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Questions On Doctrine


Champions of Conditional Immortality



You allude to others who, through the centuries, have held that immortality is not received until the resurrection, that the righteous dead sleep during the interim of death until awakened by the Life-giver at the resurrection, also that the wicked will ultimately be destroyed. Who are these "conditionalists"? Are they not obscure heretics, for practically all orthodox scholars have held to innate immortality? Kindly name some of the advocates to whom you allude, and cite some of their writings.


Truth is not, and never has been, established by human majorities. Theological truth is ever, and only, based upon the immutable Word of God and determined by its inspired precepts and principles. But always there have been godly and scholarly champions of genuine truth. And this is definitely the case with the doctrine of immortality in, and only in and through, Jesus Christ at His second advent. Immortality is a gift, we believe, bestowed upon the righteous only, who have by faith accepted eternal life in Christ (John 3: 16, 36; John 11:25, 26), at the appearing of our Lord (1 John 5:11; 1 Cor. 15:51, 53).


The line of adherents to this great Biblical truth has been more constant, stronger, and more illustrious than most of us have been aware. In fact, the line of advocates has been virtually continuous from Reformation times onward. The names of these pious Christian leaders and brilliant scholars, found in every generation, are spread over the centuries. Because of space limitations only a few can be cited here; but the historical record is astonishing. Full documented evidence can be compassed only in book form, but the examples that follow indicate the high caliber of, and often the key positions held by, these adherents to conditionalism, as it is often called—or life only in Christ through the resurrection. Examples must be limited to men from Protestant Reformation times onward.*

The brilliance of the assemblage of names that follow surely indicates that the epithet "heretic," in contrast to the "orthodoxy" of the majority, cannot justly be applied to this notable company of Christian leaders—bishops, archbishops, archdeacons, deans, canons, presbyters, teachers, linguists, Bible translators, exegetes, administrators, principals, pastors, editors, poets, scientists, barristers, philosophers, and even a prime minister—whose names have adorned the roster of the Christian church and have held the confidence and respect of their fellows.
*These earlier exceptions, however, must be noted: The twelfth century Piedmontese Waldenses, in their Catechism for the instructing of their youth (Morland, The History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of the Piedmont, 1658, p. 75), declared that man is but "mortal." And John Wycliffe—who derived many of his evangelical concepts from them—likewise held that "immortalitie or undedlynesse, was to be bestowed at the resurrection, and that the dead cannot now be benefited by prayers, but are "all dead" and are "clepid slepyng" (called sleeping).


These men were, moreover, spread throughout all faiths—Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Baptist, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Methodist, et cetera. And not only do they extend over these four centuries, but they exist today in high church circles. We submit that if they, whose names continue to be revered, honored, and unchallenged in their respective church affiliations, were not considered heretics for so believing and teaching, then by the same token neither we, nor others today (like the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. William Temple, Anglican primate of Great Britain), who conscientiously hold the same, can justly be charged with "heresy" for so believing.

The Historical Setting

On December 19, 1513, in connection with the eighth session of the fifth Lateran Council, Pope Leo X issued a Bull (Apostolici regimis) declaring, "We do condemn and reprobate all who assert that the intelligent soul is mortal" (Damnamus et reprobamus omnes assertentes animam intellectivam mortalem esse). This was directed against the growing "heresy" of those who denied the natural immortality of the soul, and avowed the conditional immortality of man. The Bull also decreed that "all who adhere to the like erroneous assertions shall be shunned and punished as heretics." The decrees of this Council, it should be noted, were all issued in the form of Bulls or constitutions (H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, 1937, pp. 483, 487).

In 1516 Pietro Pomponatius, of Mantua, noted Italian professor and leader among the Averrorists (who denied the immortality of the soul), issued a


book in opposition to this position called Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul. This was widely read, especially in the Italian universities. As a result, he was haled before the Inquisition, and his book publicly burned in Venice.

Then, on October 31, 1517, Luther posted his famous Theses on the church door in Wittenberg. In his 1520 published Defence of 41 of his propositions, Luther cited the pope's immortality declaration, as among "those monstrous opinions to be found in the Roman dunghill of decretals" (proposition 27). In the twenty-seventh proposition of his Defence Luther said:

However, I permit the Pope to establish articles of faith for himself and for his own faithful—such are: That the bread and wine are transubstantiated in the sacrament; that the essence of God neither generates nor is generated; that the soul is the substantial form of the human body; that he [the pope] is emperor of the world and king of heaven, and earthly god; that the soul is immortal; and all these endless monstrosities in the Roman dunghill of decretals—in order that such as his faith is, such may be his gospel, such also his faithful, and such his church, and that the lips may have suitable lettuce and the lid may be worthy of the dish. Martin Luther, Assertio Omnium Articulorum M. Lutheri per Bullam Leonis X. Novissimam Damnatorum (Assertion of all the articles of M. Luther condemned by the latest Bull of Leo X), article 27, Weimar edition of Luther's Works, vol. 7, pp. 131, 132 (a point-by-point exposition of his position, written Dec. 1, 1520, in response to requests for a fuller treatment than that given in his Adversus execrabilem Antichristi Bullam, and Wider die Bulle des Endchrists).

Archdeacon Francis Blackburne states in his Short Historical View of the Controversy Concerning an Intermediate State, of 1765:

Luther espoused the doctrine of the sleep of the soul, upon a Scripture foundation, and then he made use of it as a confutaion of purgatory, and saint worship, and continued in that belief to the last moment of his life.—Page 14.


In support, Blackburne has an extended Appendix section dealing with Luther's teaching as set forth in his writings, and discusses the charges and counter-charges.*

Here follow certain of the leading witnesses of recent centuries, with Luther and Tyndale in some detail

Sixteenth Century

Martin Luther (1493-1546), German Reformer and Bible translator

The immediate cause of Luther's stand on the sleep of the soul was the issue of purgatory, with its postulate of the conscious torment of anguished souls. While Luther is not always consistent, the predominant note running all through his writings is that souls sleep in peace, without consciousness or pain. The Christian dead are not aware of anything—see not, feel not, understand not, and are not conscious of passing events. Luther held and periodically stated that in the sleep of death, as in normal physical sleep, there is complete unconsciousness and unawareness of the condition of death or the passage of time.** Death is a deep, sound, sweet sleep.*** And the dead will remain asleep
*The Lutheran scholar Dr. T. A. Kantonen (
The Christian Hope, 1594, p. 37), likewise referred to Luther's position in these words:
"Luther, with a greater emphasis on the resurrection preferred to concentrate on the scriptural metaphor of sleep. For just as one who falls asleep and reaches morning unexpectedly when he awakes, without knowing what has happened to him so we shall suddenly rise on the last day without knowing how we have come into death and through death.' 'We shall sleep, until He comes and knocks on the little grave and says, Doctor Martin, get up! Then I shall rise in a moment, and be happy with Him forever.' "

**See "Auslegung des ersten Buches Mose" (1544) in Schriften, vol. 1, col. 1756; "Kirchen-Postille" (1528) in Schriften, vol. 11, col. 1143; Schriften, vol. 2, col. 1(169; Deutsche Schriften (Erlangen ed.), vol. 11, p. 142ff.; vol. 41 (1525), p. 373. 

*** "Catechetische Schriften" 1542), in Schriften, vol. 11, pp. 287, 288.


until the day of resurrection,* which resurrection embraces both body and soul, when both will come together again.**

Here are sample Luther citations. In the quaint 1573 English translation we read:

Salomon iudgeth that the dead are a sleepe, and feele nothing at all. For the dead lye there accompting neyther dayes nor yeares, but when they are awaked, they shall seeme to haue slept scarce one minute.—An Exposition of Salomon's Booke, Called Ecclesiastes or the Preacher, 1573, folio 151v.

