Maxey - Thrasher Debate

Eternal Destiny of the Wicked
Perpetual Torment or Ultimate Extinction
(An In-Depth Biblical Discussion)

Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Comments by Thomas Thrasher on
Al Maxey's Last Response

One of the most important principles of religious debate (and, I think, Christianity) is "fairness." In oral debates, one of the ways fairness is manifested is by the participants dividing time equally. For example, it would be unfair for one participant to be allotted twice as much time for speeches as his opponent. In written debates, since "time" of speeches is irrelevant, it is customary for participants to have "word" limits to maintain fairness. When I approached Al about an e-mail debate, I proposed word limits for each article to ensure fairness. He refused to accept pre-defined limits; however, I thought that he would be fair and equitable without our having stated word limits, so I began the current debate.

However, in every pair of articles we have exchanged, Al has far exceeded the number of words I used. In each succeeding article, I have increased the number of words I used in trying to maintain a reasonable balance; however, he has continued to escalate the number of words. When I saw his fifth article in our debate, I was surprised at its length. Al used almost as many words in his fifth article alone as I had used in my first five articles altogether. As a long-time mathematician, I decided to do a little research by conducting a word count of our articles (as posted on Al's website). Following are the word counts (using MS Word 2002).


When I e-mailed Al privately about this escalation of article lengths, Al said his approach was completely fair, and that the difference was only a matter of our different styles. However, I found it interesting that this has been true in ALL of Al's debates posted at his web site!


    • Thomas ------ 41,229 words
    • Maxey ------- 59,246 words (44% more than Thomas)


    • Sisman ------ 13,934 words
    • Maxey ------ 21,080 words (51% more than Sisman)


    • Broking ------ 30,791 words
    • Maxey ------- 56,988 words (85% more than Broking)

  4. MAXEY-THRASHER DEBATE (through five articles each)

    • Thrasher ------ 13,349 words
    • Maxey -------- 29,542 words (121% more than Thrasher)

These word counts do not include a few small "Question and Answer" type posts.

Since my effort to resolve the "length of articles" disparity was rebuffed by Al, I will not attempt to compete with him by continuing to increase lengths of articles. I am convinced (based upon my experience in many oral and written debates) that SHORTER articles in written debates, and shorter speeches in oral debates, make it easier for:

When I began the discussion, I expected that we would have many of the usual e-mail length articles so that each point of difference could be discussed in detail in several e-mails. Al has continued to extend the length of his articles FAR beyond this. Much of this content (approximately 8000 words) is due to his extensive citations from uninspired men, which he has admitted in "no way serves the purpose of providing proof or validation of one's views." I trust that our readers will understand, therefore, why I will not seek to "answer" his quotations from such sources. He acknowledges that "both of us could quote a host of men (known and unknown, reputable and otherwise) who agree with our respective positions." I have chosen not to follow Al down this path, since:

Early into his fifth article, Al says, "There is very little in Thomas' last article with which I can conscientiously agree." I can say the same with respect to Al's last post!

Al says, "With Thomas' first chart ... in which he listed the three major types of death, what/who are being separated, and the resultant state/impact of that separation, I am in almost total agreement." In expressing his disagreement, he says, "Obviously, Thomas and I differ on the nature of that punishment, but we both agree that the resultant state is one of everlasting separation from the Lord." In other words, we disagree on the topic of this debate! This certainly comes as no surprise to me!

In commenting upon spiritual death, Al says, "What has 'ceased to be' is relationship and fellowship with God." Remember this: Al knows that the PERSON has NOT ceased to be when he is said to be "spiritually dead"! Similarly, the PERSON does not cease to be when he experiences the SECOND DEATH either!

Al seeks to extricate himself from difficulty by asserting, "It is not the person himself who is literally, physically dead, but it is rather a death of the person's relationship and fellowship with deity." So Al claims that spiritual death is not the death of the PERSON, but rather "a death of the person's relationship and fellowship with deity"! However, he quoted a passage I introduced earlier (Ephesians 2:1-2) that states: "And YOU were DEAD in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world" (Eph. 2:1-2). Paul said, "YOU [the Ephesians] were DEAD," but Al contradicts Paul and says the "relationship and fellowship with deity" was what died!

Al states: "Where Thomas and I differ on this chart, however, is concerning his assertion that the 'spirit resides in Hades/comfort or torment.' I reject that notion completely." I know that he rejects it, but he has not disproved the arguments I made to show that this is true!

