The Evangelical Universalist Forum

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


I will certainly be posting up my pre-written material later, although not for a while as I don’t want to distract from Chris’ site as the main source of the debate.

TFan, in the past, has posted up his side of arguments in prior debates, so there is a good chance he’ll do that here, too, eventually.

If he does that (especially if it’s an actual transcript of what he presented), I may put that together with my prepared material; and then, being halfway down the fairway to transcribing the whole thing, go on and finish transcribing the other half. Although if someone else wants to do that, I’m okay with it! :laughing:

For what it’s worth, normally I would do a whole lecture (or sermon) on each of those five sets; that’s why I had to talk so fast to cover the material all at once.

Bless his heart, TFan probably felt like a boxer who showed up to a sumo match… :mrgreen: And not a particularly fast boxer, either. But he manfully forged ahead as well as he could, and there’s a lot to be said in favor of that. :slight_smile: Whatever else his presentation was, it certainly wasn’t an infoglomp, so had the advantage of being far more immediately accessible than, heck, any ten seconds of whatever I was doing at any time. :wink:

But isn’t this age one in which the power of the age to come has invaded?

Not really- the punishment of the age to come could be that punishment that occurs within the age to come vs throughout the age to come.

Another tack that universalist/annihilationist take is that the effect of the punishment is eternal, as in “eternal redemption” vs. “eternal redeeming”. See Fudge on this.

“From God” doesn’t seem to work for so many examples. The idea of “age” seems to be missing.

Perhaps the word has a few different meanings based on the time period written (influence of Plato?)…

I think that TFan did well in pointing out (it seemed to me) that the OT passages that you mentioned where not necessarily what Paul was referencing. That uncertainty toppled your argument, it seemed to me.

Yes, I was willing to agree with that.

Similarly, I’m willing to agree that the fire that destroyed Sodom was the fire of the age to come, invading this (or a prior) age, so to speak.

What that can or should mean, is quite another thing again.

Yes, I understand the conceptual distinction involved, but I’m not sure TFan does-or-would. :slight_smile:

Most annihilationists, in my experience (Fudge especially included), would not think it proper to interpret eonian life the same way, i.e. the effect of the life is permanently eternal so that (in equal but opposite application compared to annihilation) the person is not conditionally immortal anymore.

As to the former, that may be true in a few OT examples, although in my experience it works in more examples than any other uniform interpretation. While I recommend that for simplicity’s sake if a single uniform interpretation must be used, I have no qualm about using another meaning–so long as the multi-form possibilities of the meaning (where they demonstrably exist) are recognized as needing contextual interpretation on a case-by-case basis. Which TFan kept wanting to get away from having to acknowledge: notably, he barely even mentioned my actual contextual argument for Matt 25, preferring to try to focus on the term usage of eonian instead, and thought that simply acknowledging some sort of feasible duration meaning solidly shut the case in his favor (as though any duration meaning must necessarily equate to never-ending duration).

As to the latter, the rarer (and perhaps more emphatic) term {aidios} itself, if interpreted as being something other than imperceptible or non-private, exemplifies how physical or natural imagery can be applied to God (or even to different natural phenomena) even though the base meaning if literally applied to God would crudely disaffirm supernaturalistic theism. “High-brightness” is not literally a characteristic of God (per the interpretation of its usage in Romans to parallel “theotes” for divine power); and is not even the same imagery category for duration in regard to God (per the interpretation of its usage in Romans as “everlasting” in regard to God). Similarly, the underlying Hebrew terms translated into Greek as “eonian”, are both physical metaphors regarding the horizon (up to and beyond it, especially the eastern horizon where the sun comes from), which not only have no literal application to God but are again a categorically different image type than a temporal term.

Certainly, one can see how the metaphor develops in various ways: the horizon line in the east indicates where the future is, so that direction is like traveling or looking into the future. But it would be clumsy to criticize “eonian” in a temporal sense as an interpretation for AHD and/or Olahm, on the ground that the idea of a horizon, or of space, seems to be missing from such an interpretation!

