Sorry for the provocative title, but it concisely communicates the point I’d like to make.
Many people who grow disillusioned with the doctrine of ECT drift toward annihilationism. Which is reasonable given that annihilationism addresses the most horrific aspect of ECT, its never-ending vision of pain. And yet, as many proponents of UR can attest, there is something unsatisfactory about annihilationism. I’d like to argue it’s because annihilationism isn’t theology.
This struck me the other day as I was reviewing Thomas Talbott’s propositions. Apologies to review these again, but you never know who might be reading. So a quick recap. Knowledgeable readers might want to skip the review and go to the point I make below.
To review, Talbott has us consider the following three propositions:
God’s redemptive love extends to all human sinners equally in the sense that he sincerely wills or desires the redemption of each one of them.
Because no one can finally defeat God’s redemptive love or resist it forever, God will triumph in the end and successfully accomplish the redemption of everyone whose redemption he sincerely wills or desires.
Some human sinners will never be redeemed but will instead be separated from God forever.
Talbott points out that while each proposition has ample biblical support you cannot logically endorse all three. You have to accept two of the propositions and reject a third. And depending upon which propositions you accept or reject you end up with either Calvinism, Arminianism, or Universalism:
Adopts Propositions #2 and #3. God will accomplish God’s plans and some people will be separated from God forever. This implies a rejection of Proposition #1, that God wills to save all humanity.
Adopts Propositions #1 and #3. God wills to save all people and some people will be separated from God forever. This implies a rejection of Proposition #2 as God will fail to accomplish something God wills (i.e., to save all people).
Adopts Propositions #1 and #2. God wills to save all people and God will accomplish God’s purposes. This implies a rejection of Proposition #3, that some people will be separated from God forever.
Okay, here’s what struck me the other day about Talbott’s propositions:
**Where’s annihilationism? **
It struck me as strange given the popularity of annihilationism that it wasn’t captured in Talbott’s propositions. Why is that?
It’s because annihilationism isn’t a belief about God and God’s grand purposes for Creation. Unlike Calvinism, Arminianism, or Universalism annihilationism doesn’t deal with the grand narrative of Scripture–Creation, Fall and Redemption.
Basically, annihilationism isn’t theology.
It’s a belief about hell to be sure, but it has very little to say about God.