Champions of Conditional Immortality in History
"...our Lord Jesus Christ,...the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality..."(1 Timothy 6:14-16
"and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10)
"And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken." (Genesis 3:22-23)
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14)
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; (Romans 2:6, 7)
"For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:53, 54)
Champions of Conditional Immortality in History
Dr. Martin Luther
Archbishop Francis Blackburne
Johann von Mosheim
Dr. Joseph Priestley
Richard or Robert Overton
Archbishop John Tillotson
Dr. Isaac Barrow
Dr. William Coward
Joseph Nicol Scott
Dr. Joseph Priestley
Bishop Edmund Law
Archdeacon Francis Blackburne
Bishop William Warburton
Dr. William Whiston
Dr. John Tottie
Bishop Timothy Kendrick
Dr. Amos Phelps
Dr. William Thomson
Dr. Edward White
Dr. John Thomas
Archbishop Richard Whately
Dean Henry Alford
James Panton Ham
Charles F. Hudson
Dr. Robert W. Dale
Frederick W. Farrar
William E. Gladstone
Bishop John J. S. Perowne
Sir George G. Stokes
Dr. W.A. Brown
Dr. J. Agar Beet
Dr. R. F. Weymouth
Dr. Lyman Abbott
Dr. Edward Beecher
Dr. Emmanuel Pétavel-Olliff
Dr. Franz Delitzsch
Bishop Charles J. Ellicott
Dr. George Dana Boardman
Canon William H.M. Hay Aitken
Dr. William Temple
Dr. Gerardus van der Leeuw
Dr. Aubrey R. Vine
Dr. Martin J. Heinecken
David R. Davies
Dr. Basil F.C. Atkinson
Dr. Emil Brunner
Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr
Dr. T.A. Kantonen
Dr. D. R. G. Owen
Oscar Cullmann (1902-1999)
Helmut Thielicke (1908-1986)
F. F. Bruce (1910-1990)
John William Wenham (1913-1996)
John Robert Walmsley Stott (1921-)
PublicationsNew Dictionary of Theology (Intervarsity Press, 1988), p.332-333.
Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, p.519.
"Immortality": Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Marshall Morgan and Scott Publications Ltd), p.552.
The line is long and impressive of those championing conditional immortality. In contrast, the opposers of conditional immortality included Pope Leo X who on Monday, December 19th, 1513 issued a Bull (Apostoloici regimis) declaring:
"We do condemn and reprobate all who assert that the intelligent soul is mortal."
"Damnamus et reprobamus omnes assertentes animam intellectivam mortalem ess."
This bull was directed against the growing "heresy" of those who denied the natural immortality of the soul, and avowed the conditional immortality of man.1
But the list of detractors of this papal decree is long and eloquent and includes men from all faiths and nationalities.2
Pietro Pomponatius of Mantua (See map), a noted Italian professor and leader among the Averrorists, who denied the immortality of the soul, issued a book in opposition to the papal bull titled, Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul, 1516. This book was widely read, especially in Italian universities.3
Dr. Martin Luther posted his Theses on October 31, 1517 in Wittenberg. In his 1520 published Defence of 41 of his propositions, Luther cited the pope's immortality declaration, as among "those monstrous opinions to be found in the Roman dunghill of decretals." 4 The 27th proposition read:
"However, I permit the Pope establish articles of faith for himself and for his own faithful - such are:
a) That the bread and wine are transubstantiated in the sacrament;
b) that the essence of God neither generates nor is generated;
c) that the soul is the substantial form of the human body;
d) that he (the pope) is emperor of the world and king of heaven, and earthly god;
e) that the soul is immortal;
and all these endless monstrosities in the Roman dunghill of decretals - in order that such as his faith is, such may be his gospel, such also his faithful, and such his church, and that the lips may have suitable lettuce and the lid may be worthy of the dish." 5
Archbishop Francis Blackburne states:
"Luther espoused the doctrine of the sleep of the soul, upon a Scripture foundation, and then he made use of it as a confutation of purgatory, and saint worship, and continued in that belief to the last moment of his life." 6
William Tyndale (1484-1536), British Bible translator, came to the defense of the revived teaching of conditional immortality. This, as well as other teachings brought him in direct conflict with the papal champion, Thomas More, who strongly objected against Tyndale and Luther who, in the words of More, said, "all souls lie and sleep till doomsday". In 1530 Tyndale responded vigorously saying,
"And ye, in putting them (the departed souls) in heaven, hell, and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection ... And again, if the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?" 7
Tyndale pressed his contention even further showing that the papal teaching on the subject is in conflict with St. Paul:
"`Nay, Paul, thou art unlearned; go to Master More, and learn a new way. We be not most miserable, though we rise not again; for our souls go to heaven as soon as we be dead, and are there in as great joy as Christ that is risen again.' And I marvel that Paul had not comforted the Thessalonians with that doctrine, if he had wist it, that the souls of their dead should rise again. If the souls be in heaven, in as great glory as the angels, after your doctrine, shew me what cause should be of the resurrection?" 8
John Frith, associate of Tyndale stated his views similarly to those of Tyndale. He wrote:
"Notwithstanding, let me grant it him that some are already in hell and some in heaven, which thing he shall never be able to prove by the Scriptures, yea, and which plainly destroy the resurrection, and taketh away the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul do prove that we shall rise; ... and as touching this point where they rest, I dare be bold to say that they are in the hand of God." 9
George Wishart (1500-1546), Greek scholar, friend of Latimer, tutor of John Knox. Wishart was charged with attacking aurricular confession, transubstantiation, extreme unction, holy water, invocation of saints (who couldn't hear their supplications anyway), and purgatory. Charge "XVI" stated:
"Thou false heretic has preached openly saying, that the soul of man sleep to the latter day of judgment and shall not obtain life immortal until that day." 10
During this time the `General Baptists' militated against the `soul - sleep' teaching through John Calvin (1509-1564) who wrote,
"... As to what remains, I wish that, after my departure out of this life, my body be committed to the earth, till the day of resurrection arrive."11
"... I suppliantly beg of him that he may be pleased so to wash me and purify me in the blood which my Sovereign Redeemer has shed for the sins of the human race, that under his shadow I may be able to stand at the judgment-seat." 12
Johann L. von Mosheim, chancellor of the University of Göttingen, wrote:13
"that the soul, between death and the resurrection at the last day, has neither pleasure nor pain, but is in a state of insensibility."
Dr. Joseph Priestley, after observing that many of the early reformers held to `soul-sleep', stated:
"Had it not been for the authority of Calvin, who wrote expressly against soul sleep, the doctrine of an intermediate conscious state would, in all probability, have been as effectually exploded as the doctrine of purgatory itself." 14
Richard or Robert Overton (1609-1679), scholar, soldier and pamphletier, published in 1643, Man's Mortality, in which the title page reads:
"A Treatise wherein `T is proved, both theologically and Philosophically. That as whole man sinned, so whole man died; contrary to the common distinction of Soul and Body: And that the present going of the Soul into heaven or hell, is a meer Fiction. And that at the Resurrection is the beginning of our immortality; and then actual Condemnation and Salvation, and not before." 15
Samuel Richardson (1633-1658), pastor of the First Particular Baptist Church of London 16 wrote on the subject.
