Rethinking Conditionalism – (Part 6a) Eternal Life and Immortality

Rethinking Conditionalism – (Part 6a) Eternal Life and Immortality

(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)

I read someone asking a conditionalist in a Facebook thread concerning how they define death. Then one of them responded with, “It depends on how you define life.” I couldn’t agree more! Unfortunately, this is an area that Chris Date and some within Rethinking Hell sorely deviate from. In a debate with Len Pettis during a Striving for Eternity Conference in September of 2016, Chris Date stated that Jesus does not define eternal life as knowing the Father and the Son just as He taught in John 17:3. Chris then wrongly exegetes this Scripture by comparing the translation of the Greek word “is” with other Scriptures that contain the same word. He neglects to make a linguistic and contextual interpretation of John 17:3 by failing to see the other words which Jesus used that explicitly define eternal life.  It is presented below in English and in Greek so that you can see why Jesus defines eternal life as knowing (having intimate fellowship with) God. And please don’t run. As I did in Part 2a, you don’t have to be a Greek scholar to understand what I’m about to show you.

John 17:3

  • (English – ESV) And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
  • (Greek – MGNT) αὕτη δέ ἐστιν αἰώνιος ζωή ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν

Now, if you noticed, I highlighted the words that Chris used to make his case in blue. The Greek word ἐστιν is the conjugated form of the word “eimi” that he mentions in the video link above.  It is this word that Chris wrongly interprets in this context. But since conditionalists tend to define death in hyper-literal terms, it is no wonder that they look at Scriptures like this and have to make it fit their own annihilationistic hermeneutic. Nevertheless, Chris explicitly states that “is” does not “equate” eternal life with knowing God the Father and the Son. But let’s look at the other words within this context to help us to understand the semantic function of “is” in this context.
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The Golden Rules of Biblical Interpretation

The Golden Rules of Biblical Interpretation Bible

14 Straightforward Rules to Help Keep New Students of the Bible On Course


1. Come to the Scriptures prayerfully. Most of the great Bible interpreters were guided by prayer in their studies. The necessity of the involvement of the Holy Spirit is vital!

2. In my own case, I read the Bible right through – cover to cover – 3 or 4 times right at the start of my Bible study life. Try to do this at least once. In doing so you will get a great overview of the Bible’s overall teaching. You will get a correct perspective.

3. Allow Scripture to interpret itself and refuse to be clouded by personal doctrinal presuppositions or preferences. This really sets the great Bible expositors apart from those who refuse to depart from their own denomination’s guidelines.

4. Begin with understanding what the passage actually says, and yet always ask, “What does the passage really mean?”

5. Pay as much attention to the original Hebrew and Greek as your learning will allow you. (For those without language training, an interlinear Bible can be very helpful as can be a Bible dictionary).

6. Never use one of the paraphrased (very loose) translations to establish doctrine! The NKJV and NIV are very sound primary study translations, but the more paraphrased versions, such as the NLT, have a place in more devotional reading.

7. Establish the Major Doctrines (teachings) of Christianity! Those who do this are less likely to ever fall away or fall into the hands of false teachers. The teaching on Justification (how we can be made ‘right’ with God), the deity of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness and resurrection; these are major areas of Christian teaching. On this topic, note the links which may be found lower on this page.

8. If you are an absolute novice (quite new in the Faith), don’t try to tackle deeper theology before you attain some basic knowledge; I find that many make this mistake and just become very confused, then they often accuse the article writer of being ‘confusing’ – but, so often, the problem is that they are just not used to the discipline of theology! Being a good, clear logical thinker is essential for the disciplines of apologetics and theology. But don’t attempt to run before you can walk!

9. Always take into account the full context of the passage. Read verses in the context of the whole passage, the chapter and even the book. And, of course, always keep in mind the larger context of the New Testament or Old Testament.

10. The Bible is progressive revelation. This means that, generally speaking, the New Testament specifically interprets the Old Testament. Don’t forget that the Old Testament can be called ‘The Book of the Old Covenant’, but Jesus inaugurated the ‘New Covenant’ – it doesn’t mean that the Old Testament can’t teach us anything – it has many lessons for us – but that one should never, ever, use a vague or cloudy verse in Leviticus to overthrow a clear statement of Jesus or Paul. This has been a major error of the cults and sects! This can be very well demonstrated in our attitude to the Sabbath. Various seventh day groups will ask, ‘Which day is the Christian Sabbath?’ – but even in asking that particular question they are revealing very flawed biblical exegesis; they are taking a topic of Old Testament importance (the Sabbath), and imposing an equal New Testament concern for the subject (which, truthfully, does not exist), by employing the word, ‘Christian’ – a far better question would be‘What did Jesus show us about the real meaning of the Sabbath?’ (Matthew 11:28-30, Mark 2:23-28).

11. Always consider all the passages dealing with any particular topic. For instance, don’t try to understand faith by only looking at a few more sensational ‘faith verses’ (as the Word-faith people like to do), but get a thorough grounding in what the whole Bible says about faith. A Bible concordance will prove essential here.

12. Always interpret the more difficult or unclear passages by the clear ones – never the other way around! A favourite device of the cults is to choose a difficult passage and build their unique doctrines upon it without ever considering the broader sweep of bibical teaching.