Al says, "It appears that Thomas feels I am contradicting myself; that I am one moment teaching physical death is a total extinction of being, but the next suggesting it is not. This, of course, is not true." Al then re-quotes a comment he made earlier in this debate: "There is NO conflict whatsoever in declaring one 'dead even while she lives,' for two completely different applications of 'death' are in view --- one physical, one spiritual. So, Thomas is partially correct in saying, in this particular case, that death 'is not cessation of existence or extinction.' In the physical sense, that is correct. The woman is still literally, physically animate. However, with regard to 'spiritual death' something HAS ceased to exist. What no longer exists, because of her willful, wanton sin against her God, is a saving relationship with that God. She has been severed from the very Source of Life Himself. She is DEAD with regard to relationship with deity; that relationship NO LONGER EXISTS!!!" What Al seems not to understand is that the same thing is true regarding "eternal death" -- the individual still EXISTS, but the "relationship [with God] NO LONGER EXISTS"!

Al says, "Thomas incorrectly concluded from my statement above: 'physical death is NOT extinction of the entire person!'" He went on to explain, evidently, that PHYSICAL DEATH is EXTINCTION of the ENTIRE PERSON! Therefore, he believes that NO PART of a person survives physical death! I have quoted the Bible to the contrary (refer to my fifth article).

In answering my question he says, "YES, when a man dies PHYSICALLY, the entire person is dead; he ceases to be." He goes on to say, "Thomas, I don't know how to make that any clearer to you than I already have." Al, I think you have made this point VERY CLEAR: You think that when a person dies physically, he becomes EXTINCT, NON-EXISTENT, ANNIHILATED! However, that position CONTRADICTS many Bible verses that I quoted in my fifth article!!!

Al continues to refer to my "puzzlement" as if this involves an inability to understand "spiritual death." I have no problem at all understanding what the Bible says in this regard. My "puzzlement" relates to how Al can hold to a position that is so inconsistent, especially in view of his apparent intellectual capabilities.

Referring to my Chart #2, Al states: "Where Thomas and I do NOT agree is with regard to the remainder of his assertions... He lists the three types of death in that chart, and then lists "What Does Exist" and "What Does Not Exist." In the center section (pertaining to Spiritual Death) we agree. The person exists ... but the relationship and fellowship with God does NOT exist. That is correct." Furthermore, with reference to the "second death" also -- "the PERSON exists ... but the relationship and fellowship with God does NOT exist"! Al denies this, saying, "Those who experience 'eternal death' in the lake of fire CEASE TO EXIST." However, AL HAS NOT MADE ANY REAL ATTEMPT TO PROVE THAT ASSERTION!!! Our readers (and this debate) would be far better served if he would address this point using THE BIBLE and omit thousands of words expressing the opinions of men!

I wrote, "In each case of death, the PERSON continues to exist!" Al responds, "I believe Thomas is dead wrong"! I know he "believes" that, but I wish he would really try to deal with the arguments I have made from the Bible.

Al wrote: "I had pointed out in my previous contribution to this debate that what Thomas 'has failed to perceive is the Jewish concept of the nature of man.' To this my opponent replied, 'Actually, I have little concern for the "Jewish concept."' And therein lies part of our problem. A sound, legitimate hermeneutic MUST have concern for the perception of the original writers and readers of a text. We are thousands of years removed from those to whom the Scriptures were originally addressed, not to mention other significant factors such as culture, ethnicity, religion, world view and the like. Assuming that OUR present day view of the nature of man was THEIR view is a dangerous assumption." First, I did NOT (and do not) assume "that OUR ... view ... was THEIR view," as Al seems to imply. My statement (of which Al chose to quote only a part, leaving a false impression of my point) was this: "Actually, I have little concern for the 'Jewish concept' -- I sought to explain the INSPIRED CONCEPT expounded by the apostle Peter! Anyone who reads the New Testament should quickly be able to recognize that the Jews had MANY misconceptions, false notions, and improper attitudes to which the Lord and the inspired writers called attention. Just think of their false concept of the Messiah! Will Al acknowledge this, or will I need to cite a long list of examples as proof?" In fact, Al failed to acknowledge this fact, but all students of the New Testament know it is true.

