“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:

Continue reading ““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 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. Continue reading ““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

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. Continue reading “Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism: 5 Surprising Things That the Bible Says About Hell”

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.”1 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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  1. 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. []

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.
Continue reading “Lessons You Learn as a Conditionalist (Part 1)”