It is, also, quite obviously true that it is more emotionally appealing to consider that existence (and punishment) ceases, opposed to considering that existence continues eternally (in torment). This is what Chris was saying. Reading it otherwise is not valid, as this is not what he was saying. It is not the case that he was using the sense of invocation, or support, or application for review – it is the case that he was using the sense of it being comparatively attractive, pleasing, or enjoyable. I also, having talked to Chris about what he said, know for a fact that this is what he intended, and he thanked me for pointing it out.

If it is the case that the attractiveness of annihilationism is emotionalism – then it is the case that the emotions evoked thereby are pleasing. What is pleasing is the consideration that instead of eternal punishment, we have punishment that is a) Not continuing consciously b) Not in ceaseless torment – which seems a far more pleasing prospect than the alternative.

Telling us that Chris meant something other than he says he meant and that I obviously grasped immediately (without speaking to him beforehand, by the way – we spoke after I had already replied) seems to be a rather futile proposition. As shown above, at least one annihilationist seems to have an emotional response to the topic, and that was the concern of the comment. Whether you agree that annihilationism has an emotional attraction or not, it remains the case that the doctrine of eternal punishment has an equally emotional repulsion, if so. We could both affirm that the emotions disconnect from the entire debate, of course – but somehow I doubt either of us could do so in good conscience. Pinnock certainly didn’t seem to even want to stay calm in the discussion of the subject, and I find the same to be true with every discussion of the topic I’ve encountered thus far. Hence, I’m not convinced that annihilation has no emotional appeal – or, conversely, that eternal punishment has the opposite emotional repulsion. Which was the point of the statement in question 😉

Interestingly enough, the claim is made that Chris is “peering into motives” – which seems rather difficult to substantiate, at best – and uncharitable, at worst, given that what seems to be objected to is not what was stated. Further, the object of what was considered to be “emotionalism” was not the statement of Mr. Date, if you’ll consider the words in question carefully, so any appeal to Mr. Date’s future arguments for or against is actually rather immaterial to the discussion, is it not?

In any case, I sincerely hope you find your weekend pleasant, and that you would seek more gainful and relevant employment of your time 😉 As it stands, you seem to be finding oodles of problems that simply aren’t there to be found. We all probably have better uses for this time, don’t we?

In appreciation for your understanding (and in suggestion that perhaps your own blog’s posts might be a better place to carry out this sort of commentary, as this is primarily a blog with the intention of teaching apologetic *method*).

Thanks for the feedback, all the same.

Nick

When will this debate be?

RazorsKiss

Early June. No set date as yet.

Fergus Gallagher

Just curious when you’re gonna be free to respond to Reasonable Doubts.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/2012/04/02/100th-episode-live-special/#comment-7653

C.L. Bolt

Probably middle to late May.

Fudge and Date: On how to view challenges to orthodoxy

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Steve Wilkinson

“exceedingly important doctrine”
I’m sure this could be the case, depending on how we define annihilationism, but considering the context in this case, how so? I’m not just trying to be snarky. I’ve listened to Chris Date’s entire series on the topic, and while I still don’t agree, I can’t think of a reason why I would label it ‘exceedingly important.’ Sure, we always want any doctrine to match scripture, but given all the challenges Christians face today… this one doesn’t seem all that high on the list.

RazorsKiss

Because it is integral to a proper exposition of every other doctrine, obviously. In Theology proper, it is integral to a proper understanding of the justice, mercy, grace, patience, holiness, and wrath of God to name a few attributes. In Christology, it is integral to a proper understanding of what Christ came to take upon Himself, in the place of His people. In soteriology, it is integral to a proper understanding of what we are saved from. In ecclesiology, it is the antithesis of what the people of God will experience, and what their Savior and Lord suffered in their place. In anthropology, it delineates what it is that is deserved for offenses against an infinite God committed by those created in His image. In eschatology, it is the penultimate expression of God’s summing up of all things in Christ with respect to His justice. We could go on. Suffice it to say, as with every other doctrine, it is inseparable from the rest.

Steve Wilkinson

Sorry, I’m not so ‘obviously’ seeing the problems you have outlined, other than maybe a bit of concern over the downplaying of the suffering aspect of Christ’s work on the view of some annihilationists. Apart from that, again, having listened to the position put forth by Chris, I don’t see how his position impacts your above categories. The whole issue of ‘offences against an infinite God’ seems to be an imported concept. If the Bible is speaking about destruction rather than torment when speaking of eternality, everything you mention still holds up as far as I can see.

The views that would be problematic would be those that deny God’s justice is done (i.e.: go soft on sin and evil; like Rob Bell, etc.), or those that don’t include degrees of punishment. What is at issue is whether the Bible is talking about destruction or torment, and whether the soul is inherently eternal (this latter point, IMO, falls on the side of the annihilationists unless it can be shown by Scripture otherwise). Once you solve those two issues, it seems to be either eternal torment OR annihilation work just fine theologically. The question is which the Bible teaches.

RazorsKiss

Well, I’ll be getting into it in some fairly involved detail in the near future. Just a couple comments, though. While you’re welcome to assert that “offences against an infinite God” is whatever you please, I don’t see how your assertion has any bearing on the historical (and more importantly, Scriptural) affirmation of sin as being such. Second, no one is saying that it is torment *or* destruction – except the annihilationist camp. It mystifies me when they are being presented as somehow antithetical to each other, or somehow incompatible. That isn’t the position I see in Scripture, nor is it the position of anyone I know, let alone hold myself.