Al says, "I was greatly impressed (positively so) by one of Thomas' statements. He wrote: 'I do not believe that immortality is "something inherently ours," as Al implies that I do! Except for the case of God, where immortality exists (whether of angels, the devil and demons, the human spirit, or the human body in the resurrection), it is conferred by God -- it is not inherent, but DERIVED.' That is a very, very important admission on Thomas' part, and I am thrilled to hear him say this." However, in his comments, he then MISCHARACTERIZES what I said by commenting, "I agree with Thomas and the apostle Paul, however, that the Lord 'ALONE possesses immortality' (1 Timothy 6:16), and any immortality man may one day experience will be conferred upon him as a gift from God."

I SAID, "Where immortality EXISTS (whether of angels, the devil and demons, the human spirit, or the human body in the resurrection)" -- Notice that I did NOT place ALL immortality in the FUTURE! The ONLY part of my list that involves FUTURE reception of immortality is "the human body in the resurrection"!

AL SAID, "I agree with Thomas ... any immortality man may ONE DAY experience WILL BE conferred upon him" -- as if I agreed with him that ALL immortality relating to man is still FUTURE. This is not so, and I did not say so!

Contrary to what my opponent seems to think, I do not arrive at my conclusions based upon what ANY uninspired person (whether so-called traditionalist or conditionalist) has said or written! It does not disturb me one bit to hold a position with which some brethren (even notable ones) disagree. I do not arrive at my convictions by polling the brethren (or sectarians either, Al).

Al seeks a clarification of my statements on Jude 7. He quotes me as follows: "The point of the verse is that Sodom and Gomorrah (referring to the people who lived in these cities) were punished for their ungodliness by fire from God that serves as a figure/type/symbol of the final punishment of the wicked in 'eternal fire.' The text says they 'are set forth as an example.' .... The fact that ungodly people back then lost their physical lives by means of fire from God serves as 'an example by way of warning' people in this age about the 'eternal fire' awaiting the ungodly at the coming of the Lord." I told Al that "I could quote several 'scholars' on this passage who disagree with Al's conclusion." He did not dispute this.

However, my friend comments, "He seems to intentionally drop the term 'aionios' when speaking of the fire sent upon the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and applies it only to final punishment of the wicked. This leaves me to wonder if Thomas does not believe the people of Sodom and Gomorrah experienced, in their physical destruction, the effects of God's 'eternal fire.'" I am sorry if I did not make my point clear enough for my brother. I do NOT believe that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah LITERALLY received "eternal fire," but that the punishment by fire which they received was so utterly complete that it served as a SYMBOL (figure, type) of the eternal fire to be experienced by the ungodly at the judgment. I provided a chart illustrating the use of types and antitypes (that Al overlooked). The same point is made by the apostle Peter: "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, having made them an example unto those that should live ungodly" (2 Peter 2:6).

Al asks, "Thomas, does 'eternal fire' in Jude 7 apply to the physical destruction of those people in those cities at that specific time, or does it ONLY refer to the future punishment of the wicked in the lake of fire?" Although this may be repetitious, I will address it again. The physical destruction of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah was a symbol of "eternal fire," although it was not literally so. What happened to them was to serve as a warning of the future punishment of the ungodly (cf. 2 Peter 2:6).

It should be unnecessary to do so, but I will remind our readers of the frequent use of figures in both Old and New Testaments. We recognize them as figures (or symbols) that are intended to represent some point of truth. A few examples:

Are these statements true? Yes, figuratively or symbolically, but not literally. Did Sodom and Gomorrah receive "eternal fire"? Figuratively or symbolically they did, although not literally. What they received is a symbol of future judgment upon the ungodly.

With reference to my answers to his questions, Al says, "I appreciate the answers Thomas has provided. I agree with each of them. However, this poses a problem for those who embrace the traditional view of eternal punishment. If the 'wages of sin' is perpetual torture, Jesus did not pay that price. If indeed this is the penalty that must be paid, then He did not pay it." He then quotes Basil F.C. Atkinson, Curtis Dickinson, and James A. Nichols, none of whose statements PROVE what Al teaches is true!!! He admitted earlier that "this is no way serves the purpose of providing proof or validation of one's views"! Therefore, those quotations PROVE nothing about the truth.

In responding to one of Al's questions, I wrote: "If you are asking whether Jesus was tortured in eternal separation from God, then 'No.'" He then comments, "Thomas is exactly right on this point." However, he adds, "Jesus has demonstrated, however, that the penalty for sin is exactly what the Bible declares it to be: DEATH. He DID pay THAT price!!" Al, you are equivocating here! Your comment that Jesus "DID pay THAT price" relates to His PHYSICAL DEATH! However, THAT PRICE was NOT a substitute for PHYSICAL DEATH for those who receive the benefits of His death, because Christians still DIE PHYSICALLY!!!

