Is Preston Sprinkle Erasing Hell?

Is Preston Sprinkle Erasing Hell?

Is Preston Sprinkle Erasing Hell?

Is Preston Sprinkle, coauthor of Erasing Hell… Erasing Hell?

In part one of a podcast on RethinkingHell.com, Chris Date interviews Preston Sprinkle, coauthor with Francis Chan, of the book Erasing Hell. Here are a few snippets from the interview:

I think there’s much work to be done on the language that the Dead Sea Scrolls use of, I don’t want to use the term “hell,” because they don’t, but of “afterlife punishment” because the language is very close to the New Testament, if fact it uses phrases like “eternal destruction,” and in the context very clearly it is, they are, annihilationist through and through the Dead Sea scrolls. There’s no real evidence that they believed in eternal torment. And as some of you may know, the parallels in thinking and theological concepts between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament are very, very close. […]

There’s a problem with the word “everlasting,” which, the more I studied the Greek word “aonios,” that’s just a very complicated word. I don’t think it clearly means, I mean, this is going to sound weird, but I don’t think it clearly means anything. Like, I don’t think you can say it clearly means “everlasting” or clearly means, you know, “of the age,” some people would say. You have to take it almost in each individual context, because the word is very flexible and was used very widely. That’s just a major problem there. […]

When you grow up with the view cemented in your mind that the word “hell” means “everlasting punishment,” which is what a lot of us grew up with, then those images aren’t even explored… It is interesting how firmly embedded that view is, without people, I mean, it’s in almost every doctrinal statement I read, specifying the duration of hell is there, with no one asking, “Have you really looked into that?” […]

In Matthew 25 [verse 46], I would say, yeah, I think that at first glance, it seems like a slam dunk, if you’re a traditionalist, but again, once you get into the endings of Greek nouns… at the very least I hope that every listener can appreciate, wow, there’s layers of discussions here that, you know, you can’t, you know, just assume one way or the other. You’ve got to do a little work here.

Preston Sprinkle… Erasing Hell

Although Sprinkle hasn’t utterly rejected the idea of eternal torment, he certainly seems to be leaning further away from it than he was during the Erasing Hell writing process. The way I see it, if one comes to terms with the idea that there is no such thing as eternal torment (annihilationism), then this is a huge step in the right direction.

How Annihilationism and Universalism Similarly Reject Traditionalist Views

Neither annihilationists nor universalists believe in eternal torment, punishment, unbelief, or hell. Please note the emphasis on the word “eternal.” Some annihilationists and universalists believe in an afterlife experience of torment, punishment, unbelief, and hell, but of those who do, they do not believe these things are eternal.

But here’s the kicker.

Let’s suppose that Sprinkle does his homework, rejects eternal torment, and feels called by God to get vocal about his change in views. I doubt that John Piper would Tweet, “Farewell, Preston Sprinkle.” Why? Because annihilationists aren’t really considered heretical the way universalists are.

There are just too many people with annihilationist views or, regarding annihilationism, too many people who claim agnosticism (that the truth about annihilationism is unknowable). To slap that old heresy label on anyone who doesn’t embrace traditionalism would cause some huge problems in the institutional church. So, traditionalists put up with the soft-hearted annihilationists, viewing them as decent believers who have made a theological error. Oops. Silly annihilationists. We can overlook that, they say. After all, John Stott, Greg Boyd, F.F. Bruce, C.S. Lewis and the like aren’t (or weren’t) traditionalists.

But universalists? There’s no toleration for their views. Traditionalists condemn universalist views as heresy. Damned heresy from hell. Shut-up-about-it-or-get-out-of-our-church type of error. Dangerous doctrine, they say. Even though people like William Barclay, Karl Barth, Hannah Whitall Smith, Bishop Desmond TuTu, and the like also aren’t (or weren’t) traditionalists.

Of traditionalist, annihilationists, and universalists, only universalists claim, in the plainest and most literal sense, that Jesus successfully accomplishes His mission to seek and save the lost.  And for this, we are heretics. Go figure.

Comments
  • Mary Vanderplas August 12, 2014 at 5:20 am

    I agree that it makes no sense that universalism is rejected as being heretical while other nontraditional views of the final destiny of human beings are viewed more kindly, even if considered misguided. And I agree that it makes no sense to condemn a view that avers that Jesus successfully accomplished his mission of saving sinners. I am less inclined, though, to talk about the “plain and literal sense” of Jesus accomplishing his mission than I am to appeal theologically to an understanding of Christ’s person and work that sees his engagement with sin as spelling sin’s death such that the grace of God reaches to all sinners, along with an understanding of God’s nature that sees a loving God getting what he wants. But I like what you say, and I agree that universalism is unfairly – and misguidedly – condemned.

