2004-12-06 - Annihilation
Isaiah 51:12,13, "Who art thou that...hast feared continually everyday because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy, and where is the fury of the oppressor?"
I read a sermon on Nov. 3 and wrote down a reference from a quote in it on the heterodox doctrine of annihilation. It was a sermon by the Baptist Charles Haddon Spurgeon (known as the Prince of Preachers), and I would like to reproduce the quote below and then look to apply it. This was a sermon preached on our adversary (satan) and, I guess, what strikes me most is the mastery Spurgeon had with language. This is not something he wrote and could have mulled over before it went to print. These were the words he said. Spurgeon had two men who used to each try to write down, word for word, what he said in his sermons. They would then compare notes, and that would form the basis for the printed sermon that was shipped (literally), and still is distributed, around the world. Here it is:
"It may be that, in the place where you live, there has come up a new doctrinal error. Somebody has discovered that men are nothing but a species of large ape, and that only those who believe in Christ are immortal, all the rest will die out eventually; annihilation is to be their doom. Many are dreadfully frightened by that doctrine, but I believe it to be too contemptible to alarm anybody who studies the Scriptures. It is a very pretty toy, and many will play with it; after a certain time, there will come another pretty toy, and they will play with that; and so it will be till Christ himself comes, and breaks up all these toys, and brings his church back to the grand old truth which will stand firm notwithstanding all the assaults of men or devils."
My first observation is that Spurgeon is clearly reacting here to the new teaching (new in his times) of Darwin on natural selection or evolution. I don't know the specific teachings of Darwin, because I have not read his works, but if his teaching was as Spurgeon seems to say that those who come to Christ in faith will be granted immortality, and the rest will simply die, it seems to fit with the (possibly apocryphal) legend from Darwin's daughter that he became a Christian three days before he died and recanted much of what we today call Darwinism.
However, this teaching that Spurgeon is confronting denies hell, and that is why he is saying what he says. If there is no hell, then there is really no consequence for sin. At best sin is simply a non-plus, and those who don't come to Christ in faith just don't get to go to Heaven. There is no punishment for sin in this theory. That is surely one of the reasons to reject the teaching of annihilation of all those who don't rest in forgiveness in the sacrifice of Christ. If sin is simply overlooked by God, well, what is the issue with sin? Scripture teaches quite the contrary.
I sometimes get e-mails from those of you who wonder why I like the old writers and am committed to the historic Christian faith - and I guess I can respond by saying that I'm not into pretty toys. There are many teachers out there who are full of pretty toys of doctrine, practice and faith. I don't like them. Many of them pick and choose which parts of the Bible they like by their individual propensities and neglect the full teaching of God's Holy Word. There are all too many Christians who will not "endure sound doctrine," but rather are excited by what is new and flashy. They want to have their "ears tickled," 2 Timothy 4:3. They may keep their pretty toys, for all I care. I will stick with Scripture and not parts of Scripture, but the whole of it.
I just reviewed what I wrote above, and it seems negative. It is not meant that way. I just hope that many (all) of you will join me in screaming Sola Scriptura (only the Bible) when it comes to our theology, faith, practice and life. Yea, we all mess up, but every day is a new day, and the forgiveness of Christ is a wonder, in that it reaches the worst of sinners and the darkest of sins. Sometimes it is easy to despair when we see the sin that is so rampant in our culture. But I will end this devo by restating a statement by John Bunyan who, in seeing the great sinfulness of his time, saw great hope for the future, because great sinners also make great followers of Christ. He said that he had great hopes for the future generation because of how wicked many of the young were. He thought that if they were saved, they would make great saints. He knew he had been a great sinner, and I know I have been also. Do you? Then let us pursue the cause of Christ, the cause of our forgiveness, with all the fervor we used to dedicate towards sin.
Soli Deo Gloria,