The Evangelical Universalist Forum

JRP vs TurretinFan Oct 2011 debate (official thread+YouTube)

This will be the official thread for the debate between myself (Jason Pratt, one of the administrators and guest authors for this forum), and “Francis TurretinFan” (the pseudonym for a popular Calvinistic and anti-Catholic internet apologist).

Debate topic: “Some people will not be saved from their sins according to the following passages and their contexts: 2 Thess. 1:9, Matt. 25:41/46, Matt. 18:8, Romans 9:22 and Jude 1:6.” TFan affirmed, I denied.

The debate was taped by Skype on Tuesday night, Oct 11, and runs just under 3-1/2 hours. As it happens, after editing out our extraneous conversations and creating intros and outros, so do the podcasts in total: 2 hours 89 and a half minutes. :smiley:

Chris Date of was the moderator, and his site is hosting the podcast episodes. At the time I composed this opening post, he hadn’t yet updated his main site with posts linking to the podcasts, but I’ll include those below when they’re available (as discussions may occur in the comments either place).

Part 1 of 3 can be found here: “God Save Us All”. It features our main arguments, and our rebuttals, TFan first in both cases. Roughly 1-1/2 hours, plus any intro material from Chris.
Part 2 of 3 can be found here: “No More One More Chance”. This features our cross-examinations of each other. Roughly 1 hr (plus any transitional material from Chris, which I expect to be minimal.)
Part 3 of 3 can be found here: “Lost Forever”. This features Chris’ Q&A of each of us, and our closing statements. Altogether they total about 48 minutes, plus Chris’ outro material.

A quick way of accessing all three debate parts from Chris’ podcast site, would be through this topic list which handily collects them all on the same screen. (You won’t be able to read comments that way, but you’ll be able to see the number of any comments that have been posted.)

Each part of the podcast can be downloaded (as an mp3) from podbean via a hyperlink under the embedded player on each page.

Each post also contains links to the raw audio of each debate, where you can hear me gargle Chloraseptic! :mrgreen: (Edited to add: not really; by raw audio Chris means the debate material sans intros and outros.)

Chris has now posted up the debate in bite-sized increments (30 minutes max) on his YouTube channel. The playlist can be found here. (Chris also links to it below in a comment.)

I plan to do a neutral topic map later, so that listeners can find particular portions if they want to. Unsure yet where I’ll put it (i.e., here in this opening post–which would greatly lengthen it–or later as a series of posts, or appended as txt, doc and pdf documents, or just a separate locked thread), but I’ll include links here whenever I get around to doing so. (Not any time real soon.) Note: Chris’ YouTube channel playlist for the debate, linked to in the prior paragraph, also forms a basic topic map, as each division of our debate gets its own video. (Or audio rather.)

I also plan to post transcripts of my pre-written debate material eventually, but I don’t want to divert attention away from Chris’ site as being the place for the primary debate data, so I expect I won’t be doing this until mid-November at the earliest.

TFan’s weblog can be found here. A quick way to find everything he has written (or at least tagged) on his blog about universal salvation, would be to click here. This will most likely also contain any commentary pages he writes on the debate, and already includes his pregame thread and his announcement that the debate is now posted. If I notice any specific commentary posts, I’ll link to them below–other members are welcome to beat me to that, though. :slight_smile:

Our forum’s “pregame” thread for the debate can be found here. I have currently locked it down to prevent people from being confused about where to post commentary.

Members may create new threads (at their own volition, or as recommended by ad/mods) discussing points of the debate; but if you do, please cross-link the opening post of new threads back and forth with this thread so we can keep references all together in one place.

I’ll save this opening post for adding initial links and/or other initial technical information, and comment on various things afterward.

First: before anyone gets upset at the episode titles…

1.) Those are titles of songs chosen by Chris as the intro music for the eps. (Note: Chris affirms this, too, below.)

