Conditional Immortality—An Acceptable View?

Conditional Immortality—An Acceptable View?

What does Conditional Immortality affirm and deny?

As a doctrinal position, conditional immortality explicitly affirms that immortality is a gift from God given only to the saved (1 Tim 6:16; Rom 2:7; 2 Tim 1:10; 1 Cor 15:54). Immortality means living forever (literally, deathlessness).

It also implicitly rejects universal immortality, the view that all people are or will be immortal. Since this is a tenet of both eternal torment and universal salvation, conditionalism necessarily denies those two positions. ((Conditionalism therefore also rejects universal salvation’s stipulation of a universally-met condition for immortality.))

Conditionalism is described in terms of “eternal life” for the saved, and “eternal punishment” for the unsaved (Matt 25:46). Punishment here consists of an “eternal judgment” of death instead of life, requiring an “eternal destruction” of “body and soul” (Heb 6:2; 2 Thess 1:9 cf. Matt 10:28).

This aspect of conditionalism can be called annihilation. Whereas the concept of death speaks of a forfeit of life (without specifying whether this will be temporary or permanent), annihilation speaks of a death that is permanent. Since God is the source of life (Acts 17:25; Heb 1:3; Rev 2:7 cf. Gen 3:22), this may be understood in terms of a consequence of eternal separation or severance from God.

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Lessons from a Tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo

Lessons from a Tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo

On Saturday, May 28th, 2016 a four-year-old boy climbed past some barriers and fell into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. The boy’s life was in danger. In order to save him, zookeepers shot and killed Harambe, a large, male gorilla.

This story—which is tragic on many levels—can nevertheless help us to think about several questions that often arise in the brotherly debate between those who believe in eternal conscious torment and those who believe in annihilationism. Specifically, I would like to draw out three lessons. Read more about Lessons from a Tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo

“Hell Triangle”—Christian Views of Final Punishment

“Hell Triangle”—Christian Views of Final Punishment

Rethinking Hell’s classic “Hell Triangle” chart has been revised and updated, and made available in a variety of formats, for printing and including in blogs and presentations.

You may freely use the images below under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives license. This means that you can use the diagram in any way, so long as appropriate attribution is included, and so long as you don’t change the image or use it to make your own version. Read more about “Hell Triangle”—Christian Views of Final Punishment

“Conditional Immortality”—What it means and why it’s the best label (Part 3)

“Conditional Immortality”—What it means and why it’s the best label (Part 3)

In Part 1 of this series, I clarified what we mean in calling our view “conditional immortality.” In Part 2, a doctrine of proto-conditionalism was identified and elucidated, providing important historical context. Now in Part 3, I’ll complete the overall justification of our chosen label, giving due attention to convention, and also further explain our view and its relevance today.

As we’ve now seen, in the plainest terms immortality means “will live forever” and conditional means “subject to a condition.” Narrowly expressed, that’s primarily what we mean by the words conditional immortality. There is more involved theologically, but at the level of words, it remains for us to appreciate the secondary sense of conditional that we are also invoking.

A second sense of conditional, denying universal and absolute

In theological labeling convention, conditional is a technical term implying that conditions will not be universally met (i.e. rendered absolute). The reason for this is that it’s not merely the fact of a condition that is in view, but rather the interesting question of scope. If you wanted to announce a universal scope, you would call your position universal or unconditional. If you wanted to refer to a limited, nonuniversal scope, you would refer instead to “conditional” matters. In this sense, something can’t be both universal and conditional.

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“Conditional Immortality”—What it means and why it’s the best label (Part 2)

“Conditional Immortality”—What it means and why it’s the best label (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I clarified what we mean in calling our view “conditional immortality.” Now, in Part 2, we will continue with some important historical background. In Part 3, I’ll complete the overall justification of our chosen label with due attention to convention and further explain our view and its relevance today. If you prefer, you can read the entire article as a whole.

