Christian Leaders Air Views On Hell And Conditional Immortality

Although in a minority there are and have been prominent Christian leaders who would share the views I have expressed in my previous post on hell, heaven and the Second Advent of Jesus.  These come from my personal library:

Essentials, by David L. Edwards and John Stott (Hodder and Stoughton 1988). John Stott reaching out in Essentials to fellow Evangelicals says,

“I do not dogmatise about the position to which I have come. I hold it tentatively. But I do plead for frank dialogue among Evangelicals on the basis of Scripture. I also believe that the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be acceptable as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment” (p 320).

I Believe in Man, by George Carey (Hodder and Stoughton, 1977).

“The pitfall for the unwary is to assume that man has a soul, as if he has an independent element within him. This idea is foreign not only to the Old Testament but to the Bible as a whole” p.27.(See also p.29).

“This idea of the resurrection is at complete variance with the ancient Greek concept of the immortality of the soul.” “A body-less soul is, therefore, alien to the Christian faith which insists on some continuity of the person before and after death.” “It is a false trail to look within the body for an immortal `soul,’ ‘mind,’ or residual self which somehow survives the destruction of the flesh….The Bible, however, stresses that eternal life is God’s gift to the Christian. It is not something natural to us but it comes from Him; it is not something which comes from human nature, but from the divine” (ibid., pp.167,168,171,172).

The Daily Bible Study, Psalms – Volume I, (The Saint Andrews Press, Edinburgh, 1985).

“For the psalmist a human being is not a soul living temporarily in a body, as `the Greeks’ maintained, or as the eastern religions do today….Thus we must not read into the Psalms such Greek, secular ideas as that of `saving souls’ or `the immortality of the soul.”

Paul: Apostle of the Free Spirit, by F.F.Bruce, p.311,

“Paul evidently could not contemplate immortality apart from resurrection; for him a body of some kind was essential to resurrection. Our traditional thinking about the `never-dying soul,’ which owes so much to our Graeco-Roman heritage, makes it difficult to appreciate Paul’s point of view. (Except when immortality is ascribed to God Himself in the New Testament, it is always of the resurrected body that it is predicated, never of the soul. It is no doubt, an over-simplification to say that while for the Greeks that man was an embodied soul, for the Hebrews he was an animated body; yet there is sufficient substance in this statement for us to say that in this as in other ways Paul was a Hebrew born and bred. For some, including several of his Corinthian converts, disengagement from the shackle of the body was a consummation devoutly wished; but if Paul longed to be delivered from the mortality of this present earthly “dwelling,” it was with a view of exchanging it for one that was immortal; to be without a body of any kind would be a form of spiritual nakedness or isolation from which his mind shrank.”

A Handbook of Christian Theology, Gen. Ed’s., Marvin Halverson and Archer A Cohen (A Meridian Book, The World Publishing Comp, Times Mirror, New York, 1958, – 16th printing in 1972), Article, “Death,” pp.70-73 by H.V.Lovell Cocks.

“The Bible teaches that God created man by breathing His Spirit into the dust of the earth, and so bringing to existence the nephesh, or living personality. When God withdraws His Spirit man dies and returns to the dust. Nowhere in the Bible is the human soul regarded as naturally immortal. The only way a man can live again after death is by a resurrection–a miracle” p.71.

“By his sin, man cuts himself off from the source of life and dooms himself to perish. Apart from the grace of the forgiving God, there is no hope for him. For he can be saved only by being raised from the dead. Not a natural immortality of the soul, but resurrection from the dead by the power of God, is the message of the Bible” p.72.

An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament (Study Edition), Alan Richardson,

“But more important is the consideration that to St Paul, as to any other Jew at the time, a merely `spiritual’ resurrection would have appeared unintelligible. Unlike the Greeks, the Jews did not think of a man being made up of a body and a soul; a man was a living body. If Christ was raised from the dead, He must have been raised in the body. Thus, Paul cannot conceive of those who are risen in Christ as existing in a disembodied state: they have a `spiritual body’ (1 Cor 15:44). Spiritual realities, celestial or terrestrial, divine or human, are embodied in their own appropriate embodiments (1 Cor 15:35-41). When the earthly house of our tabernacle is dissolved, we shall be clothed upon with our habitation from heaven, so that we shall not be found naked (2 Cor 5:1-3), i.e. with the kind of nakedness which disembodied spirits endure. The notion of a disembodied person is repugnant to the Hebrew mind; a `pneuma’ is something unnatural, monstrous, and evil, and the idea that the Risen Christ is such a `pneuma’ is rejected with horror (Luke 24:37)” (p.196).

The bodily resurrection of Christ is important theologically because it attests the cosmic significance of God’s act in raising Christ from the dead. The `whole creation’ (Rom 8:22; cf. Mark 16:15) awaits the redemption, which includes the redemption of the body (cf. Rom 8:23); the resurrection of Christ in the body guarantees the resurrection of Christians with their `spiritual bodies’–this is the argument of 1 Cor. 15 as a whole. Thus, the resurrection of Christ is not a case of spiritualistic survival, such as might be the subject of psychical research; it is not the survival of a man, such as might be asserted at a spiritualistic seance; it is the resurrection of humanity, the new Adam. It is the beginning of the new creation of the latter days: Christ is the `firstfruits of them that sleep’ (1 Cor 15:20-23) (p.197).

The Enigma of Evil, by John Wenham (Eagle: Guildford, Surrey, 1994), pp. 90,91,92.

“We would admit that revelation does not give us much light on our state between death and resurrection, but the fact that we cannot define this clearly is no reason at all for denying what is clear. It is clear that physical death is precisely the cessation of life. Is it not also clear that Old and New Testaments teach repeatedly the destruction of the wicked? And is not the New Testament clear that only God has immortality and that in the end evil will be no more? These exegetical facts cannot be annulled by a theological difficulty.

The current debate has highlighted certain common misconceptions. Belief in endless torment is sometimes said to have been the view of Jesus and the Jews of His day, of the New Testament writers and the fathers of the church, of the reformers and all Bible-believers, and never seriously questioned until the 20th century. I myself, wresting largely on the authority of Charles Hodge, at one time believed this to be true. But it is quite untrue. It was certainly an almost unchallenged view during the Middle Ages, but it was not so either in first-century Judaism or in the early fathers or at the Reformation and most certainly not in the nineteenth century, which was the hey-day of conditionalism among Evangelicals. This is all documented in Froom’s massive volumes, and Fudge devotes three chapters to the inter-testamental period and four to the period from post-apostolic times to the present day – something over quarter of his book – showing that it was not so…

“So it seems that holy scripture taken in its natural sense, teaches that immortality is only given to us when we are born again in Christ, and that the destiny of those who die in him is the endless bliss of a renewed creation where sin is no more. But for those who die without Christ there is a `fearful looking for of judgment’ and a final `second death’, but not unending torment.”

Reports Wikipedia: “In his book Facing Hell, An Autobiography 1913-1996, Wenham writes, “I believe that endless torment is a hideous and unscriptural doctrine which has been a terrible burden on the mind of the church for many centuries and a terrible blot on her presentation of the Gospel. I should indeed be happy, if before I die, I could help in sweeping it away””

The Fire That Consumes, The Biblical case for Conditional Immortality, by Edward William Fudge, (The Paternoster Press, Carlisle, UK,1994). The whole book. See Edward Fudge Ministries 

Free online material in the next post.

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