Similarly, God Most High transcends any high-brightness in a totally different way than any natural height, and transcends the future in a totally different way than any natural temporality. But no one complains about applying that language as a way of describing God.

Once that concept is in place, however, it becomes possible to speak of God as Most High (roughly the same as “high-brightness”) or as the Everlasting, and from there to speak of effects which properly belong to God as being most high or everlasting effects.

The question is whether there is evidence the authors are actually doing this. I think there is some evidence, although the case for such isn’t ironclad. But it doesn’t have to be ironclad, because the duration interpretation is definitely and demonstrably such that the terms cannot intrinsically mean never-ending.

That leaves me plenty of options, including that sometimes the term may indeed mean never-ending. The only option excluded is that the term always means never-ending. But then there cannot be much of a meaningful exegetical argument from the term-usage merely in itself for a doctrine of something described by the term to be never-ending.

Thus TFan’s attempts, two or maybe three times, to try to treat any duration acknowledgment at all as though that necessarily shuts the door. He has to necessarily shut the door by appeal to the term!–his case cannot stand, from reference to the term, and so at all in several places (including Matt 25), if the term varies in its duration usage, or only counts invariably when referring to something other than duration.

I thought that his point about the same word being applied to life and punishment requiring uniformity held pretty well when compared to the “everlasting hills”, looking at that as being not a literal eternal, but still participating in the meaning “eternal”…

I actually think this hurt your case. For most people, it doesn’t matter what kind of argument you put out there. As long as there are very clear passages of scripture that say “eternal punishment”, all other arguments fail to overcome that until you deal with “aionios”. I haven’t heard everything but I’ve listened to a few hours of it and a few times it seemed as if you avoided responding to questions about aionios and I didn’t quite understand why.

I have found that most people miss the arguments first time around since they are so convinced of their scriptural position and equally convinced that you don’t believe in hell or punishment (I noticed that tfan was initially surprised that you believed in punishment). As a result there needs to be a fundamental challenge to the idea that God punishes forever. I think that is the crux of the scriptural argument that all the other arguments should hang on and until you knock that one down the other person will see you as being completely wrong and themselves victorious.

Don’t get me wrong, I think you made some excellent points, but they had no effect on Tfan since they went over his head and didn’t dent his opinion on eternal.

I strongly suspect a Philonic parallel via Plato, who also treated “eonian” as being a reference to God (insofar as he understood God, i.e. fundamental rational reality).

However, I didn’t want to go down that road for this debate, partly because it’s rather contested in itself, and partly because I don’t consider myself well-read enough on that topic to have a significant opinion worth listening to :wink:, but mostly because I wanted to stick to what could be argued from the usage by scriptural authors–especially since this was a debate about scriptural exegetics.

Incidentally, earlier today I looked up information on the curious case of the textual variant at 2 Thess 2:13, and wrote an analytical report on it for reply to a recent thread here.

I mention it here because elements of the analysis happen to dovetail with the notion of using eonian (and maybe aidios) as a way of talking, in the NT, about something coming uniquely from God.

Chris, I think you hit the nail on the head with that. That was the very first question in my mind when I first was presented with this doctrine – and I had begun to forget how big an issue that was for me. I spent huge amounts of time examining that word – over and over, again and again.

But I’ve started to think a little differently about this word. Looking at the Jonah example: “I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God.”

The bars closed behind him forever – that sounds pretty final and hopeless, right? But guess what? That still didn’t stop God from saving him! That means it just plain doesn’t matter if something is “forever” – that doesn’t stop God from doing what He wants – and if what He wants is to reconcile all things to Himself in Christ, the eternal bars of Hell are not going to stop Him!

With man it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.


I haven’t finished listening to it all yet, however, I’m very impressed by all 3 involved, as it certainly would’ve taken a lot of time & effort!

