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 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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Rethinking Hell contributor Chris Date continues a series of special episodes celebrating last year’s publication of the ministry’s second book, A Consuming Passion: Essays on Hell and Immortality in Honor of Edward Fudge, by interviewing its authors. In this second episode of the series, Chris interviews Peter Grice and Glenn Peoples.

After the interview, Chris announces the upcoming third annual Rethinking Hell Conference, being held in London on October 7–8.

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In a recent article, guest contributor Terrance Tiessen, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Providence Theological Seminary, explained that after being convinced of conditional immortality he nevertheless thought for a while “that neither traditionalism nor annihilationism gains an apologetic advantage from the doctrine of Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement” because “Jesus neither suffered endlessly nor was annihilated.” Upon further reflection, however, Tiessen has come to conclude that “Since the penalty for sin is death, what Jesus suffered as our sin bearer was death,” while “the unrepentant wicked, who must pay the penalty for their own sin, necessarily die the ‘second death.’” He concludes, therefore, that “penal substitutionary atonement accords much better with conditionalism than it does with endless conscious torment.”

Tiessen echoes my own sentiments, captured in the conclusion to my 2012 article “Cross Purposes: Atonement, Death and the Fate of the Wicked.” “Traditionalists say that Jesus died for our sins,” I wrote, “but what they mean is that he suffered pain leading up to his death . . . And because traditionalists don’t believe the bodies of the risen wicked will ever die, their view of eternal punishment is at the very least considerably more unlike the substitutionary death of Christ than [that of conditionalists].”

However, I also noted the existence of “the reverse challenge from traditionalists who insist that conditionalism must be false because either Christ wasn’t annihilated or because of conditionalism’s allegedly heretical Christological implications,” and I said we at Rethinking Hell would address the challenge in the future. It is to this challenge that I turn now, if belatedly. Continue reading

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After the first two Rethinking Hell conferences drew speakers and guests from around the world to Houston in 2014 and Pasadena in 2015, we are excited to take our conference to the world! Announcing the third annual Rethinking Hell Conference, taking place at Highgate International Church in Highgate, London on October 7-8, 2016. Our theme this year will be “Conditional Immortality: Past, Present, Future.”

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Do you live within a road trip’s driving distance from Northern California? And do you enjoy live debates, or are you on the fence when it comes to whether the Bible teaches conditional immortality or the traditional doctrine of hell? Striving for Eternity Ministries is hosting a debate between Rethinking Hell contributor Chris Date and Bible Thumping Wingnut co-host Len Pettis, at the ministry’s free, annual Norcal Fire conference on Friday, September 9th at Grace Bible Church in Redwood City. From the conference website:

Is conditional immortality biblical? A debate on the nature and duration of hell.

Chris Date, host of the Rethinking Hell podcast, will defend Conditional Immortality. According to this view, life is the Creator’s provisional gift to all, but will ultimately be granted to the saved forever as the gift of immortality, and revoked from the lost forever as the punishment of annihilation. Len Pettis, co-host of the Bible Thumping Wingnut show, will defend the historically dominant view of hell as Eternal Conscious Torment. Date and Pettis are conservative evangelicals and will argue for their respective views from Scripture, which they aim to uphold as their final authority.

Visit the conference website for more details and to register!

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