Conditional Immortality, Origen, and the Second Council of Constantinople

In the discussion regarding hell amongst evangelicals, Scripture should be our starting point and final authority. Of course, this doesn’t mean that historical theology is irrelevant. How the biblical texts have been interpreted throughout almost 2000 years of Church history matters in a very real sense. The Church Councils can be informative for our doctrine, but are not supposed to take precedence over Scripture. Sola Scriptura does not mean tradition doesn’t matter, but that Scripture is over tradition. But it’s worth looking at historical theology when trying to shed light on biblical interpretation when it comes to the doctrine of final punishment/hell.

In the discussion of final punishment, the Councils give us precious little to go on. However, some evangelicals have turned to the Second Council of Constantinople to assert that the early Church condemned all views other than eternal conscious torment. Continue reading “Conditional Immortality, Origen, and the Second Council of Constantinople”

Hell in the Times: Were the Early Church Fathers “Vague” in Their Support of Conditional Immortality?

Rethinking Hell was recently brought to the attention of readers of the New York Times, along with work of Edward Fudge and the subject of conditional immortality. Not too shabby! In the article, one theologian dismissed the comments of Church Fathers who supported conditional immortality as “vague.” But are they really? Continue reading “Hell in the Times: Were the Early Church Fathers “Vague” in Their Support of Conditional Immortality?”

Featured Content: The Second Council of Constantinople Canard


A fairly common claim against evangelical conditionalism is that the Second Council of Constantinople of 553 A.D. condemned annihilationism as heresy.
This is meant to score big points in the church history argument against conditionalism (a method that is itself wrought with problems). In this case, the conditionalist has a much easier task than having to explain the shortcomings of the church history argument as a whole. When you actually read the text of the council, you find that this claim about our view being condemned in it isn’t even true in the first place.

Friend and guest contributor Ronnie has a bit to say about that in today’s featured content: “Conditionalism and the Second Council of Constantinople.”
 

Episode 46: Immortality in the Early Church, with John Roller (Part 2)

Dr. John Roller joins Rethinking Hell contributor Chris Date to discuss what the early Church Fathers believed about human immortality and the final fate of the lost, as he examines in his book, The Doctrine of Immortality in the Early Church. This episode contains the second half of the discussion; listen to the previous episode of the Rethinking Hell podcast for part one.
Continue reading “Episode 46: Immortality in the Early Church, with John Roller (Part 2)”

Obfuscating Traditionalism: No Eternal Life in Hell?

Historically, traditionalists have not shied away from affirming their belief that the lost will rise from the dead immortal in the sense that they will live forever in hell. While some contemporary traditionalists are comfortable speaking this way, others are not. They appeal on the one hand to the longstanding dominance of their view of hell within the Church as a reason to be skeptical of alternatives, but on the other hand they claim that their predecessors were using biblically imprecise language. Their claim, however, does not hold up under scrutiny. Whether intentional or not, it only obfuscates the truth that their view is one in which the lost will, in fact, live forever—biblically speaking—thus failing to truly rescue it from the answer to the biblical question of immortality. Continue reading “Obfuscating Traditionalism: No Eternal Life in Hell?”

Deprived of continuance: Irenaeus the conditionalist

Arnobius of Sicca

Critics of conditionalism often credit fourth-century apologist Arnobius of Sicca with being the first clear proponent of conditionalism. From Robert Peterson to John Blanchard to Robert Morey, there is an abundant tendency among traditionalists to indicate Arnobius as “the first name usually associated with” annihilationism and conditional immortality,1Blanchard, J. Whatever Happened to Hell? (Crossway, 1995). 211. who gave “the first clear expression of annihilationism,”2Peterson, R. Hell On Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1995). 104. that annihilationism “was first advanced by Arnobius, a 4th-century ‘Christian’ apologist, according to standard reference works such as Baker’s Dictionary of Theology.”3Morey, R. Death and the Afterlife (Bethany House, 1984). 199. Each of these authors is critical of Arnobius and his work; Morey is even hesitant to identify Arnobius as Christian, enclosing the term in scare quotes. The impression these authors apparently intend to leave their readers with is that conditionalism emerged hundreds of years after the writing of the New Testament, first espoused by a “less-than-careful thinker”4Peterson. Hell On Trial. 103. whose very faith is of questionable legitimacy. Continue reading “Deprived of continuance: Irenaeus the conditionalist”

1. Blanchard, J. Whatever Happened to Hell? (Crossway, 1995). 211.
2. Peterson, R. Hell On Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1995). 104.
3. Morey, R. Death and the Afterlife (Bethany House, 1984). 199.
4. Peterson. Hell On Trial. 103.