Great content, you covered so many things and I learnt new things. As I know you & this topic reasonably well, I can usually keep up with your argument, however, because it’s so dense, those who aren’t familiar with you & this topic would really struggle (I know my wife did & she is reasonably familiar with this topic) to keep up with you (It’s like when I read Carson, I often have to read sentences more than once - unfortunately, one can’t do that easily with a talk), and that actually decreases your effectiveness. As this is new territory for most people, we need to do things like: slowly read a verse, rather than just quoting the reference; repeat key points; pauses after points to let them sink in; use simple everyday illustrations. Similarly I think dirtboy is correct for most Christians

Anyway, knowing you are striving for perfection (& have a robust personality :slight_smile: ), please see this as only constructive criticism. I’d very glad you took on the challenge, I know I couldn’t have put together such a logical and thorough presentation, let alone handled the pressure of a recorded debate.

Btw, apart from the density & speed, I thought you articulated words clearly and spoke with good expression and emphasis.

Hi Sonia,
I don’t think that it is that easy, unfortunately (I wish that it were!). I think that TFan made a good point that the Jonah reference is figurative, as it is in our language when we say “I was in line FOREVER”.

But roofus, God also does that in Jeremiah. He tells Israel that the fire of his anger will burn forever and it doesn’t! Over and over again in the Old Testament God shows that even when he says that it will be forever, his mercy comes in and forever doesn’t happen. In fact he goes on to say that he doesn’t punish forever in more than one place in the scriptures. There are some things that I’m still shaky on, but one thing that the scripture gives powerful testimony to is that God does NOT punish forever. He says that in his own words in more than one place in the O.T.


Actually, I agree about the speaking quickly thing. You might have noticed that I didn’t speak as quickly in my cross-exam and in my finale when I wasn’t under the gun to cover a lot of info in the time constraint. (This was in fact one of my rationales for not summarizing my prior argument for my finale. I was under time pressure a bit more in the Q&A, so I know there was at least one time I had to afterburn.

I originally mentioned this when setting up the debate, that we ought to stick to one or two pretty narrow topics. That got expanded to five, and I understand and appreciate why–it helps the debate seem more like something worth doing–but when the doctrine is in the details… :wink:

I’ll have more to say later (than I already have) about why I didn’t lead out with the terminology argument–but again, part of the reason is that I had FIVE RATHER COMPLEX VERSE SETS to deal with. I had to make strategic decisions about how much of the terminology argument to present, and when. Yet that topic by itself would be worth at least one whole debate. :slight_smile:

Anyway, I’m glad I sounded clear and distinct (mostly–I know I sturbled a bit, too :laughing: ). I was very concerned about that, especially because I was going to have to turbo through those five sets (and a condensed version of the terminology argument for my rebuttal material.) :slight_smile:

I may have to wait until my post-debate commentary to talk more about that; but I have to say I’m seriously confused as to why you thought he made that good a case against it.

His whole rebuttal against the 2 Thess 1:9 OT allusion argument rested on the phraseology not being exactly equal, in disregard of the (indisputable) fact that the concepts were equivalent (and the language quite similar); the (indisputable) fact that Paul had just previously cited a different verse from Zechariah on exactly the same topic (the final advent of YHWH, applied to the return of Jesus); and the (indisputable) fact that the topic overlaps extremely well with Isaiah chapters 2 through 5. That’s a massive wad of weight for allusion to try to flick away with the observation that the precise wording isn’t the same.

Would TFan seriously attempt such a defense against claim of allusion if a non-trinitarian tried to use that defense to avoid having to acknowledge that Paul meant YHWH by the Greek term “kyrios”??–because, as I stressed, the two cases there are exactly proportionate to one another. In fact, I originally found the allusion by checking the argument for YHWH-reference there made in a trinitarian apologetic context (Richard Baukham’s God Crucified collection, if I recall correctly).

