Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Snap: Robert Allen Taylor's "Rescue from Death"



A reader asked me to check out Rescue From Death (hereafter RFD) by Robert Allen Taylor, knowing that I didn't hold to the traditional views of hell it responds to, while also not agreeing with its own point of view, which is essentially annihilationism. 

These days when I read works by annihilationists, I find myself marking huge portions of what they write, "N/A" --  because the fact that their responses (of whatever quality) are to the traditional view almost always means that they don't have any bearing on my views.

Needless to say, Taylor doesn't have anything to say about my views of hell as shame rather than literal fire and physical torture. He offers all the standard reinterpretations of the usual suspect passages, and that is precisely why there's not much to say here. Taylor suggests, for example, that weeping and gnashing of teeth [35] "reflects fear and/or it may indicate anger". Well, no, it was neither of those; it represented shame. Not that it matters, since the main issue here is how Taylor is compelled to re-interpret such passages for an annix view. E.g., the traditionalist sees it (as I do) as eternal, but to make that fit, Taylor has to generate the rationalization: "Weeping, fear, anger -- what else would be expected from sinners cast into an unquenchable fire which, Scripture declares, will burn them up [that is, annihilate them]?" 

In that particular case, rather ironically, Taylor's own rebuttal is tripped up by the very traditionalist reading of fire that he's trying to  rebut: Since he takes those fires literally, he figures to use them as the mechanism of annihilation. But if the flames are shame...whoops. Better try that again. 

Taylor only touches on the possibility of non-literal flames briefly [94], and with great inadequacy, essentially just saying that since Jesus draws on the image of literal fire in Is. 66:24, then he must mean literal fire too. But, um, what if we argue that Isaiah's fire and worms is a metaphor for shame too? Whoops again.

Speaking of Isaiah, that's cause for crashing on a different rock: That of premillenial eschatology. Taylor's treatment of Is. 66:24 may squeeze in there, but if you're a preterist, as I am, it's just another wrong turn. In the same way, because he reads Revelation 20:10 in dispensational terms, he steers wrong in asking why the goats of Matthew 25 aren't there. For a preterist, that's a moot point because the division of sheep and goats began when Jesus assumed the heavenly throne of the Son of Man, in the first century, while Rev. 20:10 is still in our future.  And in any event, if fire = shame, then the goats are already in the "fire" after they die, and the only real news in Rev. 20:10 is who's added to it; there's no need to give the goats their own headline, especially when everyone in this high context society had that down pat already.

One of the few potential points of intersection has to do with Taylor's treatment of aionios, that word that makes hell eternal. Sadly, Taylor lacks the informing contexts provided by scholarly resources such as Barr's classic treatment; his one and only source is Vincent's word study material, which was published in 1887. Does Taylor think no more scholarly work has been done since the 19th century on this subject? (The point being, yes it has, and Vincent was wrong about aionios; it does not "acquire that sense by [its] connotation" but actually does mean "eternal".)

In the end, I found nothing that isn't already taken care of by my material linked below.Taylor seems an earnest and concerned man, but a serious scholar...he ain't.


19 comments:

  1. Does either view of hell preclude the idea of soul sleep until the final judgement? My brother was talking with a Messianic Jew, and his view was that souls after death sleep until the judgement.

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    1. Soul sleep would be am entirely different issue. That said, my own view is not so much that souls sleep, but that they snooze, and are in a sort of vague state with interludes of clear thought. It is sort of what would be expected of a spirit that has no body; I compare it to a filing cabinet whose contents have been spilled all over the floor.

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  2. I am disappointed that my comment has not been published. Why would I interact or return here if the curator refuses to have dialogue?

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    1. Rather than pretend disappointment, perhaps you should have the courtesy to realize that other people have a life. I only check in here on days I post, which is M, W, and F, and have numerous other projects I work on.

      Since you wish to play the victim instead, however, I will simply delete your prior comment so that you can play it to the hilt.

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    2. This is par for the course for any blog owner.

      I didn't get the impression he wished to play the victim *instead*.

      Why not just publish people's comments if they pass muster? They took the time to interact with you, so it only seems appropriate.

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    3. @Grice: If you didn't get that impression you need to work on your powers of perception. They're broken.

      Don't give me the pity party about "time to interact" either. Comments like these take all of 5-10 seconds to do. What an investment of his time. Snort. :P

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    4. But it's not a matter of vague impressions. I know the commentor's desire to have his first comment published, because I know him and he told me he had submitted one, before he had concluded that it wouldn't be published.

      From your comment above, he lacked the courtesy to realize that sometimes comments take longer than that to be processed. Ipso facto, he assumed otherwise.

      The fact that he actually thought his first post was rejected, coupled with the fact that he did want it published, means that his subsequent complaint wasn't a mitigating motivation. If it were his preference to play victim *instead*, he would have set out with that in mind. None of this means he didn't intend to play victim.

      Logically, he assumed his second comment would go the way of the first, according to what he assumed about the first. [Perhaps he hoped the second would prompt the first, after all.] Knowing this (assuming your powers of perception to be at least as good as mine), you didn't "simply delete" the first, you intentionally published the second without the first.

