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What is the big deal with Immortality?
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TOPIC: What is the big deal with Immortality?

What is the big deal with Immortality? 7 months, 2 weeks ago #5043

  • Piqsid
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As I listen to most of the podcasts here and work my way through a lot of the literature and articles, an awful lot of time is spent on the idea of immortality. Are humans inherently immortal? Are our souls immortal? When we are resurrected, will both the lost and the saved be raised to immortality? Can what the lost experience in hell be described as immortal life?

I guess I am confused by the definition of the word “Immortality.” I admit my understanding of immortality is clouded by fantasy literature, in which immortality means that you can live forever. Your body will not get old or wear out. It seems that the definition being used in this argument is not that people “can” live forever, but that they “will” live forever.

To me the phrase “Eternal Life” means you will live forever. Whether that eternal life is gained because God will eternally sustain you, you occasionally eat from the tree of life, or because you gain an inherent nature that is immortal is irrelevant to me. The only relevant thing is that the saved will live forever in heaven. Trying to figure out how God plans to bring that about isn’t something I feel is a fruitful endeavor.

I don’t think anyone would argue that our bodies are mortal in this life. We get old, we wear out, and, even if we are free of any disease, we will die. What about our souls? The souls of those who died in the flood have been “alive” for about 4,000 years. The soul of Abel has been “alive” for about 5,500 years. How much longer can those souls last? If they are not immortal as conditionalists believe, then they should expire at some point. Whether those souls are sleeping or exist somewhere in the intermediate state, people on both sides of the argument agree that those souls will be reunited with their bodies at the resurrection, so they still do exist. Obviously both sides believe that those souls will continue to exist until Christ returns. Whether that is because the souls are immortal or it is because God is sustaining them, seems to me irrelevant.

Once they are raised there is no argument that the saved will be made immortal. Past traditionalists, when not debating with a conditionalist, have said that both the saved and the unsaved will have eternal life, one in heaven and one in hell. More recently in the debates I have heard, traditionalists tend to distance themselves from those kind of statements and do not define the existence of hell as “Eternal Life” but as a lesser type of eternal existence. Either way, their bodies and souls will not expire. Again, whether this is because the nature of their risen bodies doesn’t allow them to expire, or because God is actively sustaining them seems irrelevant to me.

Another question is, “Can God kill an immortal being?” If your definition of immortality is that you “will” live forever, then if God kills you, you are not immortal. But if the definition is that you “can” live forever, then God can kill you. In Mathew 10, people debate the meaning of “kill” when Jesus talks about God killing both body and soul. Let’s say for a moment that it does mean “ruin.” Then the question still stands, “Can God kill an immortal being?” If your answer is no, is it because God is not powerful enough, or is it because the word “Immortal” implies that someone has to live forever.

One of the arguments in favor of Eternal Conscious Torment is that because we sinned against an eternal God, we must be punished for eternity. But if we are all raised to “imperishable” bodies, bodies that will never grow old, that are impervious to disease, that could live forever, and then God sends some to heaven and annihilates the rest, that punishment would be an eternal punishment. You would be robbing them of eternal existence. If you instead kill someone who would have only survived for a few more decades anyway, the price they are really paying is only that many years.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t understand why conditionalists are fighting so hard against the idea of human immortality. If God annihilates immortal beings in hell, that satisfies a lot of the issues that traditionalists have with their view of hell not being a sufficient penalty. I understand if you feel that is not what the Bible teaches, but it doesn’t seem to support one side or the other strongly. If the lost are immortal, then conditionalists simple say God is powerful enough to still kill them in hell. If the lost are not immortal, then traditionalists either say God sustains them in hell, or their existence is qualified as some other type of eternal consciousness.

Re: What is the big deal with Immortality? 7 months, 2 weeks ago #5045

  • Singalphile
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Hello.

I agree with everything you say, essentially. I agree that the question in this argument is whether or not everyone will in fact live forever.

I have no interest in "fighting ... against the idea of human immortality [emphasis added]". I would only argue against the idea that everyone will necessarily be immortal, which is the view of both traditionalists and universalists, I think.

People can get pretty far off track and into the weeds, so I don't doubt that there's some animated discussion out there about whether people are innately "undying", but I'm not aware of that being particularly relevant to most people.
"Singalphile" - Name chosen (hastily) to indicate being on a narrow path, pursuing the love of God. Male, upper-30's, USA.

Re: What is the big deal with Immortality? 7 months, 2 weeks ago #5046

  • kgddds
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Piqsid wrote:
I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t understand why conditionalists are fighting so hard against the idea of human immortality.

Because that idea impacts people.

The idea of inherent human immortality requires the idea that "death" be defined as "separation," and the idea of inherent immortality requires the idea that "destruction" be defined as "ruin." The Bible does not support any of those ideas from my interpretation of it, yet belief systems are still build around these ideas.

