“Watson, you’re going to Hell,” Walls patted Watson on the shoulder, a greeting these two have had for years.
Monday Nov. 13, the Worldview Forum presented Go to Hell?! A Debate about the Eternal State of the Wicked.
Dr. Jerry Walls defended the traditional and popular perspective that Hell is a place where people who continue to rebel against God in life consciously suffer for eternity. He contends that this is the choice of the sinner. Those in Hell would rather be in Hell than be with God.
Walls placed the “burden of proof” squarely on the shoulders of his fellow panelists in light that Scripture and the overwhelmingly popular traditional agreement supports his perspective enough. During his speech, Walls made room for merit for universalism though maintaining that it is heresy. He didn’t give annihilationism much or any credit. Animated and involved, he set the stage standard high.
Friendly banter livened the speeches. It was very clear that all the proponents were comfortable with each other while being confident in their own perspectives.
Dr. Thomas Talbott was the next to speak. His powerpoint helped to clarify his arguments. He assumed a position of simplicity based in propositional logic to define his point. There are three incoherent propositions: first, God wants to reconcile all people to Himself. Second, the Almighty God will successfully reconcile all He truly wills. Third, some people will not be reconciled to God. One can accept two, but not all three.
Calvinism accepts premise two and three, but not one. Arminianism accepts one and three, but not two. Universalism accepts one and two, and not three. He places higher priority in God’s love and His omnipotence.
Talbott also defends his position against the charge of heresy. The priority in Scripture is for premise one and two. To not accept premise three does not guarentee heresy.
Dr. Duane Watson spoke last. The Bible is unclear, he said. By now, it is clear that each proponent does not think that the Bible is one-sided. Watson defended annihilationism.
Watson made four key observations: one, the natural state of humanity is death, or cessation. Two, immortality is a gift. The soul is not immortal without the gift of grace. Three, there is evidence in the Bible that those who have not died in grace are annihilated. Four, the images of judgment in the Bible deal with the eternality of the fire of torment, not of the people and souls involved. To support these observations, Watson analyzes the Scripture as if through a microscope and dissects important Greek words and their meanings. His thorough excavations stabilize his ideas.
Watson admitted that only 90% of Scripture agrees with annihilationism, and 10% support the traditional view of Hell.
In the end, Watson quoted C.S. Lewis, there will only be two types of people: those who say to God “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says “thy will be done.”
After all finished giving their presentations, the panelists were allowed to ask one other a question.
Talbott remarked before asking Watson a question that there was so much agreement between the three of them, but then there was one twist and it all came out differently.
The floor was opened to questions from the audience. People rushed to line up to present their challenges to the panelists. One audience member asked what each panelist would say is the Gospel message. Walls answered in the traditional way, that all have sinned and all are damned. Jesus died on the cross to save us from Hell. Talbott answered slightly differently. We sin, we are miserable, and Christ saves us from our sins. He emphasizes that it is not Hell that we are saved from, but rather it is our sins.
The forum ended with people still in line to present their questions. Students and faculty came forward to shake the panelists’ hands and thank them for coming to our university.
Levi Hundley, freshman music ministry major, said the proponents “had my attention for the most, and out of all the people speaking I saw more similarities with Jerry Walls.”
“I really thought it was interesting,” Joe Svancara, junior Bible and theology major, said, “I went in not knowing or wanting to understand the other views because I thought they would confuse me. But the speakers were able to use Scripture in a way that made it easy to understand and understand the common theme between them all.”
Other students said the content was just over their heads.