Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 156:623 (Jul 1999)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous


Periodical Reviews

By the Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary

“A Kinder, Gentler Theology of Hell?” Larry D. Pettegrew, Master’s Seminary Journal 9 (1998): 203-17.

The fall 1998 issue of Master’s Seminary Journal is a compilation of lectures from Master’s Seminary faculty on the question, “Is hell never, forever, or just a while?” (p. 130). All the articles in this issue present a biblical and theological defense of the classical Christian doctrine that nonbelievers suffer eternal punishment, as opposed to increasingly popular theologies that assert the termination of nonbelievers’ existence at death. In the concluding article of the work Pettegrew seeks “to demonstrate by a survey of doctrinal categories that annihilationists often come to the Scriptures with cultural and theological preunderstandings that negate the historical-grammatical meaning of the [relevant] passages” (p. 205). He argues that much more than personal eschatology is in question; one’s doctrines of God, man, sin, and salvation are also significantly altered in the negation of the doctrine of eternal punishment.

Pettegrew prefaces his treatment by referring to the nineteenth-century Niagara Bible Conferences’ concern with annihilationism. James Brookes, president of the 1878 Conference, was compelled to ban annihilationists from forcing their view on the larger group that rejected their “dangerous errors.” As a consequence Article 13 of The Niagara Creed specifically refutes the doctrine of annihilationism. Pettegrew finds that warning highly significant for the present hour. Annihilationism, he asserts, is a serious and multifaceted compromise of major Christian doctrines.

The author suggests that the Bible establishes certain presuppositional absolutes that are undermined by postmodern assumptions advocated today by many “postconservative evangelicals.” That is, certain preunderstandings assumed in postmodern theologies are themselves subbiblical or antibiblical. He then demonstrates the consequences of annihilationist doctrine in four areas.

In theology proper, annihilationists like Clark Pinnock generally insist that love is God’s ultimate attribute. If God’s essential nature is love, then whatever one believes of divine judgment cannot contradict this love. Eternal hell for sinners becomes unthinkable. Pettegrew responds by accusing annihilationists of reductionism. Knowledge of God must derive from all of Scripture, rather than from a favorite attribute or text used to reinterpret other divine attributes and activities. He accuses annihilationists of promoting a sentimentalized view of divine

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