But we Christians, who have been redeemed from all this through the precious blood of God's Son, should train and accustom ourselves in faith to despise death and regard it as a deep, strong, sweet sleep; to consider the coffin as nothing other than our Lord Jesus' bosom or Paradise, the grave as nothing other than a soft couch of ease or rest. As verily, before God, it truly is just this; for he testifies, John 11:11: Lazarus, our friend sleeps; Matthew 9:24: The maiden is not dead, she sleeps. Thus, too, St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, removes from sight all hateful aspects of death as related to our mortal body and brings forward nothing but charming and joyful aspects of the promised life. He says there [vv. 42ff]: It is sown in corruption and will rise in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor (that is, a hateful, shameful form) and will rise in glory; it is sown in weakness and will rise in strength; it is sown in natural body and will rise a spiritual body.—"Christian Song Latin and German, for Use at Funerals," 1542, in Works of Luther (1932), vol. 6, pp. 287, 288.

Thus after death the soul goes to its bedchamber and to its peace, and while it is sleeping it does not realize its sleep, and God preserves indeed the awakening soul. God is able to awake Elijah, Moses, and others, and so control them, so that they will live. But how can that be? That we do not know; we satisfy ourselves with the example of bodily sleep, and with what God says: it is a sleep, a rest, and a peace. He who sleeps naturally knows nothing of that which happens in his neighbor's house; and

*"Auslegungen uber die Psalmen [31" in 1533 in Schriften, vol. 4, pp. 323, 324.

** "Am Zweiten Sonntage nach Trinitatis," "Haus-Postille," in Schriften, vol. 13, Col. 2153; "Predigt uber 1 Cor. 15: (54-57)," (1533), "Auslegung des neuen Testament," in Schriften, vol. 8, col. 1340


nevertheless, he still is living, even though, contrary to the nature of life, he is unconscious in his sleep. Exactly the same will happen also in that life, but in another and a better way.*—"Auslegung des ersten Buches Mose," in Schriften, vol. 1, cols. 1759, 1760.

Here is another sample:

We should learn to view our death in the right light, so that we need not become alarmed on account of it, as unbelief does; because in Christ it is indeed not death, but a fine, sweet and brief sleep, which brings us release from this vale of tears, from sin and from the fear and extremity of real death and from all the misfortunes of this life, and we shall be secure and without care, rest sweetly and gently for a brief moment, as on a sofa, until the time when he shall call and awaken us together with all his dear children to his eternal glory and joy. For since we call it a sleep, we know that we shall not remain in it, but be again awakened and live, and that the time during which we sleep, shall seem no longer than if we had just fallen asleep. Hence, we shall censure ourselves that we were surprised or alarmed at such a sleep in the hour of death, and suddenly come alive out of the grave and from decomposition, and entirely well, fresh, with a pure, clear, glorified life, meet our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the clouds. . . .

Scripture everywhere affords such consolation, which speaks of the death of the saints, as if they fell asleep and were gathered to their fathers, that is, had overcome death through this faith and comfort in Christ, and awaited the resurrection, together with the saints who preceded them in death.—A Compend of Luther's Theology, edited by Hugh Thomson Ker, Jr., p. 242.

William Tyndale (1484-1536), English Bible translator and martyr

In Britain William Tyndale, translator of the Bible into English, came to the defense of the revived
*In his Master of Arts thesis (1946), "A Study of Martin Luther's Teaching Concerning the State of the Dead," T. N. Ketola, tabulating Luther's references to death as a sleep—as found in Luther's Sammtliche Schriften, Wash's Concord, 1904 ed.—lists 125 specific Luther references to death as a sleep. Ketola cites another smaller group of references showing Luther believed in the periodic consciousness of some. But the main point is that, while the dead live, they are unconscious—which is stated some seven times.


teaching of conditional immortality. This, as well as other teachings, brought him into direct conflict with the papal champion, Sir Thomas More, likewise of England. In 1529 More had strongly objected to the "pestilential sect" represented by Tyndale and Luther, because they held that "all souls lie and sleep till doomsday." In 1530 Tyndale responded vigorously, declaring:

And ye, in putting them [the departed souls] in heaven, hell, and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection. . . . And again, if the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?—William Tyndale, An Answer to Sir Thomas More's Dialogue (Parker's 1850 reprint), bk. 4, ch. 4, pp. 180, 181

Tyndale went to the heart of the issue in pointing out the papacy's draft upon the teachings of "heathen philosophers" in seeking to establish its contention of innate immortality.


The true faith putteth [setteth forth] the resurrection, which we be warned to look for every hour. The heathen philosophers, denying that, did put [set forth] that the souls did ever live. And the pope joineth the spiritual doctrine of Christ and the fleshly doctrine of philosophers together; things so contrary that they cannot agree, no more than the Spirit and the flesh do in a Christian man. And because the fleshly-minded pope consenteth unto heathen doctrine, therefore he corrupteth the Scripture to stablish it.—Ibid., p. 180.

In yet another section of the same treatise, dealing with the "invocation of saints," Tyndale uses the same reasoning, pointing out that the doctrine of departed saints being in heaven had not yet been introduced in Christ's day:


And when he [More] proveth that the saints be in heaven in glory with Christ already, saying, "If God be their God, they be in heaven, for he is not the God of the dead;" there he stealeth away Christ's argument, wherewith he proveth the resurrection: that Abraham and all saints should rise again, and not that their souls were in heaven; which doctrine was not yet in the world. And with that doctrine he taketh away the resurrection quite, and maketh Christ's argument of none effect.—Ibid., p. 118.

Tyndale presses his contention still further by showing the conflict of papal teaching with St. Paul, as he says in slightly sarcastic vein:

"Nay, Paul, thou art unlearned; go to Master More, and learn a new way. We be not most miserable, though we rise not again; for our souls go to heaven as soon as we be dead, and are there in as great joy as Christ that is risen again." And I marvel that Paul had not comforted the Thessalonians with that doctrine, if he had wist it, that the souls of their dead had been in joy; as he did with the resurrection, that their dead should rise again. If the souls be in heaven, in as great glory as the angels, after your doctrine, shew me what cause should be of the resurrection?— Ibid.

John Frith (1503-33), associate of Tyndale and fellow martyr

A Disputacyon of Purgatorie . . . divided into three Bokes, c. 1530
An Answer to John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester
Notwithstanding, let me grant it him that some are already in hell and some in heaven, which thing he shall never be able to prove by the Scriptures, yea, and which plainly destroy the resurrection, and taketh away the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul do prove that we shall rise; . . . and as touching this point where they rest, I dare be bold to say that they are in the hand of God. An Answer to John Fisher.


George Wishard (1500-1546), Greek scholar, friend of Latimer, tutor of John Knox, and martyr

Wishart was charged with attacking auricular confession, transubstantiation, extreme unction, holy water, invocation of saints (who couldn't hear their supplications anyway), and purgatory. Charge "XVI" was for promulgating the doctrine of the sleep of the soul.

Charge "XVI": Thou false heretic has preached openly saying, that the soul of man shall sleep to the latter day of judgment and shall not obtain life immortal until that day.—Blackburne, Historical View, p. 21.

"General Baptists"

In his Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, chancellor of the University of Gottingen, Johann L. von Mosheim, records that the "General Baptists" were spread in large numbers over many of the provinces of England (Murdock tr., bk. IV, cent. XVI, sec. III, pt. 2, ch. III, par. 23). As one article of faith they held "that the soul, between death and the resurrection at the last day, has neither pleasure nor pain, but is in a state of insensibility."—Ibid.

On the other hand, Calvin, deeply disturbed over the spread of this teaching in different lands, in 1534 wrote a militant tract, Psychopannychia (Soul Sleep). It was issued to refute the teaching that the "soul dies or sleeps," and stated that this concept had "already drawn thousands" into its acceptance.

Dr. Joseph Priestley, after observing that many of the early reformers held to "soul-sleep," declared:

Had it not been for the authority of Calvin, who wrote expressly against it [soul sleep], the doctrine of an intermediate conscious state would, in all probability, have been as effectually exploded as the doctrine of purgatory itself.—Corruptions Christianity, in Works (1818), vol. 5, p. 229.


Seventeenth Century 

"R. O. [Richard (or Robert) Overton], scholar, soldier, and pamphleteer Man's Mortality, 1643 
Title page reads:

A Treatise wherein 'T is proved, both Theologically and Philosophically, That as whole man sinned, so whole man died; contrary to that common distinction of Soul and Body: And that the present going of the Soul into heaven or hell, is a meer Fiction: And that at the Resurrection is the beginning of our immortality; and then actual Condemnation and Salvation, and not before.

