Maxey - Thrasher Debate

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Comments by Al Maxey on
Thrasher's Last Response


My opponent observed, "I have repeatedly urged Al to forego the multitude of 'scholarly' quotations that have permeated his articles. He has persisted in this practice.... Why does he persist in profusely quoting their opinions?" I appreciate the fact that Thomas supplied the answer to his own question by quoting a portion of my previous response. I don't know how much experience Thomas has had in doing "scholarly research" on a graduate level, but if he has had any at all he will know that personal perceptions, devoid of some degree of scholarly reference, is considered virtually worthless. It is critical for one to test his/her perceptions in the arena of established, reputable, published scholarship down through the ages. If one's conclusions do not have the benefit of at least some substantiation from noted authorities in the field in which one seeks to make some notable contribution, then one's conclusions are immediately suspect. I have merely sought to display beyond any reasonable doubt that the position I promote has been widely promoted by very reputable scholarship throughout recorded history. I did not want my views portrayed by Thomas, or anyone else, as some recent, radical revelation unique to myself alone. Thus, I sought to present the testimony of reputable scholarship, both ancient and modern.

Frankly, I was glad to see Thomas finally begin to employ some acceptable research techniques himself by appealing to something other than his own opinions and interpretations, which frankly have been horribly flawed. I am greatly disappointed in the quality of the "scholarship" to which he appealed, however. A disproportionate number of them are little more than vocal leaders of the ultra-conservative wing of the "Church of Christ" faith-heritage (sometimes characterized as the "anti" faction or the "Non-Institutional" faction). I know some of the "scholars" to whom he appealed personally, and have even dialogued with a few of them, and must state that I am not impressed. And any quotation from the factionist journal Guardian of Truth (which I think is more aptly characterized as Garbling of Truth, and which has run articles attacking me personally in years past for not parroting their party line) is hardly worthy of consideration by serious students of the Word.

Essentially, all Thomas managed to accomplish in his several pages of quotations from such noted "scholars" among his faction of an historical religious movement (with, admittedly, a few reputable ones thrown in) was a brief compendium of typical misunderstanding of the biblical text and traditional misrepresentations that have persisted for sufficient time to be regarded by the undiscerning as Truth. Yes, many good, honest men have bought into Satan's original lie pertaining to the nature of man and his destiny. Thomas has actually provided us a valuable service by documenting that fact through his quotes gleaned from the writings of these deceived disciples.

Robert Taylor, for example, speaks of certain passages clearly revealing "man as a dual being." I believe I have sufficiently demonstrated, and in quite some depth in previous posts to this debate, that this perspective is fallacious. Rather than refuting that body of evidence, Thomas merely reasserts the traditional premise as though that settles the matter for all time. Dudley Ross Spears declared that humans have "immortal souls," and "in this man differs from the beast." I have had extensive dialogue with this man on this matter, examining the text and the specific words in question in quite some depth, and have shown his assertion to be misinformed at best. One may view one such article at the following site:

Ron Halbrook, for whom I personally have absolutely no respect whatsoever as a biblical "scholar," tries to discredit my position through the tactic of "assassination by association." He, and others, will repeatedly seek to scare away disciples from the Truth by declaring such views to be associated with "atheists, evolutionists, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, ... and others."

Albert Gardner declares that "Moses did not go out of existence at death." How does he know this? Because Moses was on the mount with Jesus at the transfiguration? Now there's a leap of illogic if ever I beheld one! Could not our God have just as easily raised Moses from the dust of the ground for this occasion? Does his presence on the mount of transfiguration demand his conscious existence between his death and this event? Of course not. This just shows the "depth of perception" of such "scholars." It is virtually non-existent. They are grasping at straws to try and prove (and proof-text) an untenable theory.

Guy N. Woods' "logic" is so warped that it is almost laughable when he maneuvers his way to the conclusion: "Therefore Paradise is in Hades." I have already demonstrated, by means of sound exegesis of the Scriptures, that this is false. Paradise is immediately before the throne of God; heaven itself ... it is NOT found in the Hadean realm.

David Reed, with a parenthetical note by Thomas, bemoans the "moving of the comma" in Luke 23:43 with these words: "This is another case in which JW leaders (and Al Maxey) have changed the Bible to fit their doctrine." This is hogwash. The BIBLE was not changed at all. The comma was never part of the original text of Luke's gospel, but was added centuries later by copyists. To suggest their grammatical addition is in some way infallible and inviolate is merely to display ignorance of textual transmission and translation.

Shirley Guthrie speaks of the destiny of the wicked being "an ETERNAL LIFE of unfulfilled and self-contradictory humanity .... It is LIVING FOREVER without loving or the willingness to be loved" (the caps are mine for emphasis, AHM). The Bible declares the punishment for sin to be DEATH. Guthrie (and Thomas) declare it to be ETERNAL LIFE or LIVING FOREVER. They have redefined "death" to mean "life." As one commentator suggested, one might as well call black white and white black as to do this! It is an unbiblical absurdity.