2.) They do not necessarily reflect Chris’ personal opinion about how the parts of the debate went. They are descriptive of material being argued by TFan and myself in every part. (Note: Chris affirms this, too, below.)

Chris takes enough flack as a Calv apologist for even considering that annihilationism might be true (in a Calv version thereof such as advocated by our friend Glenn Peoples). Weighing the ep titles toward non-universalism is a way of keeping legitimacy among his community, regardless of the objective merits of our arguments either way, and regardless of Chris’ estimation of those merits pro or con either way (partially, overall or altogether). Calvs (and Arms) would be less likely to listen if he didn’t weigh them this way. I approve of this as a marketing strategy in all those regards. (Chris disaffirms this as a factor below, but I still would approve if he had done so for this reason. :smiley: )

Chris and TFan were both entirely chivalrous during the debate, and Chris’ titling choices should not be considered evidence of unchivalry on his part. So please direct any criticism elsewhere.

Besides, since the main arguments are totally contained in the first ep, that means the other parts don’t count as much. So if anyone plans to draw conclusions merely from the ep titling, the title there means I won. {/silliness}

Fantastic! I just saw these show up in the podcast feed - can’t wait to listen! :sunglasses:

Regarding episode titles, there were three episodes; a seeming weight in your favor or TFan’s was almost inescapable. My choices were simply the results of trying to find songs whose titles seem relevant to the debate proposition. They are not intended to communicate anything about the individual portions of the debate, or who I think won. Nor was it part of a marketing strategy, or an attempt to maintain legitimacy in the eyes of my peers :slight_smile:

So noted and edited accordingly. :smiley:

(I still think those are good reasons for us not to complain about the titling, and that the legitimacy/marketing factors still naturally apply even though you didn’t do so for the sake of those factors.)

I enjoyed listening to the debate this evening while working in the kitchen and wrangling kids – so wasn’t able to give it quite as much attention as I’d have liked, but it was fun anyway! I’d like to listen to parts of it again when I have some quieter free time.

And I’d like to see a followup debate focused on several of the most clearly universalist passages!


Ohhhh, those are no fun. :smiley: Where’s the challenge?!

Actually, preliminary indications from Chris are that the next topic may be whether ortho-trin leads to universalism by metaphysical logic. But that’ll be a while down the line. (Like probably not this year. :slight_smile: I might get an interview this year, maybe, but Chris’ schedule is iffy for various reasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was next year, too.)

We’ll have plenty to chew over here for a while–including picking at where I could have done better! :laughing:

I wouldn’t mind letting Jason and TFan duke it out over the alleged universalism passages first, before they discuss the Trinity argument. But yes, the next discussion on this topic on my show will likely not be until next year.

So!–as I said, I don’t want to put up transcripts of my prepared material yet, in order not to distract people from going to Chris’ site to get the main data.

But I think it’s fair game to post up transcripts of my prepared material that for one or another reason I didn’t get to deliver! :laughing:

First up: I was hoping TFan would ask in cross-exam about my translation of 2 Thess 1:9, so I could report my reasoning on that topic. This never happened, but Chris did ask about it in the Q&A period. Unfortunately, I only had 2-1/2 minutes to reply, so I had to provide a very truncated version of my prepared material on that–and I hadn’t prepared for that possibility ahead of time with a shorter version, so I expect I made pretty poor weather of it, rapidly selecting bits and pieces as I went down the page.

So, here are all those bits and pieces with the connective detailed material. :smiley:

I should note that Chris’ question involved (if I recall correctly) another OT reference (also from the Proverbs unless I’m misremembering–I’ll be checking that later), which this reply doesn’t directly address.

For those of who gravitate toward YouTube, I’ve created a Playlist for this debate at my YouTube channel.

Wow, good stuff Jason. Thanks for posting that.

Have now added a link to the playlist in my opening post; and added a mention of YT accessibility in the thread title.

