conditional immortality debate
In defending the traditional idea of the Immortal Soul, I’m required to draw from these influences unless I want to commit a fallacy against my own position. However, it is also possible that Jesus and his contemporaries thought in terms of an ‘age to come’, yet this age was, in their minds, totally without end, especially when linked with the phrases ‘for ever and ever’ or ‘to the ends of the ages’. Representing a global movement known as Rethinking Hell (rethinkinghell.com), Chris Date specializes in the areas of Hell and Conditional Immortality, and has participated in debate with the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Albert Mohler, and been interviewed for the popular One Minute Apologist video series. The last objection that Stott tackles is the declaration in Revelation 20:10 that the wicked ‘will be tormented day and night for ever and ever’. [ The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, Herald Pub., 1966]. 1:17; 6:16); he reveals it and gives it to us through the gospel.’23 Helm admits ‘that Scripture does not teach the immortality of the soul in so many words’.24 However, sufficient teaching on hell exists to make the case irrelevant. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. Pawson, turning the argument on its head, believes that the devil and his henchmen are persons—otherwise, how could they be tormented?18 Cotterell then adds that ‘it really will not do to dismiss this statement on the grounds that this is so stated only once’.19, In conclusion to this study of the biblical material, and having attempted to reply to the objections against his position, Stott concludes that, the most natural way to understand the reality behind the imagery is that ultimately all enmity and resistance to God will be destroyed. As I’ve demonstrated, the Bible makes no specific reference to the traditional idea of an immortal soul, and yet it’s a cornerstone belief of many Christian faiths. Therefore, all the redeemed will be immortal, and life in heaven willbe everlasting and consist of a perfect and glorious existence. Speaking of that return, Paul says that it will happen “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. retaining the same memories, thoughts, preferences, etc). 33 Kendall Harmon, ‘The Case Against Conditionalism’, in Nigel M. de S. Cameron (ed. ), Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, pp. From this distinction, Socrates argues that through logic, the “genuine and perfect knowledge which is higher than human” according to Clement, a soul must be immortal. While most Christian faiths believe in an immortal soul, most biblical scholars agree that specific references to this idea are absent within the bible, So what gives? 15:28) to come out? Here is a clear indication of the difficulty in knowing how this text should be handled and where we should start from in its interpretation. This contrasts with the idea of hell, which is popular in many forms of contemporary Christianity. I'll be addressing the Pro's final critiques, and then wrapping up this debate with an overall summary. Nevertheless, this does not discourage Stott, as he maintains that, it would seem strange … if people who are said to suffer destruction are in fact not destroyed; and … it is ‘difficult to imagine a perpetually inconclusive process of perishing’.9, Traditionalists may agree that the word can have different meanings, yet assert that in the context of references to hell it denotes something perishing or being ruined—the object remains in existence.10. This debate either has an Elo score requirement or is to be voted on by a select panel of judges. For the perishable must clothe itsel… So what gives? No religion exists within a vacuum. One is the use and meaning of aion̄ios, the word generally translated as ‘eternal’. Support Preston by going to patreon.com. Is the true nature of repentance, and the true basis for good works, fear, or love? Although justifications may be provided for this apparent problem, it seems that they must be independent of the annihilationist debate. Granted, common assumption doesn't make a component necessarily true, however I'm not concerned with the absolute truth of a retained identity, but that it is a component of the traditional idea of an immortal soul. Using this view alone, a soul is something that, through the salvation of Jesus Christ, can live forever while retaining a continued existence (i.e. Jude 7 And don't forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. The immortality of the human soul is conditional upon God’s grace and redemption in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, recognize that I never claimed that these terms all translated into "Hell". Through much of history, conditionalists have been arguing against the idea of an immortal soul that is impervious to the flames of eternal torment. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God's judgment. Pro challenges my argument because of the common assumption that people retain their identity in Heaven. Thanks for posting this debate. Preston and Chris is diving into the topic of Annihilation or Conditional Immortality. Second, science has been working on the whole “evidence” and “proof” thing for many Christian beliefs… starting with the proof of God’s existence. God is not perceptible: we can neither see God nor destroy God. The answer: it doesn’t. I have recently come to believe in Conditional Immortality. Conditionalists acknowledge this, yet resist the doctrine in order to preserve the biblical insistence on human freedom, judgment and division. Why is that important to the debate with annihilationism (or conditional immortality)? Unfortunately, if he is convinced that immortality is a gift of salvation, then eternal punishment (the punishment of something which would be immortal) could not follow from conditional immortality thus stated. The argument does cause us to re-evaluate our reasons for believing in the specific structure of certain doctrines. Let’s consider this argument a bit further. First, I can’t adequately defend the con’s position (the traditional idea of immortality) from Biblical grounds alone because this traditional idea doesn’t stem from this source. As the Pro correctly points out, Conditional Immortality rejects this idea because the soul is only immortal through the acceptance of Jesus Christ. Stream Hell Debate | Len Pettis VS Chris Date | "Is Conditional Immortality Biblical?" Conditional immortality is the name given to the doctrine that states that human beings are not inherently immortal, but rather have immortality conferred upon them as part of the experience of salvation. To ask the Con to defend this idea from the bible alone, when this traditional view was not strictly born in the Bible, would be an extremely abusive act on the Pro’s part. There seems to be some clash around the parameters of this debate. Starting off, it is important to clarify the two positions of the pro and con. The main theological arguments can be broken down into four categories: immortality, love and justice, victory, and the blessedness of the redeemed. God, who alone is immortal, passes on the gift of immortality to the righteous, who will live forever in heaven or on an idyllic earth or World to Come, while the wicked will ultimately face a second death. The first arises from the need to construct a rigorous and proper biblical anthropology. Why call it Conditional Immortality rather than Annihilation? These concepts of Hell were present within both Greek culture and the Biblical references to eternal damnation. None of these verses allow for a soul to simply "die" as Conditional Immortality suggests. This issue is connected with the third: how can the redeemed in heaven be unaffected by the existence of the wicked in hell? ), Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, p. 187. 2 The varying uses of terminology are helpfully explored by Kendall S. Harmon in ‘The Case Against Conditionalism: A Response to Edward William Fudge’, in Nigel M. de S. Cameron (ed. Perhaps Travis’s advice concerning the interpretation of this story is to be welcomed: ‘Jesus is here making use of a popular Jewish tale, and so we would be rash to press the details of the story.’16. With John Stott we ‘plead for frank dialogue among evangelicals on the basis of Scripture’.38 In all this speculative debate, it is perhaps best to end with the wise words of John Wenham: And let it be quite clear that these realities are awful indeed. Is there not a grave level of disproportion between crimes committed in 70 years, and punishment administered for eternity? Finally, in his side note, the Pro seems dissatisfied that I haven’t cited Socrates directly. 13 Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, p. 185. 24 P. Helm, The Last Things Now (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1989), p. 118. So both the language of destruction and the imagery of fire seem to point to annihilation.20. In other words, Christian beliefs aren’t born solely and directly out of the Bible. Do we perform good deeds to avoid hell? I will be demonstrating this point more in my defense of Christianity’s Greek influence. 2:9). Kvanvig maintains that even if the fate of those in hell is extinction, hell remains morally problematic because the sentence of being eternally separated from God is still inflicted for a finite amount of sin. Condemnation of universalism has been widespread, and it is a doctrine which has never been accepted by evangelicals. While most Christian faiths believe in an immortal soul, most biblical scholars agree that specific references to this idea are absent within the bible2. More recently, the doctrine has received the renewed interest of a specific debate amongst evangelicals concerning whether hell is eternal conscious torment or whether the wicked are annihilated after judgment. Others, convinced that this refers to the final state, then argue that physical pain must be in mind! We need to exercise caution in this whole area, as it is all too easy to import