What “conditional immortality” meant before it was cool

Did you know that the Christian church has always held to conditional immortality? Well, not necessarily in a way that implies annihilation, but perhaps more consistent with today’s usage than you might expect.

For purposes of testing that claim, let us suppose that, at base, the term conditional immortality refers to the idea that humanity was not created mortal or immortal per se, but rather conditionally immortal or conditionally mortal, depending on emphasis.

More fully expressed, this would mean humans are mortal yet capable of immortality (after meeting qualifying conditions), or alternatively, immortal yet capable of mortality (after meeting disqualifying conditions).

Writing in the late second century, Theophilus of Antioch spoke this way explicitly:

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“Conditional Immortality”—What it means and why it’s the best label (Part 1)

“Conditional Immortality”—What it means and why it’s the best label (Part 1)

Alas! The hell debate has a terminology problem. First, traditionalism is nondescript and sometimes considered pejorative. It’s also not quite accurate: there were several traditions in early Christendom, with eternal torment dominating in the Western church from around the fourth century. Next, universalism can refer to the inclusivist outlook on world religions, which evangelical universalists typically deny in favor of an eternal opportunity to respond to the gospel. Finally, conditionalism (short for Conditional Immortality) is sometimes reduced to a view about the mechanics of human mortality/immortality instead of pertaining to ultimate destinies in the context of eschatology.

The addition of “eternal torment” and “ultimate reconciliation” to our deck of terms helps us compensate for some shortcomings. However, despite many proposals, no viable alternative has emerged that is simultaneously strong and consistent across all three positions. It seems that these terms are here to stay, for better or worse, as well-established shorthand labels. Read more about “Conditional Immortality”—What it means and why it’s the best label (Part 1)

Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism: 5 Surprising Things That the Bible Says About Hell

Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism: 5 Surprising Things That the Bible Says About Hell

Some people have spent a lot of time studying the issue of hell. A small group of such people got together, and now we have RethinkingHell.com. But for many, this isn’t a top priority. So let me give an overview of some key things that the Bible says about hell, things that I think will surprise a lot of you who haven’t looked into this issue that much before now. Read more about Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism: 5 Surprising Things That the Bible Says About Hell

Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism: What Do We Mean by “Annihilation?”

Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism: What Do We Mean by “Annihilation?”

As you likely are already aware, here at Rethinking Hell we deny the traditional teaching of Hell as a place of eternal torment, and instead view it as a place where the conscious existence of the unsaved is ended forever. This view is variously called “conditionalism,” “conditional immortality,” or “annihilationism.” ((In practice, especially in literature critical of this view, these terms are used with a lot of fluidity. Sometimes they are viewed as being largely synonymous, and are used interchangeably. Other times, they are used to describe considerably different views. For example, some, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, deny that the unsaved will be resurrected at all. Others believe that they will be resurrected to be judged and then sentenced to extinction. Some refer to the former view using “conditional immortality,” and to the latter using “annihilationism.” Others use those terms the other way around. We at Rethinking Hell believe the unsaved will be resurrected. as explained in our statement of faith.)) The term annihilationism has led to a lot of confusion, and has led critics of our view to use straw man arguments against our view, so I would like to clarify what annihilation means in the context of annihilationism and conditional immortality.
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Lessons You Learn as a Conditionalist (Part 1)

Lessons You Learn as a Conditionalist (Part 1)

Hello everyone,

Having held to this minority Christian view on the doctrine of hell for some time now, I find that it has taught me a lot about things that go far beyond final punishment. I also find that I am not alone in these things. Therefore, I have decided to write some of them down. This is the first installment in what we hope to be an ongoing series here at RethinkingHell. After all, there is always more to learn.

The point of this article is not so much to give further evidence for the evangelical conditionalist view as much as it is to share lessons that can benefit believers of whatever view on hell. It is, of course, inevitable that some examples and statements will promote the conditionalist view; that’s just the nature of the beast. Nevertheless, as you shall see, these lessons are applicable to all kinds of spiritual matters, not just hell.
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