J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong

Gavin Ortlund | October 7, 2015


The doctrine of hell is the most difficult aspect of the Christian faith for many people. It is for me. I feel acutely the unremitting sadness of this doctrine. But to be a Christian is—at the very least—to confess Christ the Son of God, and to confess Christ the Son of God is—at the very least—to submit to his teaching. And this includes his teaching on hell (which was quite copious and colorful).

Saint Anselm once said we should give thanks for whatever of the Christian faith we can understand with our minds; but when we come to something we don’t understand, we should “bow our heads in reverent submission.” That seems like godly and wise advice to me. We simply don’t have the option to pick and choose from what the Bible teaches: we are called to submit to its authority over us.

The traditional doctrine of hell is currently undergoing significant challenges from both within and without the church. Many question the reality of hell outright, while many others opt toward annihiliationism—the belief that the damned won’t suffer eternally but will instead have their consciousness extinguished at some point. In 1997 J. I. Packer wrote a brief article in Reformation and


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