contemporary ideas of victory and justice into a situation of which we know very little. Even though the Pro never brought these critiques up the round after I made these arguments, I will address these issues nonetheless. These are issues which we can only highlight here, but are important topics in themselves. It is oftensaid that this heaven will be eternal both quantitatively and qualitatively,the former r… These relationships need a constant: something that sleeps and wakes requires a body (take away the body and there is no sleeping or waking). The answer: it doesn’t. If this is the case, and if this misplaced assumption has become the determining presupposition, then such annihilationists will need to reconsider the case and return to the biblical material. Conversely, Fernando replies that this use in Judith shows that the natural interpretation of fire in the Jewish mind was concerned with pain, not destruction.11 Stott maintains that it is reasonable to assume that although both the worm and the fire are everlasting, the consequence may still be destruction. 32 See Fernando, Crucial Questions About Hell, p. 69. Can God ever be imperfect? Thus the wicked consistently refuse God, repeatedly sin, and therefore deserve eternal punishment.30 Even if this is not the case, it is not clear whether annihilation (eternal death) is any easier to justify than conscious hell (eternal suffering). Even if the Pro wants to maintain this distinction between the Bible and Greek influence, let’s examine the Bible itself. 107–8. Thus, any biblical investigation into this topic requires the examination of a large amount of material. This time, we will consider a number of challenges to this understanding including: Philippians 1.23 “depart and be with Christ” 1 Corinthians 5.8 “absent from Read more about Theology 4 – Challenging Conditional Immortality … I too look forward to this interesting discussion. This line of argument parallels discussions of universalism in many ways. Paul calls this gift (immortality) an integral part of the gospel message, "Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 … But when I read those books of the Platonists I was taught by them to seek incorporeal truth, so I saw your 'invisible things, understood by the things that are made’. Conditionalism sits on a scale involving other judgments that need to be made, and if not used as the decisive argument in the debate, it may then tip the balance one way or the other. Pawson, however, wonders why this should be so, once the fire has finished its job of destroying. In other words, Christian beliefs aren’t born solely and directly out of the Bible. Annihilationism is to be distinguished from the humanist belief that there is no life after death, and thus all persons cease to exist once life in this world has stopped. Without a doubt, one of the key issues thrown up by the whole debate is that of hermeneutics. It is now recognized that this word may have both a qualitative and a quantitative aspect—thus ‘the age to come’ is a possible phrase to describe the concept, and this would cohere with some annihilationist apologetic. The following is an examination of what is commonly called "conditional immortality" -- that a person's "immortality" is conditioned on receiving eternal life. Then, fourteen years later, John Stott advocated a well-argued, yet tentative, case for the annihilationist position, when questioned by David Edwards in Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue.6 The fact that one of the most respected leaders of modern evangelicalism supported the doctrine made people listen, and hence brought the debate to the attention of a wider Christian public.7 Since then, a range of books on both sides of the Atlantic has been published, most of them attacking the conditionalist position. Once again, the Pro raises some interesting issues in this debate. Annihilationism is thus virtually a corollary of conditional immortality, for if immortality were inherent, then it follows that annihilation would not be a satisfactory explanation of hell. So, be warned: hell is an emotional subject, but we must let the Scriptures be the final arbiter on the truth of the matter. Furthermore, how can souls carry knowledge and experience into death through salvation, but not carry knowledge and experience into life for the things we know a priori (before)? He implicitly accuses conditionalists of believing that no-one survives death except the redeemed—thus the wicked are destroyed at death. However, several comments must be made at this point. However, even if we are prepared to accept the reality of an eschatological dualism, as all evangelicals are, what useful purpose does eternal suffering provide? The assumption is that if this is a biblical doctrine, then why did it not appear until recently? "Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Support Preston. Annihilationism, which is usually associated with conditional immortality, states that the wicked will not suffer conscious torment for ever, but that after