Packer: The Problem of Eternal Punishment (1990)


#1

Joe scanned and printed another article for me to read:Packer-TheProblemOfEternalPunishment(1990).pdf (718 KB)

I’m only half way thru reading it and am not finding it as relevant as I’m not a “Conditionalist” but I’m still reading it and trying to understand the criticisms of Universalism he also presents.


Joe: Lexicons prove UR is wrong!
#2

It actually gets a lot more relevant and interesting further in, so much so, I’m going to type out a few paragraphs as soon as I get a chance! p5 of the pdf is really interesting…


#3

I think it’s also interesting to have the comparison of his thoughts over 21 years. I think he may have “softened” in some regards :sunglasses:


#4

I’m glad to hear that, and may they continue to.

Good questions, I’m glad he at least acknowledges them.

It seems some evangelicals are at least beginning to realise the problems of ECT and are looking for alternatives. It’s a shame it’s often annihilationism or ‘conditional immortality’. Hopefully they’ll embrace EU instead, when they come across Talbott or Parry, as I believe it’s more biblical, logical and consistent with God’s revealed nature.


#5

I agree with Stott that the ‘longstanding tradition’ needs to be taken into consideration and also ‘the unity of the worldwide evangelical constituency’, however, there’s no point holding on to things that are not true, and even worse, that degrade God’s name amongst people (i.e. the opposite of "hallowed be Thy name) and creates a barrier for people coming into a relationship with Him :frowning:


#6

I believe it’s hard for people on both sides of the arguments :neutral_face:


#7

It’s sad that ECT has to be “integral” to Christianity. I’d say rather that love is integral. I don’t see Christ or his apostles teaching everlasting punishment. However, the later theologians may well have.

Sadly so, Calvin “forgot” about God’s love, so it’s hardly surprising he promoted the worst view of hell to date :neutral_face:


#8

Hi Alex.

I like your point:

I remember reading, for the third or forth time, the classic ECT statement:

“If you sin against the everlasting God, then the punishment has to be everlasting”

when it suddenly struck me that we should re-word it as follows:

“If you sin against the loving God, then the punishment has to be loving.”

I think this fits better the fact that while the Bible says God is love, it never says God is wrath, or God is punishment.
Certainly, at certain times and places, God is wrathful and does punish, but as you say: love is integral.


#9

Tam, that’s brilliant! I’m going to paste that on my study wall in big letters. Thank you :slight_smile:


#10

Thank you Andrew – that was quick, and kind !
I’ve got no copyright on it.

btw, I live close to the River Tweed, and one of the pillars of my church is Tweedie to name, and his son-in-law is an EU !!


#11

Excellent point :sunglasses:


#12

Not wanting to leave the material Joe gave me unfinished, I’m going to push on with it.

Matt 25 must probably the most used passage against universalism, and so when we create our website, we’ll have to make sure to address it clearly. The simply answer, is that αιωνιον doesn’t mean endless, but probably something that occurs beyond sight, usually in the next age. Supporting that takes a little more time, and as it’s already been done many times, I’ve won’t go into detail here. Preterists would also have a few more reasons why this isn’t describing ECT.

That’s when we are allowed to debate it and aren’t instantly written off as heretics! :unamused:

I agree, there are many passages which proclaim God’s universal salvation :mrgreen:

I don’t think this is the most important question surrounding this topic, however, I do agree with the traditional view that God will make us all immortal (given Christ enabled us all to be resurrected).


#13

That phrase, “If you sin against the everlasting God, then the punishment has to be everlasting” has always bothered me. It just seems to be such a silly statement. How about, “if you sin against a humorous god, the punishment has to be funny”? :laughing: If you think about it, the possibilities are many. For the record, I like yours better because it truly fits in with the character of God. I think of the situation with David, one where the law required the death penalty, and God spared David’s life.


#14

I agree :slight_smile:


#15

“Matt 25 must probably the most used passage against universalism, and so when we create our website, we’ll have to make sure to address it clearly. The simply answer, is that αιωνιον doesn’t mean endless, but probably something that occurs beyond sight, usually in the next age. Supporting that takes a little more time, and as it’s already been done many times, I’ve won’t go into detail here. Preterists would also have a few more reasons why this isn’t describing ECT.”

I’m new to this as I just finished reading the book, “The Evangelical Universalist”. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time (read: approx 35 years), but haven’t really put it to the test until recently. I’ve read some of the “age abiding” arguments for the term aionion, but how do you read it when it speaks of aionion life (heaven) and aionion life (hell)? Or when it describes God as being eternal (aionion)?