I wrote: "If (as you believe) the wicked will receive temporary torment before becoming extinct, Jesus didn't suffer that either!" Al responds, "On the contrary, Thomas! That is exactly what He suffered!!" Therefore, Al admits that he actually believes that JESUS "became EXTINCT" (I suppose for three days)! Friends, I hope that you can see clearly the ridiculous position to which Al's position leads. If you accept HIS position in this debate, then you must be willing to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ BECAME EXTINCT (CEASED TO EXIST) when He died upon the cross!

Let me make this very clear: I DON'T believe Jesus CEASED TO EXIST when He died. I have quoted Bible verses that plainly deny Al's heretical view (e.g., Luke 23:43; Acts 2:27-31).

I asked Al four questions. I want to review his "responses."

#1 -- When "God created man in His own image" (Genesis 1:27), what was made "in the image of God" -- the physical body, the spirit, the breath, or something else? Al said, "I will answer this question in the latter part of this current post when I deal with the nature of man." In that part of his article, as usual, Al quotes the opinions of a number of people. As we both agree such does not PROVE anything to be true, and that I could quote the opinions of many on "my side" of this issue, I pass over those opinions. However, Al did say, "Thus, the verse is not suggesting that man resembles God in physical appearance (head, arms, legs, feet, etc.) ..." He and I surely agree on this! The point of my question was: Since man is NOT "in the image of God" physically, then he must be in some OTHER way. Since "God is Spirit" (John 4:24), and man is spirit as well as body (e.g., James 2:26; 1 Corinthians 2:11; John 19:30; etc.), then it is the spirit of man that is "in the image of God." Although I did not find a direct answer to my question in Al's discussion, I suppose his answer was: not the physical body, the spirit, or the breath, but "something else."

My question #2 was: "If the wages of sin for the unredeemed is 'utter extinction forever,' did Jesus pay that price?" Al used 171 words in NOT ANSWERING this question! The closest he came was in saying, "When Jesus gave up His life the potential was indeed 'forever extinction.'" Al knew when he wrote this (and evaded my question) that this "potential" he supposes (Jesus' "forever extinction") was NOT realized! Therefore, Al should have been honest enough to say, "No! Jesus did NOT pay that price of 'utter extinction forever'"!

I asked, "#3 -- Do you believe that Jesus' death upon the cross was the cessation of life for the ENTIRE PERSON, not just a part of him?" Al answered, "Yes." Once more, Al admits that he believes that Jesus NO LONGER EXISTED when He died upon the cross -- He became EXTINCT! I appreciate his forthrightness on this point, but his is a sad position indeed for one who claims to be a Christian.

I asked: "#4 -- Which of the following individuals EXIST NOW?" Al answered, "Only Elijah (in your list of names) is currently LIVING... Adam, Abraham, Moses and Paul (whom you listed) are all dead" (caps mine, TNT). Unless Al was evading the question (my question said, "existing," but Al said "living"), his answer is that Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Paul NO LONGER EXIST at all!

Al quotes Acts 2:29, "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day." Al should know that this, of course, refers to the fact that David was physically dead, and that "his tomb" (where his physical remains were located) was still with them. Al then says, "A few verses later Peter declares that David has not ascended into heaven (vs. 34). Thus, these persons have ceased to be in the cognitive sense..." My brother ASSUMES that because David had not "ascended into heaven" that David had "ceased to be"! The truth is that David was in Hades, just as I have shown that the former rich man was when he died (Luke 16), even though his physical body had been buried.

Al says, "At one point Moses was summoned from the dust of the ground to appear with Elijah ..." How does Al KNOW this? The text does not say "Moses was summoned from the dust of the ground"! Al doesn't believe this was the case with Elijah, so how does he KNOW that was the case with Moses?

Al then says, "... but he was likely returned there when his purpose for appearing was fulfilled." Why "LIKELY"??? In answering my question #4, Al wrote, "Adam, Abraham, MOSES and Paul ... ARE all DEAD" (caps mine)! If they ARE (present tense) DEAD, then they are EXTINCT, according to Al's position in this debate!

AL says, "... after all, our God IS the God of the living and the dead" (his emphasis). However, OUR LORD said, "... have you not read what was spoken to you BY GOD, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is NOT the God of the DEAD, but of the LIVING" (Matthew 22:31-32).