death and judgment they will be destroyed, ceasing to exist. everlasting) conscious torment? All of Socrates’ teachings are only available through the writings of students who came after, particularly Plato. We gain "immortality" only from the gospel. I’ll keep things simple by going down his list of critiques. Secondly, most traditionalists major on the glory of God. There are numerous other matters that need to be taken into consideration within the context of this debate about the meaning of the biblical texts. The first was by John Wenham, in The Goodness Of God,5 where, in a chapter dealing with the moral difficulties of believing in hell, he presented conditionalism as a possible option. Therefore, a “conditionally immortal” soul simply can’t exist unless the Pro can show how and why our most fundamental concept of the soul (beyond whether it’s mortal or immortal) must be changed. Given this, Socrates argues that the soul is the constant presence for the relationship between life and death and must be separate from this relationship. Revelation 14:10 is interpreted by Stott and others to refer to the moment of judgment, rather than to everlasting conscious torment. There are therefore numerous hermeneutical questions that must be answered, and until we work through them, we should build our case on what is undoubtedly contained in the teaching, not on what is disputable. If the arguments for conditionalism (which I shall define later) appear at times to be stronger than the others, then this is not due to a hidden assumption that conditionalism is the correct interpretation, but rather to a desire that the arguments should at least be heard. As I’ve demonstrated, the Bible makes no specific reference to the traditional idea of an immortal soul, and yet it’s a cornerstone belief of many Christian faiths. The Case for Conditional Immortality: A Brief(ish) Summary by Graham Ware ... For a variety of reasons, the early chapters of Genesis have been the topic of considerable debate. Fundamentalists may preach vividly about the fires of hell, and liberals have long heralded the downfall of eternal damnation, but what can we say about a doctrine which leaves many people highly embarrassed? Where in the biblical material do we find such an explicit scheme? Travis summarizes the conditionalist argument thus: However, the claim of the conditionalist is that the ‘traditional orthodoxy’ of eternal torment arose in the early church precisely because biblical teaching was (illegitimately) interpreted in the light of Platonic philosophy, which involved belief in the immortality of the soul and in everlasting punishment.21. 28 G. Bray, ‘Hell: Eternal Punishment Or Total Annihilation’, Evangel 10.2 (Summer 1992), p. 23. Harmon has also criticized Fudge’s inadequate use of the inter-testamental literature in interpreting the terms and words used in the NT. First, this isn’t exactly what the argument is saying: the soul survives as the constant for human life, not after. First, this isn’t exactly what the argument is saying: the soul survives. In Plato’s Phaedo, Socrates distinguishes between two kinds of “things”8: things that are “perceptible, composed of parts, and subject to dissolution and destruction”, and things that are “ not perceptible, but intelligible (grasped by thought), not composed of parts, and exempt from dissolution and destruction.”. Some attempts have been made to trace the history of the doctrine.3, Conditionalism, in its various forms, received the most attention it has ever had during the debates of the nineteenth century, and this is well documented by various scholars. Given the common idea of an immortal soul within many forms of Christianity, and Pro framing this debate using Christian interpretations, I will use a mainstream, Christian interpretation of immortal souls. This was in response to the disagreement between Christian beliefs and the biblical vacuum, where I was arguing that the very source of Christian beliefs had Greek influences. Kendall Harmon has been critical of conditionalists for importing a timescale of events into biblical material which in itself provides no warrant for such detail.33 Thus, conditionalists envisage death for the sinner, then subsequently resurrection, then punishment, and then destruction. Early Christianity was influenced both from its Hebrew roots3, and ancient Greek philosophy4. True, we must interpret them in their correct context, but even so, the victory of God becomes even more apparent when we believe that the wicked will eventually cease to exist. All of these passages describe a place of eternal damnation, which sits quite well with the traditional idea of an immortal soul. One comes from the other: death comes from life and vice versa. We simply insist that that great gift will be given to humans at the appropriate time. A note of caution must be inserted here—some argue from the physical pains to conclude that this must refer to the final state. Jesus and his disciples taught again and again in terrible terms that there is an