John Milton (1608-1674), was a well known or even the greatest of the sacred poets. Milton taught the totally unconscious sleep of man in death until the coming of Christ and resurrection, and wrote:
"Inasmuch as the whole man uniformly said to consist of body, and soul (whatever may be the distinct provinces of these divisions), I will show, that in death,
first, the whole man, and
secondly, each component part,
suffers privation of life. ... The grave is the common guardian of all till the day of judgment." 17
George Wither (1588-1667), contended for conditional immortality in which the soul is asleep in death.18
John Jackson (1686-1763), was the Rector of Rossington school and wrote several titles in which he confutes and condemns the doctrine of eternal torment.19
John Canne (1590-1667) was a pastor of the Broadmead Baptist Church in Bristol and printer of R. Overton's work and held essentially the same view as Overton.20
Archbishop John Tillotson (1630-1694) of Canterbury states
"I do not find that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is anywhere expressly delivered in Scripture, but taken for granted." 21
Dr. William Coward (1657-1725) was a practicing physician in London. He states:
"Second thoughts concerning the human soul, demonstrating the notion of human soul, as believed to be a Spiritual and Immortal Substance, united to a Human Body, to be plain Heathenish Invention, and not Consonant to the principles of Philosophy, Reason or Religion." 23
Henry Layton (1670-1706) was a member of the Anglican Faith and the author of 12 books on conditionalism in which he contends that "... during life, we live and move in Christ; and when we die we rest and sleep in Him, in expectation of being raised at His second coming. 24
Joseph Nicol Scott M.D. (1703-1769) was also a minister who assisted his father, Thomas Scott and maintained that "... life is for the righteous only, with destruction for the wicked." 25
Dr. Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was a member of the Unitarian Church, a scientist and philosopher. He wrote:
"The `state of the soul in death' is one of utter insensibility, as much dead as the body itself while it continues in the state of death." 26
Bishop Edmund Law (1703-1787) was the master of St. Peter's College, archdeacon of Staffordshire and bishop of Carlisle. He challenged the doctrine of a conscious intermediate state; held death to be a sleep, a negation of all life, thought, or action - a state of rest, silence and oblivion.27
Peter Pecard (ca. 1718-1797) was master of Magdalen College in Cambridge, England, and dean of Peterborough. He believed that "immortality not to be innate, but was a gift through Christ." 28
Archdeacon Francis Blackburne (1705-1787) was archdeacon of Cleveland and rector of Richmond wrote a most complete history of the topic in the 18th century.29
Bishop William Warburton (1698-1779) was bishop of Gloucester and a theological controversialist who "... styled militant believers in everlasting torment as the `unmerciful doctors'." 30
Samuel Burn (1714-1796) was known as a dissenter and was from Rivington, Lancashire. He "... stresses `total destruction, or annihilation or ceasing to exist' for the incorrigibly wicked." 31
Dr. William Whiston (1667-1752) was a Baptist theologian and professor of mathematics at Cambridge University and "... denied the doctrine of eternal torment and held that the wicked would be totally destroyed." 32
Dr. John Tottie (flourished 1772) was the canon of Christ Church in Oxford and archdeacon of Worcester. He "... opposed the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul." 33
Prof. Henry Dodwell (1641-1711) was a classical scholar and professor at Oxford and became known as `the learned Dodwell'. He set out to "... prove from the Scriptures and the First Fathers, that the soul is in principle naturally mortal, but immortalized actually by the pleasure of God." 34
Bishop Timothy Kendrick states in a sermon from 1805:
"The soul of man dies with the body, and is restored to life at the resurrection and second advent." 35
Dr. Amos Phelps, (1805-1874), a Methodist-Congregationalist clergyman and professor of Yale University, wrote:
"This doctrine (of natural immortality) can be traced through the muddy channels of a corrupted Christianity, a perverted Judaism, and pagan philosophy, and a superstitious idolatry, to the great instigator of mischief in the garden of Eden. The Protestants borrow it from the Catholics, the Catholics from the Pharisees, the Pharisees from the pagans, and the pagans from the old serpent who first preached the doctrine amid the lowly bowels of Paradise to an audience all too willing to hear and heed the new and fascinating theology: 'Ye shall not surely die.'" 36
Dr. William Thomson (1819-1890) was the archbishop of York. He wrote:
"Life to the godles must be the beginning of destruction since nothing but God and that which pleases Him can permanently exist." 37
Dr. Edward White (1819-1887) was a Congregationalist pastor at St. Paul's Chapel and chairman of the Congregational Union. For over forty years he was a leading advocate of conditional immortality 38 . In 1883 he made it known:
"I steadfastly maintain, after 40 years of study of the matter, that it is the notion of the infliction of a torment in body and soul that shall be absolutely endless, which alone gives a foot of standing ground to Ingersol in America, or Bradlaugh in England. I believe more firmly than ever that it is a doctrine as contrary to every line of the Bible as it is contrary to every moral instinct of humanity." 39
In the following year he adds:
"The Old Testament is consistent throughout with the belief of eternal life of the servants of God, and of the eternal destruction of the wicked. And it is consistent, when taken in its simple sense with no other belief ..."
"The Gospels and Epistles with equal pertinacity adhere almost uniformly to language respecting the doom of the unsaved which taken in its simple sense, teaches, as does the Old Testament, that they shall die, perish, be destroyed, not see life, but suffer destruction, everlasting destruction, `destruction,' says Christ, `of body and soul in Gehenna.' 40
Dr. John Thomas (1805-1871) was the editor of the Apostolic Advocate and the founder of the Christadelphians. He believed in the "... final extinction of the wicked and in immortality as a gift through Christ." 41
H.H. Dobney (1809-1883) was a Baptist pastor in Maidstone, England. He expressed the same believe.42
Archbishop Richard Whately (1787-1863) was archbishop of Dublin, Ireland and a professor at Oxford and principal. He taught the final destruction of the wicked and believed "The wicked are never spoken of as being kept alive, but as forfeiting life." 43
Dean Henry Alford (1810-1871) worked at Canterburry and was a Biblical Scholar. He believed
"Eternal fixity and duration belong only to those who are in accordance with God." 44
James Panton Ham (around 1849) was a congregationalist minister in Bristol. He believed similarly.45
Charles F. Hudson (1821-1867) was a Congregationalist minister and Greek scholar who believed the same.46
Dr. Robert W. Dale (1829-1895) was a Congregationalist pastor of Carr's Lane Church in Birmingham. He was editor of The Congregationalist magazine; chairman of the `Congregational Union of England and Wales'; and president of the `First International Council of Congregational Churches in 1891'. He announced his acceptance of conditionalism in a paper before the Congregational Union of 1874.
"Eternal life, as I believe, is the inheritance of those who are in Christ. Those who are not in Him will die the Second Death from which there will be no resurrection ...
I am not conscious that they (the positions of Conditionalism)
have at all impaired the authority in my teaching of any of
the great central doctrines of the Christian faith.
The doctrine of the Trinity remains untouched; and
the doctrine of the incarnation, and
the doctrine of the atonement in its evangelical sense, and
the doctrine of justification by faith, and
the doctrine of judgment by works, and
the doctrine of regeneration
have received, I believe, from these conclusions a new and intenser illustration." 47
Frederick W. Farrar (1831-1903) was the canon of Westminster Abbey and the dean of Canterbury. he denounced the "... dogma of endless, conscious suffering and could not find a single text in all Scripture that, when fairly interpreted, teaches the common views about endless torment." 48
Herman Olshausen (1796-1839) was professor of theology at Königsberg, Ostpreussen in Germany. He wrote:
"The doctrine of the immortality of the soul and the name are alike unknown in the entire Bible." 49
Henry Constable (died 1894) was canon and prebendary of Cork, Ireland. He also believed:
"The immortality of the soul, and the name, are alike unknown in the entire Bible." 50
William E. Gladstone (1809-1898) was a British Prime Minister and Theologian. In a searching criticism of Bishop Butler's Analogy and its defense of innate immortality, Gladstone contended:
"(It is only) from the time of Origen that we are to regard the idea of natural, as opposed to that of Christian, immortality as beginning to gain a firm foothold in the Christian Church." 51
"The doctrine of natural, as distinguished from Christian, immortality had not been subjected to the severer tests of wide publicity and resolute controversy, but had crept into the Church, by a back door as it were; by a silent though effective process; and was in course of obtaining a title by tacit prescription." 52
"Another consideration of the highest importance is that the natural immortality of the soul is a doctrine wholly unknown to the Holy Scriptures, and standing on no higher plane than that of an inegeniously sustained, but gravely and formidably contested, philosophical opinion." 53
"The character of the Almighty is rendered liable to charges which cannot be repelled so long as the idea remains that there may by His ordinance be such a thing as never-ending punishment, but that it will have been sufficiently vindicated at the bar of human judgment, so soon as it has been established and allowed that punishment, whatever else it may be, cannot be never-ending." 54
Joseph Parker (1830-1902) was a Congregationalist pastor of the `City Temple' of London. He stated,
"Glorious to me is this idea of asking man whether he will accept life and be like God, or whether he will choose death and darkness for ever. God does not say to man, `I will make you immortal and indestructible whether you will or not; live for ever you shall.' No; he makes him capable of living; he constitutes him with a view to immortality; he urges, beseeches, implores him to work out this grand purpose, assuring him, with infinite pathos, that he has no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but would rather that he should LIVE. A doctrine this which in my view simplifies and glorifies human history as related in the Bible. Life and death are not set before any beast; but life and death are distinctly set before man - he can live, he was meant to live, he is besought to live; the whole scheme of Providence and redemption is arranged to help him to live - why, then, will ye die?" 55
Discussing the ultimate banishment of sin from the universe, Parker adds:
"By destroying evil I do not mean locking it up by itself in a moral prison, which shall be enlarged through the ages and generations until it shall become the abode of countless millions of rebels, but its utter, final, everlasting extinction, so that at last the universe shall be `without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing' - the pure home of a pure creation." 56
Commenting on the "Destruction of Sodom," Parker denies that "in giving life God has put it absolutely out of his own power to reclaim or withdraw it." He comments on the implications:
"`Having once given you life you are as immortal as he himself is, and you can defy him to interfere with his own work!' The doctrine seems to me to involve a palpable absurdity, and hardly to escape the charge of blasphemy. Throughout the whole Bible, God has reserved to himself the right to take back whatever he has given, because all his gifts have been offered upon conditions about which there can be no mistake." 57
"In this case (of Sodom) we have an instance of utter and everlasting destruction. We see here what is meant by "everlasting punishment," for we are told in the New Testament that "Sodom suffered the vengeance of eternal fire," that is of fire, which made an utter end of its existence and perfectly accomplished the purpose of God. The "fire" was "eternal," yet Sodom is not literally burning still; the smoke of its torment, being the smoke of an eternal fire, ascended up for ever and ever, yet no smoke now rises from the plain, -
"eternal fire" does not involve the element of what we call "time":
it means thorough, absolute, complete, final:
that which is done or given once for all." 58
Bishop John J. S. Perowne (1823-1904) was a scholar of Hebrew and an Anglican Bishop of Worcester, England. He wrote:
"The immortality of the soul is neither argued nor affirmed in the Old Testament." 59
"The immortality of the soul is a phantom which eludes your eager grasp." 60
Sir George G. Stokes M.P., (1819-1903) was professor of mathematics at Cambridge and president of the Royal Society. He wrote:
"It was natural that, after the forfeiture of immortality through transgression, man should seek to satisfy his craving for immortality by imagining that he had something immortal in his nature. It is, then, to revelation that we must look, if we are to find out something about man's condition in the intermediate state." 61
"Man's whole being was forfeited by the Fall, and the future life is not his birthright, but depends on a supernatural dispensation of grace. To look to man's bodily frame for indications of immortality, to look even to his lofty mental powers - lofty, indeed, but sadly misused - is to seek the living among the dead. Man must look not into himself, but out of himself for assurance of immortality." 62
Dr. W.A. Brown (1865-1943) was of the Union Seminary in New York. he believed:
"From Israel came the doctrine of resurrection, and of the advent; from Greece, the doctrine of natural immortality."63
Dr. J. Agar Beet (1840-1924) was a Wesleyan professor. He stated:
"The following pages are ... a protest against a doctrine which, during long centuries, has been almost universally accepted as divine truth taught in the Bible, but which seems to me altogether alien to it in both phrase and thought, and derived only from Greek Philosophy. Until recent times, this alien doctrine has been comparatively harmless. But, as I have here shown, it is now producing more serious results ..."