BTW, Hi Alex (and everyone else). I just joined and am glad to be aboard!
Chris


#16

Welcome aboard Chris, it’s good to have your input! :sunglasses:

Yes, that’s the next question that must be asked. My approach is to say that given I think αιωνιον is an undefined period of time, then αιωνιον doesn’t have to equal the same duration of time, even if used it the same sentence. Now people then say, “Oh so you think we don’t get eternal life?!”. It’s true I don’t think Matt 25 tells us that it’s eternal, however, I do think other passages let us know what the αιωνιον life will be like (including it’s duration). For example, we know that in the New Earth there will be no rust, decay, or death. We also know that it will be in direct relationship to God, the source of all life.


#17

Hi and welcome!

I think I can help you with your Matthew 25 question. It’s past 1 AM where I live, and I’m about to go to sleep, so I’ll just copy-paste some Martin Zender.


Yes, Matthew 25:31-46 does ring a bell. It should, seeing as how I’ve studied the passage for fifteen years. This is a judgment of nations, not individuals, a fact plainly stated in verse 42. Thus, this is not the general judgment of mankind, as you suppose. This judging takes place at the inauguration of the thousand-year kingdom. The majority of mankind are not even alive at this judging, for scripture says that, “the rest of the dead” (the unbelieving dead of all time) “do not live until the thousand years should be finished” (Rev. 20:5).

If this is the separation of all people into either heaven or hell, tell me: What is the criteria for judging? Is it faith in Jesus? Is it belief in the gospel? Reliance on the cross? No. The only criteria is: How did the nation being judged treat the favored nation Israel? Did they feed Israel when it was hungry? Give it a drink when it was thirsty? This judgment, which takes place in the Kidron Valley (the Valley of Jehoshaphat) upon Christ’s return, does nothing more than separate nations that helped Israel (sheep nations) from those that ignored her (goat nations), and determines their placement during the millennium.

The “everlasting punishment” of the King James Version is actually “chastening eonian” in the Greek. (“Eternal” is a mistranslation of the Greek aion, meaning “eon,” which always has to do with time.) The “life eternal” is correctly translated “life eonian.” This passage has nothing to do with where people will spend eternity. The eon in question is the thousand-year kingdom, and the “people” are nations. Those nations that helped Israel will enjoy abundant life during that eon, probably near Jerusalem. Those nations that didn’t will be placed in the outer reaches of the kingdom and will certainly suffer more than the sheep nations. This is the “fire eonian” of verse 41. Since Christ is said to rule these nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 2:27), it is evident that these nations are neither consumed nor writhing in literal flame. Thus, the flame of this context is a figure of speech for suffering.

I hope all of this helps you. It will probably hurt you at first, because I know I said some hard things. But you must be broken, for your own good. Your self-righteousness has got to go. We must all come eventually to realize the source of our salvation; better now than later. I pray that God brings this revelation to you, and that Christ turns your pain to joy.

Yours in Him,

Martin

(source: martinzender.com/Zenderature … _queen.htm)


#18

Welcome, Chris!

That’s a classic anti-UR argument: “If punishment comes to an end, then life comes to an end too.” My answer to that is that aionios doesn’t mean “never ending”. It can be used to describe things that never end as well as things that do end. Aion is like our word “age”, it’s adjective aionios must mean “having to do with an age” or “being like an age” or “age-lasting”. Some suggest it aionios charactarises things having to do with the age to come. Personally, I lean towards the idea that it’s not really about whether something ends or not, but about the quality it has. Jesus defines “aionios life” as “knowing God”.

Matt 25 and aionios have both been discussed at length here, so you’ll find a lot if you look around. David Konstan has done some in depth research and has been posting articles in his section here: viewforum.php?f=64

Another discussion here on Matt 25: Mt. 25:46

I know there’s a lot more, too!
Sonia


#19

There are evangelicals who believe in stripper poles for Jesus, wrestling for Jesus, ecumenism, breath prayers, yoga in church, prosperity gospel, practicing gay clergy, women pastors and my personal favorite “Evolution Sunday” Do you actually think “universalism” would not creep it’s way into evangelicalsm too?

I don’t know if you have noticed but evangelicalism is a mess-more worldly than biblical. Everyone is calling themselves evangelical without having a clue what that actually means. Bad theology is still bad theology regardless if the majority holds it or not. God Bless!


#20

You make a good point that not all change is good. Can there be any further growth or reform in our understanding of the Bible or do we already know, and have a correct understanding, of everything in it already?

Who are the real evangelicals?

Sure, I totally agree with that, which is why I think we should challenge the majority view of ECT.