13. Always take into account the different genres of writing within the Bible – here again, the cults and sects have regularly stumbled! The Bible contains different forms of writing; there is history, proverb, parable, apocalyptic, letters (epistles), Old Testament prophecy, genealogies and other elements too. We must respect what these different forms of writing set out to achieve! Sometimes the cults could not find some detail they were looking for within prophecy, so went looking for it in other biblical genres which are unconcerned with prophecy! This would be somewhat similar to reading the main news in a newspaper, perhaps an article about President Bush or Tony Blair, finding a vital detail had been left out, so going looking for that detail in the newspaper’s ‘gardening section,’ or ‘sports section’ or ‘television programmes section’ – plainly quite daft!! The founders of the cults and sects were unabashed about abusing the Scriptures in this way, mainly because of their lack of knowledge, but we can learn from their shortcomings!

14. Beware of novel, new, or unusual interpretations, always check various conservative commentaries on the passage. There is really very little that is new under the sun, as the saying goes, ‘The gospel is the gospel is the gospel!’ Many of the heresies of the cults have been dealt with thoroughly in various well-authenticated works. It is also interesting to note that even though there are many Christian denominations, their opinions never differ very greatly on the essential doctrines! There is solid agreement on the pivotal doctrines of the Christian Faith. Don’t allow some new idea (such as the ‘health, wealth and prosperity gospel,’ which is a ‘new kid on the block’), to divert you from established Christian teaching.

Robin A. Brace,

The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror

The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror by Hal Brunson  9780595438167

Hal Brunson’s book, The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror, is a small collection of parables – two parables about Paedobaptism (one of which brings in Dispensationalism for comparison) and one parable about the death of Christ. Although a short book, Brunson’s work is a compelling examination of some unbiblical teachings about ecclesiology and soteriology. Baptism is the foil in both cases.

The first parable is the tale of a meeting between two now famous men – the young but already distinguished Princeton teacher, Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield and the aged and famous John Nelson Darby. Attending the meeting, as Warfield’s escort from London to Oxford, was a young man of the name Harmon Diapson – grand nephew of the infamous Charles Darwin. On the train to Oxford, Warfield and Darby engage in a vigorous discussion about theology, all the vast differences that exist between the Presbyterian Covenant Theology and the then still-new system of Dispensationalism.

Overhearing this discussion on the train is a portly, cigar smoking man that is, at length unable to restrain himself and asks to participate, making the bold assertion that he can prove that Warfield and Darby have much in common – as though they are approaching each other from opposite ends of a rickety bridge and will meet in the middle, over a deep gorge of false teaching. Warfield and Darby are incredulous and protest wildly; young Diapson is eager to hear this man who describes himself as a country parson. Through many questions of these well known theologians, the parson quips that he sees the basic structure of the bridge connecting them. Darwin’s grand nephew sees it first – “It’s a biological bridge, sir: both coventalism and dispensationalism unite in this one idea – the Abrahamic Covenant finds its earthly fulfillment in biological offspring.” The parson congratulates Diapson, adding “Mr. Darby sees the fulfillment in the Jewish child, and Dr. Warfield sees the fulfillment in the Christian child.”

Brunson comments, “Because of that mutual mistake, the dispensationalist commits an eschatalogical error – the covenant finds it ultimate fulfillment in the biological descendant of the ethnic Jews, and the paedobaptist commits an ecclesiastical error – the covenant finds its ultimate fulfillment in the biological descendant of the Christian parent.” This Presbyterian view amounts to gross presumption that so-called covenant children are in the New Covenant, to be confirmed later in life.

The second parable, The Broken Mirror, drives deeper into the paedobaptist problem, highlighting their common twisting of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. This is an oft overlooked but grievous error that every Christian should be on guard against. Buy the book to find out more about this parable.

The third parable in this too-short book is of the Death of Christ. In this section, Brunson does not rely on fanciful tales to illustrate absurdities in theology, he examines picturesque Scripture that serves as types that point to and illustrate the depth and glory and horror of the death of our Savior. And in this section of the book, Brunson displays a glorious view of Christ that will do the soul of any Christian much good. He examines:

      1. the oceanic chaos of pristine creation

      2. the flood of Noah

      3. the sorrows of David described as “great waters

      4. the casting of Jonah into the sea, and, finally,

      5. Jesus’ understanding of His death as an apocalyptic baptism.

I will leave you with a couple short examples of the author’s style in this section, the first one talking about the flood: “The captain of our salvation may have gone to the depths for the salvation of His people, but the old ship of Zion rides the waves with linen sails unfurled, impervious to raging winds and roaring waves, speeding safely upon the scarlet billows of judgment to the soul’s desired haven.” Later in this section, “These graphic symbols of baptism require an understanding of our Savior’s death as an immersion, not just into waters of physical suffering and death, but into the oceanic fury of God’s wrath.” Oh, the Savior’s love for His Father – and all those He chose to redeem in Christ!

At the end of the book is a short record of a debate between the author and a friend of his who is a Presbyterian. Brunson, the Baptist, set the rules – no Baptist sources could be used, only “secular” or paedobaptist. The results are devastating, as Brunson reveals one after the other of heralded paedobaptist theologians defending believer’s baptism and admitting there is no biblical support for infant sprinkling. B.B. Warfield being one of the star witnesses against his own position.

This is a delightful book, well written and easy to read. Brunson keeps Christ in focus and the Word of God as the foundation of all his arguments. I am so glad I found it and read it.