"It will of course be said, of this as of some other doctrines, that, if not explicitly taught in the Bible, it is implied and assumed there ... They who claim for their teaching the authority of God must prove that it comes from Him. Such proof in this case, I have never seen." 64
Dr. R. F. Weymouth (1822-1902) was the headmaster of Mill Hill School and translator of New Testament in Modern Speech. He said:
"My mind fails to conceive a grosser misrepresentation of language than when five or six of the strongest words which the Greek tongue possesses, signifying to destroy or destruction, are explained to mean `maintaining an everlasting but wretched existence.' To translate black as white is nothing to this." 65
In his book in a note on 1.Corinthians 15:18 he says:
"By `perish' the Apostle here apparently means `pass out of existence'." 66
On Hebrews 9:28 we read:
"The use in the N.T. of such words as `death', `destruction', `fire', `perish', to describe Future Retribution, point to the likelihood of fearful anguish, followed by extinction of being, as the doom which awaits those who by persistent rejection of the Saviour prove themselves utterly, and therefore irremediably bad." 67
On Revelation 14:11:
"There is nothing in this verse that necessarily implies an eternity of suffering. In a similar way the word `punishment' or `correction' in Matthew 25:46 gives itself no indication of time."
On Revelation 20:10:
"The Lake of fire implying awful pain and complete, irremediable ruin and destruction." (Ibid., 7800)
Dr. Lyman Abbott (1835-1922) was a Congregationlist pastor and editor of Christian Union and The Outlook.He wrote:
"Outside of the walls of Jerusalem, in the valley of Gehenna, was kept perpetually burning a fire, on which the offal of the city was thrown to be destroyed. This is the hell fire of the New Testament. Christ warns his auditors that persistence in sin will make them offal to be cast out from the holy city, to be destroyed. The worm that dieth not was the worm devouring the carcasses, and is equally clearly a symbol not of torture but of destruction." 68 "The notion that the final punishment of sin is continuance in sin and suffering is also based in part on, what seems to me, a false philosophy of man. This philosophy is that man is by nature immortal. The conviction has grown on me, that according to the teaching of both of science and Scripture, man is by nature an animal, and like all other animals mortal; that immortality belongs only to the spiritual life; and that spiritual life is possible only in communion and contact with God; that, in short, immortality was not conferred upon the race in creation whether it would or not, but is conferred in redemption, upon all those of the race who choose life and immortality through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Ibid., 7900)
Dr. Edward Beecher (1803-1895) was a Congregationalist theologian and president of Illinois College. He stated:
"If (the Bible) does not recognize, nay, it expressly denies the natural and inherent immortality of the soul. It assures us that God only hath immortality. (1.Timothy 6:16). By this we understand that He has immortality in the highest sense - that is, inherent immortality. All existence besides Himself He created, and He upholds. Men are not, as Plato taught, self-existent, eternal beings, immortal in their very nature. ... There is no inherent immortality of the soul as such. What God created He sustains in being, and can annihilate at will." 69
Dr. Emmanuel Pétavel-Olliff (1836-1910) was a Swiss theologian and lecturer at the University of Geneva. He wrote as a comment on Genesis 3:22 and Numbers 23:10:
"There is nothing in all the Bible which implies a native immortality."
"From the Biblical point of view the soul can be put to death, it is mortal." 70
Dr. Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890) was a Hebraist and professor at Rostock, Erlangen and Leipzig, Germany. As a comment to Genesis 3:22 and Numbers 23:10, he wrote:
"There is nothing in the Bible which implies a native immortality."
"From the Biblical point of view the soul can be put to death." 71
Bishop Charles J. Ellicott (1820-1905) of Bristol was also the chairman of the English Revision Committee. He stated:
"It seems inconceivable that when God is all in all, there should be some dark spot, where amid endless self-inflicted suffering, or in the enhancement of ever-enduring hate, rebel hands should be forever raised against the Eternal Father and God of Everlasting Love." 72
Dr. George Dana Boardman (1828-1903) wrote on the issue of immortality this way:
"Not a single passage of Holy Writ, from Genesis to Revelation, teaches, so far as I am aware, the doctrine of Man's natural immortality. On the other hand, Holy Writ emphatically declares that God only hath immortality (1.Tim. 6:16): that is to say: God alone is naturally, inherently, in His own essence and nature, immortal." 73
"If, then, Man is immortal, it is because immortality has been bestowed on him. He is immortal, not because he was created so, but because he has become so, deriving his deathlessness from Him Who alone has immortality. And of this fact the `Tree of Life' in the midst of the Garden seems to have been the appointed symbol and pledge. That this is the meaning of the `Tree of Life' is evident from the closing words of the Archive of the Fall:
"Jehovah God said: `Behold, the Man hath become as one of Us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he stretch forth his hand, and take also of the `Tree of Life', and eat, and live forever:' therefore Jehovah God drove the Man forth from Eden, and stationed on the East of the Garden the Cherubim, and the Flaming Sword which turned away every way, to guard the way to the `Tree of Life'." Genesis 3:22-24
If Man is inherently immortal, what need was there of any `Tree of Life' at all? This much, then, seems to be clear: Immortality was somehow parabolically conditioned on the eating of this mysterious Tree, and the Immortality was for the entire Man - spirit and soul and body." 74
J.H. Pettingell (1815-1887) as a Congregationalist he was the district secretary of the Congregationalist Board of Foreign Missions. He wrote:
"It is worthy of remark, that the doctrine of eternal torment is found neither in the Apostle's Creed, nor the Nicene Creed, nor in two of the principal Confessions of Faith of the 16th century, viz., the otherwise rigid Creed of the French Reformed Church and the Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican Church. And we believe that if this dogma has been handed down throughout the Protestant Churches, it is simply as an inheritance from the errors of the middle ages and from the speculative theories of Platonism. If we examine the writings of the earlier Fathers,
Clement of Rome,
Theophilus of Antioch,
Clement of Alexandria,
we find them all faithful to the apostolic doctrine of the final destruction of the wicked. The dogma of everlasting torment did not creep into the Church until she yielded to the influence of Platonic philosophy." 75
In the 19th century, in addition to a great revival of individual exponents of conditionalism, conferences were held, such as the large `London Conference on Conditional Immortality' on May 15, 1876, with its published report. Convened under the chairmanship of Lieutenent-General Goodwyn, the attendance included such prominent adherents as
with messages from Dr. Pétavel of Switzerland, Dr. Weymouth of Mill Hill School, etc.
The gist of the conference report was:
"The Bible nowhere teaches an inherent immortality; but teaches that it is the object of redemption to impart it. ... The communication of it requires a regeneration of man, by the Holy Spirit, and a resurrection of the dead." Page 28
It declared that the enjoyment of immortality is conditional; and that those who will not return to God will die and perish everlastingly. "Out of Christ there is no life eternal."