Samuel Richardson (fl. 1633-1658), pastor, First Particular Baptist Church, of London

A Discourse on the Torments of Hell: the Foundations and Pillars thereof discover'd, search'd, shaken, and remov'd. With Infallible Proofs that there is not to be a Punishment after this Life, for any to endure that shall never end, 1658

John Milton (1608-1674), "Greatest of the Sacred Poets"; Latin secretary to Cromwell

Treatise of Christian Doctrine, vol. 1, ch. 13
(Taught totally unconscious sleep of man in death until coming of Christ and resurrection.)

Inasmuch then as the whole man is uniformly said to consist of body, and soul (whatever may be the distinct provinces assigned to these divisions), I will show, that in death, first, the whole man, and secondly, each component part, suffers privation of life. . . . The grave is the common guardian of all till the day of judgment.—Chapter 13.


George Wither (1588-1667), "The Christian Poet,"

English translation of Nemesius, [early] Bishop of Emesa, 1636
(Contends for conditional immortality; soul is asleep in death.)

John Jackson (1686-1763), rector of Rossington 

A Dissertation on Matter and Spirit, 1735 
The Belief of a Future State, 1745
A Clear Distinction Between True and False Religion, 1750
(Doctrine of eternal torment confuted and condemned.)

John Canne (1590-1667), printer of R. Overton's work; pastor, Broadmead Baptist Church, 

Bristol Reference Bible, 1682
(Held essentially the same as R. Overton.)

Archbishop John Tillotson (1630-1694), of Canterbury

Works, 1683
I do not find that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is anywhere expressly delivered in Scripture, but taken for granted.—Works, 1717 ed., vol. 1, p. 749

Dr. Issac Barrow (1630-1677), professor of Greek, Cambridge University

Duration of Future Punishment, in Works
(Maintained eternal life is conditional; held final destruction of wicked.)

Eighteenth Century

Dr. William Coward (1657-1725), practicing physician, London

A Survey of the Search After Souls


Second Thoughts Concerning the Human Soul, demonstrating the Notion of Human Soul, as believ'd to be a Spiritual and Immortal Substance, united to a Human Body, to be plain Heathenish Invention, and not Consonant to the Principles of Philosophy, Reason or Religion, 1702

Further Thoughts Concerning the Human Soul, 1703

Henry Layton (1670-1706), Anglican, author of twelve books on conditionalism

Arguments and Replies, in a dispute concerning the nature of the Soul, 1703
A Search After Souls, 1706
(Contends that during life, we live and move in Christ; and when we die we rest and sleep in Him, in expectation of being raised at His second coming.)

Joseph Nicol Scott, M.D. (1703-1769), minister, assisting his father, Thomas Scott

Sermons Preached in Defence of All Religion, 1743 (Maintains—vol. 2, sermons 17, 18—that life is for the righteous only, with destruction for the wicked.)

  Dr. Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), Unitarian, scientist, and philosopher

"Disquisitions Relating to Matter and Spirit," in Works, vol. 3
The History of Opinion Concerning the State of the Dead
(The "state of the soul in death" is one of utter insensibility, as much dead as the body itself while it continues in the state of death.)


Bishop Edmund Law (1703-1787), master of St. Peter's College, archdeacon of Stafford shire, bishop of Carlisle

Considerations on . . . the Theory of Religion, 1749 
The State of the Dead
, 1765 (Appendix to the foregoing)
(Challenged doctrine of conscious intermediate state; held death to be a sleep, a negation of all life, thought, or action—a state of rest, silence, oblivion.)

Peter Pecard (c. 1718-1797), master of Magdalen College, Cambridge, dean of Peterborough

Observations on the Doctrine of an Intermediate State, Between Death and the Resurrection, 1756 (Immortality not innate, but a gift through Christ.)

Archdeacon Francis Blackburne (1705-1787), of Cleveland; rector of Richmond

A Short Historical View of the Controversy Concerning the Intermediate State, 1765
(Most complete history of the topic in 18th century.)

Bishop William Warburton (1698-1779), of Gloucester, theological controversialist

Divine Legation of Moses, 1738-41
(Styled militant believers in everlasting torment as the "unmerciful doctors.")


Samuel Bourn (1714-1796), dissenter, Rivington, Lancashire

Christian Doctrine of Future Punishment, 1759 
(Stresses "total destruction, or annihilation or ceasing to exist" for the incorrigibly wicked.)

Dr. William Whiston (1667-1752), Baptist theologian, professor of mathematics, Cambridge University

The Eternity of Hell—Torments Considered, 1740 
(Denied doctrine of eternal torment; held wicked to be totally destroyed.)

Dr. John Tottie (fl. 1772), canon of Christ Church, Oxford; archdeacon of Worcester

Sermons Preached Before University of Oxford, 1775 
(Opposed doctrine of natural immortality of soul.)

Prof. Henry Dodwell (1641-1711), classical scholar, professor at Oxford (the "learned Dodwell")

Letter Concerning the Immortality of the Soul, 1703
The Natural Mortality of Human Souls, 1708
An Epistolary Discourse, Proving From the Scriptures and the First Fathers, That the Soul Is a Principle Naturally Mortal; but Immortalized Actually by the Pleasure of God, 1706

Nineteenth Century

Bishop Timothy Kendrick Anglican 

Sermons, 1805
(The soul of man dies with the body, and is restored to life at the resurrection and second advent.)


Dr. William Thomson (1819-1890), archbishop of York

The Thought of Death (Bampton Lecture), 1862
Life to the godless must be the beginning of destruction since nothing but God and that which pleases Him can permanently exist.

Dr. Edward White (1819-1887), Congregationalist, pastor of St. Paul's Chapel; chairman of the Congregational Union. For over forty years was leading advocate of conditional immortality.

Life in Christ, 1846
That Unknown Country (Symposium)
, a Clerical Symposium

In 1883 he declared:

I steadfastly maintain, after forty years of study of the matter, that it is the notion of the infliction of a torment in body and soul that shall be absolutely endless, which alone gives a foot of standing ground to Ingersoll in America, or Bradlaugh in England. I believe more firmly than ever that it is a doctrine as contrary to every line of the Bible as it is contrary to every moral instinct of humanity.—Introduction to J. H. Pettingell's The Unspeakable Gift (1884), p. 22.

In the following year he added:

The Old Testament is consistent throughout with the belief of the eternal life of the servants of God, and of the eternal destruction of the wicked. And it is consistent, when taken in its simple sense with no other belief. . . .

The Gospels and Epistles with equal pertinacity adhere almost uniformly to language respecting the doom of the unsaved which taken in its simple sense, teaches, as does the Old Testament, that they shall die, perish, be destroyed, not see life, but suffer destruction, everlasting destruction, "destruction," says Christ, "of body and soul in Gehenna."—Homiletic Monthly (England), March, 1885.


Dr. John Thomas (1805-1871), editor, Apostolic Advocate; founder of Christadelphians

(Final extinction of wicked; immortality a gift through Christ.)

H. H. Dobney (1809-1883), Baptist pastor, Maidstone, England

Notes of Lectures on Future Punishment, 1844

Archbishop Richard Whately (1787-1863), of Dublin; Oxford professor and principal

A View of the Scriptural Revelations Concerning a Future State
(The wicked are never spoken of as being kept alive, but as forfeiting life. Taught their final destruction.)

Dean Henry Alford (1810-1871), of Canterbury, Biblical scholar

Greek New Testament
(Eternal fixity and duration belong only to those who are in accordance with God.)

James Panton Ham, Congregationalist minister, Bristol 

Life and Death; or, The Theology of the Bible in Relation to Human Mortality, 1849

Charles F. Hudson (1821-1867), Congregationalist minister and Greek scholar

Debt and Grace as Related to the Doctrine of a Future Life, 1857
Christ Our Life. The Scriptural Argument for Immortality Through Christ Alone, 1860


Dr. Robert W. Dale (1829-1895), Congregationalist pastor, Carr's Lane Church, Birmingham; editor, The Congregationalist; chairman, Congregational Union of England and Wales; and president of the First International Council of Congregational Churches in 1891. He announced his acceptance of conditionalism in a paper before the Congregational Union of 1874.