Well, I could go on and on and on, but I think this is sufficient to display the type of "scholarship" to which Thomas has appealed to "substantiate" his traditional misunderstandings. As I mentioned previously, I am less than impressed.

My opponent made several comments, and offered several quotations, on such matters as the nature of man, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Hades, the undying worm, the smoke of their torment, the meaning of aionios, and Jesus and the thief on the cross, but I have already dealt with each of these in sufficient depth to warrant no further response at this time. I have already more than adequately refuted his repeated regurgitations of the traditional tenets of his pagan-based theory. I would simply refer the reader and my opponent back to those previous in-depth studies.

As to the issue of an oral debate, I have already addressed that matter. As Thomas is aware, I do not do oral debates. I appreciate his list of reasons why such a venue might prove profitable, and for some people I believe it would indeed. I simply don't happen to be one of those people. That doesn't mean one of us is right and the other wrong on this issue, it just means we're different people with differing perspectives on the matter of oral debates. He likes them, I don't. It's just that simple.

As for the continued procrastination of my opponent, he writes, "The fact is that Al set a 40-day deadline for submitting my article, and I met it. I sent it by the time he specified!" He again, a few sentences later, speaks of "sending an article by Al's specified deadline!" He further states, "However, I did send the article when it was due!!" A couple of paragraphs later he speaks of "sending my articles by his deadline" (emphasis here by Thomas). Thomas declares that it is his practice, as a teacher and school administrator, "if I establish a deadline for something to be done, and it is done by that time, I am not the least bit unhappy!"

Thomas has done a marvelous "song and dance," "weave and dodge" job here, and has sought to divert the attention of the readers from what are actually the true facts pertaining to our debate and our "unwritten gentleman's agreement" involving response time. However, I have gone on record in this debate several times with the actual initial understanding between us, thus it is easily verifiable if one is willing to go back through the posts.

Thomas would have you to believe that the "deadline" ESTABLISHED BY ME was 40 days. That is false. In point of fact, and Thomas knows this very well, I had urged him even before this debate began to please post his responses no later than 7-10 days following mine (and that I would do the same). Thomas agreed to this, although he warned me that there might be a few times when he would need a few extra days. Those few extras "days" have turned into MONTHS. His response times got progressively longer and longer and longer, even though I repeatedly sought to call him back to the original agreement (the posts will attest to this). Finally, in frustration, I declared that I would absolutely NOT wait any longer than 40 days, and that if he procrastinated longer than that I would simply post my final posts on day 41 and he would be in default. From the time of that declaration of frustration on my part he has posted precisely at 41 days (and generally at the last minute of the last hour). Indeed his last four posts have had precisely 41 days response time on each of them. Coincidence? Hardly. That is nothing less than premeditated pettiness, something he has sought to excuse by an appeal to his sin of procrastination. "Fool me once, shame on you .... Fool me twice, shame on me." Well, he's sought to fool us four times now with this. I ain't buying it!! Here are the current response times (in number of days) between Thomas and me during the course of this debate to this point:

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to "do the math" here and perceive a problem. Thomas wrote, "Al, do you think the world is at a standstill while it awaits a debate article from me?" No, of course not. But what about a modicum of common courtesy for your debate opponent and the readers? What about even an attempt at honoring your agreement to a 7-10 days response time (with occasional requests for a few extra days)? Must I remind my opponent that it was he who challenged me to this debate, and thus perhaps it is he who has some responsibility here to seeing it through in a timely fashion?

Some might suggest this is somewhat petty to even be discussing, however it goes to the issue of one's character and credibility. I believe in the course of this debate both have been called into serious question as they pertain to my opponent. That works to my advantage, of course, but I am not nearly as concerned with "winning" a point as I am over the fact that my brother in Christ is "losing" so much more by his attitude and actions!! As a professed spiritual leader of God's children, he sets a poor example indeed. And it is that which concerns me most of all. Secondarily, although certainly of major concern as well, is the fact that he also is leading others away from Truth on this issue by promoting his traditional, pagan-based falsehoods on the nature of man and the destiny of the wicked.

Of course, it is too late now to hope for any clear evidence of a turning away from this pettiness since all that remains in this debate, after this present post, is our respective concluding remarks. Thus, I suspect we shall be privileged to read Thomas Thrasher's at the last minute of the last hour of the 41st day following the posting of my current comments! He may be plagued with the sin of procrastination, but at least my opponent has one good quality -- consistency!!


One of the passages to which reference was made several times in my opponent's last post was Matthew 25:46 --- "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Thomas quoted John W. Wilson, who wrote, "Well, just as long as these righteous enjoy their reward, the wicked will suffer their punishment." He also quoted Albert Gardner, who wrote, "It is easy to see that Life is the same in duration as is the Punishment of the wicked. If one is temporary, so is the other."