Dr. White declared there:
"These are the ideas which have brought us together this morning. They are now firmly held by an immense multitude of thoughtful people of all lands, for although we are but a little company here assembled, we represent an immense army in Europe and America. These views are spreading every day amongst the churches; and number among their adherents some of the foremost men of science, theologians, missionaries, philologers, philosophers, preachers, and statesmen." 76
Canon William H.M. Hay Aitken (1841-1927) was an Anglican mission organizer who stated:
"The doctrine of Eternal Torment has lost its hold on the common sense and moral sensibilities of mankind. People do not and will not believe that an infinitely good and merciful God can consign His own offspring (Acts 17:28-29) to measureless aeons of torture in retribution for the sins and weaknesses of a few swiftly passing years here on earth." 77
Along the same line of thought, it is inconceivable that - as we know that even one sin not forsaken can keep a sinner out of heaven - or, a young child whose parents did not instill a knowledge of God's saving graces and mercies, may not see heaven - that these should suffer for eternity - but many would pass off the scene in no time at all.
But we read in the epistle to the Hebrews the single-hearted purpose that should characterize the Christian's race for eternal life: "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." Hebrews 12:1, 2. Envy, malice, evil thinking, evilspeaking, covetousness--these are weights that the Christian must lay aside if he would run successfully the race for immortality. Every habit or practice that leads into sin and brings dishonor upon Christ must be put away, whatever the sacrifice. The blessing of heaven cannot attend any man in violating the eternal principles of right. One sin cherished is sufficient to work degradation of character and to mislead others.> Like the athlete in a race lays aside everything which encumbers victory, so a Christian shall do likewise.
Eric Lewis (1864-1948) of Cambridge University was a missionary to the Sudan and India who made the following points:
1. That man is mortal. That immortality is not his by nature, but a gift of God to him in Christ, conditioned on faith and obedience, the earnest of which immortality, is the indwelling Spirit of God. And his immortality is put on at the resurrection.
2. That at death, man's soul, his physical organism, dies, and that man returns to dust.
3. That at death, his spirit, which is not a personal entity apart from his body, returns to God who gave it, while the man himself passes into unconscious sleep until the resurrection.
4. That at resurrection, God calls the dead man back to life, breathing into Him again His Spirit ... The resurrection body, given to the righteous at the coming of Christ, will be a spiritual body, a glorified body, like His own after His resurrection.
There will be a resurrection unto judgment, as well as unto life. Those whose names are not found written in the book of life, will be cast into the lake of fire, there to perish ultimately, burned up like the chaff. How long their suffering will last, is known to God alone; His judgment will be according to the deeds of each. This is `the second death,' from which there will be no resurrection. 78
Dr. William Temple (1881-1944) was the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of Great Britain. He wrote:
"(The) doctrine of the future life (will) involve our first disentangling the authentic teaching of the classical Scriptures from accretions which very quickly began to obscure this." 79
"Man is not immortal by nature or right; but he is capable of immortality and there is offered to him resurrection from the dead and life eternal if he will receive it from God and on God's terms." Ibid., p. 472.
"Are there not, however, many passages which speak of the endless torment of the lost? No; as far as my knowledge goes, there is none at all." Ibid., p. 464.
"After all, annihilation is an everlasting punishment though it is not unending torment." Ibid."
"One thing we can say with confidence: everlasting torment is to be ruled out. If men had not imported the Greek and unbiblical notion of the natural indestruction of the individual soul, and then read the New Testament with that already in their minds, they would have drawn from it a belief, not in everlasting torment, but in annihilation. It is the fire that is called aeonian, not the life cast into it." 80
"How can there be the Paradise for any while there is Hell, conceived as unending torment, for some? Each supposedly damned soul was born into the world as a mother's child, and Paradise cannot be Paradise for her if her child is in such a Hell." Ibid., p. 454.
Dr. Gerardus van der Leeuw (1890-1950) was a professor at the University of Groningen, Netherlands. He comments after quoting Ecclesiastes 3:19-21:
"(Innate) immortality is a conception which fits into the philosophy of pantheism. With death belongs not immortality, but Resurrection." 81
"The church has - no matter how much Helenized it may be in doctrine and practice - always maintained the resurrection of the body ... The body dies, death is not being denied at all. Even the Spirit, the soul that I am, will not exist. The soul will also die. But the whole life of man will be renewed by God. God will raise me up "in the latter days." Ibid., p. 32.
"Many preachers of recent times are rather hesitant to preach about immortality. But in former days, when preaching about eternal life, it was without effort that they dwelt upon imaginations of a corruptible body and an immortal soul. The older devotional books and church hymnals are full of it. Even now people in the house of bereavement and on the graveyards are being comforted from the same source - yet these representations are not in any respect Christian, but purely Grecian and contrary to the essence of Christian faith. Ibid., p. 20.
Dr. Aubrey R. Vine (1900-1973) was the editor of `The Congregational Quarterly' and professor at Yorkshire United Independent College who stated:
"The natural immortality of the spirit is a Greek rather than a Christian concept." 82
"Against the idea of the natural immortality of the spirit we must set the fact that God is the only self-existent and that nothing exists or continues to exist except by His grace and will, within this schema or within any other. God only is exoschematic. When we use the word `immortal', therefore, of anything but God, we must always realize that none but God is immortal by his own nature and without qualification." Ibid., p. 315.
"`Immortal' should not be applied to a human spirit if we clearly recognize that it is only immortal at God's grace and pleasure. Only God is immortal by His own nature and without qualification." Ibid., p. 311 footnote.
Dr. Martin J. Heinecken (1902-1998) was professor of systematic theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Speaking of man as a unit, he stated:
"In the Biblical account of creation we are told that God formed man of the dust and of the earth, and that he then breathed into his nostrils and man became a living soul. This is usually interpreted to mean that God made a soul, which is the real person, and that he then gave this soul a temporary home in a body, made of the dust of the earth. But this is a false dualism. ... Man must be considered a unity." 83
"We are dealing with a unified being, a person, and not with something that is called a soul and which dwells in a house called the body, as though the body were just a tool for the soul to employ, but not really a part of the person." Ibid., p. 38.
Coming then to the issue of immortality of the soul Professor Heinecken then says:
"It is held by some people that there is within every man an unchanging and indestructible core, immortal in its own right. It is unaffected by time; it had no beginning, neither can it have an end. It has always been and always will be. It came into this world of changing things from the realm of eternity and will return to it." 84
"The Christian view is by no means to be identified with the above belief in the immortality of the soul. The Christian belief is in the immortality of the God-relationship, and in the resurrection. The Christian dualism is not that of a soul and body, eternal mind and passing things, but the dualism of Creator and creature. Man is a person, a unified being, a center of responsibility, standing over against his Creator and Judge. He has no life or immortality within himself. He came into being through God's creative power. He spends as many years on this earth as in God's providence are allotted to him. He faces death as the wages of sin." Ibid., p. 133,134.
"Men have speculated like this:
At death the soul is separated from the body.
It appears then before God in a preliminary judgment which is mentioned nowhere in scripture
and enters into a preliminary state either of blessedness or condemnation.
Then, when the last trumpet sounds,
the body is resurrected and rejoined with the soul, and complete once more,
the reunited body and soul appear for the final, public judgment scene,
from there to enter into final bliss or final condemnation.
It is no wonder that, with this view, men must have little use for a resurrection, and have finally dropped the notion altogether and have been satisfied with the redemption of only the soul." Ibid., p. 135.
"to die then means to pass to the resurrection and the judgment at the end of time. even if someone should say that all men sleep until the final trumpet sounds, what is the passage of time for those who are asleep? The transition from the moment of death to the resurrection would still be instantaneous for them. It would be no different from going to bed at night and being waked in the morning." Ibid., p. 136.
David R. Davies (1889-??) was the rector at St. Mary Magdalen in Britain. He stated:
"The soul of man is not necessarily automatically immortal. It is capable of being destroyed. the Bible offers no ground whatsoever for believing that the soul is immune from death and destruction. The soul can be destroyed.
The immortality of the soul is not a Biblical doctrine, but Greek philosophy. The Biblical doctrine about the soul is the resurrection from the dead. Man is a created being. God created him out of nothing. Man was created for immortality, but by his own rebellion against God he made himself mortal." 85
"The Hebrew view of man was entirely different. In the Bible man is regarded as a unity of `life' or spirit, which manifests itself as both soul and body. Since man has made himself mortal, his soul, in consequence, also partakes of mortality. Man is not a compound of two different entities, matter and spirit, but a unity of spirit functioning as matter and soul. It is this unity that is mortal." Ibid., p. 84,85.