To understand the resistance to those ideas I think you would have to see those ideas as harmful to people and destructive to the cause of Christ. I think it's more than an insignificant philosophical exchange if that's what you are concluding.

Ken
The beauty of grace is seen in the glory it reveals.
Grace is glory's seed; Glory is grace's bloom.

Re: What is the big deal with Immortality? 7 months, 2 weeks ago #5047

  • Piqsid
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kgddds wrote:

Because that idea impacts people.

The idea of inherent human immortality requires the idea that "death" be defined as "separation," and the idea of inherent immortality requires the idea that "destruction" be defined as "ruin." The Bible does not support any of those ideas from my interpretation of it, yet belief systems are still build around these ideas.


I get that. Thanks.

When I have this debate in my head, I imagine having it with the elders of my church. At some point in the not so distant future this discussion will take place. I'm sure not everyone on this board is a Young Earth Creationist, in fact most may not be, but I am and my church is. They interpret the Death mentioned in Romans 5:12-21 literally. When you do this, there can be no death before the fall. Therefore, Theistic Evolution, which requires a lot of death leading up to the garden of Eden, is unbiblical. If you then get to Romans 6 (the very next chapter) and it says "the wages of sin is death," and you define that death as separation, you do have a serious problem. If death is separation from God, then you can have evolution, because even though there was a lot of physical death, before the fall, everything was still joined to God.

I suppose if you are an old earth conditionalist you also have a problem, but that is a different debate.

It seems to me that traditionalists need to redefine death and redefine life.

Re: What is the big deal with Immortality? 7 months, 2 weeks ago #5049

  • Singalphile
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I see your point more clearly, I think, Piqsid, after reading kgddds's response and looking at what comes up when you type "conditional immortality" into Youtube.

There does seem to be a conflation of the ideas of "life after death" - the consciousness of a soul or spirit awaiting judgment after the body dies - and "immortality". So I do see a lot of people spending time arguing against the former issue within the debate about hell. As I see it, those are different issues and are not related, and the question of the intermediate state, the so-called afterlife between now and the resurrection/judgment, is a distraction. I agree with you, I think.

The traditional view is that the lost will physically live forever, not as a disembodied soul, anyway.

kgddds wrote:
The idea of inherent human immortality requires the idea that "death" be defined as "separation," and the idea of inherent immortality requires the idea that "destruction" be defined as "ruin."


The idea of inherent immortality does require a definition of destruction that doesn't include normal death, yes, but I don't understand why it would require the idea that "death" be defined as "separation". Why would that notion be required, as opposed to merely plausible sounding?

Thanks, all. Have a good one.
"Singalphile" - Name chosen (hastily) to indicate being on a narrow path, pursuing the love of God. Male, upper-30's, USA.
Last Edit: 7 months, 2 weeks ago by Singalphile.

Re: What is the big deal with Immortality? 7 months, 2 weeks ago #5050

  • kgddds
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Singalphile wrote:
The idea of inherent immortality does require a definition of destruction that doesn't include normal death, yes, but I don't understand why it would require the idea that "death" be defined as "separation". Why would that notion be required, as opposed to merely plausible sounding?

Hey Singalphile, good question.

My thoughts are that immortality conveys the notion of some sort of meaningful, eternal, ongoing and unending existence in a state of awareness. For those who believe in ECT, I was linking their belief in EC to their premise belief in universal inherent immortality. With universal immortality, death cannot mean to cease to live, so it must mean something other than that. Proponents of ECT maintain death, then, is in essence a ceasing to be together—a separation.

When referring to the second death, Robert A. Peterson says, "The wicked will not cease to exist; they will exist in perpetual separation from God's eternal life ("death") in conscious torment ("fire")." (p. 197-198, Hell on Trial, 1995)

I think when Peterson communicates things like "death" being the perpetual separation from God's eternal life, it is the belief that humans are inherently immortal (universal immortality)—and that they must exist somewhere (either heaven or hell)—that requires him to define it in this way. That belief requires a definition of the second death to contain an ongoing existence, hence he MUST define death in terms of a separation.

Suppose universal inherent immortality is true...what other definition of death would the traditionalist have other than that of "separation?" I can't think of anything other than "separation" that would provide a valid link. You asked about this notion being "plausible sounding" and inferring perhaps of other possible valid links. Do other plausible links exist?

Of course, the conditionalist better defines "death" in terms of life, and the second death is complete extinction with absolutely NO LIFE, rather than it being an existence in a BAD LIFE separated from God.

Ken
The beauty of grace is seen in the glory it reveals.
Grace is glory's seed; Glory is grace's bloom.
Last Edit: 7 months, 2 weeks ago by kgddds. Reason: Spelling
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