The Comprehensive and Eternal Retributive View of Hell: Glossary

Annihilationism: Annihilationism is a view on Hell that comes in various forms, what all these forms share in common is the idea that Hell is not eternal punishment but will end at some point with the annihilation of the unbelieving soul.  Those who hold to the flavour known as Conditional Immortality believe that immortality is a gift only given to believers; souls of unbelievers are annihilated because they do not receive the gift of eternal life. Other forms of Annihilationism see the soul of an unbeliever either being annihilated immediately at death, after the resurrection, or after a protracted period of punishment in Hell (here as an actual location like the traditional form of Hell, just minus the eternal aspect).


Compatibilism: Compatibilism is a philosophy that says human responsibility is compatible with determinism. Some compatibilists would say free will is compatible with determinism, but this would be using free will in a different sense then it is usually employed (i.e. the power of contrary choice) and so is most often avoided. Most often compatibilists will say that man does not possess free will at all.[1] Compatibilism is also sometimes called the power of voluntary choice. Our wills are free in the sense that we are able to choose whatever our hearts desire at any time. In this model—at least the form held by Jonathan Edwards—a distinction is made between moral ability and natural ability. Moral ability is determined by the inclination of our heart; if I am so evil that my will would never choose a good act then I am said to be morally unable to do good. Natural ability is simply the possession of the ability to do something: a man has the natural ability to walk but not to fly; a bird has a natural ability to fly but not to hibernate; a fish has the natural ability to swim but not to walk. According to this schema responsibility for ones actions is based on natural ability and not moral ability. If I am commanded to fly and I fail because I am naturally unable to do such a thing, I am not responsible for this failure. But if I am told to walk and fail to do this because my will is so inclined against it that I have no ability to choose to obey the command, I am held responsible for my failing. This makes sense; we would still judge a criminal for his crimes even if his heart was so corrupt and vile that he only ever desires to do evil and is unable to desire to do good.


Contingency (philosophical): A contingent event or proposition in philosophy is something that is neither necessarily true (a tautology) nor necessarily false (a contradiction). It has also sometimes been used to describe something that is free from a ground of reason, from a necessitating cause. In this usage it would be describing something whose existence is not fixed on anything antecedent and has no direct connections.[2]


Determinism/Determination: Philosophically determination is the causing of something to be one way as opposed to another. Something is determined if it is fixed and unalterable. If my choice in the future is definitely foreknown in one way or another so that an entity knows what choice I will make, that choice is determined for I could not choose contrary to what this entity has foreknown (or else his foreknowledge would be inaccurate and not actual foreknowledge of a definite future event). Hard determinism eradicates all conception of free will or human responsibility and sees all things as determined by an exterior force with no conception of freedom or voluntary choice (naturalism or fatalism would fall under worldviews that subscribe to Hard Determinism). Soft Determinism sees the universe as determined (for Christian’s the universe would be determined by God’s sovereign providence, plan, and foreknowledge) but they see this determination as compatible with our freedom and responsibility; even though our choices are determined beforehand we still make them voluntarily, they are not coerced.


Exegesis: Exegesis is the act of interpreting Scripture according to the principles of Hermeneutics. One performs exegesis, they exegete a text. It is taking out of the text what the author intended to say, contra Eisegesis which is to read into the text.


Hermeneutics: Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation, specifically the interpretation of the Bible. The principles laid out by this science are used in the process of exegesis. One uses hermeneutics (the method and principles) to perform the action of exegesis.


Imputation: Imputation, contra Impartation, is the attribution of something foreign to our account. It is the act of crediting; we receiving something but our nature is not changed. Impartation is the gifting of something resulting in actual change. Imputation has been described as the attribution of something where as impartation is the actual transmission of something. In reference to justification we are imputed with Christ’s righteousness; that is His righteousness, His positive merit, is credited to our accounted, attributed to us. This means that we do not possess a righteous nature but we have a positive status of righteousness on account of Christ’s work. Impartation, on the other hand, would be—as the Catholic Church believes–the actual transmission of righteousness so that we are not declared legally to be righteous but actually become righteous in nature (which is a combination of the Biblical understanding of sanctification, our progressive transformation in the direction of holiness, and the Biblical doctrine of justification, the legal declaration of us being righteous on account of Christ’s perfect life).