Dr. Basil F.C. Atkinson (1895-??) was the under-librarian of Cambridge University Library and commented on Genesis 2:7 saying:
"It has sometimes been thought that the impartation of the life principle, as it is brought before us in this verse, entailed immortality of the spirit or soul. It has been said that to be made in the image of God involves immortality. The Bible never says so. If it involves immortality, why does it not also involve omniscience or omnipresence, or any other quality or attribute of the Infinite? Why should one alone be singled out? The breath of life was not breathed into man's heart, but into his nostrils. It involved physical life. Throughout the Bible man, apart from Christ, is conceived of as made of dust and ashes, a physical creature, to whom is lent by God a principle of life. The Greek thinkers tended to think of man as an immortal soul imprisoned in a body. This emphasis is the opposite to that of the Bible, but has found a wide place in Christian thought." 86
Dr. Emil Brunner (1889-1966) was professor of systematic and practical theology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and a guest professor at Princeton, and at the International Christian University at Tokyo, Japan.
After discussing the widespread, historic concept of the 'survival of the soul after death' as 'the separation of soul from body', he states:
"For the history of Western thought, the Platonic teaching of the immortality of the soul became of special significance. It penetrated so deeply into the thought of Western man because, although with certain modifications, it was assimilated by Christian theology and church teaching, was even declared by the Lateran Council of 1512 (1513) to be a dogma, to contradict which was heresy." 87
Then he added:
"Only recently, as a result of a deepened understanding of the New Testament, have strong doubts arisen as to its compatibility with the Christian conception of the relation between God and man." Ibid.
According to Platonism:
"The body is mortal, the soul immortal. The mortal husk conceals this eternal essence which in death is freed from its outer shell." 88
After observing that `this dualistic conception of man does not correspond to the Christian outlook', he then remarked:
"Since this mode of robbing evil of its sting runs necessarily parallel with the rendering innocuous of death through the teaching about immortality, this solution of the problem of death stands in irreconcilable opposition to Christian thought." Ibid.
Commenting further on the `doctrine of the immortality of the soul' (p. 105), which medieval Christianity `took over' from Greek philosophy', he observes that it was `utterly foreign to its (Christianity's) own essential teaching.' And he adds:
"The opinion that we men are immortal because our soul is of an indestructible, because divine, essence is, once for all, irreconcilable with the Biblical view of God and man." Ibid., pp. 105, 106.
"The philosophical belief in immortality is like an echo, both reproducing and falsifying the primal Word of this divine Creator. It is false because it does not take into account the real loss of this original destiny through sin." Ibid., p. 107.
Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) was a professor at Union Theological Seminary. After contrasting the `classical' view of man, of Graeco-Roman antiquity, and the `Biblical' view, Niebuhr states that the two `were actually merged in the thought of medieval Catholicism.' The classical view that the `mind' or `spirit' is `immortal' was inseparably tied to the dualistic concept of man (p. 7). But among the Hebrews, he observes,
"the concept of an immortal mind in a mortal body remains unknown to the end." 89
"Origen's Platonism completely destroys the Biblical sense of the unity of man." Ibid., p.153, footnote.
"Gregory's (of Nyssa) thoroughly Platonic conception of the relation of the soul to the body is vividly expressed in his metaphor of the gold and the alloy." Ibid., p.172.
"The idea of the resurrection of the body is a Biblical symbol in which modern minds take the greatest offense and which has long since been displaced in most modern versions of the Christian faith by the idea of the immortality of the soul. The latter idea is regarded as a more plausible expression of the hope of everlasting life." Ibid., vol. 2, p. 294.
"The resurrection is not a human possibility in the sense that the immortality of the soul is thought to be so. All the plausible and implausible proofs for the immortality of the soul are efforts on the part of the human mind to master and to control the consummation of life. They all try to prove in one way or another that an eternal element in the nature of man is worthy and capable of survival beyond death." Ibid., p. 295.
"The Christian hope of the consummation of life and history is less absurd than alternate doctrines which seek to comprehend and to effect the completion of life by some power or capacity inherent in man and his history."Ibid., p. 298.
DR. T.A. Kantonen (1900-??), a Lutheran professor at the Hamma Divinity School, and an American Member of the Lutheran World Federation Commission on Theology states:
"The influence of Hellenic philosophy, represented by the Alexandrian fathers in particular, tended to spiritualize eschatology into a continuing inner purification and immortality of the soul." 90
"Primitive animism with its notion of a detachable ghost-soul which continues after death to lead a shadowy existence and to enter interaction with the living still underlies much of popular religious thinking on the subject. More important and influential from the theological point of view is the Greek idea of the immortality of the soul which found its classical formulation in Plato's dialogues four centuries before Christ. Since Platonism furnished the sublimest thought forms for the formative period of Christian theology, it is not surprising that many of the Fathers identified the Christian doctrine of eternal life with Platonic immortality and that finally the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17) adopted it as a dogma of the church." Ibid., p. 27.
"It has been characteristic of Western thought ever since Plato to distinguish sharply between the soul and the body. The body is supposed to be composed of matter, and the soul of spirit. The body is a prison from which the soul is liberated at death to carry on its own proper nonphysical existence. Because of its immaterial spiritual nature the soul has been considered indestructible. Hence the question of life after death has been the question of demonstrating the immortality, the death-defying capacity, of the soul. The body is of little consequence.
This way of thinking is entirely foreign to the Bible. True to Scripture and definitely rejecting the Greek view, the Christian creed says, not "I believe in the immortality of the soul," but "I believe in the resurrection of the body." Ibid., p. 28.
"The soul is not a separate part of man, constituting a substance of its own." Ibid., p. 29.
"The Christian faith knows nothing about an immortality of the person. That would mean a denial of death, not recognizing it as judgment of God. It knows only an awakening from real death through the power of God. There is existence after death only by way of awakening, resurrection."91 There is no immortality of the soul but a resurrection of the whole person, body and soul, from death. The only immortality which the Bible recognizes is the immortality of a personal relationship with God in Christ."— Ibid., p. 33.
"The Bible does not distinguish between man and the beasts on the ground that man has an immortal soul while the beasts do not. Men, beasts, even plants, are alike in death. We do not need to concern ourselves about spiritualism or hypotheses of any kind concerning future existence. The whole matter of death and life after death is simplified when our only concern is faith in God who can destroy and who can resurrect. Life makes no sense and holds no hope except in terms of Christ's victory over death and the assurance that we share in that victory.
There is considerable support in Scripture for the view that the soul as well as the body is destructible. This evidence has been obscured because the Greek conception of the inherent immortality of the soul has supplanted the teaching of Scripture." Ibid., p. 34.
"There are two indisputable realities in the scriptural doctrine, the fact of death and the fact of resurrection from the dead at Christ's second coming. But between the death of an individual and the return of Christ is an interval, which from the human point of view, in the case of most men, is a long period of time." Ibid., p. 36.
"Against such speculation (Roman Catholic purgatory, Limbo, etc.) Protestant orthodoxy has, on the whole, denied all conceptions of a neutral state of waiting and held that souls pass immediately into a state of misery or of blessedness." Ibid., p. 37.
"If death means entrance into heaven, then resurrection and judgment lose their significance." Ibid., p. 38.
"The soul has no existence apart from the body. The whole man, body and soul dies, and the whole man, body and soul, is resurrected on the last day. At death man proceeds directly to the final resurrection and judgment. There is no period of waiting, for waiting implies time, and beyond death time no longer has any significance. From our own temporal point of view we may speak of the dead as being asleep and then say with Luther that for one in deep slumber the passage of centuries is as an instant. We may even say that departed believers are at home with the Lord in the sense that their striving and waiting are over and they have reached their final goal." Ibid., pp. 96, 97.92
"An alternative solution is that the fate of the wicked is neither eventual redemption nor endless torment but simply annihilation. Eternal death would conform to the New Testament connotation of death in general, apoleia, destruction. Proponents of this view claim that the idea of eternal punishment rests on the Platonic conception of the inherent indestructibility of the soul and that the reasoning used to disprove it applies here also. On this ground the nature of God also appears to be vindicated." Ibid., p. 107.
"Dr. Kantonen has since modified his view, according with Walter Künneth (Theologie der Auferstehung) that the dead are not non-existent. (See p. 39.)
"When Christ, then, in the end destroys "every rule and every authority and power," he will wipe out every vestige of opposition to God, both human and superhuman. This view, unlike universal restoration, preserves the twofold judgment taught in Scripture. And to be completely cut off from God, the source of life, would seem logically to imply nonexistence. Such a lapse into nothingness of all of life's hopes and values makes perdition a terrible reality even without the added feature of prolonged torture." Ibid., p. 108.
"The hope of the individual Christian at death does not lie in man's power to defy death but in God's power to raise man from the dead. Death is real, and man has no inherent capacity to leap over the grave into another existence." Ibid., p. 111.
"The ultimate significance of Christ's triumph over death will become manifest in the resurrection of the dead. Ibid., p. 112.