Eternal life, as I believe, is the inheritance of those who are in Christ. Those who are not in Him will die the Second Death from which there will be no resurrection. . . .

I am not conscious that they [the positions of Conditionalism] have at all impaired the authority in my teaching of any of the great central doctrines of the Christian faith. The doctrine of the Trinity remains untouched; and the doctrine of the incarnation, and the doctrine of the atonement in its evangelical sense, and the doctrine of justification by faith, and the doctrine of judgment by works, and the doctrine of regeneration have received, I believe, from these conclusions a new and intenser illustration.—Recorded in Freer's Edward White, His Life and Work (1902), pp. 354, 355.

Dean Frenerick W. Farrar (1831-1903), canon of Westminster Abbey; dean of Canterbury

Eternal Hope, 1877
Faith and Mercy
Mercy and Judgment
, 1881
(Denounced dogma of endless, conscious suffering; could not find one single text in all Scripture that, when fairly interpreted, teaches the common views about endless torment.)

Hermann Oshaulen (1796-1839), professor of theology at Konigsberg

Biblical Commentary on the New Testament, vol. 4, 1860


The doctrine of the immortality of the soul and the name are alike unknown in the entire Bible.—Biblical Commentary on the New Testament (1860), vol. 4, p. 381.

Canon Henry Constable (died 1894), prebendary of Cork, Ireland

Hades: or the Intermediate State of Man Restitution of All Things
The Duration and Nature of Future Punishment
(The immortality of the soul, and the name, are alike unknown in the entire Bible.)

William E. Gladstone (1809-1898), British prime minister and theologian

Studies Subsidiary to the Works of Bishop Butler, 1896 ed.

In a searching criticism of Bishop Butler's Analogy and its defense of innate immortality, Gladstone contended:

[It is only] from the time of Origen that we are to regard the idea of natural, as opposed to that of Christian, immortality as beginning to gain a firm foothold in the Christian Church.— Studies Subsidiary to the Works of Bishop Butler (1896 ed.), p. 184.

The doctrine of natural, as distinguished from Christian, immortality had not been subjected to the severer tests of wide publicity and resolute controversy, but had crept into the Church, by a back door as it were; by a silent though effective process; and was in course of obtaining a title by tacit prescription.— Ibid., p. 195.

Another consideration of the highest importance is that the natural immortality of the soul is a doctrine wholly unknown to the Holy Scriptures, and standing on no higher plane than that of an ingeniously sustained, but gravely and formidably contested, philosophical opinion.—Ibid., p. 197.

The character of the Almighty is rendered liable to charges


which cannot be repelled so long as the idea remains that there may by His ordinance be such a thing as never-ending punishment, but that it will have been sufficiently vindicated at the bar of human judgment, so soon as it has been established and allowed that punishment, whatever else it may be, cannot be never-ending.—Ibid., p. 241.

Joseph Parker (1830-1902), Congregationalist, pastor, the City Temple, London

People's Bible, vol. 1, on Genesis

Glorious to me is this idea (so like all we know of the Divine goodness) of asking man whether he will accept life and be like God, or whether he will choose death and darkness for ever. God does not say to man, "I will make you immortal and indestructible whether you will or not; live for ever you shall." No; he makes him capable of living; he constitutes him with a view to immortality; he urges, beseeches, implores him to work out this grand purpose, assuring him, with infinite pathos, that he has no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but would rather that he should LIVE. A doctrine this which in my view simplifies and glorifies human history as related in the Bible. Life and death are not set before any beast; but life and death are distinctly set before man—he can live, he was meant to live, he is besought to live; the whole scheme of Providence and redemption is arranged to help him to live—why, then, will ye die?—The People's Bible, vol. 1, p. 126

Discussing the ultimate banishment of sin from the universe, Parker adds:

By destroying evil I do not mean locking it up by itself in a moral prison, which shall be enlarged through ages and generations until it shall become the abode of countless millions of rebels, but its utter, final, everlasting extinction, so that at last the universe shall be "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing"— the pure home of a pure creation.—Ibid., p. 160.

Commenting on the "Destruction of Sodom," Parker denies that "in giving life God has put it absolutely out of his own power to reclaim or withdraw it." He comments on the implications:


Having once given you life you are as immortal as he himself is, and you can defy him to interfere with his own work! The doctrine seems to me to involve a palpable absurdity, and hardly to escape the charge of blasphemy. Throughout the whole Bible, God has reserved to himself the right to take back whatever he has given, because all his gifts have been offered upon conditions about which there can be no mistake.—Ibid., p. 222.

In this case [of Sodom] we have an instance of utter and everlasting destruction. We see here what is meant by "everlasting punishment," for we are told in the New Testament that "Sodom suffered the vengeance of eternal fire," that is of fire, which made an utter end of its existence and perfectly accomplished the purpose of God. The "fire" was "eternal," yet Sodom is not literally burning still; the smoke of its torment, being the smoke of an eternal fire, ascended up for ever and ever, yet no smoke now rises from the plain,—"eternal fire" does not involve the element of what we call "time": it means thorough, absolute, complete, final: that which is done or given once for all.—Ibid., p. 223.

Bishop John J. S. Perowne (1823-1904), Hebrew scholar, Anglican bishop of Worcester

Hulsean Lectures on Immortality, 1868

The immortality of the soul is neither argued nor affirmed in the Old Testament.—Hulsean Lectures on Immortality, p. 31.

The immortality of the soul is a phantom which eludes your eager grasp. Ibid.

Sir George Stokes (1820-1903), professor of mathematics, Cambridge; president of Royal Society; M. P.

That Unknown Country (A Symposium), 1889 
Immortality, a Clerical Symposium

It was natural that, after the forfeiture of immortality through transgression, man should seek to satisfy his craving for immortality by imagining that he had something immortal in his


nature. It is, then, to revelation that we must look, if we are to find out something about man's condition in the intermediate state.—That Unknown Country, p. 829.

Man's whole being was forfeited by the Fall, and the future life is not his birthright, but depends on a supernatural dispensation of grace. To look to man's bodily frame for indications of immortality, to look even to his lofty mental powers—lofty, indeed, but sadly misused—is to seek the living among the dead. Man must look not into himself, but out of himself for assurance of immortality.—Immortality, a Clerical Symposium, p. 123.

Dr. W. A. Brown (1865-1943), of Union Seminary, New York

The Christian Hope, 1912

(From Israel came the doctrine of the resurrection, and of the advent; from Greece, the doctrine of natural immortality.)

Dr. J. Ager Beet (1840-1924), Wesleyan professor

Last Things
Preface to The Immortality of the Soul: A Protest, 5th ed., 1902

The following pages are . . . a protest against a doctrine which, during long centuries, has been almost universally accepted as divine truth taught in the Bible, but which seems to me altogether alien to it in both phrase and thought, and derived only from Greek Philosophy. Until recent times, this alien doctrine has been comparatively harmless. But, as I have here shown, it is now producing most serious results. . . .

It will of course be said, of this as of some other doctrines, that, if not explicitly taught in the Bible, it is implied and assumed there. . . . They who claim for their teaching the authority of God must prove that it comes from Him. Such proof in this case, I have never seen.—The Immortality of the Soul (5th ed., 1902), Preface.


Dr. R. F. Weymouth (1822-1902), headmaster of Mill Hill School, translator of New Testament in Modern Speech

My mind fails to conceive a grosser misrepresentation of language than when five or six of the strongest words which the Greek tongue possesses, signifying to destroy or destruction, are explained to mean "maintaining an everlasting but wretched existence." To translate black as white is nothing to this.—Cited by Edward White in Life in Christ (1878), p. 365.

New Testament in Modern Speech, note on 1 Corinthians 15:18:

By "perish" the Apostle here apparently means "pass out of existence."*

On Hebrews 9:28:

The use in the N.T. of such words as "death," "destruction," "fire," "perish," to describe Future Retribution, point to the likelihood of fearful anguish, followed by extinction of being, as the doom which awaits those who by persistent rejection of the Saviour prove themselves utterly, and therefore irremediably, bad.

On Revelation 14:11:

There is nothing in this verse that necessarily implies an eternity of suffering. In a similar way the word "punishment" or "correction" in Matt. xxv. 46 gives in itself no indication of time.