A super idea, Chris! (Or someone else’s super idea–thanks, whoever that was!–but super for agreeing to do it. :smiley: )

The reason for the bite-size chunks, by the way, is YT’s imposed limit of 15 minutes per video.

Fascinating debate. Must have taken many hours of preparation. Well done!

Interesting debate. Obviously the surface was just scratched. I agree with Tfan that the translation of “aionios” is the real issue in these verses. I wonder why Jason (or for that matter TFan) doesn’t accept the “pertaining to the age to come” translation, or “life/punishment of the age to come” as Robin Parry does. Or did in TEU…


In my case, it’s because many of the uses of “eonian” don’t really fit that concept. The secret hushed since the times of the age to come, which the God of the age to come has now authorized us to proclaim…? The hills of the age to come collapse at the coming of Jehovah, because (unlike them) His ways are of the age to come?? The priesthood of Phineas and his descendants is of the age to come??? The cultic responsibilities and rights of the priesthood are of the age to come???

The bars of the age to come surrounded Jonah when the sea monster took him down to the depths of the sea???

I realize that an argument can be kind-of made that the Son is the God of the age to come (whether unitarian, trinitarian or modalist) where He reigns as merely an ultimate authority figure over those who have not yet repented and so have not yet come to see Godship as anything more than an exercise of power over those who are less powerful (the way they would be Gods if they could)–after which the Son ceases reigning (in some substantial sense) and hands over all things to the Father. And of course there are many examples where the meaning “of the age to come” would fit fine. But the term usage doesn’t fit other examples very well.

I don’t think I emphasized as strongly as I could have how even in Jonah the imprisonment comes from God, mainly because I didn’t want to bird-dog off into an argument for Jonah being a figure for post-mortem repentance and salvation. (I’ll mention that again in my post-debate commentary.) And obviously I agree in principle that the punishment and the life is, in some sense, that of the age to come–although in some real sense we have that life already in this age!

But my goal in that arm of the discussion–which I don’t think TFan ever quite understood–was to argue (1) that “eonian” cannot and by context does not have a necessary intrinsic meaning of never-ending (a meaning of some kind of duration is useless for TFan’s argument, although he seemed to think at the end that a meaning of any duration at all clinched his argument :confused: ); and that (2) there are at least two alternatives readily available for understanding the term usage, one of which can be used broadly but is neutral to the purpose of exegeting non-universalism (or universalism for that matter), and the other of which (long duration) is flexible enough that superficially similar yet substantially different meanings can (and provably were) used by both NT and OT authors in close contrasting topical contexts.

As to why TFan doesn’t accept “pertaining-to-or-of the age to come”, you’d have to ask him. :slight_smile: My guess is that he would answer that since the age to come does not end, so what?–that would mean the things described in that fashion are endless, too, right?

(I got the impression from how he handled my rebuttal material there, that he hadn’t really studied the term usage much (if at all) before the debate, and wasn’t prepared beforehand to deal with that topic, although he took some honorable swings at compensating for that lack on short notice. :slight_smile: )

Thanks! I know I prepared for many hours–it’s one of the main reasons I haven’t been participating as much on the forum recently as usual. :smiley: I have some email correspondents, and thread participants, who have been patiently waiting for weeks for me to get back to them. :frowning:

I’m honestly curious how long TFan prepared for it, though…

To be fair, one of my main theological concerns in the past ten years has been studying soteriology with an eye toward seeing whether or how far Christian universalism is true, and then arguing in favor of Christian universalism for the past five years or so. I don’t think this has been anything like even a tertiary concern for TFan’s apologetical thrust. He has been more concerned with countering Arm and Roman Catholic apologetics. It occurs to me that had he approached the debate as if he was disputing an Arminian on the meaning of those verses, he might have done better–or at least have been working more from his own area of long-practiced experience.