  • admin August 12, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    I would call “Christ’s person and work that sees his engagement with sin as spelling sin’s death such that the grace of God reaches to all sinners” the “seek” part of “seek and save.”

  • Thomas Rem August 12, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    We and all annihilationists believe in and affirm hell is eternal, punishment is eternal as the scriptures declare. and we do believe in torment in a eternal hell but we do not believe in eternal torment in a eternal hell, as for unbelief the wicked will bow down and declare Jesus is Lord before they are thrown into the lake of fire.

    • admin August 13, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      Thanks for clarifying. Would you mind elaborating? Specifically, define your terms (hell, eternal, punishment, and lake of fire). I want to make sure I understand you correctly.

    • Lanny A. Eichert August 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm

      I assume Thomas’ construction: We and all annihilationists believe; means to number himself as an annihilationist. It seems he believes torment comes to an end for the soul, but punishment never ends for the soul who is thrown into the Lake of Fire from which he never escapes. See how Thomas understands after-life bowing and declaring Jesus is Lord does NOT mean salvation from the Lake of Fire. He recognizes it as still done in unbelief. It is also noteworthy since punishment is eternal it cannot be remedial, but rather is punitive without end.

      • Lanny A. Eichert August 14, 2014 at 4:18 pm

        You see, Alice, from his: torment in an eternal hell but not in eternal torment in an eternal hell; he understands the traditional meaning of eternal as everlasting, without end.

        Also, Alice, neither your reply or mine are being listed in the Recent Comments and that may be why Thomas might not have seen your request for further clarification. Again, including the first few words of the comments in the list would alert the reader of content.

        • Lanny A. Eichert August 14, 2014 at 4:26 pm

          Alice, yours is listed under admin, not Alice Spicer. I forgot I saw it that way, but none of the A. S. ones redirect.

          • Lanny A. Eichert August 14, 2014 at 4:40 pm

            Alice, the list came up including my new posts when I closed out your site and reopened it anew.

            • Lanny A. Eichert August 14, 2014 at 4:56 pm

              Alice, I’m having problems REUSING the list and the problems vary. Sometimes clicking an item brings me ONLY to the blog, sometimes to the comment, and sometimes does NOTHING at all.

          • Alice Spicer August 14, 2014 at 10:51 pm

            I finally figured out how to change my user name from admin to Alice. I don’t understand what you are saying about the redirect thing. Could you explain differently, please?

            • Lanny A. Eichert August 14, 2014 at 11:03 pm

              Well, Alice, this time it worked and “redirect” to your actual comment. The best I could get was from the Recent Comment list “redirected” to the actual blog without dropping down automatically to your actual comment. I even waited a few long seconds for it to drop down, but it didn’t. I’m just suggesting you check things work repetitively the same way all the time.

            • Lanny A. Eichert August 14, 2014 at 11:15 pm

              By redirected I meant moved from Recent Comments to a certain location, either to the blog or to the comment I was desiring. However these last two times I clicked the Reply box, the Post a comment box was at the very bottom of the page instead of immediately beneath the comment box in which I clicked the Reply box

  • Lanny A. Eichert August 12, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Alice, your reply to Mary posted as a NEW comment rather than a reply. This my reply, as a result of clicking Reply ↓ under your comment should go indented under your comment. Lets see where it goes on this NEW blog.

  • Lanny A. Eichert August 12, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    It didn’t indent.

  • Mary Vanderplas August 13, 2014 at 5:07 am

    That makes sense. I wasn’t dismissing your affirmation about Jesus accomplishing his mission. I was just reacting to the idea of “plain and literal sense.” While I think it’s good to choose the plain sense of scripture, I resist arguments that are based on a view of biblical inspiration that puts undue emphasis on the words of the Bible as the source of truth. It’s my not wanting to play the fundamentalist game. But I do agree with what you say about Jesus accomplishing his mission of seeking and saving (all) sinners.

    • Alice Spicer August 13, 2014 at 10:43 pm

      I see what you are saying. I would also add that even if the words “seek and save the lost” were not in scripture, they way Jesus lived, interacted with others, the way He died, and the way death didn’t get the best of Him demonstrate His desire and ability to seek and save the lost.

  • admin August 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Thanks for pointing the nesting problem out, Lanny. I’ll look into it.

    • Alice Spicer August 13, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      Testing threaded comments…

      • Alice Spicer August 13, 2014 at 10:27 pm

        Testing

        • Alice Spicer August 13, 2014 at 10:28 pm

          It seems to be working now. Let me know if you have any more trouble. BTW do you like your monster avatar? It’s automatically generated based on your email 🙂 Yours looks like Christmas

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