On Revelation 20:10:

The Lake of fire: Implying awful pain and complete, irremediable ruin and destruction.*"

Dr. Lyman Abbott (1835-1922), Congregationalist pastor, and editor, Christian Union and The Outlook.

That Unknown Country (Symposium), 1889 

Outside of the walls of Jerusalem, in the valley of Gehenna,

*Notes by Earnest Hampden-Cook, editor and reviser of third edition of The New Testament in Modern Speech, by Richard Francis Weymouth.


was kept perpetually burning a fire, on which the offal of the city was thrown to be destroyed. This is the hell fire of the New Testament. Christ warns his auditors that persistence in sin will make them offal to be cast out from the holy city, to be destroyed. The worm that dieth not was the worm devouring the carcasses, and is equally clearly a symbol not of torture but of destruction. —That Unknown Country, p. 72.

The notion that the final punishment of sin is continuance in sin and suffering is also based in part on, what seems to me, a false philosophy as to man. This philosophy is that man is by nature immortal. The conviction has grown on me, that according to the teaching both of science and Scripture, man is by nature an animal, and like all other animals mortal; that immortality belongs only to the spiritual life; and that spiritual life is possible only in communion and contact with God; that, in short, immortality was not conferred upon the race in creation whether it would or no, but is conferred in redemption, upon all those of the race who choose life and immortality through Jesus Christ our Lord.—Ibid.

Dr. Edward Beecher (1803-1895), Congregationalist theologian; president, Illinois College

Doctrine of Scriptural Retribution

It [the Bible] does not recognize, nay, it expressly denies the natural and inherent immortality of the soul. It assures us that God only hath immortality. (1 Tim. vi, 16). By this we understand that He has immortality in the highest sense—that is, inherent immortality. All existence besides Himself He created, and He upholds. Men are not, as Plato taught, self-existent, eternal beings, immortal in their very nature. . . . There is no inherent immortality of the soul as such. What God created He sustains in being, and can annihilate at will. Doctrine of Scriptural Retribution, p. 58.

Dr. Emmanuel Petavel-Ollieff (1836-1910), Swiss theologian; lecturer, University of Geneva

The Struggle for Eternal Life (La Fin du Mal)
The Extinction of Evil, 1889
The Problem of Immortality


Dr.  Franz Delitasch (1813-1890), Hebraist, professor, Rostock, Erlangen, Leipsic

A New Commentary on Genesis

There is nothing in all the Bible which implies a native immortality.—Comment on Gen. 3:22.
From the Biblical point of view the soul can be put to death, it is mortal.—Comment on Num. 23:10.

Bishop Charles J. Ellicott (1820-1905), of Bristol, chairman, English Revision Committee

The Ceylon Evangelist, October, 1893

It seems inconceivable that when God is all in all, there should be some dark spot, where amid endless self-inflicted suffering, or in the enhancement of ever-enduring hate, rebel hands should be forever raised against the Eternal Father and God of Everlasting Love.—The Ceylon Evangelist, October, 1893.

Dr. George Dana Boardman (1828-1903), pastor, First Baptist Church of Philadelphia; established Boardman Foundation of Christian Ethics, University of Pennsylvania

Studies in the Creative Week, 1880
Writing on the issue of immortality he states:

Not a single passage of Holy Writ, from Genesis to Revelation, teaches, so far as I am aware, the doctrine of Man's natural immortality. On the other hand, Holy Writ emphatically declares that God only hath immortality (1 Tim. vi. 16): that is to say: God alone is naturally, inherently, in His own essence and nature, immortal.—Studies in the Creative Week, pp. 215, 216.

If, then, Man is immortal, it is because immortality has been bestowed on him. He is immortal, not because he was created so, but because he has become so, deriving his deathlessness from Him Who alone hath immortality. And of this fact the Tree of


Life in the midst of the Garden seems to have been the appointed symbol and pledge. That this is the meaning of the Tree of Life is evident from the closing words of the Archive of the Fall: "Jehovah God said: 'Behold, the Man hath become as one of Us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he stretch forth his hand, and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever:' therefore Jehovah God drove the Man forth from Eden, and stationed on the East of the Garden the Cherubim, and the Flaming Sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the Tree of Life" (Gen. iii. 22-24). If Man is inherently immortal, what need was there of any Tree of Life at all? This much, then, seems to be clear: Immortality was somehow parabolically conditioned on the eating of this mysterious Tree, and the Immortality was for the entire Man-spirit and soul and body.—Ibid., p. 216.

H. Pettingell (1815-1887), Congregationalist, district secretary of Congregationalist Board of Foreign Missions

The Theological Trilemma (Endless Misery) Universal Salvation, or Conditional Immortality, 1878
Platonism versus Christianity, 1881
The Life Everlasting: What Is It? Whence Is It? Whose Is It? 1882
The Unspeakable Gift, 1884

It is worthy of remark, that the doctrine of eternal torment is found neither in the Apostles' Creed, nor the Nicene Creed, nor in two of the principal Confessions of Faith of the sixteenth century, viz., the otherwise rigid Creed of the French Reformed Church and the Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican Church. And we believe that if this dogma has been handed down throughout the Protestant Churches, it is simply as an inheritance from the errors of the middle ages and from the speculative theories of Platonism. If we examine the writings of the earlier Fathers, Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus, and Clement of Alexandria, we, find them all faithful to the apostolic doctrine of the


final destruction of the wicked. The dogma of everlasting torment did not creep into the Church until she yielded to the influence of Platonic philosophy.—Pettingell's, The Life Everlasting, pp. 66, 67.

Conferences on Conditionalism

In the nineteenth century, in addition to a great revival of individual exponents of conditionalism, conferences were held, such as the large London Conference on Conditional Immortality, May 15, 1876, with its published report. Convened under the chairmanship of Lieutenant—General Goodwyn, the attendance included such prominent adherents as Henry Constable, Edward White, Minton, Heard, Howard, Leask, Tinling, and Barrett, with messages from Dr. Petavel of Switzerland, Dr. Weymouth of Mill Hill School, et cetera. The gist of the conference report was: "The Bible nowhere teaches an inherent immortality; but teaches that it is the object of redemption to impart it. . . . The communication of it requires a regeneration of man, by the Holy Spirit, and a resurrection of the dead."—Page 28. It declared that the enjoyment of immortality is conditional; and that those who will not return to God will die and perish everlastingly. "Out of Christ there is no life eternal."

Dr. White there declared:

These are the ideas which have brought us together this morning. They are now firmly held by an immense multitude of thoughtful people of all lands, for although we are but a little company here assembled, we represent an immense army in Europe and America. These views are spreading every day amongst the churches; and number among their adherents some of the foremost men of science, theologians, missionaries, philologers, philosophers, preachers, and statesmen.—Report, London Conference on Conditional Immortality, pp. 28, 29.


Important Symposiums Appear

Several important symposiums—Life Everlasting (199 pages, 1882), with twenty contributors; That Unknown Country (943 pages, 1889), a pro and con discussion with 52 well-known contributors; and a third, Immortality: a Symposium, published in Britain —were all issued within a decade. These, appearing on both sides of the Atlantic, indicate the widespread interdenominational and international interest in this vital theme. Note the first one, in 1882, published in Philadelphia.