It’s true, as I acknowledged, that my direct contextual case for 2 Thess 1:9 wouldn’t hold up if Paul wasn’t referencing Isaiah 2 through 5. But I pointed out that I could make a general contextual case of the same sort based on the character of other OT prophecies; I just wouldn’t be able to use such a case in a debate focusing on local and referential contexts. And anyway, acknowledging this is not in the least the same as admitting the allusion case is untenable or even reasonably doubtful. An argument amounting to “Jason’s case would be more difficult if there isn’t an allusion here, therefore his case sucks the end NO DON’T LOOK AT THE DETAILS EXCEPT FOR ONE TRIVIAL DIFFERENCE I SAID THE END!!” is not, to me, very persuasive. :wink:

Again, TFan’s whole rebuttal against the Rom 9 citational context argument, rested on trying to argue that a superficially similar remark in Job was a superior probability for the reference–when there was barely any topical overlap at all (other than people being made from clay by God), and the phraseology wasn’t particularly similar. He admitted, when I pressed him on the topic, that he wasn’t familiar with the content of the other four options and couldn’t remember offhand what I had even said about them. So how was the Job reference supposed to be superior, if he had no recollection of the details to compare them as inferior!?

Literally the only (but unstated) reason the Job reference was supposed to be superior was that it was neutral (at worst) in referential context to the meaning of Rom 9, i.e. I couldn’t use it to argue that Paul was talking about a hopeful salvation of those who are currently set as opponents (whether Jews or Gentiles).

TFan didn’t argue that my OT citational comments on the Matt 18:8 texts were irrelevant, possibly because I affirmed them in a way that didn’t seem to immediately challenge his position (and didn’t hang much on them anyway); I didn’t base my main argument for Matt 25 on OT allusions–but he pretty much ignored my actual contextual argument there, too; and I didn’t actually make an argument for OT allusion regarding Jude v.6 (I only gave a hint how I would proceed in interpreting Jude v.6 in light of related OT material, but I didn’t treat that as being a direct reference by Jude). So I’m left wondering where he made any good counter-argument against my arguments about referential allusions for contextual interpretation purposes.

You’re welcome to supply details of where you thought he made good arguments against those allusions, of course. :slight_smile:

If “eonian” in regard to the hills can be not-a-literal-eternal-but-still-participating-in-the-meaning-of-eternal, then so can the punishment in Matt 25 compared to the eonian life. Which, not-incidentally (as I also mentioned a couple of times in different ways), cannot be a literal ‘eternal’ either in regard to its object, since its object (saved sinners) had a beginning, both absolutely and in reception of the life.

Aside from noticing that the life is not literally eternal either (if we’re talking about the life of the saved person–and if we’re talking about God’s life being merely never-ending, then even the non-universalist has a major difference in terminological application of “eonian” between the life and the punishment): the reason we know there’s not a uniform meaning of the term “eonian” in Habbakkuk (and in Romans) is because of the context. I VERY EXPLICITLY STATED more than once, that merely observing the terms could be used in different ways in immediate comparison, did not necessarily mean the terms were being used in different ways in immediate comparison elsewhere. That was not my argument; my argument was ABOUT THE NARRATIVE AND THEMATIC CONTEXTS OF THE PARABLE, which TFan barely even mentioned, and definitely did not even discuss (except to briefly assert, without explanation, that it didn’t matter if the goats were baby goats).