      Anyone can see that. And anyone can infer that he wouldn't have thought you'd publish the second on its own. I would never anticipate that sort of low-level behavior from a Christian apologist. Except perhaps from JP Holding. Which is kind of the point. You have your riposte justification, or whatever you think makes it perfectly OK. But perhaps you should have the courtesy to realize that other people just operate with reasonable and general expectations about blog posting. In such a context, what he did was mistakenly think you'd rejected it. Why he might think you'd do that is undisclosed. I know that you know from experience how common this is. Haven't you risen above it after so long on the web?

      Let's not pretend your action here conforms to "courtesy." If you're going to opt not to publish his first, presumably more substantive comment, surely it is more courteous not to publish either, instead of publishing the latter in order to play the victim yourself. Or did you mean that the commenter is the only one expected to have higher standards?

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    5. Spare me your extended rationalizations, Petey. It's this simple.

      "I am disappointed that my comment has not been published. Why would I interact or return here if the curator refuses to have dialogue?"

      Why assume that the comment wasn't published because of a refusal to dialogue? How about the simple courtesy of assuming instead that I haven't got to it yet? Or why not email me (not like I'm hard to find) with a polite inquiry? Because he (and now you) want to play the victim.

      Good luck with that cognitive dissonance and victim routine elsewhere. It won't play here.

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    6. JP: Sorry for my impatience, but I really did want to interact, perhaps I am on 'internet time' where everything must be instant. I get it, you have a life.

      I have no interest in being first, esp. since I'm not even sure of the 'status' of your blog or who will see it. I was just interested in contributing, and disappointed that it took more than a day to see any results - my initial post is STILL not up, only my complaint.

      So, can we skip the misunderstandings here and return to the topic at hand? I think my original post was on topic and germane to the book discussed.

      Perhaps to avoid this misunderstanding in the future, if you are willing to take the risk, you could allow comments (using a spam filter, of course), and then go back later and delete objectionable ones at your leisure. I have found that to be a workable solution which limits bad comments and allows for maximal and timely commenting.

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    7. @Petey: try again, and this time, instead of a long-winded rationalization, try, "Yes, it would have been more courteous to write a polite inquiry."

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    8. @danielg

      >>> Sorry for my impatience, but I really did want to interact, perhaps I am on 'internet time' where everything must be instant.

      Apology accepted. Precisely why I don't saddle myself with gadgets like cell phones; so as not to morph into an Internet time Frankenstein. Might I kindly suggest two works of interest: The Shallows by Carr, and Hamlet's Blackberry.

      >>>- my initial post is STILL not up, only my complaint.

      As noted, deleted. Free free to repost.

      >>>Perhaps to avoid this misunderstanding in the future, if you are willing to take the risk, you could allow comments (using a spam filter, of course), and then go back later and delete objectionable ones at your leisure. I have found that to be a workable solution which limits bad comments and allows for maximal and timely commenting.

      Er, not viable here...you're not wearing the same size target on your back that I am. ;) Nor being shot at daily by fundamentalist atheists whose hobbies consist of a) throwing f-bombs or b) leaving 10+ posts of 5000 words each which say absolutely nothing. The moderation is precisely because I can NOT afford the leisure. Note please that I am only on here today because I needed to fix a link. Otherwise I would not view comments again until Monday.

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    9. Thanks JP. I don't remember now exactly my first post, but it was basically links to our discussion of the book, perhaps your readers would like more reflection on it, including an interview with the author. Thanks.
      Robert Taylor resources at RethinkingHell.com

      Regarding shame, although we might not have the same view of it, it is part of the discussion at Rethinking Hell, where we consider it as one of the modalities through which God could administer proportional and eternal punishment (in our view, it's post-annihilation shame, not an ongoing experience of the punished, but even at RH we debate shame as part of punishment). We discussed it a bit in part 3 of our Response to Matt Waymeyer

      Cheers, and thanks for reconsidering my post and forgiving my impatience :D.

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    10. Okey doke. By chance have you folks consulted any of the anthropological material I've used (like by the Context Group)? I don't think "post-annihilation shame" would cohere too well with their social categories, where shame was something actively experienced. Post-annihilation, your family/ingroup would be shamed, not you. You would just be gone.

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  3. I can appreciate the fact that Taylor did not write his book as a critical evaluation of your view, but how about responding to what his book did address? So you do not personally hold the traditional view Taylor addressed. Great. Say that, but then move on to review what Taylor did address. Was he accurate? Were his arguments valid? And so on.

    "This book had nothing to do with me or my view, so... moving on." A real disappointment.

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    1. Why would I want to use up my time analyzing a view I don't hold, especially when I have so many other projects that are far more urgent?

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    2. "Why would I want to use up my time analyzing a view I don't hold, especially when I have so many other projects that are far more urgent?"

      I think that's a fair question, but you did use up time to write a 600+ word response to say, basically, he doesn't address your view...

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    3. *COUGH* Because someone sent me a free review copy and asked me to do so. Not that 600 words is any burden. I can write that much in less than 5 minutes.

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    4. I'm the one who sent JP the book. I sent him the book mainly for his own personal reference. Since he is a librarian and he likes to do research, I thought he'd appreciate having it. *I did not ask him to do a thorough review or refutation*. I just wanted his personal opinion of the book, which he gave.

      But between his online article, "Annihilationism: An Unbiblical Doctrine" and the fact that JP pointed out in this review that the author's views heavily depend on the fires of Hell being literal, I don't see any need for him to give a thorough refutation.

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