Apologetics to the Glory of God

My Opponent’s Position, as Stated

(22:14)First, I fully hold to the orthodox essentials of the faith and other important doctrines; I believe in the Trinity, the deity and virgin birth of Christ, the total depravity of man and salvation by grace through faith alone; Sola Scriptura, the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. I’m not a Seventh Day Adventist, a Jehovah’s Witness, or a member of any other questionable denomination.

Second, I have no emotional or philosophical problem whatsoever with eternal conscious torment; everlasting suffering has never seemed to me to be incompatible with the love and justice of God, nor does it today. I think God would be just in causing the wicked to suffer for eternity, but I also think God would be just in doing what I’ll be arguing He’d do. The question is, what does Scripture say He’ll do? My position is strictly exegetical, not emotional or philosophical.

Now, I requested two slight modifications to the proposition originally suggested, which I’ll emphasize now. The punishment of the damned will actually be torment forever and ever. I chose the word punishment, because I will demonstrate that the Bible consistently describes the final punishment of the wicked as a final, irreversible, utter death and destruction of the whole person like that inflicted upon the body in the first death, and not as torment forever and ever. And I chose the word actually because in the only places where torment and forever and ever are used together in connection with final punishment it can’t be demonstrated that anything, let alone the damned, are actually tormented forever and ever. But I will demonstrate that it is most reasonable to understand these passages as symbolically portraying torment which lasts forever, imagery intended to communicated the kind of destruction I just described.

(23:44) The view I’m defending today is this; when Christ returns, both righteous and wicked will rise bodily from the dead; the righteous will be granted immortality, and the wicked will be judged according to their deeds and punished by being killed a second time. Hence the phrase the second death, used in Revelation. That killing will be one in which people justly suffer to varying degrees, but that suffering will last only until the one being killed is dead, after which point one will never live again. And when I say dead, I specifically mean dead as in a dead body being dead. Unconscious, unaware, inactive. Truly lifeless. They will not be capable of being tormented forever and ever. One last comment, and this is an important one. I don’t think this debate is one in which each side has Biblical texts which favor it, and others which must be reconciled with it. Rather, it seems to me that all the Biblical data on the topic favors the position I’m defending today.[1]

Just a few notes. Notice the interesting juxtaposition of things regarded as “essential” in his initial comments. 2 Solas, one letter of TULIP, the Trinity, the Deity/virgin birth of Christ, inerrancy/infallibility, etc. An eclectic mix, to be sure. The Solas, surely, are not typically regarded separately in this fashion as essential or not; neither are the soteriological points of Calvinism typically considered separately. It struck me as quite odd, when first hearing it, but perhaps he has a reason for including such an odd mix as far as “essentials” go. One more interesting note I would offer is that Fudge, whom we have already seen discussing this subject of “essentials” with Date, would not seem to agree on Total Depravity as an essential;

The Calvinistic/non-Calvinistic war of words has lasted long enough. It is time for both sides to move beyond it by a mutual acknowledgement of orthodoxy (though not full agreement) and an extension of Christian love. Among people of good will, there is even room for enormous progress toward a common understanding of the mystery of divine grace. Despite the fears and charges of their theological opponents, Calvinists do not necessarily make God responsible for anyone being finally lost and non-Calvinists do not necessarily credit salvation to the merit of anyone finally saved. Indeed, certain Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike have offered biblically-based versions of their understandings that narrow the traditional doctrinal and emotional gaps.[2]

If, as is asserted, both Arminians and Calvinists are both orthodox on this point – are then both views true? That is what “orthodox” means, after all – “right” or “true” doctrine, or belief. Orthodoxy is a word much-maligned, and oft-misunderstood. It is not an “umbrella” of disparate views – ie: ecumenism – but is, in fact, that which is actually true. Ironically, this is a point Date raises himself concerning his debate thesis vs. Diaz. On his definition of orthodox, seemingly, nothing is actually orthodox. This segues us into the next point, which is very much related.

Another interesting thing, to me, was the consideration of God as just in multiply possible fashion. Obviously, God is just in either one or the other, not both supposed possibilities, as they are mutually exclusive. Since justice is not a function of what we consider to be just, it also hardly follows that our consideration of His acts as such render them either just or unjust; hence, I’m hard-pressed to make sense of his statement here. Since God is actus purus, all He does is just, and justice is all He does. It does not, then, follow that either supposedly potential action of God is just; it only follows that what God says He will do is just, since what He says He will do, will in fact be done. So, to Mr. Date, is God’s justice a potentiality, not an actuality? Unless one wants to affirm that God is adhering to an outside standard of justice, it cannot be affirmed that God “would be” just in doing either of two mutually exclusive things.

Next, we’ll look at his definition. Christ was our substitute, right? Took on what we were due; the penalty of sin? According to Mr. Date, that penalty is “a final, irreversible, utter death and destruction of the whole person like that inflicted upon the body in the first death, and not… torment forever and ever.” Is the person of Christ still existant? I very much hope that Mr. Date isn’t suggesting otherwise – and I highly doubt that he is suggesting otherwise. However, there seems to be a slight problem with this view. He has said, for the record, that he does not believe that Christ’s humanity was annihilated – and by that, given his position, I take to mean “a final, irreversible, utter death and destruction of the whole person” – in his substitutionary death. If not, given his view; what, precisely, was He substituting as? It can hardly be true that Christ suffered our punishment – as our punishment, per his view, is as stated above. His response, when I asked this question, was that “Christ bore the eternal punishment of irrevocable death, by means of violent execution, in place of the elect.” When I asked him why it was “irrevocable” when it seemingly was revoked shortly thereafter, I received the response that “irreversible” was a better term. When I asked in what sense he bore our penalty, I was told “His punishment was finite in duration but qualified as being eternal.” I asked “what do you consider Him to have accomplished/bore in our place insofar as His taking upon Himself the wrath of God”. His response was “I consider Him to have done just that: bore God’s wrath in place of the elect–His rage, displeasure, indignation, anger, etc,” which I found highly puzzling, given what I asked him.

I don’t think I was unclear in asking what it was that He took upon Himself. A scattering of synonyms was in my estimation, a highly unsatisfying response. I went into more detail in the next round of clarification, and at that point, he punted, and considered that to be “defending” his position, or “debating before the debate”. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing, whether you’re leading up to a debate or not. I’ve certainly been doing so. Perhaps he lacks the time. That’s been known to happen, obviously. I’ve never been of the opinion that we need to hide, or hold back, our arguments prior to a debate. In fact, I’m quite fond of being open and transparent when doing my preparation. I can hardly be accused of not writing on the subject in the leadup to the debate – in fact, I told him I would – and he said he appreciated it. Interestingly, I haven’t seen much positive presentation from him at all, and he’s taking the affirmative! I’ve been trying to put out a good mix of positive and negative statements in the course of my preparation. I have been concentrating on the theological arguments thus far, but I’m starting to get into assembling my exegetical responses now.

That brings me to another subject. When we engage in exegesis, are we not to do so per Sola Scriptura? Further, is not part of that doctrine tota scriptura? Accordingly, we are dealing with Scripture as a unit – and only within Scripture as a unit can we deal with the particularities of Scripture. So, if we are to deal with the nature of Christ’s atonement, we must do so with the nature of Christ as incarnate deity kept in mind. We must do so with His substitutionary death – the full-orbed doctrine of it – in mind. It must also take into account the nature of the wrath of God, and the nature of the object of the wrath of God. In short, we must deal with divine simplicity, and it’s counterpart Scripturally, tota scriptura. How does his position do this, when he has unequivocally stated that he has not studied the topic of wrath, or divine simplicity sufficiently to give a meaningful answer concerning them? The wrath of God is quite relevant to this debate; if we do not have an intelligible doctrine of the wrath of God, we cannot have an intelligible position on the result of that wrath, for instance. The one flows from the other. Thus, we see, a failure to be conversant with tota scriptura, flowing from divine simplicity, results in a failure of doctrinal intelligibility. As we walk through the passages that teach the doctrine of Hell, we’ll show how this is to be accomplished, Lord willing.

Another example may be given. Mr. Date says he is agnostic to the state of men after the first death. He also says he is agnostic to physicalism. In his position outlined above, he says that the fate of the wicked in the second death is like that of the body in the first death. Let’s connect the dots.

1) The second death is like the first death, except of the whole person, not merely the body.
2) This assumes one of two things. a) Dualism, assuming non-annihilation b) Recreation of the person, given monism. Following?
3) Date is agnostic to physical monism. Hence, he does not know whether a) or b) is true – they cannot both be true. (leaving aside the seeming assumption that there is a difference between the body and whole person, a priori, in his view, at the same time that he is agnostic to physical monism)
4) Date knows (per the same set of questions) that the whole person is not annihilated in the first death.
5) This seems to rule out b) by virtue of denying that the body is identical to the whole person. Still following?
6) He is, further, agnostic to the state of men after death; yet he says that men are *not* annihilated in the first death – so he is apparently not agnostic to their state in that respect. They, at least, exist.

Clear as mud? There was a reason I asked those, initially – and this was why I did so. It shows the incoherency of trying to claim agnosticism on these issues. You have to fish or cut bait – or it’ll be done for you, due to inconsistencies. Whether he wants to “defend” this position beforehand or not, I have no qualms in pointing out these issues beforehand – and tipping my own hand, incidentally – because I’m not concerned with whether my position will stand up, or whether I’m going to “win” the debate. I know it will stand up, because it’s the only possible position. Whether I win on points or not is truly immaterial to me, because the position I’m defending is true, and the position he is defending is false – he may very well be a better debater than me, but it’s not for lack of trying on my own part, Lord willing.

It’s interesting that he says “I don’t think this debate is one in which each side has Biblical texts which favor it, and others which must be reconciled with it. Rather, it seems to me that all the Biblical data on the topic favors the position I’m defending today.” Why is that interesting? Because it’s not strong enough, that’s why. I’m not concerned with “favoring” my position. I’m concerned with demonstrating the impossibility of the contrary. This involves, necessarily, that my position be the only possible position. It also involves, necessarily, the presupposition that there is only one possible position, not two (or more) possible positions. Like we saw with justice earlier, it is the case that only one of those mutually exclusive positions can possibly be true. This is a Biblical antithesis. It is the case that only one position is truly orthodox, is possible, and is expressed in Scripture. Let’s not equivocate.

It is the job of any position claiming to be Biblical to demonstrate unequivocally that it is the only possible position. Anything less is unconscionable, and insufficient for the apologetic task.

You can’t choose doctrines like you choose hats, either – and ignorance of them surely isn’t bliss.

  1. [1]Date’s opening statement vs. Hiram Diaz
  2. [2]http://loyal2him.com/journey/churchDoctrine/reformedChurch/perspectivesCommentary.html


3 responses to “My Opponent’s Position, as Stated”

  1. Nextor Avatar

    The real problem in a nutshell as you so well put it:

    ” You have to fish or cut bait – or it’ll be done for you, due to inconsistencies.”

    1. RazorsKiss Avatar

      Supposed agnosticism is just a hidden premise, when it all boils down.

  2. […] not “eternally dead”, which is the entire resting place of the conditionalist schema? If Jesus doesn’t suffer “everlasting death” – which is the linchpin upon which all of conditionalist “eternal punishment” […]

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