The line of my argument there was:

1.) the term “eonian” itself doesn’t always mean “eternal”, especially if narrative and thematic context indicates otherwise (which I presumed in favor of TFan’s competence he knew already, but which I would be giving examples of later in my rebuttal anyway);

2.) here is the narrative and thematic context of the judgment of the sheep and the goats (the vaaaaassssst majority of my main argument on Matt 25);

3.) the context indicates that we had better interpret the punishment of the baby goats the way mature sheep would, not the way baby goats would!–i.e., hopefully, not hopelessly;

4.) therefore context indicates that in regard to the punishment, we should not treat “eonian” as necessarily meaning never-ending;

5.) but since there is a reasonable concern about the hope of the eonian life being threatened if the hopelessness of the eonian punishment is denied, then…

6.) …here is some auxiliary information, presented in the rebuttal, showing:

6.1.) even non-universalists interpret identical terms in substantially different ways (for whatever reasons) when defending against apparent testimony in favor of universal salvation;


6.2.) there are at least two notable examples (one from the NT, one from the OT), where authors did in fact use that term (in Greek and its underlying Hebrew original) for superficially similar and somewhat related but substantially different meanings.

So non-universalists as such also interpret identical terms in close context quite differently for what they suppose are good reasons; there are scriptural examples of that particular term being used in close context quite differently; and my MAIN ARGUMENT for Matt 25 indicates we ought to interpret the terms in superficially similar but substantially quite different ways.

The first point of that paragraph was not challenged (and is quite indisputable anyway); the second point was acknowledged; yet not only was the third point not discussed at all, but TFan tried to recover by in effect denying that any contextual case had been made to demonstrate the two paralleled uses of eonian at Matt 25 (regarding the life and the punishment) ought to be interpreted with some substantial difference from one another.

His rebuttal to my attempt totally hinges on no contextual case being demonstrated for Matt 25. But the vast majority of my main argument for Matt 25 was exactly that. He can’t just stop as though I never made a contextual argument for Matt 25, when I spent six minutes doing just that.

What he needed to do was demonstrate that my contextual argument for Matt 25 (i.e. MY MAIN ARGUMENT for Matt 25) didn’t add up. Then his rebuttal attempt would have worked. But he barely even mentioned it.

I suspect he probably didn’t even remember enough of its details to try to go after it, and so had to make as much of a rebuttal case as he could by (in effect) pretending I hadn’t even tried to show that Matt 25 was a case like Rom 16 and Hab 3, where the context indicates we should treat the two eonians differently.

To be fair, he didn’t have any way to go back and listen to my argument again. But you know what? He could have taken notes during my presentation (I did when he was presenting); and he could have bothered to research me on the topic to get an expectation of what I was going to do (which, again, I definitely did on his site). I’ve given my Matt 25 argument before on this site. He might even have been given a link to it by Chris, since I sent links of that sort to Chris to help him sell me as being someone interesting to debate (although on the other hand I have no idea whether he passed those links along to prospective debators.)

So on one hand I have some sympathy for him having to scat up a defense on short notice when steamrolled by an unexpected detailed argument–but my sympathy only goes so far. :wink: And my sympathy abruptly ends at the point where his rebuttal totally relies on me not having made such an argument as I spent a good six minutes detailing, as though I never even tried doing such a thing. (As far as his rebuttal went, I might as well have spent those six minutes playing a kazoo in accompaniment to the climactic action theme of “Ace Combat Zero”, while muttering “baby goat” once or twice for no reason. :wink: )

Considering that I myself introduced that example as one where the term is used figuratively, this is not such a great point to make (seeing as I MYSELF DID SO FIRST!–don’t I get any credit for my argument for mentioning it first??? :laughing: )

We know it wasn’t literally forever by examination of narrative and thematic contexts, of course. You know what else we discover if we examine the narrative and thematic contexts of Matt 25’s sheep and goat judgment? :wink:

{kazoo kazoo flamenco guitar Jesus our sweetest savior and only victorious lord awesomeness baby goats baby goats kazoo}


Those are important points that you make. He does it in Jeremiah, but then you says He does so “over and over”. Can you list these many occurrences?

In his defense, the debate isn’t over :slight_smile:

Oh, I expect (and even hope) that eventually he’ll do post-debate commentaries actually addressing things of this sort. :slight_smile:

So even literally, yes, the debate isn’t really over. :smiley: