Rob Bell’s book Love Wins isn’t just popular.  It’s a cultural phenomenon.  With an extremely effective pre-publication ad campaign, the book sold like hotcakes weeks before its release.  And since its release it has perched high on the New York Times bestseller list.  But unlike most bestsellers, the book is the source of significant theological controversy, so much so that it prompted last week’s cover story in Time magazine.  So what’s all the hullabaloo about?  Well, that question itself is somewhat controversial.  Fans insist that the book is encouraging, refreshing, and illuminating, while critics complain that Love Wins is an irresponsible, unbiblical, and even heretical espousal of universalism.  Bell denies that he’s a universalist.  But the accusations still fly, and given the many questions he asks and the claims he makes, it is easy to see why.

I’ve decided not to offer yet another review of Love Wins.  The Internet is already swirling with them, some of the best of which include those by Mark Galli and Kevin DeYoung (on the critical side) and Julie Clawson and Richard Mouw (on the sympathetic side).  I found myself torn in reading the book.  I appreciate Bell’s sincerity and compassion for those for whom the doctrine of hell is a stumbling block, his courage to wade into such treacherous theological territory, and even his calling into question the notion that the damned are tormented forever.  (I personally believe Scripture teaches that those in hell are indeed tormented but are ultimately annihilated, a view known as “conditional immortalism,” which has been affirmed by John Stott and Edward Fudge, among others.)  At the same time, I am disappointed by Bell’s exegetical method, his distracting writing style, and, most of all, his many logical blunders.  It is this last concern that will be the focus of my remarks about the book.  And, unfortunately, the fallacies in Love Wins are so plenteous that I will need to make this a series.  I will also affirm many of Bell’s insightful observations along the way, so that we don’t forget that, for all of his logical missteps, the book does have some good qualities.

There are several dozen fallacies in Love Wins, and I will highlight many of these, chapter by chapter.  While some of them might seem insignificant or trivial given the context or the role a particular argument plays in his overall project, I would emphasize that logical errors are never trivial or insignificant.  Why?  Because they are indicative of a person’s general reliability when it comes to critical thinking and rational judgment.  If a person is inclined to commit logical fallacies on lesser matters, then why should we regard him/her as trustworthy on bigger issues?


In the first chapter, Bell correctly notes that the necessary conditions for salvation, as far as the human response goes, are very difficult, if not impossible, to specify.  Insist on a cognitive condition (such as “belief in” or conscious “acceptance of” Christ), and this seems to imply that all who die as infants or even as fetuses go straight to hell, not to mention those who’ve never heard of Christ, including everyone who lived before Jesus’ time.  Add a behavioral condition (e.g., a certain degree of obedience) and this seems to make salvation a matter of works rather than faith (though such stipulations are apparently made in numerous passages, including Mt. 5:20, Mt. 18:35, 1 Cor. 6:9, and 1 Tim. 5:8).  Then there’s the question of how much faith is necessary for salvation.  Faith, after all, comes in degrees.  One may have more or less faith.  How much is enough?  And how does one know when one has enough?  Such are vexing questions, and Bell rightly shines the light on our ignorance about many of them.

Despite these insights, I counted five fallacies in the (very brief) first chapter.  Here are three of them:

1. Non sequitur on page 4: A non sequitur is simply a conclusion that does not follow from the premise(s) of one’s argument.  Bell rightly challenges the dubious extra-biblical notion of an “age of accountability,” something that is also a pet peeve of mine.  But his critique of the idea is spurious, to say the least.  He says, “If every new baby being born could grow up to not believe the right things and go to hell forever, then prematurely terminating a child’s life anytime from conception to twelve yeas of age would actually be the loving thing to do, guaranteeing that the child ends up in heaven, and not hell, forever.  Why run the risk?”  What?  His conclusion here doesn’t follow unless he makes several questionable assumptions:  1) that there aren’t significant upsides which would make this a worthwhile “risk” (after all, the positive value of eternal bliss in the presence of God is incalculable), 2) that there even is such a thing as “risk” when it comes to the providence of God and the ultimate eternal fate of human beings, and 3) that there isn’t much to be gained in terms of rewards in heaven by living a full life of obedience and faithful service as a Christian in this life.

2. Vacuous Claim on page 6: Bell also rightly challenges the idea that “all that matters is whether or not a person is going to heaven.”  But then he says, “If that’s the gospel, the good news—if what Jesus does is get people somewhere else—then the central message of the Christian faith has very little to do with this life other than getting you what you need for the next one.”  If Bell is saying that the “all-that-matters-is-heaven” view implies that our earthly existence is not meaningful at all, this does not follow since what we do here has a tremendous impact on our eternal condition.  So this would be a non sequitur.  However, he adds the phrase “other than getting you what you need for the next [life]” which does qualify his claim.  But notice that this only qualifies it to the point of making it an empty claim, essentially this:  Those who take the heaven-is-all-that-matters view believe that life on earth is only important to the extent that it impacts heaven.  Well, yes.  That is precisely what this view assumes.  But Bell seems to think he is refuting the view somehow, rather than simply stating it, as evidenced by what he says afterwards: “Is that the best God can do?”  As if using our earthly existence to eternally impact the heavenly condition of billions of people is a small thing.

3. Overlooking Alternatives on page 9: The fallacy of overlooking alternatives is committed when one draws a conclusion or makes an insinuation that fails to take into account a reasonable alternative view (e.g., “My hammer is missing from my workbench, so it must have been stolen.”).  Bell commits this fallacy when he addresses the issue regarding those who do not hear the gospel.  At one point he declares, “If our salvation, our future, our destiny is dependent on others bringing the message to us, teaching us, showing us—what happens if they don’t do their part?”  And he goes on to raise “disturbing questions,” such as whether, then, our future is in someone else’s hands and whether the fate of others rests in our hands.  These are disturbing questions only if one rules out a high view of the sovereignty of God.  If God is truly sovereign in human salvation, then neither your fate nor anyone else’s is really in another human’s hands.

In my next post, I will discuss chapter two of Love Wins.

21 Responses to “Love Wins and Logic Loses: The Fallacies of Rob Bell”

  1. Josh


    Great post.

    Although I have not read the book, I would not be surprised to find out that it is not very good. I’ve recently listened to Rob Bell discuss his book on the radio program “Unbelievable” and he seemed far more interested in evading questions than addressing them. I’ve never had much patience for folks whose modus operandi is evasion and obscurity. Explicitly identifying instances of bad reasoning is one of the best ways to impose discipline on conversations concerning controversial issues. For that reason I’m glad to see posts like these.

    As disappointing as Love Wins may be with respect to cogent reasoning, however, it seems to me that much of the reaction to the book was at least as discouraging. Even prior to the book’s release, the folks at the Gospel Coalition temporarily made it their chief aim to protect the flock from the hope that God will save most of humanity. From what I can gather, those folks have no sympathies for annihilationism, inclusivism, or universalism. As far as I can tell, they believe some variation of the following (although no doubt they would object to it being put in this fashion): God has, in response to human wickedness and sin and in order to enhance his glory, freely and sovereignly abandoned most of humanity to eternal languishing from which there is no hope of redemption. With respect to a small minority, however, God has freely chosen to redeem them. The majority of humanity, therefore, will inherit a future of unfathomable horror, while the minority will inherit an unending life of flourishing.

    That is of course not all they believe, but it is certainly a significant part of what they believe. Furthermore, they appear to consider it a mark of true piety both to believe these things and defend them from those advocating a less hope-crushing view of God’s grace. The tendency is to measure the spiritual maturity, health, and wisdom of a person by how far he diverges from this paradigm. A universalist is about as far away from the paradigm as one can imagine, and so is naturally targeted as the object of intense theological scorn. Inclusivism and annihilationism, although less egregious offenders, are also significant departures from the paradigm, and so are publically and repeatedly denounced as pernicious falsehoods. In the service of spiritual health, the thought seems to be that we should put toxic labels on folks like Bell while vigorously reminding everyone how frequently God abandons sinners to hell and how important it is to be certain that he has done so. The good news of Jesus Christ and evangelism itself depend on it, we are told.

    That is the sort of atmosphere fiercely inimical to a generous, informed, and disciplined conversation about heaven, hell, God and humanity. Rob Bell is not the most articulate defender of the more hopeful perspective, but many seem hardly interested in genuinely considering an alternative perspective.

    Of course, I’ve never regarded you, an inclusivist annihilationist (gasp!), as one uninterested in considering other perspectives. But unfortunately I’m not sure if most conservative evangelical leaders share your virtue in that respect.

  2. Jesse


    I may have to disagree with some of your conclusions here. In the interest of constructive criticism, I’d like to point out some issues (please correct me if I’m mistaken).

    1. I think Bell’s conclusion that it would be better to terminate the life of a child given an age of accountability is valid, because the assumptions you point out do not seem so questionable to me. 1) There are no significant upsides to risking eternal damnation, if you assume that terminating the life of a child guarantees that child’s salvation, while letting it live risks the child’s eternal damnation. 2) There is such a think as “risk” in regards to the eternal fate of human beings from an Arminian perspective, which I believe is where Bell is coming from. (Of course, if you vehemently deny the Arminian position and support the Calvinist position, then the whole book is arguable moot.) 3) Anything that could be gained in terms of rewards in heaven by living a Christian life could not compare to the risk of eternal torment in hell. Again, this assumes (as Bell does) that terminating the child’s life before the age of accountability guarantees their eternal salvation and runs no risk whatsoever of eternal damnation.

    2. Later on in the book, Bell talks more about social justice and the need for God’s children to participate in the redeeming act, and I think this is the point of view he is coming from here. I do not believe that he is intending to imply that our eternal security is a small thing, but rather that there is so much more that we should be worried about. Rather than telling people that they should turn or burn, we should be loving them, feeding them, clothing them, visiting them in prison, and doing everything in our power to redeem the lives of everyone we meet and to redeem the entirety of God’s creation. A single-minded focus on a heaven that is “out there” and that it is all that matters tends to make us forget that this world is important, too. I believe this is the idea that Bell is countering.

    3. Again, this is only a fallacy if you take a Calvinistic view of salvation (where salvation is not dependent on our choice), which Bell does not seem to do. I wish he had clearly stated this, but he seems to be writing predominantly to Arminian-minded readers, as I would say a majority of American Christians are. A lot of his arguments (such as this one) hold no weight against a Calvinist perspective, but that does not seem to be what he was intending to do.

    Again, I don’t want to be antagonistic or argumentative. I just want to offer my thoughts and spur conversation.

  3. Marc Belcastro



    Hello. Hope you don’t mind if I make a comment or two on your above remarks.

    >> “I think Bell’s conclusion that it would be better to terminate the life of a child given an age of accountability is valid, because the assumptions you point out do not seem so questionable to me.”

    It seems to me that this might be a problematic expression of consequentialism. If your rationale were sound, wouldn’t prudence recommend not only that we terminate all fetuses, infants, and young children, but also, if apostasy is even a remote possibility, that we execute most (if not all) currently living Christians and most (if not all) recent converts to Christianity? Yet that seems absurd, so perhaps there’s something wrong with the operative rationale.

    The view that we should perform those actions which yield seemingly tremendously good consequences is, I acknowledge, an initially plausible view. But I think its initial attractiveness begins to diminish when the view is extended and applied to actual situations, for it seems to me that certain actions are, despite their seemingly wonderful consequences, inherently wrong. For example, suppose that by denying Christ and committing apostasy, one could completely eliminate the world’s diseases and natural disasters forever. Although this would presumably be a rather amazing consequence, I don’t believe it justifies one’s denying Christ and committing apostasy.

    >> “1) There are no significant upsides to risking eternal damnation, if you assume that terminating the life of a child guarantees that child’s salvation, while letting it live risks the child’s eternal damnation.”

    If we assume that God has created a world in which free creatures have the opportunity to condemn themselves, then it would appear that God has a morally sufficient reason for creating such a world and allowing for the chance of damnation. Perhaps the opportunity to freely embrace and enjoy everlasting communion with God—the greatest and incommensurate good—serves as a morally sufficient reason for permitting the possibility of damnation. In his Clifford Lecture on the problem of evil, Peter van Inwagen (if I may quote him at some length) suggests this interesting answer to the question of “why God would give human beings free will even at a great price”:

    “In ‘The Christian Theodicist’s Appeal to Love’, Daniel and Frances Howard-Snyder defend the position that this thesis, the thesis that free will is necessary for love, is inconsistent with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The argument, stripped to its bare essentials, is this: according to that doctrine, the Persons of the Trinity love one another as a matter of metaphysical necessity. None of the Persons, therefore, has any choice about whether he shall love either of the others.

    “I would say this in reply. (I reply as a Christian. A Jew or a Muslim who wants to make use of the free-will defense in the text will not need to attend to the matters discussed in this note. But I should not like to think that the defense I am having Theist present was inconsistent with Christianity.) Let us say that a being loves perfectly if it has the property loving each thing essentially. (For each object, there is a kind and degree of love appropriate to that object: a mother may love her child, her cat, and her parish church, but these three loves must differ in kind or degree, or something is very wrong. The property in question is that of loving everything in the right way.) Perfect love is obviously impossible for finite beings. For one thing, no finite being can be so much as aware of each thing, of every possible object of love. No finite being, moreover, can love even one thing essentially (not even given that thing exists). Even if Jill loves Jack as a matter of antecedent causal necessity, there will be, there must be, other possible worlds in which antecedent causes are arranged differently and in which (Jack exists and) she does not love Jack. There will be, there must be, (since this is possible) worlds in which she loves no one and nothing. Now suppose that finite Jill does love Jack. Why does she love Jack? One of three things must be true. Her love for Jack is a matter of external necessity; her love for Jack is a matter of chance (it just happened: it has no explanation whatever); her love for Jack is a matter of her own free choice. (No doubt her feelings for Jack will not be a matter of free choice, but there is more to love than feelings: one essential part of love consists in a certain orientation of the will.) In saying this, I am not presupposing that free choice is incompatible with external necessity per se. Everyone, I think, will agree that some kinds of external necessity are incompatible with free choice. (And everyone will agree that some kinds of chance are incompatible with free choice.) The reader should understand “external necessity” and “chance” in such a way that ‘is a matter of external necessity’, ‘is a matter of chance’, and ‘is a matter of free choice’ divide the possible explanations of Jill’s love for Jack into three exhaustive and exclusive classes.

    “Now let us return to the concept of perfect love. I would maintain that perfect love is a property of God, and, since it is impossible for finite, imperfect beings, creatures, is a property of God alone. But let us ask this: How might creatures love one another (and God) in a way that best “imitates” perfect love? I would say, first, that creaturely love does not best imitate divine love if it is due to chance: that is the very opposite of the necessity that belongs to divine love. Would their love best imitate God’s love if it were a matter of external necessity? No, for God’s love (like all his properties) belongs to his essence, and therefore “comes from within”: its necessity is internal to him. The best creaturely imitation of this internal necessity is love that is the consequence of free choice, for such love comes from within, and is not due to chance. Like God’s love, it is neither the result of the operation of external forces (or if it is the result of the operation of external forces, it is so only to the extent that all free acts are: it is the result of the operation of external forces in the sort of way that does not violate the autonomy of the lover), nor something that ‘just happens’. If this is right, it is at least true that the ‘best sort’ of creaturely love, the love that is the best creaturely imitation of perfect love, involves free choice. This much would suffice for the free-will defense, for it would explain why God would give human beings free will even at a great price. (Given that the difference in value between the best sort of creaturely love and other sorts is great enough, a thesis that can be made a part of the defense.) I remain convinced, however, that love that is due to chance or external necessity is not love at all. (The logic of this last sentence is the same as that of ‘Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds.)”

    Here’s the link to van Inwagen’s lecture:

  4. Jesse



    Thanks for the feedback! I hope that you also don’t mind a few comments.

    >> “For example, suppose that by denying Christ and committing apostasy, one could completely eliminate the world’s diseases and natural disasters forever. Although this would presumably be a rather amazing consequence, I don’t believe it justifies one’s denying Christ and committing apostasy.”

    Yes, in this case, I agree that the reward (eliminating diseases and natural disasters forever) does not outweigh the cost (committing apostasy), perhaps under the assumption that committing apostasy would land one in a pit of fire and brimstone for eternity. However, the reward for killing a child before the age of accountability (eternal life in God’s presence) must necessarily outweigh any cost (killing the child, feeling guilt, spending time in prison, losing “jewels” in your heavenly crown etc.) because it is generally seen as the ultimate good to spend eternity in heaven. In this case, the reward outweighs the cost.

    >> “If we assume that God has created a world in which free creatures have the opportunity to condemn themselves, then it would appear that God has a morally sufficient reason for creating such a world and allowing for the chance of damnation.”

    Yes, I agree with this logical proposition, but it is begging the question. What Bell is saying actually takes the form of the contrapositive: If God has no morally sufficient reason for allowing people to be damned forever, then he would not have created such a world where that would be possible (resting on the premise that God is, by definition, always moral). Bell (or, perhaps, universalists in general) assert that no such moral reason is sufficient; therefore, such a world does not exist.

    >> “If your rationale were sound, wouldn’t prudence recommend not only that we terminate all fetuses, infants, and young children, but also, if apostasy is even a remote possibility, that we execute most (if not all) currently living Christians and most (if not all) recent converts to Christianity? Yet that seems absurd, so perhaps there’s something wrong with the operative rationale.”

    This is exactly the argument that Bell is making in his book. Yes, it does seem genuinely and completely absurd, but that is the logical extreme of believing in a God who sends people to everlasting torment. Assume that God, heaven, and hell exist in such a way that heaven is eternal bliss and goodness, hell is eternal torment and badness, and God is the judge of which souls end up in which place forever depending on the state of the person’s soul when they die. Also assume that it can be known with reasonable or complete certainty that a soul will end up going to heaven if they died now, but this certainty would become lessened in the future. Logic dictates that it would be moral for us to become the arbiter of these souls now, so that we are certain they will end up in heaven, as opposed to letting them live and risking them being sent to hell when they die in the future. Most people don’t need any convincing that taking this action is patently immoral and thus the conclusion is false (though, this would be an interesting thing to actually show). If the conclusion is false, then by contradiction, one or more of the premises must be false (God doesn’t exist, everlasting torment doesn’t exist, or we can never be reasonably or completely certain that a person’s soul will not be going to hell) or the logic of my argument is wrong (I think the only part that could be wrong here is how you decide what constitutes moral. In fact, I think this here is the crux of the whole Universalism issue. If you adhere solely to divine command theory, then killing babies is ultimately wrong because God said not to kill; this places obedience to divine commands at a higher moral value than sealing a person’s eternal destiny; thus, it would be moral to let a child grow up and risk eternal damnation, as long as you didn’t disobey any of God’s commands. If you adhere to another meta-ethical theory, though, the logic of my arguments holds and thus it is illogical for God to create a world whereby people are condemned to eternal torment.).

  5. Theology Samurai


    Are you seriously convinced by Ed Fudge’s exegesis? It is woeful. If I held that position, I wouldn’t mention Fudge’s name.

      • Theology Samurai


        I never asserted saying so makes it so, I just didn’t have time to list each instance of woeful exegesis. So what about his exegesis do you find compelling? In the psalms where he claims that verses which address the early demise of the wicked in this life actually apply to the final judgment (which is not addressed in the psalms in question)? Or his continual attempt, without the benefit of an argument, that the word “eternal” has to do with the results, rather than the process? His failure to deal with the fact that the same word is used in reference to “eternal” life? His dismissal of Luke 16? Perhaps you could cite some good examples that support his case?

  6. Theology Samurai


    I should also point out, that if conditional immortalism is true, then I have 4 conclusions:

    1) You have a naive view of anthropology
    2) Hell is no deterent from sin
    3) The bible therefore doesn’t teach anything much different from what my atheist friends believe, viz. when you’re dead, you’re dead. (existence ceases). Oh sure, it’s painful for a spell, but sin is worth it!
    4) There is no true justice, since both Hitler and your unbelieving next door neighbor have the same judgment.

    • Jim Spiegel


      Mr. Samurai,

      All four of your “conclusions” are non sequiturs. You seem to be confusing conditional immortalism with a form of annihilationism which denies that people suffer in hell (and that souls are immediately extinguished after death). This is evident from your third and fourth “conclusions.” As for your second, if people suffer for years or centuries or even millennia in hell (which would hardly be just “a spell,” that’s surely a deterrent.

      • Theology Samurai


        I am quite familiar with the position you hold. Temporary suffering prior to non-existence is not much of a difference maker, which is why your view of anthropology is naive. Sinners are willing to endure a lot of suffering in the future for the pleasures of sin in the here and now.

  7. Jim Spiegel



    So you really think that some unbelievers actually take the time to do such cost-benefit analysis regarding the afterlife consequences of their earthly sinful indulgences? And that some would actually be prompted to repent because of the prospect of everlasting torment, as opposed to, say, trillions of years of torment followed by annihilation? And whose anthropology is naive? The truth is that most unbelievers don’t even believe in hell. That was certainly true of me before I converted.

    As for the arguments for conditional immortalism that I find compelling, see my August 4, 2009 post. Of course, I don’t agree with everything Fudge says or with his exegetical approach in every instance. But I think his overall case is strong. As for “aionias,” his point should be well-taken that it does mean “of the ages,” which doesn’t imply “everlasting.” And the fact that the same word is used in some N.T. phrases translated “eternal life” would only be threatening if those passages were the only grounds for believing that the redeemed in Christ will live forever. Fortunately, there are other passages that teach this which do not use the term “aionias,” such as 2 Tim. 1:10 and several passages in 1 Cor. 15.

    BTW, what’s the deal with the silly alias? Have the courage to shed that moniker and identify yourself by your actual name.

    • Theology Samurai


      Of course I don’ t think they do a cost-benefit analysis, but when they do stop to consider the gospel and come to terms with their sin and it’s ramifications, they sure do soberly consider where they’re headed unless they repent. Simply making the length of punishment “trillions of years” offers the unbeliever hope that at least the punishment will some day end. I don’t know how you get from Scripture any particular length of time other than eternity. Your anthropology is naive because sinners are wed to their sins and a finite term of punishment followed by non-existence is, although not desirable, endurable and worth it to have their sin. This is especially so in your scheme, where the really bad guys like Hitler suffer for “trillions” of years and your unbelieving, loose-living neighbor who was nonetheless nice to his mother and gave to charity suffers for only a few hundred.

      “Aionias”, or “of the ages” is a manner of speaking, a figure of speech. We have them in English. It’s intending meaning, when taking everything in context, is ages upon ages….in other words, forever. I attribute Fudge’s position to a very human sentiment about suffering and eternal conscious torment, however when you remove such sentimentality “conditional immortalism” fails exegetically.

      Btw, I don’t equate using a pseudonym with lacking courage. It’s a common internet practice. It also has no bearing on the subject at hand….

      • Jim Spiegel



        To answer your question about why I conclude from Scripture that conscious torment in hell (note my wording) is not everlasting, again, see my August 4, 2009 post. But some major reasons have to do with: 1) the biblical language of destruction of the damned (if those who suffer in hell live forever, they are never destroyed), 2) the biblical teaching of the second death in Rev. 20 & 21 (if people suffer forever in hell, then they never die), and the biblical teaching of God’s reconciliation of all things to himself in Col. 1 (if people suffer forever in hell, then some people remain forever who are never reconciled). Also, the argument from justice is very powerful: It would be unjust to apply an infinite penalty (everlasting suffering) for finite sins.

        If “aionias” is just a figure of speech, then how can the traditionalist so confidently insist that it must mean “everlasting”? Also, your equation of “ages upon ages” with “forever” begs the question, and it is especially peculiar given your admission that its a “figure of speech.”

        Using a pseudonym might be a common internet practice, but so are many other things that are unwise. As for your courage (or cowardice) in this matter, we can settle that very simply: What is your actual name?

  8. Theology Samurai


    What was the title of your post? I couldn’t pull it up by date.

    1) As an immortal being, the condemned sinner is eternally being destroyed (destroy does not translate to non-existence, just change of status)

    2) Permanent separation from God’s gracious presence and consignment to outer darkness is the second death (death does not translate to non-existence, but to a change of status)

    3) You must be misunderstanding Col. 1, for if He “reconciles all things to Himself” in the way you’re interpreting it, then the non-existence of the wicked is not reconciling all things to Himself any more than eternal conscious torment is.

    4) The argument from justice doesn’t go your way either, for it is against an infinite being that the sinner has transgressed, and therefore there is an infinite punishment. Just as a crime against the President is punished more harshly than a crime committed against an average citizen, how much more so when committed against the eternal God? There are no “finite” sins.

    I determine the meaning of aionias based on the context and in light of other passages of Scripture. I cannot conclude that the biblical authors simply meant to convey that the condemned suffer “for a very long time”. Is it “ages upon ages” for everyone or not?

    • Jim Spiegel



      My post is entitled “A Defense of Conditional Immortalism.”

      1. That is a strained conception of “destruction”; you have to admit that.
      2. And that is an even more constrained conception of “death.” If the soul continues to live (eternally), as on the traditional view, then that’s not really death, but rather a painful life.
      3. On the conditional immortalist view, unlike the traditional view, God can be reconciled to all things. Once he has annihilated the wicked, then all that remains is reconciled to him forever. While it is easier for the universalist to make sense of this verse than it is for the conditionalist, it is even more difficult for the traditionalist.
      4. I agree that sins against a holy and infinite God deserve extremely severe punishment, but infinite suffering doesn’t follow from this. But even if one wants to grant that absolutely severe punishment is required, then annihilation might reasonably be seen to satisfy this requirement. After all, one might say that there is no more absolute punishment than complete extinction of being (since being, as Augustine among others have argued, is always an intrinsic good). So the conditionalist has a variety of possible responses here.

      Finally, I noticed you ignored my question about your actual name. This is starting to get disturbing. Those who insist on anonymity are afraid of something (hence my point about cowardice). So who are you?

  9. Theology Samurai


    1) I think it’s a conception of destruction that is consistent with the NT witness.
    2) I think it’s a conception of death that is consistent with the NT witness as well, endless dying. They will wish for death (in the form unbelievers are familiar with i.e. end of living, non-existence) but it will never come.
    3) All things are reconciled to God in the traditionalist view, all things that are not in hell. Not very hard to make sense of at all.
    4) Extinction would be a mercy in this case, as well as a severe punishment. However, it would not be sufficient for a sin against an infinite and holy Being. It is your opinion that a sin against God is not deserving eternal punishment, but you have not made your case from Scripture.

    Finally, I don’t know why you not knowing my actual name is disturbing since you don’t know me personally and I don’t even live in Indiana. My name is irrelevant, I prefer not to use it on-line. I’m also not “afraid” of anything, so I don’t know what you mean to imply. Why would I be afraid of discussing a theological subject? You may feel that the use of a pseudonym is unwise, but I am not so convinced. Unless I am violating a clear command or scriptural principle, this matter should be resolved.

  10. Theology Samurai


    I found and read your post on Conditional Immortalism, the main points of which you have basically reiterated here in our exchange. What I find interesting (and this is the case with what I have seen from Fudge) is the simple assertion without evidence that the immortality of the soul as taught by Socrates and Plato is the culprit behind what became the doctrine of endless punishment. As far as I can tell, the primary “proof” of this is that Socrates and Plato lived and taught before the early interpreters of the Bible. And this is accepted prima facie. I find this incredible. Where’s the documentation, for example, from Augustine’s writings that he is getting his views from Plato rather than Scripture?

    Furthermore, in the combox of that post, a few commenters point to counter evidence to your position (i.e. Moses’ burning bush as an example of a fire that burns but does not consume or the fact that the devil, etc will be tormented forever and ever) and you sweep those under the rug as “special cases”. Not to mention that it is also pointed out that “destroy” is not synonomous with annihilation, since something can be destroyed without ceasing to exist or that “eternal life” has a qualitative meaning. Conditional immortalism has too many holes with insufficient answers to fill them.

    • Jim Spiegel



      We’ve discussed the issue of hell sufficiently. Let’s agree to disagree. Now let’s turn to the moral issue that has emerged here. The use of a pseudonym is not unwise? Any masking of one’s identity eliminates accountability and, thus, invites certain temptations. Ever heard of the Ring of Gyges? See Plato’s Republic, book II (which ultimately inspired The Lord of the Rings). The point is that if you know you can get away with some illicit behavior, then the temptation to do it is thereby increased.

      Consider, as a case in point, the exponential increase of pornography use (which is now epidemic) with the advent of the Internet. This was not simply a consequence of greater ease of access. On-line access enhances secrecy as well, which pornography addicts often admit to being a major factor in the temptation. Also, internet discussions often become profane and abusive, in part because people know they can remain anonymous. Your use of a pseudonym intentionally creates anonymity and eliminates accountability. And your refusal to identify yourself, though I’ve asked you to do so and you know who I am (and can also easily find out where I live and work), is cause for concern. Again, I wonder, what do you have to hide/fear?

      You also demonstrate a shallow or, to use your term, “naive” understanding of Christian ethics, which is not just casuistry or the abiding by commands or principles. Scripture also enjoins us to be virtuous, to demonstrate good character traits, which include such things as forthrightness, courage, and wisdom. Intentionally making oneself anonymous in public discussions and in one’s activity on the Internet contradicts all of these virtues (that is, unless one faces some clear danger or personal risk in making one’s identity known in a certain context, which obviously doesn’t apply in this case).

      • Theology Samurai


        I know who you are because you’re a published author and you have placed personal information on your web site. You are certainly free to do so, just as I am free not to do so. I appreciate your concern, which I take in a brotherly Christian manner. However, as far as I can tell this is not an illicit web site nor have I conducted myself in an inappropriate way (please correct me if I’m wrong). Regardless, if not knowing my real name is a problem for you, I will respectfully refrain from commenting on your blog.

        Best to you,


  11. David Rogers (Clarification Dave)



    I’m interacting with a “Theology Samurai” over at Justin Taylor’s site on this same topic

    I use the partial pseudonym over there but I have no qualms about revealing my identity. (I am not Adrian Rogers’ son; he has an internet presence so I intermittently make that explanation, even if someone may not even know who Adrian Rogers is.)

    I recently got Fudge’s third edition of “The Fire that Consumes” and am working through it right now. He interacts with 17 of his critics.

    So far, I’ve given responsese to what Theology Samurai has said or asked. Whether he is convinced or not is another matter.

    T-Samurai, if you read this and want to continue the conversation and if Mr. Spiegel consents (since this is his blog) I’ll prefer to comment here, since I find it a little easier to access this site. But I’ll patrol both sites for a little while longer.


    David Rogers


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