I’ve only been a writer in the public space for a few years — as an author, I mean. I currently have 7 works available with more to come this year. But already, I find it interesting that advocates of a view called conditional immortality are on the loose. And their latest attack involves my 448-page work titled Terror Of The Lord: Critiquing Conditional Immortality, Answering Annihilationism’s Apologists.
Some may ask how do I know this attack is recent. A good example will suffice. In the last few weeks, I’ve received some emails from an individual who wanted me to know their review against my book was coming out soon. The individual sent me a few copies of the review and continued to write me every few days to “alert” me as to when the review would come out.
The review contains nothing but vitriol for the book, which is what I expect of conditional immortalists who can’t handle a valid Christian response to their heresy and distorted thinking. The review had very little to say, except to criticize 1) The number of sources I use, 2) the fact that my traditional Christian view disagreed with the reviewer, and 3) an attack upon my educational degrees.
Anyone could call the institutions from which I received them and discover the truth if he or she truly wants to know. There’s nothing done in the dark, but the reviewer said something to the effect of, “she says she has degrees.” I’m not saying I have degrees; I have them. One is a statement, the other is proof. And I have those pieces of paper that I use in my short author biographies about myself. But again, the reviewer wants to try and discredit me. It’s all because of the person’s anger over my book.
In this post, though, I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. I want to respond to some of what my critics have said so that you can get an honest assessment about the book and whether you choose to buy it. This will also deflate the criticisms so that they can be seen for what they are: merely smoke and mirrors.
Criticism #1: The book doesn’t have enough sources
“The book doesn’t have enough sources,” some say. Well, just how many sources must a book have to be legitimate? Well, that depends on the writer or author of the book. The author is sovereign over his or her book. Take John Grisham, for example. His books are fiction that weave in truth about the legal profession and everyday life. Let’s say he writes a book but doesn’t do a lot of research on the place he writes about. Maybe he doesn’t research New York enough, for example. Maybe he doesn’t give a whole lot of scenery description of the setting in any given book he writes. But that isn’t a valid criticism against John Grisham because it’s his book. He’s sovereign over his work. He can decide what to do and what not to do with it.
The same goes for an architect. Let’s say he wants to build a house with a glass staircase but he doesn’t put enough chandeliers throughout the home. Perhaps the chandeliers would add to the beauty of the home, but their beauty doesn’t mean the architect is wrong for his design. His design is just that: his design. Why should he or she apologize for how they designed a house, simply because someone doesn’t think it has enough chandeliers?
Authors are sovereign over their work and it is their right to write as they see fit. To tell someone “I don’t like the fact that you don’t use a lot of sources” may qualify as reader insight but it isn’t a valid criticism over a book. Considering my work Terror Of The Lord is truly a work based on Scripture, it only makes sense that I would use Scripture as my primary source and few other outside sources.
I’ve read reviews where it’s been said that I give too much context in Bible verses. That’s like accusing a clothing store of selling too many designer brands. Well, you may think the number of designer brands is overkill, but does that 1) diminish the reputation of the clothing brands or 2) diminish the reputation of the store selling them? Of course not. It’s merely subjective. Reviews should be based on the content itself, something objective that readers can see and understand. But again, the review is based on a subjective anger over the fact that I hold a traditional view of Heaven and Hell.
Criticism #2: “The book uses too many bible verses”
And that leads me into my next response. The Bible is the primary source on which I base my book, Terror Of The Lord. Those who read the book will find that the title itself comes from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 5:11 that “knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” The title, then, is Scriptural and taken out of the pages of Scripture. In this situation, wouldn’t you assume the book itself would be Scriptural and heavily based on Scripture?
So when my critics say, “a large part of the book contains bible verses,” it’s not a criticism but actually a commendation. Providing bible verses in a book that many will read is a way to accommodate the reader. Away from his or her bible, the reader can find the words of Scripture within the book as a convenience. The reader need not worry about having a Bible handy if he or she is reading my work because I provide Scripture in it already. That’s not to say readers shouldn’t read the Bible, but it is to say that, in that instance where a Bible isn’t close by, the words of Scripture are readily available.
How valid is a criticism that attacks a Scriptural book based on a biblical title with bible verses in it? That’s like attacking American football because it doesn’t blend elements of golf in it. Football and golf are two different sports altogether. It isn’t odd to see them treated as such. In the same vein, it isn’t odd to see bible verses in a biblical-based book. It’s only odd to conditional immortalists who disagree with my traditional stance on Heaven and Hell.