Pettingell's "The Life Everlasting" Symposium.—A 199-page symposium (appearing as a supplement to J. H. Pettingell's The Life Everlasting of 1882), was prepared by the following contributors:

Dr. Leonard Bacon, pastor, Park Congregational Church, Norwich, Conn.; Dr. Edward White, Congregationalist, St. Paul's Chapel, London; Samuel Minton, Anglican, Eaton Chapel, London; George R. Kramer, Independent pastor, Household of Faith Church, Wilmington, Del.; Joseph D. Wilson, rector, St. John's Reformed Episcopal Church, Chicago; A. A. Phelps, pastor, Congregational Church, Rochester, New York; editor, The Bible Banner; Dr. A. M. B. Graham, president Arkansas Christian Conference and president Christian Temperance Union of Arkansas; William B. Hart, layman, Philadelphia; Dr. Willam Leask, Congregationalist pastor, Maberly Chapel, London; editor, The Rainbow; Dr. Emmanuel Petavel (Petavel-Olliff), Geneva, Switzerland, author of La Fin du Mal, translated into English as The Struggle for Eternal


Life; J. H. Kellogg, M.D., superintendent of Battle Creek, Michigan, Sanitarium, author of The Soul and the Resurrection; Prof. D. H. Chase, Methodist, Middletown, Conn.; Charles Byse, pastor, Free Evangelical Church, Brussels, Belgium, and editor of Eglise Chretienne Missionnaire Belge and Journal du Protantisme Francoise; William Lang, author, Edinburgh; M. W. Strang, editor, The Messenger, Glasgow; Prof. Hermann Schutz, University of Gottingen, Germany, author of Die Voraussetzungen der christlichen Lehre von der Unsterblichkeit (The Principles of the Christian Doctrine of Immortality); Dr. Clement M. Butler, rector of Trinity Church, Washington, D.C., and professor of history, Episcopal Divinity School, Philadelphia; Dr. Matson Meier-Smith, Congregationalist pastor and professor of homiletics and pastoral cares, Episcopal Divinity School, Philadelphia; Canon Henry Constable, Anglican author, London; Dr. C. R. Hendrickson, pastor, Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn.; Dr. W. R. Huntington, rector, All—Saints Church, Worcester, Mass.

Dr. Phelps' Indictment on Innate Immortality.—Dr. Phelps, in discussing "Is Man by Nature Immortal?" (pp. 639-650), presents twelve counts against the doctrine of innate immortality:

1. It has a bad history; it was introduced by the serpent in Eden, and springs from a heathen philosophy; it is not found in Jewish belief; is a compromise with Platonism; adopted and authenticated by the Church of Rome.

2. It is at variance with the scriptural account of man's creation.

3. It clashes with the Bible statement of man's fall.


4. It is opposed to the scriptural doctrine of death. 5. It is equally opposed to physiological facts.

6. Immortality is nowhere ascribed to man in his present state of existence.

7. Immortality is a blessing to be sought, and not a birthright legacy.

8. Inherent immortality is opposed to the scriptural doom of the wicked.

9. It supersedes the necessity of a resurrection.

10. It reduces the judgment scene to a solemn farce. 11. It subverts the Bible doctrine of Christ's second coming.

12. It is a prolific source of error—Mohammedanism, Shakerism, Swedenborgianism, Spiritualism, Purgatory, Mariolatry, Universalism, Eternal-Tormentism.

Twentieth Century

Canon William H. M. Hay Atken (1841-1927), Anglican mission organizer

The doctrine of Eternal Torment has lost its hold on the common sense and moral sensibilities of mankind. People don't and won't believe that an infinitely good and merciful God can consign His own offspring (Acts xvii. 28, 29) to measureless aeons of torture in retribution for the sins and weaknesses oŁ a few swiftly passing years here on earth.—Foreward, Eric Lewis' Life and Immortality, 1949, p. f.

Eric Lewis (1864-1948), Cambridge University, missionary to Sudan and India

Life and Immortality, 1949 Christ, the First Fruits, 1949 Lewis' summary:

1. That man is mortal. That immortality is not his by nature, but a gift of God to him in Christ, conditioned on faith and


obedience, the earnest of which immortality, is the indwelling Spirit of God. And this immortality is put on at the resurrection.

2. That at death, man's soul, his physical organism, dies, and the man returns to dust.

3. That at death, his spirit, which is not a personal entity apart from his body, returns to God who gave it, while the man himself passes into unconscious sleep until the resurrection.

4. That at resurrection, God calls the dead man back to life, breathing into him again His Spirit. . . . The resurrection body, given to the righteous at the coming of Christ, will be a spiritual body, a glorified body, like His own after His resurrection.

There will be a resurrection unto judgment, as well as unto life. Those whose names are not found written in the book of life, will be cast into the lake of fire, there to perish ultimately, burned up like the chaff. How long their sufferings will last, is known to God alone; His judgment will be according to the desert of each. This is "the second death," from which there will be no resurrection.—Christ the First Fruits, p. 79.

Dr. William Temple (1881-1944), late Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of Great Britain

Christian Faith and Life, 1931; 16th impression, 1954
Drew Lecture on Immortality,
Nature, Man and God,

[The] doctrine of the future life [will] involve our first disentangling the authentic teaching of the classical Scriptures from accretions which very quickly began to obscure this.—Nature, Man and God, p. 460.

Man is not immortal by nature or of right; but he is capable of immortality and there is offered to him resurrection from the dead and life eternal if he will receive it from God and on God's terms.—Ibid., p. 472.

Are there not, however, many passages which speak of the endless torment of the lost? No; as far as my knowledge goes, there is none at all.—Ibid., p. 464.

After all, annihilation is an everlasting punishment though it is not unending torment.—Ibid.


One thing we can say with confidence: everlasting torment is to be ruled out. If men had not imported the Greek and unbiblical notion of the natural indestruction of the individual soul, and then read the New Testament with that already in their minds, they would have drawn from it a belief, not in everlasting torment, but in annihilation. It is the fire that is called aeonian, not the life cast into it.—Christian Faith and Life, p. 81.

How can there be the Paradise for any while there is Hell, conceived as unending torment, for some? Each supposedly damned soul was born into the world as a mother's child, and Paradise cannot be Paradise for her if her child is in such a Hell.—Ibid., p. 454.

Dr. Gerardus van Der Leeuw (1890-1950), professor,University of Groningen

Onsterfelijkheid of Opstanding (Immortality or Resurrection), 1947
After quoting Eccl. 3:19-21, he comments:

[Innate] Immortality is a conception which fits into the philosophy of pantheism. With death belongs not immortality, but Resurrection.—Onsterfeliikheid of Opstanding, p. 30.

The Church has—no matter how much Hellenized it may be in doctrine and practice—always maintained the resurrection of the body. . . . The body dies, death is not being denied at all. Even the Spirit, the soul that I am, will not exist. The soul will also die. But the whole life of man will be renewed by God. God will raise me up "in the latter day."—Ibid., p. 32.

God alone is immortal (1 Tim. 6:16). To man he has given the promise of Resurrection. . . .

Creation will change into re-creation. And re-creation is resurrection, a raising up by God.—Ibid., p. 36.

Many preachers of recent times are rather hesitant to preach about immortality. But in former days, when preaching about eternal life, it was without effort that they dwelt upon imaginations of a corruptible body and an immortal soul. The older devotional books and church hymns are full of it. Even now people in the house of bereavement and on the graveyards are being comforted from the same source—yet these representations


are not in any respect Christian, but purely Grecian and contrary to the essence of Christian faith.—Ibid., p. 20.

Dr. Aubrey R. Vine (1900- ), editor, The Congregational Quarterly; professor at Yorkshire United Independent College

An Approach to Christology, 1948

The natural immortality of the spirit is a Greek rather than a Christian concept.An Approach to Christology (1948), p. 314.

Against the idea of the natural immortality of the spirit we must set the fact that God is the only self-existent and that nothing exists or continues to exist except by His grace and will, within this schema or within any other. God only is exoschematic. When we use the word "immortal," therefore, of anything but God, we must always realize that none but God is immortal by his own nature and without qualification.—Ibid., p. 315.

"Immortal" should only be applied to a human spirit if we clearly recognize that it is only immortal at God's grace and pleasure. Only God is immortal by His own nature and without qualification.—Ibid., p. 311, footnote.

Dr. Martin J. Heinecken (n.d.), professor of systematic theology, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

Basic Christian Teachings, 1949 Speaking of man as a unit, he declares:

In the Biblical account of creation we are told that God formed man of the dust and of the earth, and that he then breathed into his nostrils and man became a living soul. This is usually interpreted to mean that God made a soul, which is the real person, and that he then gave this soul a temporary home in a body, made of the dust of the earth. But this is a false dualism. . . . Man must be considered a unity. Basic Christian Teachings, pp. 36, 37.

We are dealing with a unified being, a person, and not with something that is called a soul and which dwells in a house called


the body, as though the body were just a tool for the soul to employ, but not really a part of the person.—Ibid., p. 38.