Libertarian free will: Libertarian free will says that we are free, have free will, when we are always able to choose more than one option. If I am making any choice I must be able to choose either A or B (etc.) or else I am not free. If our choices are determined in any way then we no longer have free will. As a consequence of this view, determination renders human responsibility null.  This view is also known as the power of contrary choice.


Literal/historical view of Hell: The literal/historical view of Hell is that of eternal conscious punishment in literal flames. Hell is seen as a place where unbelievers are sent after the resurrection and where they will experience for an eternity conscious—they will be awake and aware—punishment, the pouring out of God’s wrath, in literal Hell fire.


Metaphorical understanding of Hell: The metaphorical understanding of Hell is a catch-all title for those views of Hell that affirm the historical understanding of eternal conscious punishment but reject the idea of literal flames in Hell. This view has taken various forms, but the most common today is that Hell is a purely mental state; it is a spiritual torment that unbelievers put themselves through as they experience eternal separation from God and are left to their own vile sinful hearts and contemplate their state.


Molinism: Molinism, initially suggested by a Jesuit named Molina, is a philosophically complex view on how we are saved. It postulates that God has what is known as “middle-knowledge,” the knowledge of all possible worlds and every foreseeable circumstance,[3] and because of His middle knowledge He chose to create a world where the maximum number of people would freely choose to accept His free offer of salvation through the Cross (this is an incredibly simplified explanation of it). Because in a Molinist schema God is foreseeing the choices of man to accept His offer of salvation and then proceeding to elect them on this basis—which is conditional election—this view falls square into the Arminian camp. It is surged in popularity recently, largely because of the work of the Philosopher William Lane Craig.


Open Theism: Open theism is a false teaching that says that God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge of the future. They say that God’s omniscience means that He is in possession of all possible knowledge, but because the future has yet to happen it is impossible to know what it will look like: therefore God cannot know the future. This view comes about from an attempt to reconcile free will (libertarian) with God’s omniscience. If God exhaustively knows the future then the future becomes determined. Because God knows what choice I am going to make on May 1, 2014 I will be unable to choose otherwise. Even though my choice is absolutely voluntary and free from any coercion, I am not free according to libertarianism because I do not at this time (because of God’s foreknowledge) possess the power of contrary choice. The only way, under this view, for me to possess the power of contrary choice is for the future to be indeterminate. Therefore, instead of rejecting the presupposition of libertarian free will, an Open Theists rejects the clear testimony of Scripture as to God’s exhaustive foreknowledge and takes up the view that God does not know the future because the future is indeterminate and unknowable to any being.


Presupposition: Presuppositions are pre-held beliefs. We all carry many presuppositions and we bring them to any inquisition we undertake. We need to be aware of our presuppositions so as to allow them to be changed in light of study and investigation and avoid having them unwittingly distort findings.


Universalism: Universalism is a view of Hell that says all people will one day end up in heaven; all will eventually be saved. Often those labelled as a universalists—Universalist is actually a proper noun for a sect that joined with Unitarianism to become Unitarian-Universalism, but I am using it here as a title for someone who holds to the view of Universalism and not necessarily that specific sect—are actually hopeful universalists; they hope that God will save all people, they see it as a possibility, but are not willing to commit and say that God will absolutely save all man (an example of this is Karl Barth). Universalists differ on whether all people will enter immediately into God’s presence after the resurrection, or will suffer for some extended period of time in Hell and experience there restorative judgment. One way or another, all men will end up in the presence of God.


Will (philosophically): The will is the faculty of our mind by which we choose, by which we make choices. [4]

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[1] Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, ed. J. I Packer and O. R Johnston (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell Company, 2003).

[2] Edwards, Freedom of the will, 18.

[3] It is debated whether middle knowledge can actually exist (in the Bible there are Scriptures that may suggest middle knowledge (e.g. Matt. 11:23); though all these suggest is possible counterfactual knowledge, not necessarily the complete Molinist system).

[4] Jonathan Edwards, Freedom of the will (Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications, 2012), 1.



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