Criticism #3: The book is so bad it “screams for a proofreader”
This is another one that I laughed at when I encountered it. “It screams for a proofreader” was one reviewer response to my work. But, let’s get this straight: the reviewer actually read all 448 pages of my book and it “screams for a proofreader”? Usually, if the book is that terrible, you can’t get through it. And to make matters worse, who would sit in their spare time and actually read a 448-page book, only to write a scathing review against it, if it’s truly that terrible? I mean, there are books out there on conditional immortality that I wouldn’t waste my time reading because of how poorly written they are. So think about this: how would my critics navigate the work if it’s as bad as this response says it is? Again, it’s a statement made out of anger for a work that disagrees with conditional immortality.
The same can be said for the criticism with the Table of Contents. That’s not to say the book can’t be improved. Every book can. But when your major complaint includes the Table of Contents instead of the actual content itself, it’s a sign that there’s very little to criticize.
Criticism #4: “The book misses the point entirely”
My critics just love to use this in their reviews against my book. “The book misses the point entirely” about the Bible’s statement regarding the fate of the wicked, conditional immortalists say. But does it? Not at all. The debate between traditionalists and conditional immortalists concerns the idea that every person has a soul and that they will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell. Traditionalists believe the soul is immortal and can’t be destroyed; it will live on forever.
In contrast, conditional immortalists believe that by default, the soul is not something one gets at birth but when one receives Jesus. Those who don’t receive Jesus, then, are born without a soul and will simply “cease to be” when they are judged for their sin and sentenced. Those who lack a soul will go to Hell temporarily and burn until they “burn up” and are no more. Then, they will cease from existence. That is, advocates of conditional immortality believe that “Hell will be empty.”
Traditionalists, on the other hand, believe that God created Hell “for the devil and his angels” and that some humans will go there because of unbelief. Thus, Hell will be anything but empty.
Which view do I believe? The view of Scripture. God did not create Hell just to empty it, any more than He created Heaven to empty it. Heaven and Hell are opposites; what you do to one must be done to the other. If you make Hell temporary, then Heaven is temporary, and vice versa. Heaven and Hell are eternal places. The wicked will “burn day and night forever and ever” the Book of Revelation tells us. And I don’t see how conditional immortalists can turn around and rewrite this statement. They can only rewrite the statement if atheists can rewrite the first words of Scripture, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
The idea that the soul is annihilated and wiped out of existence goes against why God created it in the first place. What does God mean when He says He will destroy body and soul in Hell? They have a picture of what it means that doesn’t fit anything else in Scripture. Sure, Edward Fudge wants to argue annihilation everywhere in Scripture, but it doesn’t make sense.
Why would the Bible tell us “forever and ever” if God intended to wipe out the soul of man? How do the wicked burn day and night forever and ever if they’re out of existence after a short time? One view argues for eternal punishment (that is, day and night burning), the other argues for temporary torment and then an end to existence. Conditional immortality argues for the latter and is simply heretical. It is opposed to the very words of Scripture themselves.
Their notion of destruction, that is, the annihilation of the soul, goes against what we know about Scripture and what so many have believed for so many centuries. Tradition should be challenged, but we should affirm it when it affirms the Word of God. God destroys body and soul, but He doesn’t destroy it by terminating its existence.
My critics have put me in the same position as the Apostle Paul: to respond in honesty where I can.
I present this to you to remind you that, in the same way that Paul had his enemies, those holding to the Word of God in today’s world have their own. Conditional immortality has made such inroads into the Church because of its emotional appeal. The idea that God would burn wicked sinners day and night forever and ever in the lake of fire and brimstone is a sore sight to imagine. To some Christians, it wreaks of cruel and unusual punishment.
But how can they tell God how to do His business? How can they tell God what He can and can’t do when He punishes the wicked? See, conditional immortalists fail to understand that, in the same way that I am sovereign over my work, God is sovereign over His work as judge. He has a right to give a punishment commensurate with the crime. Rebelling against the Almighty and rejecting your Creator is not the same as speeding in traffic. It’s worse than even taking a human life. And the nature of the crime (that is, an eternal one) leads to an eternal punishment (burn day and night, forever and ever).
My critics don’t have a problem with me, although they’re angry over Terror Of The Lord. Their real beef is with the Lord of the Universe who has given His Law. They don’t like His Law. Like my book, they want to criticize it and tell God what parts to remove because they don’t like those parts. But their disapproval of what His Word says doesn’t diminish His character or Scripture, any more than their disapproval of what my book says diminishes me, my character, or the quality of the book itself.
Just know that when you seek to speak a word from the Lord in print, the vultures will swarm. And when they do, it’s not a sign that things are going wrong, but a sign that things are going right. When they attack your book publicly, it’s because they know how lethal it is. Their reviews have only revealed the darkened state of their hearts rather than anything significant about my book.
And when you make sinners angry, expect the backlash.