Coming then to the issue of the immortality of the soul he says:

It is held by some people that there is within every man an unchanging and indestructible core, immortal in its own right. It is unaffected by time; it had no beginning, neither can it have an end. It has always been and always will be. It came into this world of changing things from the realm of eternity and will return to it.—Ibid., p. 133.

The Christian view is by no means to be identified with the above belief in the immortality of the soul. The Christian belief is in the immortality of the God—relationship, and in the resurrection. The Christian dualism is not that of soul and body, eternal mind and passing things, but the dualism of Creator and creature. Man is a person, a unified being, a center of responsibility, standing over against his Creator and Judge. He has no life or immortality within himself. He came into being through God's creative power. He spends as many years on this earth as in God's providence are allotted to him. He faces death as the wages of sin.— Ibid., pp. 133, 134.

Men have speculated like this: At death the soul is separated from the body. It appears then before God in a preliminary judgment (mentioned nowhere in Scripture) and enters into a preliminary state either of blessedness or condemnation. Then, when the last trumpet sounds, the body is resurrected and rejoined with the soul, and complete once more, the reunited body and soul appear for the final, public judgment scene, from there to enter either into final bliss or final condemnation. It is no wonder that, with this view, men have had little use for a resurrection, and have finally dropped the notion altogether and have been satisfied with the redemption of only the soul.—Ibid.. p. 135.

To die then means to pass to the resurrection and the judgment at the end of time. Even if someone should say that all men sleep until the final trumpet sounds, what is the passage of time for those who are asleep? The transition from the moment of death to the resurrection would still be instantaneous for them. It would be no different from going to bed at night and being waked in the morning.—Ibid., p. 136.


David R Davies (1889- ), rector, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Leonard-on-Sea, Britain

The Art of Dodging Repentance, 1952

The soul of man is not necessarily automatically immortal. It is capable of being destroyed. The Bible offers no ground whatsoever for believing that the soul is immune from death and destruction. The soul can be destroyed.

The immortality of the soul is not a Biblical doctrine, but Greek philosophy. The Biblical doctrine about the soul is the resurrection from the dead. Man is a created being. God created him out of nothing. Man was created for immortality, but by his own rebellion against God he made himself mortal.—The Art of Dodging Repentance (1952), p. 84.

The idea of the immortality of the soul derives from Greek philosophy which conceived the after-life of Hades, a ghostly, shadowy underworld, in which the soul lived a twilight existence. We have translated the Greek word, Hades, by our English word Hell, which we think of as a place of pain and torment. But the Greek Hades was not a place of torment. Hell as torment is derived more from the Hebrew Gehenna than from the Greek Hades, which was a lower, shadowy existence, denuded of passion and suffering. It was the product of the Greek view of men as a compound of matter and soul, which death severed, releasing the soul from the prison-house of matter into an independent existence.

The Hebrew view of man was entirely different. In the Bible man is regarded as a unity of "life" or spirit, which manifests itself as both soul and body. Since man has made himself mortal, his soul, in consequence, also partakes of mortality. Man is not a compound of two separate entities, matter and spirit, but a unity of spirit functioning as matter and soul. It is the unity that is mortal.—Ibid., pp. 84, 85.

Dr. Basiil F. C. Atkinson, under—librarian of Cambridge University

The Pocket Commentary of the Bible, Part One: Book of Genesis, 1954
Comment on Gen. 2:7:


It has sometimes been thought that the impartation of the life principle, as it is brought before us in this verse, entailed immortality of the spirit or soul. It has been said that to be made in the image of God involves immortality. The Bible never says so. If it involves immortality, why does it not also involve omniscience or omnipresence, or any other quality or attribute of the Infinite? Why should one alone be singled out? The breath of life was not breathed into man's heart, but into his nostrils. It involved physical life. Throughout the Bible man, apart from Christ, is conceived of as made of dust and ashes, a physical creature, to whom is lent by God a principle of life. The Greek thinkers tended to think of man as an immortal soul imprisoned in a body. This emphasis is the opposite to that of the Bible, but has found a wide place in Christian thought.—The Pocket Commentary of the Bible, Part 1, Book of Genesis, p. 32

Dr. Emil Brunner (1889- ), professor of systematic and practical theology, University of Zurich, guest professor at Princeton, and International Christian University, Tokyo

Eternal Hope (English translation by Harold Knight), 1954

After discussing the widespread, historic concept of the "survival of the soul after death" as "the separation of soul from body," he states:

For the history of Western thought, the Platonic teaching of the immortality of the soul became of special significance. It penetrated so deeply into the thought of Western man because, although with certain modifications, it was assimilated by Christian theology and church teaching, was even declared by the Lateran Council of 1512 [1513] to be a dogma, to contradict which was a heresy. Eternal Hope, p. 100.

Then he adds:

Only recently, as a result of a deepened understanding of the New Testament, have strong doubts arisen as to its compatibility with the Christian conception of the relation between God and man.—Ibid.


According to Platonism:

The body is mortal, the soul immortal. The mortal husk conceals this eternal essence which in death is freed from its outer shell.—Ibid., p. 101.

After observing that "this dualistic conception of man does not correspond to the Christian outlook," he then remarks:

Since this mode of robbing evil of its sting runs necessarily parallel with the rendering innocuous of death through the teaching about immortality, this solution of the problem of death stands in irreconcilable opposition to Christian thought.—Ibid.

Commenting further on the "doctrine of the immortality of the soul" (p. 105), which medieval Christianity "took over" from "Greek philosophy," he observes that it was "utterly foreign to its [Christianity's] own essential teaching." And he adds:

The opinion that we men are immortal because our soul is of an indestructible, because divine, essence is, once for all, irreconcilable with the Biblical view of God and man.—Ibid., pp. 105, 106.

The philosophical belief in immortality is like an echo, both reproducing and falsifying the primal Word of this divine Creator. It is false because it does not take into account the real loss of this original destiny through sin.—Ibid., p. 107.

Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr (1892- ), professor at Union Theological Seminary

The Nature and Destiny of Man (Scribners), 1955 (Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh, 1939)

After contrasting the "classical" view of man, of Graeco-Roman antiquity, and the "Biblical" view, Niebuhr states that the two "were actually merged in the thought of medieval Catholicism."—The Nature and Destiny of Man, vol. 1, p. 5. The classical view, that the


"mind" or "spirit" is "immortal" was inseparably tied to the dualistic concept of man (p. 7). But among the Hebrews, he observes,

the concept of an immortal mind in a mortal body remains unknown to the end.—Ibid., p. 13.

Origen's Platonism completely destroys the Biblical sense of the unity of man.—Ibid., p. 153, footnote.

Gregory's [of Nyssa] thoroughly Platonic conception of the relation of the soul to the body is vividly expressed in his metaphor of the gold and the alloy.—Ibid., p. 172.

The idea of the resurrection of the body is a Biblical symbol in which modern minds take the greatest offense and which has long since been displaced in most modern versions of the Christian faith by the idea of the immortality of the soul. The latter idea is regarded as a more plausible expression of the hope of everlasting life.—Ibid., vol. 2, p. 294.

The resurrection is not a human possibility in the sense that the immortality of the soul is thought to be so. All the plausible and implausible proofs for the immortality of the soul are efforts on the part of the human mind to master and to control the consummation of life. They all try to prove in one way or another that an eternal element in the nature of man is worthy and capable of survival beyond death."—Ibid., p. 295.

The Christian hope of the consummation of life and history is less absurd than alternate doctrines which seek to comprehend and to effect the completion of life by some power or capacity inherent in man and his history.—Ibid., p. 298.

DR. T. A. Kantonen (1900- ), Lutheran professor, Hamma Divinity School, American Member Lutheran World Federation Commission on Theology 

The Christian Hope, 1954

The influence of Hellenic philosophy, represented by the Alexandrian fathers in particular, tended to spiritualize eschatology into a continuing inner purification and immortality of the soul.—The Christian Hope, p. 20.

