There is currently a resurgence of the question of whether there is a literal eternal hell. The writer of Hebrews tells us to press into maturity, having settled the basic doctrines of Christ. Then the author adds, “This we will do, if God permits.” It appears that he has yet to permit, for we are still running ring around the rosie over what should be basic teaching.
It isn’t my intention to tackle the trunk of this issue from either a yay or nay viewpoint. Rather, let us hone in on one particular branch – the idea that, for the irredeemable soul, utter destruction means annihilation, as if they had never existed.
The scriptures tell us that God cannot lie. Does this mean that every word he speaks is factual, or every word he speaks becomes factual? The latter would needs be more than newspeak in Orwell’s 1984, “We are at war with Eastasia…we have always been at war with Eastasia.” Instead, it brings to mind William Tenn’s story, Brooklyn Project. In the story (spoiler alert!) a probe is sent back in time to investigate the origins of the earth. Vibrating between the current date and early history, it collects and relays back its observations. A government spokesman is found reassuring the press corps that the experiment will not monkey with our timeline. As the probe oscillates, his lecture carries on uninterrupted, but the physiology of man changes upon each iteration of the probe – the line of evolution has altered. When the story climaxes with the probe finishing its run, the men are now sea slug like creatures, and the press officer ends by saying, “See, nothing has changed!”
This story focuses in on the problem with the idea of soul annihilation – how does God’s word of annihilation precede his intent of creation and undo what has been done? How does God alter his own history? How does his word journey back to a place where God was unaware of his own future? And, as was discussed in a previous blog post, if God is everywhen, how do concepts such as before and after apply? Can a word be spoken after, thus subjecting God to time?
What this all ultimately relates to is the Null. Computer science has brought to light the difference between zero and null. Null can be defined as a non or unknown existence, whereas zero is an absence.
If you are putting your business on the software QuickBooks, you start with what I will term a null inventory – nothing has yet begun. You begin by entering your inventory; however, any item, once placed in the inventory, remains in the inventory. If there isn’t any of the item available, the inventory count will be zero, but the item itself cannot be removed. You cannot have historically never stocked the item. Amazon’s inventory works in similar fashion. Once a book is listed, it is never deleted – it just becomes unavailable.
Once a soul is added to inventory, it cannot be annihilated. The vantage point of truth cannot allow an alteration of history. And this becomes our binary state of existence. God and those in him are one, everything else is zero. The question as to whether those at zero are irredeemable or are later integrated into the one is the correct centre of debate.