Here is another excerpt from “The Bible Teaches Annihilationism.” [as originally written at the time of the original publication of this post] available for free on my website http://3-ringbinder.weebly.com/
It is not uncommon when reading a defense of the traditional doctrine for an argument to be made not from scripture, not even from philosophy, but simply from the possible negative effects of preaching annihilation. The two most common, which are fairly similar, are that annihilationism hampers missionary zeal, and that if you preach annihilationism, people will be less likely to repent.
When called to task by Glenn Peoples in “Has Robert Peterson Defeated Annihilationism?” for his past use of these arguments, Robert Peterson replied that he was not making an argument for eternal torment, but only reflecting upon the “implications” (“Fallacies” 7). That is why I refer to “implications” in quotation marks in the section title.
Rather than devoting a lot of time and space to addressing the arguments themselves (and I assure you, I can), all I really need to say is that, true or not, they are completely irrelevant. Whatever the outcome of preaching this doctrine is, that has absolutely no bearing on whether or not it’s true. It is really that simple. What makes something better has absolutely no logical bearing whatsoever on whether or not it is true. This is easily the worst argument for eternal torment, by far.
Consider this: it’d be better, at least in my opinion, if it were to be true that in my bank account there was $100 million (as opposed to what is in it now). Does that mean there is $100 million in my bank account? Or say a student, who receives an 80% on a test, says to the teacher “I think I got a 100%. See, that would be better for my grade point average, so it’s actually better that I get 100%. Doesn’t that mean I got a perfect score?” Would such a student not be laughed out of class? Well, open your eyes; it is the same argument!
What makes something true, it being a good evangelism tool, or it being true?
If you don’t think annihilationism is true, then say, “it’s not true.” However, if you believe the doctrine we preach should be based on what is convenient, or even what might help others, and not on what is actually true, then you are a liar, and you have every reason to be concerned about what Hell is like (see Revelation 21:8)…
Now, I don’t think most traditionalists who make this argument are liars. I think Robert Peterson and Robert Morey and others genuinely believe that traditionalism is so obviously true that it is legitimate to voice their opinions about why it is better to believe it. In their hearts, I don’t believe most are trying to convince anyone to believe something contrary to the truth. I don’t think they are actually saying “believe this, not because it is true, but because it is better for evangelism.” This argument is probably very affirming to one who already holds the belief, so it surely sounds like a solid argument if one does not actually think about it. That may sound harsh, but it’s either that or they are simply dishonest. This argument really is that fallacious.
I admit that I myself, convinced of the truth of conditionalism, do think about reasons why it is better to believe it and preach it as well. Like I said, I don’t buy the argument from evangelism in the first place. I have plenty of arguments for why conditionalism is a better doctrine. However, I keep them to myself. Unlike some, I actually have considered the ramifications of appealing to such arguments. What if I were to convince someone that way? I do not want anybody to agree with my position because I appeal to emotion or because I make the belief sound like something better (which, though surely with pure and blameless motives, is exactly what traditionalists do when they make these arguments from implication). What good is that? How does that serve God? If I cannot convince you from scripture that conditionalism is true, then I haven’t really convinced you, have I? Truth is truth, whether it makes you happy or sad or indifferent.
Peterson, Robert A. “Fallacies in the Annihilationism Debate? AResponse to Glenn Peoples.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50.2 (2007): 349-355. Web. 28 May 2011. <http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/50/50-2/JETS_50-2_349-355_Peterson.pdf>.
(Originally published 04/02/2011: http://3-ringbinder.blogspot.com/2011/04/implications-of-conditional-immortality.html. Immaterial changes have been made).