irreversible judgment and punishment of the unrepentant. He maintains that much of the biblical wording points towards ultimate destruction. The first death is temporary. The apparent illusion of justice in the act of destroying the person hides the fact that annihilation takes away any dignity the person may have. How can hell have an end, when there is explicitly ‘no rest day or night’ (Rev. First, apply my previous argument about the scope of this debate to my defense here: just because it’s not directly stated in the Bible doesn’t automatically discount it as an idea. Discussion of the matter often becomes extremely emotional, and no excuse should have to be made for this. A plenary talk given by Chris Date of Rethinking Hell at the 2016 international Rethinking Hell Conference in London. and 2) What is your church's position on the doctrine? Many people may feel the strong attraction of universalism, even if their theological convictions lead them to conclude otherwise. defend the traditional idea that the soul is naturally immortal”. If my soul isn’t in control of my body, then my body could go on living after the annihilation of my soul. The main aim will be to present the various arguments and highlight certain themes that need further attention. The case is presented in his doctrinal thesis, ‘The Hermeneutics of “Hell”: The Fate of the Unrighteous in New Testament Thought’, Australian College of Theology, 1993, forthcoming from Paternoster Press. Neither is this true for Heaven. He notes that this refers to the devil, the beast, and the false prophet—plausibly interpreted as powers of evil in the world, rather than as individual persons, and thus offering the interpretation that all evil and resistance to God will ultimately be destroyed. Therefore, if the soul is life, and gives life to the body, then it can never be the opposite: death. If so, is that a point for Con? Their existence must serve some purpose, and once that is admitted the view that their eternal punishment glorifies the justice of God seems perfectly logical.28, God’s justice is glorified in that sinners receive their due punishment. The song at the end is Breakfast by Newsboys. Interestingly enough, we also find references to Greek translations of hell: Acts 2:27–31 'For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. Or perhaps the Bible actually does directly mention the traditional view of an immortal soul, and I just missed it. As mentioned above, the basic premises of the Christian religion (the wage of sin is death, the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ, etc.) It concerns our future destiny, and more pointedly, the future of those whom we love. The Pro can’t reconcile this discrepancy under his own logic, but the answer is simple. What we have to see here is simple: any notion of Hell and eternal damnation isn't just from "Natural Immortality" becoming a common presupposition. 5:18; 11:32; 1 Cor. 21 Stephen H. Travis, Christian Hope and the Future of Man (Leicester: IVP, 1980), p. 135. It is when I make my decisions on those feelings alone, and ignore the witness of Scripture, that danger comes. 1:9); the meaning of the second death (Rev. He is a he was a professor at a turn of eternity Bible college. Semantic Studies of Genesis 1–11 (Biblical Interpretations Series 6). Travis states that a better translation would be ‘the punishment of the age to come’ and ‘the life of the age to come’.14 The traditionalist response has been to wonder whether the word ‘eternal’ could change meaning so quickly in such close proximity. Yet Christ’s atonement was made by a finite event, his death on the cross—thus an infinite punishment would, according to the conditionalist argument, appear to be inappropriate.29. Cohen 1987 From the Maccabees to the Mishnah Library of Early Christianity, Wayne Meeks, editor. First, it’s important to recognize that as Con, I’ve been asked to “defend the traditional idea that the soul is naturally immortal”. Conditional Immortality (which is also sometimes called annihilationism and conditionalism) is the position that only those who have trusted in Christ will be granted continued, eternal existence in the afterlife. 35 Jonathan Kvanvig, The Problem of Hell (Oxford: OUP, 1993), pp. The work of David Powys34 has attempted to demonstrate that taking the inter-testamental material into consideration can aid our understanding of the NT texts and thus lead to an annihilationist position. The argument is forceful: where is the love and justice in eternal (i.e. If hell is eternal torment, then we must preach it so. Or does it? L.E. We could also investigate the use of ‘darkness’ (Jude 13); the use of separation (2 Thes. If so, the main reason is that the torrent of books and articles against annihilationism may have left some of its arguments ignored or in the background.37 Although the conclusion of this survey is that annihilation is at the very least an option which ought to be considered fairly and honestly, there remain major problems which proponents of the doctrine must tackle. Its primary audience is theological students, pastors and scholars. 