DR. D. R. G. Owen, professor of religious knowledge at Trinity College was also a lecturer and a teacher on philosophy and religion at Wycliffe College in Toronto, Canada. He said:
"The points at issue revolve around the concepts of "body" and "soul." The "religious" anthropology (in contradistinction to the Biblical) adopts an extreme dualism, asserting that the body and the soul are two different and distinct substances. It claims that the soul is divine in origin and immortal by nature and that the corruptible body is the source of all sin and wickedness. It recommends the cultivation of the soul in detachment from the body, and advocates the suppression of all physical appetites and natural impulses. It regards the body as the tomb or prison of the soul from which it longs to get free. Finally, it tends to suppose that the soul, even in its earth-bound existence, is entirely independent of the body and so enjoys a freedom of choice and action untrammeled by the laws that reign in the physical realm." 93
"If we turn to the Bible, however, as we shall later, we find that a quite different view of man is assumed throughout. Here there is no dualism and scarcely any idea of the immortality of a detached and independent soul." Ibid., p. 29.
"Plato remains to the end an antiphysical dualist. It is he, and his followers, who most of all are responsible for imposing the "religious" anthropology on Western thought." Ibid., p. 41.
This latter belief especially - the idea that the soul can exist apart from the body - obviously implies some form of body - soul dualism. . . . This body-soul dualism was a necessary implicate of the Greek doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Ibid., p. 59.
"Now there are a few isolated Scriptural passages that may suggest the idea of the immortality of the soul in the Greek sense, but the normal Biblical point of view is quite different: in the New Testament it is the resurrection of the body that is stressed, and this doctrine is almost a direct contradiction of the "Orphic" eschatology. Why, then, did the Fathers lean toward this largely un-Biblical notion?" Ibid.
"The fact is that the Fathers' adoption of the "religious" idea of the immortality of the detachable soul forced them into the doctrine of body-soul dualism." Ibid., p. 61.
"The idea of the intermediate state eventually developed into the doctrine of purgatory." Ibid.
"The Fathers were no doubt impressed by the force of the arguments advanced by Greek philosophy to prove the immortality of the soul. And, finally, of course, the idea of an intermediate state gave the human being another chance to be purged of his sins before the last judgment. It was the development of this notion that led to the doctrine of purgatory, with all the superstitions and objectionable practices that eventually made up the purgatorial system and, in the end, furnished part of the immediate cause of the Reformation." Ibid., p. 62.
"Their (Church Fathers) resulting anthropology was a mixture of Biblical and Greek ideas. They added to the New Testament doctrine of the resurrection of the body the idea of an intermediate state in which the soul exists apart from the body, awaiting its recovery at the end." Ibid., p. 77.
"The "religious" anthropology, as far as Western thought is concerned, is Greek and not Biblical in origin. It is also typical of Eastern religions in general, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. It seems to be characteristically "religious," and for this and other reasons has tended to creep into and corrupt the Christian view of man. This happened, as we saw, in the patristic and medieval periods, and modern Catholicism and Protestantism have tended to perpetuate this early mistake." Ibid., p. 163.
"The Biblical view of man is entirely different from the `religious'." Ibid., p. 164.
"The Hebrews had no idea of the immortality of the soul in the Greek sense. . . . It was impossible for them even to conceive of disembodied human existence." Ibid., p. 177.
"The idea of the immortality of the soul in the Greek sense may be suggested in some passages in the wisdom literature and is definitely found in places in the Apocrypha. This line of thought was later developed in the Hellenistic Judaism of the Alexandrine School, in the inter-Testamental period, of which the religious philosopher Philo is the outstanding example." Ibid., p. 178.
Oscar Cullmann (1902-1999)
Oscar Cullmann was a Christian theologian in the Lutheran tradition. He writes: "If one recognizes that death and eternal life in the New Testament are always bound up with the Christ-event, then it becomes clear that for the first Christians the soul is not intrinsically immortal, but rather became so only through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and through faith in Him. It also becomes clear that death is not intrinsically the Friend, but rather that its 'sting', its power, is taken away only through the victory of Jesus over it in His death. And lastly, it becomes clear that the resurrection already accomplished is not the state of fulfillment, for that remains in the future until the body is also resurrected, which will not occur until 'the last day'." "The answer to the question, 'Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead in the New Testament', is unequivocal. The teaching of the great philosophers Socrates and Plato can in no way be brought into consonance with that of the New Testament. That their person, their life, and their bearing in death can none the less be honored by Christians, the apologists of the second century have shown." 94
Helmut Thielicke (1908-1986)
The German Theologian and Rector of the University of Hamburg, Helmut Thielicke (1908-1986) pointed out that the Roman Catholic notion of justification by an infused righteousness and the idea of an immortal soul belong together. 95
Frederick Fyvie Bruce (1910-1990)
Dr. F.F. Bruce taught Greek at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Leeds, eventually becoming head of the Department of Biblical History and Literature at the University of Sheffield in 1947. Bruce believed that: "... annihilation is certainly an acceptable interpretation of the relevant New Testament passages ... For myself, I remain agnostic. Eternal conscious torment is incompatible with the revealed character of God." 96
Anthony Andrew Hoekema (1913-1988)
Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, Prof. Dr. Anthony Andrew Hoekema (1913-1988) identified the immortality of the soul with the idealistic anthropology of Plato and Aristotle.97
John William Wenham (1913-1996)
John Wenham was an Anglican Theologian, that "bears the distinction of being a conservative theologian, but one who hold to the position of 'conditional immortality' - or the belief that the human soul is not by default eternal in nature; ..."98
John Robert Walmsley Stott (1921-)
The British Evangelical Anglican Theologian and Author, Dr. John R.W. Stott (1921-), a leader in the worldwide evangelical movement, and Rector Emeritus of the Church of All Souls, has also "publicly considered the idea of annihilationism" 99
New Dictionary of Theology (1988)
"From the Genesis account it seems that man was not created either immortal or mortal (see Genesis 2:17; 3:22) BUT WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF BECOMING EITHER, DEPENDING ON HIS RESPONSIVENESS TO GOD. He was created for immortality rather than with immortality. Such a view coheres with 1 Timothy 6:16. God is inherently immortal, BUT MAN IS DERIVATIVELY IMMORTAL, RECEIVING IMMORTALITY AS A GRACIOUS DIVINE GIFT. POTENTIALLY MORTAL BY NATURE MAN BECOMES IMMORTAL BY GRACE." 100
Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (2000)
"The New Testament doctrine of immortality builds on the Old Testament view of God as 'life-in-himself' and as life-giver and of mankind as a unity which ultimately entails the hope of resurrection ... to be in Christ is a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:15). IMMORTALITY IS THUS NOT INHERENT IN THE OLD CREATION. BUT AS CHRIST IS THE FIRSTFRUIT OF THE NEW CREATION, SO CHRISTIANS ARE BORN ANEW OF IMPERISHABLE SEED (1 Peter 1:23) the spiritual seed of the last Adam." 101
Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (2001)
"The biblical idea of immortality thus differs from all others in certain important respects. One of these is that IN NONBIBLICAL TEACHING MAN IS INHERENTLY IMMORTAL. Another is that it is the spiritual aspect of human nature only which is thought to be immortal. The human soul or spirit survives death. A corollary of these two is that the human body is usually thought of as a kind of prison house of the spirit or, at best as a very transitory part of human personality. IN BIBLICAL THOUGHT MAN IS NOT INHERENTLY IMMORTAL; it is the whole man, body and soul, that is immortal even though the body must undergo a transformation in order to achieve immortality. In the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament man is a complete being only as his body and spirit are in union. He is then a living soul, or person. (Genesis 2:7). While some have understood the Genesis narrative as teaching that man was created immortal and that sin brought mortality, it would be better to interpret the account as teaching that MAN WOULD HAVE GAINED IMMORTALITY THROUGH A PERIOD OF TESTING IN WHICH HE WOULD BE OBEDIENT TO THE DIVINE COMMAND." 102
Such are some of the host of advocates of conditional immortality, or life only in Christ, and/or of the ultimate destruction of unrepentant sinners.
Bishop Timothy Kendrick states in a sermon from 1805:
"The soul of man dies with the body, and is restored to life at the resurrection and second advent." (35)
1. To really understand the Bible's assertions about what happens to us when we die, we first have to understand the Jewish worldview in contrast to that of Egypt, which underlies this topic, and which is presented in the Word of God. After we understand their worldview, not ours, we may understand the clipped, unspoken references in many Bible passages which make it appear that man's soul goes to heaven at death.
2. H.J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, 1937, pp. 483, 487.
3. Pietro Pomponatius, Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul, 1516. See here offline.
4. Martin Luther, Assertio Omnium Articulorum M. Lutheri per Bullam Leonis X. Novissimam Damnatorum (Assertion of all the articles of M. Luther condemned by the latest Bull of Leo X.), article 27, Weimar edition of Luther's Works, Vol. 7, pp. 131,132.