On the other hand, the approach he did take is more inherently accessible for Arms as well as Calvs (…including his purely Arminian evangelical attempts, which amused me infinitely :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: … more on that later…), so in that sense he helped the debate have a wider potential audience by providing greater topical relevance than if he had stuck to trying to argue only distinctively Calv doctrines (thus alienating an Arm audience). I think that’s a good thing. :slight_smile:

My impression, Jason, was that you were assuming that TFan would already have a good understanding of the “aionios” issue, so that you didn’t need to cover that well. Apparently that was not the case.

I think we all forget, but need to keep in mind that some of the things we’ve hashed over so much ourselves that they begin to seem commonplace, may still be unknown territory for others!

It was pretty clear to me that TFan just didn’t “get” a lot of what Jason said. And that’s not too surprising. From his opening statement it’s plain he didn’t have much of an idea of the arguments Jason was going to use. Considering how much was new to him, and how little time he had to reflect, I thought he did a great job. I hope he’ll be thinking over some of Jason’s arguments and doing some scripture searching as a result.


Well done Jason (at least the first hour that I listen to)… but boy, do you talk fast :wink: TFan almost put me to sleep :unamused:

Are there any chances that there may be a transcript of this debate in the future?

Yes, I did assume that, partly as a charitable presumption in favor of his competence at studying the issue, and partly so that I wouldn’t have to spend my main argument time (including the rebuttal) simply on that topic.

My rebuttal regarding eonian naturally served somewhat to that purpose in passing, but was mainly aimed at demonstrating that having “eonian” mean superficially similar but also substantially different things, for the sheep and the goats, was for several reasons entirely feasible as an interpretative strategy: the term is demonstrably used that way, if rarely, in both the OT and the NT; and non-universalists themselves, as such, have to treat identical terms as though they mean something substantially different in close topical contexts elsewhere. (This is also something I don’t think TFan ever really acknowledged. I thought about pressing him on it during cross-exam, but I wanted to stick with the chosen texts and their local and citational contexts as much as possible, and didn’t want to turn the discussion into a debate about Rom 5 and Col 1.)

Agreed and agreed–although frankly, he had plenty of time to research how I was going to proceed from looking up my work here on the forum. While I didn’t spell out in correspondence before the debate what I was going to do, I did alert him two or three times that I was going to make a positive argument (not merely a defensive one) out of those four texts. That would have been so weird to me as a non-universalist, I would have thought I had to try looking up what that person had done before on the topic (if possible), or at least try to anticipate how someone might proceed who had stressed several times that he was going to include citational references in the local contexts (i.e. OT citations by the authors/speakers) for purposes of interpreting the intended meaning!

TFan has shown in other work that he is a good researcher; I was honestly curious to see how he might anticipate and counter my arguments by preliminary research. As it is, I think he saved most of his research until during the debate itself!

If so, he did about as well as anyone could expect. From a purely tactical standpoint (I could hardly call it strategic, but maybe I could call it operational…), and setting aside the question of whether the truth was best served by doing so, he did the ‘right’ thing by trying hard to nix any OT contexts-via-citations after the fact, as being irrelevant. He couldn’t exactly get rid of Synoptic contexts (and whatever the same principle would be for the parallels of Jude 6 to 2 Peter) by the same principle, but he ignored as much of them as possible; and he made some vigorous attempts to deal with them more directly, too (although on the other hand some of those attempts relied on ignoring other narrative and thematic contexts.)

To be fair, he mentioned (and tried to piece together) a lot more contextual information in Rom 9 itself than I did. But here’s one big difference in our approaches: I specifically said I could have gone (and wanted to go) into a ton more about Rom 9’s contexts, and I didn’t try to shut down his contextual reference attempts there. Whereas he not only virtually ignored my referential arguments to OT citations and their interpretative contexts there, he tried to substitute another OT citation instead (from Job) as being a superior probability reference. (And stuck to doing that when its topical connections to Rom 9 were clearly demonstrated to be only circumstantial at best.)

I can certainly say that, considering how much he handicapped himself, he did as well as he could. I’ll be complimenting him later on some things, when I get around to doing a post-debate commentary.