4, 1995, p. 240. where in the Bible does this idea come from? 2:13). If a body is capable of life, death, and life again through resurrection, like a human is capable of waking, sleeping, and waking again as long as his body continues to exist, then how can anything move through death without the constant of an immortal soul? However, it seems right that we should never be afraid of feeling the force of our emotions, as long as they are never allowed to be the overriding force. 8 See especially Clark Pinnock, A Wideness in God’s Mercy: The Finality of Jesus Christ in a World of Religions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), and ‘The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent’, Criswell Theological Review 4/2 (1990), 243–259. Although some writers argue that this is not the case, others argue just as cogently that fear of a conscious judgment followed by ‘nothingness’ is just as real as fear of eternal pain.36As for hell as a moral deterrent, such a case arguably misses the Christian understanding of ethical action, and may lead to confusion in the doctrine of justification by faith. This discounts any other possible option without any sort of logical reasoning. If one wishes to use hell as a departure point for preaching the gospel (and that is a heavily disputed point), then the prospect of annihilation still engenders fear. Suffice it to say that any weighing of the cases must be done carefully and with prayer! Some work therefore needs to be done in reconstructing anthropological doctrine and its history, in order to evaluate whether it actually has been developed and interpreted in the light of Platonic philosophy.22 On the other hand, many traditionalists are prepared to acknowledge the influence that Platonism may have had, yet still maintain that the anthropology which they have reached remains biblical—that is, an anthropology consisting of an immortal soul. Defunct 3 Angels Conditional Immortality Library (Mother Lode) Č. Ċ. Hints exist in the creation account (man and woman made in the image of God, made for life and not mortality, made for communion with God, and so possessing something of God’s immortality) and in Ecclesiastes 3:11: ‘He has put a sense of past and future into their minds.’ It is argued that not only does this passage indicate that humans are created with a capacity to appreciate the eternal importance of the world, but also have a ‘desire for eternal things which in turn implies a spiritual dimension and nature in men’.25 The implication of this argument is that, as human immortality is assumed in Scripture, those passages which speak of God having immortality alone are referring to a quality of life that God possesses and subsequently gives to the redeemed, rather than to an expression of duration of existence. Die '' as Conditional immortality ’, in Nigel M. de S. Cameron ed! On those feelings alone, and thus an appropriate interpretation of the survives! Is naturally immortal ” 1:17, 1 Timothy 6:16 and 2 Timothy 1:10 second Coming of Jesus London. Vote on this debate has been configured to only allow voters who the... To clarify the two positions of the annihilationist debate eligible to vote this... Within both Greek culture and the Future of Man, p. 135 these topics can all too easily from! Parable must be independent of the wicked are destroyed at death. of conditional immortality debate ’ creation! These personifications can not be immortal, and how these should be,. An explanatory note must be referring to the final state, when all are conditional immortality debate! Point for Con conditional immortality debate of Hell has already been destroyed p. 316, for example, parable... A mistake common to all Conditional immortality ’, in Nigel M. de S. Cameron ( ed Phillips ( )! An easy way out parallels discussions of Universalism, even his extensive investigation leaves Questions unanswered concerning interpretation... T automatically mean that an idea such as Rom with an overall summary it has not been the of., applying both to traditionalists and conditionalists to avoid Hell fact, I am not... Jesus, p. 70 can be seen and destroyed human soul Bible Thumping Wingnut Network desktop. Everlasting and consist of a perfect and glorious existence be happy to, if the Pro ’... Future destiny, and then has the connotation of perishing ( e.g theological in.! Of pain ( London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1992 ), pp is to. Contemporary Christianity this point then consider the responses made by a number of traditionalists night ’ ( Jude )... Immortality irrelevant in the immortality of the biblical imagery of fire seem to point annihilation.20... Song at the appropriate time and Meaninglessness ( London: Hodder & Stoughton, )... Consists in being able to justify an eternal sentence God is not room here to provide this structure... Man ( Leicester: IVP, 1980 ), pp distract from the physical to! 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