Al says, "There is much about that particular situation we simply do not know." And there is also much we DO KNOW from the Bible that Al refuses to accept!

Al says, "As for Lazarus (Luke 16), he was merely a fictional character in a parable, thus never existed to begin with." Was Abraham (Luke 16) a fictional character as well? Were the angels in Luke 16 also fictional characters?

Al comments, "Yes, even an atheist can be mistaken in his biblical interpretation!! Much of that misinterpretation is likely the result of centuries of pagan influence upon Christendom, an influence so pervasive that these misconceptions have become part of our common language and culture." This is another reason we ought to go to BIBLE PASSAGES, as I have sought to do, rather than the opinions of men (Pagan, Jewish, Sectarian, or otherwise)!

Al says, "Many atheists find the traditionalist perspective of final punishment more than they can swallow, and it leaves them with a negative view of Christianity and our God." I don't doubt at all that atheists are often turned off by what God says. Baptists, Methodists, and many other denominationalists are "turned off" by Bible teaching on the necessity of water baptism (Does Al still believe that?). They may have a "negative view" of true Christianity" (for an example, read the Garner-Smith Debate).

Al then graciously provides us with three quotations from John Clayton (remember, not even one of them PROVES Al's position is correct). Question: Isn't this the same man who contended that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old, that man "is a very recent newcomer to this planet," and that the belief "that the entire creation took place within six days" is "a very shallow conclusion"? I don't have much confidence in someone who is no better Bible student than that!

My friend states: "Needless to say, I completely disagree with his [Thomas'] position and his interpretations." Of course, this fact elicits no shock from me! He promises future examination of my arguments in the fifth article, saying, "These will be examined later in various contexts throughout this debate, and I shall challenge his views on these passages at that time." He is a "promising man"!

In his discussion of "The Nature of Man," Al quotes a number of Bible verses. I readily accept the teaching of ALL of those passages, NOT ONE of which teaches his view on "the nature" or "the eternal destiny" of man! (I am glad to see him quoting Bible verses, although he continues to cite the opinions of numerous men as well). I will not seek to take up the various opinions of so-called scholars, because (as Al has admitted) they DO NOT PROVE what is God's truth on this subject.

Perhaps Al will explain to me how the passages that he cited PROVE his position and DISPROVE mine. Most of them refer to man's physical body. Here are a few examples.

Al says, "I would imagine there would be little debate between Thomas and me over the physical body of man (and by 'man' I refer to both male and female -- Gen. 1:27). Our bodies are mortal, and thus subject to death. At some point, unless we are privileged to be alive at the Parousia, we shall die (Heb. 9:27). Thus, our bodies will return to the ground ... dust returning to dust." If I understand what Al is teaching in this particular statement, I would agree with him.

Al says, "The hope of the child of God, therefore, is intricately linked with the resurrection of the body from the dust of the ground. Without resurrection, either Christ's or our own, we have perished!!" However, ALL (both just and unjust) will be raised from the dead (John 5:28-29).

Al inserts a cartoon in which Dennis says to the minister, "But if we start from dust and return to dust, then somebody's either coming or going under my bed." Of course, the statement about dust has reference to the physical BODY. However, in my fifth article I showed that there is MORE to a person than that. Al hasn't gotten to those yet. I'm not really sure what Al's point was in providing the cartoon; perhaps it was just intended as a little bit of humor.

My opponent observes, "Obviously the PHYSICAL BODY is not inherently immortal" [emphasis mine]. On this point regarding man's physical body, we are in agreement.

Al has somewhat to say about the "breath"; however, his idea that the "spirit" is just the "breath" is so obviously false as to require little refutation. Try substituting "breath" for "spirit" in these passages (and I am only giving a few examples):

Al says, "The readers might be surprised to discover, however, that the phrase 'immortal soul' NEVER appears in the Bible .... not even once!! I am assuming Thomas already knows this fact!" And I also know that many expressions that Al uses NEVER appear in the Bible .... not even once! (at least in the translations I checked!)

Al devotes hundreds of words in an effort to answer an argument that "living soul" in Genesis 2:7 means "immortal soul" -- an argument that I didn't even make!!! It is interesting that Al puts forth all of this effort to answer this argument that I didn't make, yet does not answer the arguments I DID make!

He alleged, "The Scriptures Thomas provided, by the way, are the standard 'proof texts' paraded by traditionalists every time this subject comes up"! Even if this were so, he chose not to answer the arguments I made based upon those passages.

"The truth shall make you free" (John 8:32)!

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