Primitive animism with its notion of a detachable ghost-soul which continues after death to lead a shadowy existence and to enter interaction with the living still underlies much of popular


religious thinking on the subject. More important and influential from the theological point of view is the Greek idea of the immortality of the soul which found its classical formulation in Plato's dialogues four centuries before Christ. Since Platonism furnished the sublimest thought forms for the formative period of Christian theology, it is not surprising that many of the Fathers identified the Christian doctrine of eternal life with Platonic immortality and that finally the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17) adopted it as a dogma of the church.—Ibid., p. 27.

It has been characteristic of Western thought ever since Plato to distinguish sharply between the soul and the body. The body is supposed to be composed of matter, and the soul of spirit. The body is a prison from which the soul is liberated at death to carry on its own proper nonphysical existence. Because of its immaterial spiritual nature the soul has been considered indestructible. Hence the question of life after death has been the question of demonstrating the immortality, the death-defying capacity, of the soul. The body is of little consequence.

This way of thinking is entirely foreign to the Bible. True to Scripture and definitely rejecting the Greek view, the Christian creed says, not "I believe in the immortality of the soul," but "I believe in the resurrection of the body."—Ibid., p. 28.

The soul is not a separate part of man, constituting a substance of its own.—Ibid., p. 29.

"The Christian faith knows nothing about an immortality of the person. That would mean a denial of death, not recognizing it as judgment of God. It knows only an awakening from real death through the power of God. There is existence after death only by way of awakening, resurrection."* There is no immortality of the soul but a resurrection of the whole person, body and soul, from death. The only immortality which the Bible recognizes is the immortality of a personal relationship with God in Christ.— Ibid., p. 33.

The Bible does not distinguish between man and the beasts on the ground that man has an immortal soul while the beasts do not. Men, beasts, even plants, are alike in death. We do not need to concern ourselves about spiritualism or hypotheses of any kind concerning future existence. The whole matter of death and life after death is simplified when our only concern is faith in God

*From Paul Althaus, Die letzen Dinge (Gutersloh: Bertelsmann, 1933), p. 126.


who can destroy and who can resurrect. Life makes no sense and holds no hope except in terms of Christ's victory over death and the assurance that we share in that victory.

There is considerable support in Scripture for the view that the soul as well as the body is destructible. This evidence has been obscured because the Greek conception of the inherent immortality of the soul has supplanted the teaching of Scripture.—Ibid., p. 34.

There are two indisputable realities in the scriptural doctrine, the fact of death and the fact of resurrection from the dead at Christ's second coming. But between the death of an individual and the return of Christ is an interval, which from the human point of view, in the case of most men, is a long period of time.—Ibid., p. 36.

Against such speculation [Roman Catholic purgatory, Limbo, etc.] Protestant orthodoxy has, on the whole, denied all conceptions of a neutral state of waiting and held that souls pass immediately into a state of misery or of blessedness.—Ibid., p. 37.

If death means entrance into heaven, then resurrection and judgment lose their significance—Ibid., p. 38.

The soul has no existence apart from the body. The whole man, body and soul dies, and the whole man, body and soul, is resurrected on the last day. At death man proceeds directly to the final resurrection and judgment. There is no period of waiting, for waiting implies time, and beyond death time no longer has any significance. From our own temporal point of view we may speak of the dead as being asleep and then say with Luther that for one in deep slumber the passage of centuries is as an instant. We may even say that departed believers are at home with the Lord in the sense that their striving and waiting are over and they have reached their final goal.—Ibid., pp. 96, 97.*

An alternative solution is that the fate of the wicked is neither eventual redemption nor endless torment but simply annihilation. Eternal death would conform to the New Testament connotation of death in general, apoleia, destruction. Proponents of this view claim that the idea of eternal punishment rests on the Platonic conception of the inherent indestructibility of the soul and that the reasoning used to disprove it applies here also. On this ground the nature of God also appears to be vindicated.—Ibid., p. 107.

"Dr. Kantonen has since modified his view, according with Walter Kuenneth (Theologie der Auferstehung) that the dead are not non-existent. (See p. 39.)


When Christ, then, in the end destroys "every rule and every authority and power," he will wipe out every vestige of opposition to God, both human and superhuman. This view, unlike universal restoration, preserves the twofold judgment taught in Scripture. And to be completely cut off from God, the source of life, would seem logically to imply nonexistence. Such a lapse into nothingness of all of life's hopes and values makes perdition a terrible reality even without the added feature of prolonged torture.—Ibid., p. 108.

The hope of the individual Christian at death does not lie in man's power to defy death but in God's power to raise man from the dead. Death is real, and man has no inherent capacity to leap over the grave into another existence.—Ibid., p. 111.

The ultimate significance of Christ's triumph over death will become manifest in the resurrection of the dead.—Ibid., p. 112.

DR. D. R. G. Owen, professor of religious knowledge, Trinity College; lecturer, philosophy and religion, Wycliffe College, Toronto

Body and Soul, 1956

The points at issue revolve around the concepts of "body" and "soul." The "religious" anthropology [in contradistinction to the Biblical] adopts an extreme dualism, asserting that the body and the soul are two different and distinct substances. It claims that the soul is divine in origin and immortal by nature and that the corruptible body is the source of all sin and wickedness. It recommends the cultivation of the soul in detachment from the body, and advocates the suppression of all physical appetites and natural impulses. It regards the body as the tomb or prison of the soul from which it longs to get free. Finally, it tends to suppose that the soul, even in its earth-bound existence, is entirely independent of the body and so enjoys a freedom of choice and action untrammeled by the laws that reign in the physical realm.—Body and Soul, p. 26. (Copyright, 1956, by U. L. Jenkins, The Westminster Press. Used by permission.)

If we turn to the Bible, however, as we shall later, we find that a quite different view of man is assumed throughout. Here


there is no dualism and scarcely any idea of the immortality of a detached and independent soul.—Ibid., p. 29.

Plato remains to the end an antiphysical dualist. It is he, and his followers, who most of all are responsible for imposing the "religious" anthropology on Western thought.—Ibid., p. 41.

This latter belief especially—the idea that the soul can exist apart from the body—obviously implies some form of body—soul dualism. . . . This body-soul dualism was a necessary implicate of the Greek doctrine of the immortality of the soul.—Ibid., p. 59.

Now there are a few isolated Scriptural passages that may suggest the idea of the immortality of the soul in the Greek sense, but the normal Biblical point of view is quite different: in the New Testament it is the resurrection of the body that is stressed, and this doctrine is almost a direct contradiction of the "Orphic" eschatology. Why, then, did the Fathers lean toward this largely un-Biblical notion?—Ibid.

The fact is that the Fathers' adoption of the "religious" idea of the immortality of the detachable soul forced them into the doctrine of body-soul dualism.—Ibid., p. 61.

The idea of the intermediate state eventually developed into the doctrine of purgatory.—Ibid.

The Fathers were no doubt impressed by the force of the arguments advanced by Greek philosophy to prove the immortality of the soul. And, finally, of course, the idea of an intermediate state gave the human being another chance to be purged of his sins before the last judgment. It was the development of this notion that led to the doctrine of purgatory, with all the superstitions and objectionable practices that eventually made up the purgatorial system and, in the end, furnished part of the immediate cause of the Reformation.—Ibid., p. 62.

Their [Church Fathers] resulting anthropology was a mixture of Biblical and Greek ideas. They added to the New Testament doctrine of the resurrection of the body the idea of an intermediate state in which the soul exists apart from the body, awaiting its recovery at the end.—Ibid., p. 77.

The "religious" anthropology, as far as Western thought is concerned, is Greek and not Biblical in origin. It is also typical of Eastern religions in general, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. It seems to be characteristically "religious," and for this and other reasons has tended to creep into and corrupt the Christian view of man. This happened, as we saw, in the patristic and medieval


periods, and modern Catholicism and Protestantism have tended to perpetuate this early mistake. Ibid., p. 163.

The Biblical view of man is entirely different from the "religious."—Ibid., p. 164.

The idea of the immortality of the soul in the Greek sense may be suggested in some passages in the wisdom literature and is definitely found in places in the Apocrypha. This line of thought was later developed in the Hellenistic Judaism of the Alexandrine School, in the inter-Testamental period, of which the religious philosopher Philo is the outstanding example.—Ibid., p. 178.

Such are some of the host of advocates of conditional immortality, or life only in Christ, and/or of the ultimate destruction of unrepentant sinners.

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