While your opinion on what is problematic is noted, the more important questions is what the Bible finds to be problematic. It is not the case that it is “destruction or torment” as both terms are used of the same event. As to the immortality of the soul, I am finding a significant amount of confusion from the annihilationist camp as to what we believe, let alone why. With so much ink already spilled on the subject, one wonders why there is such confusion as to what the Reformed position is, or the reason that we hold it. As you say – it’s a matter of Sola Scriptura. What I find lacking in the annihilationist position is a coherent, organic doctrine of Hell within the Tota Scriptura, and in systematic derived thereof. I’ll get into it more 😉

Steve Wilkinson

re: “offences against an infinite God” – got a verse or two?

re: “torment *or* destruction” – OK, let’s make that eternal torment or annihilation, as I was using the terms to indicated the two positions. No doubt Scripture uses destruction, and obviously both camps disagree on what it means. (And, I don’t think the annihilationist camp is saying one or the other.)

I’m sure neither of us has the time to get into all the details here in this blog post response, but could you just give me a few details of one of your suggested categories (from your original response) where annihilationism causes the problems you indicate? (Other than Christ’s suffering and death, as we probably both agree that many annihilationists downplay the suffering aspect too much… that is still one of my main problems with the position, though I’m not sure it should be. I don’t see a reason why an annihilationist has to downplay the torment and suffering as an aspect of the punishment.)

Again, I’m not being snarky… possibly I’m being dense… but I’m just not seeing the problem.

RazorsKiss

got a verse or two?

Psa 139:7-10, Acts 17:27-28, Isa 66:1, Jeremiah 23:23-24 – God is omnipresent/ubiquitous.

Gen. 21:33; Deut. 33:27; Isa. 40:28; Jer. 10:10; Rom. 16:26; 1 Tim. 1:17, 1 Sam. 15:29 – God is Eternal

Mal. 3:6, Psa. 102:25-27, James 1:17; Job 23:13 – God is immutable

Further, God is Spirit – John 4:24. God is Spirit, thus He cannot be finite. God is immutably infinite, eternally infinite, and ubiquitously so.

Sins are primarily committed against whom? God. (Psa. 51:4) Hence, they are offenses, transgressions, sins against the infinite God. I don’t see the difficulty with connecting the nature of God to the nature of man’s offenses against him, but you did ask.

As for the second – I was just responding to your use. You clarified, so that’s cool.

As for the next, I probably will, but not in the comments. That help?

Steve Wilkinson

Whether or not you choose to publish my above comment or not, please think this through before the debate. And, as Dr. White would do… actually listen to Chris’ podcasts on the subject so you get the annihilationist position THEY are presenting accurate. (It isn’t what I’ve always thought the position was.)
Also, FYI, I tried to go to http://razorskiss.net/ but I get redirected to a malware site (or site with some issue as my browser flags it).

RazorsKiss

re: 1) Obviously 🙂 It wouldn’t be much of a debate if I don’t listen to his position, will it? Obviously, I’m going to try to engage the arguments he has given before, but…

…as a subpoint, I’m having a hard time separating out what his position actually is, since it seems to be subsumed into negative arguments and the positions of his guests. I asked some exploratory questions, but I don’t see any comprehensive statement of his position concerning what he DOES believe. Eclectic positions are unfortunate in that regard, in my experience. This is his first debate taking a positive position, so I’m not sure what his position actually is on some important topics. For instance – when I asked him what the state of man is after the first death, he said he was agnostic to it. How does this “jive” with the seeming insistence that the second death is consistent with the first? I actually mentioned that in a sermon today. I’ll be posting that before too long. While listening to prior material has been helpful, I was disappointed at how little there was of his own position in his material thus far. Hopefully I’ve just missed it in the couple I have yet to listen to.

As for the second, yes, there’s a niggly issue with my stupid site that will probably mean I need to nuke and pave it and put it back together. It’s annoying. Thanks for the heads up.

Chris Date

I listened to the sermon, and look forward to discussing some of your claims, should they be repeated in our debate. 52:38-52:43 was particularly interesting.

I’m sorry that my answers to your questions, and what’s available at my podcast and blog, leave you uncertain as to what it is I believe. While I do not want to debate before the debate, I do want you to know what it is I believe and will be advancing in the debate. Please do let me know how I can help; if it’s by continuing to answer exploratory questions, I’d be happy to do so.

I’m not sure to what extent I’ve insisted that the second death must be understood in terms of the first, but my position is simple: whatever the soul is and whatever conscious existence it has after the death of the body in the first death, what happens to the body in the first death will happen to both body and soul in the second. Both will be killed. I hope that clarifies, and again, if there are still topics on which my position is unclear, please don’t hesitate to ask.

I was concerned about the malware on your other site, too. Wasn’t sure if it was only me 🙂

Chris Date

Hey Steve,

I just want to thank you for listening, and I can understand and appreciate why you don’t agree with my position. My prayer is that the Lord would use our debate as a means to clearly reveal the truth of His Word, both to those of us participating, as well as to all of you who listen, whether that’s Razor’s position, or whether it’s mine. Do you mind if I ask you to please likewise pray for our upcoming interaction?

Steve Wilkinson

No, I don’t mind at all Christ. Will do.

Steve Wilkinson

Ack…. how in the world do I always turn Chris into Christ… must be muscle memory from trying to keep up in note-taking in seminary classes. 🙂 Sorry about that, again.


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