Gardner's mistake, of course, is in thinking the conditionalist position is that the punishment of the wicked is temporary. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Both the punishment of the wicked and the blessing of the righteous are enduring. Both are "aionios." As explained in a previous post, this term can be used both qualitatively and quantitatively in Scripture, and indeed is used as much one way as the other. Also, it is important to define the nature of the punishment. "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). The contrast in destinies is life and death.

Both these fates are enduring. For just as long as the redeemed LIVE, the unredeemed will be DEAD. Life and death are both forever. The righteous will always be alive, the wicked will always be dead. Neither is temporary, but rather forever. It is important to understand that the text declares it is the punishment (result) that endures, not the punishing (process). Dying is the process; death is the result. It is the latter that is forever.

I would strongly encourage the readers, and Thomas also, to carefully consider the comments of one of the great thinkers in the Restoration Movement today, and a dear brother and friend: Dr. Leroy Garrett, the editor of the well-known and respected periodical Restoration Review. The following article appeared in that publication several years ago and is some much needed food for thought.

by Dr. Leroy Garrett, Editor
Restoration Review

Thomas, and some of his sources, sought to impress upon us a meaning of "apollumi" that they feel fits their theology much better -- "to ruin; a loss of well-being." There is no question that many of the words in the Greek language (and in English also) have multiple meanings and applications. This is known as semantic range. The art and science of biblical hermeneutics is in applying sound principles to best determine which meaning is applicable to a particular text and context. This will, and must, take into account the entire teaching of Scripture on a particular subject, such as the destiny of the wicked. When that destiny is understood, then one will be able to intelligently interpret the specific meaning and application of a particular word or phrase in a particular context.

The Greek word "apollumi" means: "to destroy utterly; to bring to naught, make void; to perish; to be put to death" (The Analytical Greek Lexicon of the NT). Yes, W.E. Vine gives his opinion and interpretation of the application of this word with respect to the lost, but even he himself declares the word to be "a strengthened form of ollumi, signifying to destroy utterly" (Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament defines these terms (apollumi and apoleia) as "destruction, annihilation" (Vol. 1, p. 135).

Consider this term as it is used of the wicked in the following passages of Scripture: "The very memory of them has perished" (Ps. 9:6). Does that sound like a memory still in existence? "But the wicked will perish; and the enemies of the Lord will be like the glory of the pastures, they vanish -- like smoke they vanish away" (Ps. 37:20). Does this sound like something still in existence? "As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before God" (Ps. 68:2). "Those who contend with You will be as nothing, and will perish .... Those who war with You will be as nothing, and non-existent" (Isaiah 41:11-12). This is a case of synonymous parallelism in which "contend" and "war" are synonymous parallels, and "perish" and "non-existent" are synonymous parallels. "Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more" (Ps. 104:35).

Thomas, I fail to see a whole lot of "everlasting existence" in such figures from God's Word. Will such destruction and oblivion be the "ruin" of these wicked persons? Absolutely. But for you to redefine death as life and destruction as preservation is an appalling twisting of the inspired message of our God. Death is a "loss of life," not a "life of loss." To promote your theology you must literally take words and phrases and give them the exact opposite meaning and application to accepted biblical and extra-biblical usage. That fact alone should cause one to seriously question the entire traditional teaching on this matter.


One of the great American Restoration Movement leaders of the distant past was a man by the name of Elias Smith (often referred to as "Elder" Elias Smith), who lived and worked during the late 1700's and early 1800's. In the year 1816 he penned his autobiography. In the following excerpt he wrote about his break with the Baptists. Among the several doctrines he began to seriously study and rethink (among which were certain Calvinistic teachings and the Baptist view of baptism) was the traditional teaching on the nature of hell and the destiny of the wicked. He did some serious reflection from the Word on this topic. Notice the following words from Elias Smith himself (beginning on page 347 of The Life, Conversion, Preaching, Travel and Sufferings of Elias Smith):

I can identify quite readily with my fellow brother, preacher and elder. My experience was very much similar. Having come to the Truth, however, I can never again remain silent in the face of pagan untruths parading as the will of my God. Thus, I have appreciated the opportunity this debate afforded me to make even a small personal contribution to elevating Truth and destroying Satan's original lie, which is: You will not die, but will be just like God (Genesis 3:4-5). It is time for Thomas, and those in his camp, to cease proclaiming the "gospel of the Serpent" and return to the pure gospel of our Savior.

With this post the body of our debate comes to an end. Obviously, neither of us has convinced the other, but I seriously doubt either of us really expected to. I pray, however, that in our dialogue and debate with one another that you, the reader, have been challenged to do some serious reflection upon the inspired writings, and that with an open heart and mind, and with a prayerful attitude, you will ponder the questions raised by this exchange.

All that remains is for each of us to submit a summation of our position. As soon as Thomas sends his ... 41 days from now ... mine will follow within a few hours. May God richly bless each of you in your studies of His Word.

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