5. Martin Luther, Assertio Omnium Articulorum M. Lutheri per Bullam Leonis X. Novissimam Damnatorum (Assertion of all the articles of M. Luther condemned by the latest Bull of Leo X.), article 27, Weimar edition of Luther's Works, Vol. 7, pp. 131,132 (a point by point exposition of his position, written Dec. 1, 1520, in response to requests for a fuller treatment than that given in his Adversus execrabilum Antichristi Bullam, and Wider die Bulle des Endchrists.
6. Francis Blackbourne, Short Historical View of the Controversy Concerning an Intermediate State, 1765, p. 14.
7. William Tyndale, An Answer to Sir Thomas More's dialogue, Parker's 1850 reprint, Bk. 4, ch. 4, pp. 180,181.
8. Ibid., p. 180.
9. John Frith, An Answer to John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester.
10. Blackburne, Historical View, p. 21.
11. Hillerbrand, Hans, The Reformation, N.Y., 1964, p. 208.; Cited from the
Last Will and Testament of John Calvin which he signed on Tuesday April 25, 1564. A month later, at sunset on Wednesday May 27, 1564 John Calvin passed away because of, as he wrote, being oppressed with various diseases. Theodore Beza, Life of Calvin, pp. cxxi-cxxv (CR 49, 162-3).
It seems to us, therefore, that these `General Baptists', who militated against the soul sleep misquoted John Calvin or used some other quote from earlier in his career into saying what they believed. The `Last Will of John Calvin' indicates the reformer believed that his sins would be washed away as he confessed them while still alive and after his passing his remains would be in the grave until resurrection day and thereby he would not be alive again before judgment-day.
12. Ibid., p. 207, 208. The Last Will of John Calvin: "In the name of the Lord, Amen, I, John Calvin, minister of the Word of God in this church of Geneva, being afflicted and oppressed with various diseases, which easily induce me to believe that the Lord God has determined shortly to call me away out of this world, have resolved to make my testament, and commit my last will to writing in the manner following: First of all, I give thanks to God, that taking mercy on me, whom he had created and placed in this world, he not only delivered me out of the deep darkness of idolatry in which I was plunged, that he might bring me into the light of his Gospel, and make me a partaker in the doctrine of salvation, of which I was most unworthy; and not only, with the same mercy and benignity, kindly and graciously bore with my faults and my sins, for which, however, I deserved to be rejected by him and exterminated, but also vouchsafed me such clemency and kindness that he has deigned to use my assistance in preaching and promulgating the truth of his Gospel. And I testify and declare that it is my intention to spend what yet remains of my life in the same faith and religion which he has delivered to me by his Gospel; and that I have no other defence or refuge for salvation than his gratuitous adoption, on which alone my salvation depends. With my whole soul I embrace the mercy which he has exercised towards me through Jesus Christ, atoning for my sins with the merits of his death and passion, that in this way he might satisfy for all my crimes and faults, and blot them from his remembrance. I testify also and declare, that I suppliantly beg of him that he may be pleased so to wash and purify me in the blood which my Sovereign Redeemer has shed for the sins of the human race, that under his shadow I may be able to stand at the judgment-seat. I likewise declare that, according to the measure of grace and goodness which the Lord hath employed towards me, I have endeavoured, both in my sermons and also in my writings and commentaries, to preach his Word purely and chastely, and faithfully to interpret his sacred Scriptures. I also testify and declare that, in all the contentions and disputations in which I have been engaged with the enemies of the Gospel, I have used no impostures, no wicked and sophistical devices, but have acted candidly and sincerely in defending the truth. But, woe is me! my ardour and zeal (if indeed worthy of the name) have been so careless and languid that I confess I have failed innumerable times to execute my office properly, and had he not, of his boundless goodness, assisted me, all that zeal had been fleeting and vain. Nay, I even acknowledge, that if the same goodness had not assisted me, those mental endowments which the Lord bestowed upon me would, at his judgment-seat, prove me more and more guilty of sin and sloth. For all these reasons, I testify and declare that I trust no other security for my salvation than this, and this only, viz. that as God is the Father of mercy, he will show himself such a Father to me, who acknowledge myself to be a miserable sinner. As to what remains, I wish that, after my departure out of this life, my body be committed to the earth (after the form and manner which is used in this Church and city), till the day of happy resurrection arrive."
As far as the soul is concerned, in his last will, John Calvin says, "With my whole soul I embrace the mercy which he has exercised towards me through Jesus Christ, atoning for my sins with the merits of his death and passion, that in this way he might satisfy for all my crimes and faults, and blot them from his remembrance." He uses the phrase "my whole soul". It seems that would mean all his life, his energy, his knowledge, his thinking brain, all his physical being. At least in his last will I find no reference to the soul being immortal though he may have written about that earlier in his life. If so, he was vacillating or confused about the soul being a life human being or some ghostlike existence. As we demonstrate, the notion of a ghostlike soul derives from Egypt and went from there to Greece as Herodotus affirms.
Herodotus on the soul:
"The Egyptians ... were also the first people to put forward the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and to maintain that after death it enters another creature at the moment of that creature's birth. It then makes the round of all living things - animals, birds, and fish - until it finally passes once again, at birth, into the body of a man. The whole period of transmigration occupies 3000 years. This theory has been adopted by certain Greek writers, some earlier, some later, who have put it forward as their own. Their names are known to me but I refrain from mentioning them."Herodotus, The Histories, Book II, Sec. 123, S. 131.
A Jewish View on death: - - In Jewish services in the synagogue at times the `Kaddish' may be read. In it we get a glimpse what Jews believed about death, "May his great name be magnified and sanctified in the world that is to be created anew, when he will revive the dead, and raise them up unto life eternal ... ." "As to what David said, `The dead praise not the Lord, this is what he meant: Let man always engage in Torah and good deeds before he dies, for as soon as he dies he is restrained from the Torah and good deeds, and the Holy One, blessed be He, finds nothing to praise him. And this is what Rabbi Johanan said, `What is meant by the verse, Among the dead (I am) free (Ps. 88:6)? Once man dies he becomes free of the Torah and good deeds. And so to what Solomon said, Wherefore I praise the dead which are already dead. . . . And as for the question which I asked before you, a lamp is called a lamp, and the soul of man is called a lamp." Prov. 20:27. (Joseph Heinemann with Jakob Petuchowski, Literature of the Synagogue, N.Y., 1975, p. 84, 145.) As we can see, there is no thought on immortality found in their long held understanding on this subject. When we say `the soul of man is called a lamp', should we think of that soul as some foggy existence or rather of the mind of man, his character, his knowing the Lord? Of course the latter would be the sensible conclusion. The Bible teaches God writes the story of His people in His book of remembrence based on the testimony of the deeds done in their life, Malachi 3:16.
See also the debate entitled, `Examination of Conditional Immortality, "Soul Sleep" and "Annihilationism", A Biblical Response to a Seventh-day Adventist (from a Catholic).
We believe the charge of "What must first be noted is the sloppy hermeneutical principle used by the soul sleep advocates is rejected by all biblical scholars (except SdA scholars). One does not go prancing through the Old Testament looking for obscure passages to develop any coherent view of the afterlife. The proper hermeneutic or interpretive principle is to look first to the clarity of the NT which revealed what was obscure in the OT." is unjustified. Christ Himself used the OT freely and so do all NT writers. They never talk of hermeneutic principles, which are an invention of man. It seems our citation of Herodotus and the Jewish View should carry some weight. "
We believe, after reading the debate, that the Catholic view on "hell fire" is not asking the right question which is, `What condition are those in who are described as being in that hell fire.' They are dead already. How did they die? The same way, the wicked die at the appearance of the Lord at the Second Advent, 1.Thess. 2:8. The "brightness" or "glory" of the Lord consumes them for sin cannot exist before the Glory of the Lord, Ex. 19:12, for the glory of God is a "consuming fire", Hebr. 12:28,29.
13. Murdock, tr., Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, Bk. IV, cent. XVI, Sec. III, Pt. 2, Ch. III, par. 23.
14. J. Priestley, Works, chapter on Corruptions of Christianity, 1818, Vol. 5, p. 229.
15. R. Overton, Man's Mortality, 1643, Title page.
16. S. Richardson wrote in 1658: `A Discourse on the Torments of Hell: The foundations and pillars thereof discovered, searched, shaken, and removed. With Infallible Proofs that there is not to be a punishment after this life, for any to endure that shall never end.
17. John Milton, Treatise of Christian Doctrine, Vol. 1, ch. 13.
18. Produced an English translation of Nemesius, early Bishop of Emesa, 1636.
19. John Jackson, A Dissertation on Matter and Spirit, 1735.; The Belief of a Future State, 1745.; A Clear Distinction Between True and False Religion, 1750.
