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:
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:
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.”
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:
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.