20. John Canne, Reference Bible, 1682.
21. John Tillotson, Works, 1683.
22. Isaac Barrow, `Duration of Future Punishment' in Works.
23. Wm. Coward, A Survey of the Search After Souls, ca. 1702.
24. Henry Layton, Arguments and Replies, in dispute concerning the nature of the soul, 1703.; A Search After Souls, 1706.
25. Joseph N. Scott, Sermons Preached in Defence of All Religion, 1743.
26. Joseph Priestley, `Disquisitions Relating to Matter and Spirit' in Works, Vol. 3.; also `The History of Opinion Concerning the State of the Dead'.
27. Edmund Law, Considerations on ... the Theory of Religion, 1749.' The State of the Dead, 1765, See Appendix.
28. Peter Pecard, Observations on the Doctrine of an Intermediate State, Between Death and Resurrection, 1756.
29. Francis Blackbourne, A Short Historical View of the Controversy Concerning the Intermediate State, 1765.
30. William Warburton, Divine Legation of Moses, 1738-41.
31. Samuel Bourne, Christian Doctrine of Future Punishment, 1759.
32. William Whiston, The Eternity of Hell-Torments Considered, 1740.
33. John Tottie, Sermons Preached Before University of Oxford, 1775.
34. Henry Dodwell, Letter Concerning the Immortality of Human Souls, 1708.; An Epistle Discourse, 1706.
35. Timothy Kendrick, Sermons, 1805.
36. Leroy E. Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, 1965.
37. William Thomson, The Thought of Death, Bampton Lecture, 1862.
38. Edward White, Life in Christ, 1846.; That Unknown Country, Symposium.; Immortality, a Clerical Symposium.
39. Introduction to J. H. Pettingell's The Unspeakable Gift, 1884, p. 22.
40. J.H. Pettingell, Homiletic Monthly (England), March, 1885.; Mt. 10:28.
41. John Thomas, in one of his articles.
42. H.H. Dobney, Notes on Lectures on Future Punishment, 1844.
43. Richard Whatley, A View of the Scriptural Revelations Concerning a Future State.
44. Dean H. Alford, Author of a Greek New Testament.
45. James P. Ham, Life and Death or The Theology of the Bible in Relation to Human Mortality, 1849.
46. Charles F. Hudson, Debt and Grace as Related to the Doctrine of a Future Life, 1857.; Christ Our Life. The Scriptural Argument for Immortality Through Christ Alone, 1860.
47. Recorded in Freer's `Edward White', His Life and Work, 1902, pp. 354-355.
48. Frederick Farrar, Eternal Hope, 1877.; Faith and Mercy,; Mercy and Judgment, 1881.
49. Herman Olshausen, Biblical Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. 4, 1860, p. 381.
50. Henry Constable, hades: or the Intermediate State of Man; Restitution of All Things; The Duration and the Nature of Future Punishment.
51. William E. Gladstone, Studies Subsidiary to the Works of Bishop Butler, (1896 ed.), p. 184.
52. Ibid., p. 195.
53. Ibid., p. 197.
54. Ibid., p. 241.
55. Joseph Parker, The People's Bible, Vol. 1, p. 126.
56. Ibid., p. 160.
57. Ibid., p. 222.
58. Ibid., p. 223. CIAS comment: While for the most of history this eternal fire that burned Sodom vanished, yet, it is still burning today for it is the glory of God which kindled the fire for nothing of sin can stand before the glory of God and live, Deut. 4:24; 9:3; Hebr. 12:29.
59. John J. S. Perowne, Hulsean Lectures on Immortality, 1868 , p. 31.
61. George Stokes, That Unknown Country (A Symposium), 1889.; Immortality, a Clerical Symposium.
62. Ibid., p. 123.
63. W. A. Brown, The Christian Hope, 1912. For an explanation why all these champions here cited, refer to the Greeks as the source of the belief in immortality and CIAS refers the Egyptians as the source, please be reminded that Egyptian history and their believe in the afterlife became not widely known until after the French Revolution. The Egyptian believes on this subject appear to be more ancient.
64. J. Ager Beet, Last Things - Preface to The Immortality of the Soul: A Protest, 5th ed., 1902.
65. Cited by Edward White in Life in Christ, (1878), p. 365.
66. Notes by Earnest Hampden-Cook, editor and reviser of third edition of The New Testament in Modern Speech, by Richard Francis Weymouth.
67. Ibid: Notes by Earnest Hampden-Cook, editor and reviser of third edition of The New Testament in Modern Speech, by Richard Francis Weymouth.
68. Lyman Abbott, That Unknown Country, 1889.
69. Edward Beecher, Doctrine of Scriptural Retribution, p. 58.
70. Emmanuel Pétavel-Ollieff, The Struggle for Eternal Life (La Fin du Mal); The Extinction of Evil, 1889.; The Problem of Immortality.
71. Franz Delitzsch, A New Commentary on Genesis.
72. Charles J. Ellicott, The Ceylon Evangelist, October, 1893.
73. George Dana Boardman, Studies in the Creative Week, 1880, p. 215, 216.
74. Ibid. 8300, p. 216.
75. H. Pettingell, The Theological Trilemma (Endless Misery); Universal Salvation, or Conditional Immortality, 1878.; Platonism versus Christianity, 1881.; The Life Everlasting: What Is It? Whence Is It? Whose Is It?, 1882.; The Unspeakable Gift, 1884. Pettingell's, The Life Everlasting, pp. 66, 67.
76. White, Report, London Conference on Conditional Immortality, pp. 28, 29.
77. William H. M. Hay Atken, Foreword, Eric Lewis' - Life and Immortality, 1949, p. f.
78. Eric Lewis, Life and Immortality, 1949 Christ, the First Fruits, 1949.; Christ the First Fruits, p. 79.
79. William Temple, Christian Faith and Life, 1931; 16th impression, 1954.; Drew Lecture on Immortality, 1931.; Nature, Man and God, 1953, p. 460.
80. William Temple, Christian Faith and Life, p. 81.
81. Gerardus van Der Leeuw, Onsterfelijkheid of Opstanding (Immortality or Resurrection), 1947, p. 30.
82. Aubrey R. Vine, An Approach to Christology, 1948, p. 314.
83. Martin J. Heinecken, Basic Christian Teachings, 1949, pp. 36, 37.
84. Martin J. Heinecken, Basic Christian Teachings, 1949, p. 133.
85. David R Davies, The Art of Dodging Repentance, 1952, p. 84.
86. Basil F. C. Atkinson, The Pocket Commentary of the Bible, Part One: Book of Genesis, 1954, p. 32.
87. Emil Brunner, Eternal Hope (English translation by Harold Knight), 1954, p. 100.
88. Ibid., 9700, p. 101.
89. Reinhold Niebuhr, `The Nature and Destiny of Man', Scribners, 1955, (Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh, 1939), Vol. 1, p. 5, 13.
90. T. A. Kantonen, The Christian Hope, 1954, p. 20.
91. From Paul Althaus, Die letzen Dinge, (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1933), p. 126.
92. Dr. Kantonen has since modified his view, according with Walter Künneth (Theologie der Auferstehung) that the dead are not non-existent. (See p. 39.)
93. D. R. G. Owen (??-1961), Body and Soul: A Study on the Christian View of Man. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956), p.177. Used by permission.)
D.R.G. Owen, unpublished history of Trinity College 1952-1974, May, 1974, Trinity College Archives, 986-0012/020(07) at 7 and 15-17; "Campaign Dollars" at 17. Gerald Larkin, President of the Salada Tea Company of Canada, whose generosity to Trinity had already subsidized the new chapel and the Senior Common Room, donated $790,000 of the total $2.8 million needed for Trinity's complete building program from 1958 to 1963, almost as much as the National Fund's $895,000 contribution. His death in April, 1961 led to the decision to name the Academic Building after him.
94. Oscar Cullmann; Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?: The Witness of the New Testament (New York: Macmillan & Co., 1964) (24/03/2008)
95. Helmut Thielicke; Death and Life (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970); p. 196-199.
Man (Part 1), Chapter 2 - Man as Body and Soul; Present Truth Magazine. (01/04/2008)
96. Annihilationism; Wikipedia. (25/03/2008)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annihilationism John Stott: A Global Ministry; p.354. c/f. F.F. Bruce in a Letter to John Stott in 1989.
97. Prof. Dr. Anthony Andrew Hoekema; Doctrine of Man; p.2.
Man (Part 1),
Chapter 2 - Man as Body and Soul; Present Truth Magazine. (01/04/2008)
98. John Wenham; Wikipedia. (25/03/2008)
99. John Stott; Wikipedia. (25/03/2008) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stott
John R.W. Stott; A Statement About Eternal Punishment: For Private Circulation Only - Not For Publication. In An Email from Frances Whitehead on 27 March 2008.
100. New Dictionary of Theology (Intervarsity Press, 1988), p.332-333.
101. Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, p.519.
102. "Immortality": Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Marshall Morgan and Scott Publications Ltd), p.552.