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Annihilationism vs. Traditionalism.

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Greetings Everyone,

Shiloh and LuftWaffle will be having a discussion on annihilation vs. traditionalism.

Please remember, only the two members who are involved in the discussion will be allowed to post in this thread. LuftWaffle will be making the opening statement and the discussion will commence from there.

God bless,

Steve

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Hi All,
Thanks, Shiloh for agreeing to this debate and thanks to everybody for setting it up for us.

I'll be arguing that the bible teaches that the fate of the unsaved is annihilation rather than eternal conscious torment. Here goes:

What is Annihilationism?

Annihilationism, also called Conditional Immortality or Conditionalism is the view that immortality is a gift from God given only to those who have been saved through belief in the death of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Those who are not saved will therefore not receive everlasting life and will be punished by death.

As such, we Annihilationists disagree with the Traditional view that says that everybody lives forever, the saved spending eternity in heaven and the unsaved experiencing eternal conscious torment.

Annihilation defined

This is where I see a lot of misrepresentation of the annihilationist view, where it is claimed that we believe the unsaved are “evaporated”, “zapped out of existence”, “ceasing to exist”, “disintegration” and such. While these definitions are understandable if one takes a narrow view of the word “annihilate”, in reality though, I simply believe that the unsaved will die, they will cease to live, they will no longer be alive.

Death defined

We define death in the plain everyday use of the term and as such synonymous with the definition of annihilation meaning “ceasing to live”, “no longer being alive” and so on.

When I say my pet fish died, I am saying that it is no longer alive. When I’m saying that David killed Goliath and he is now dead, I’m saying that Goliath has ceased to live.

How do we define being alive?

Being alive, is a state in which a sometime is active, able to respond to its environment, aware, animated, capable of thought, capable of sensory perception, able to will, etc. As such this is the opposite of death. These are basic timeless, universally understood definitions of life and death that I’m assuming in my exploration of this doctrine.

I agree that metaphorical uses for words, as in “Pete has died, but he’s living on in our memories”, can happen but those instances are determined by their immediate literary context.

 

Let’s cover some rules of Bible interpretation that are relevant to this issue

Predatory Cows?

Gen 41:4  And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke.

Literary Context/Genre is important in our interpretation of scripture. If we’re interpreting a dream or a vision wherein, say seven skinny cows happen to eat up seven fat cows, do we take it at face value or do we treat this part of the text as description of something seen in a dream which requires interpretation?

So the literary context/genre will drive our interpretation of what we read.

 

But what if we don’t agree with a specific word? Can we assign a spiritual meaning to it?

Unless a case is made that the context of that word requires a special theological meaning, we should assume the face value meaning. Even if a word can have multiple meanings in different contexts we cannot just pick the meaning from the total range of meanings a word has and apply it to a particular instance of the word.

There’s a technical term for this and it’s called, illegitimate totality transfer.

So while there may be some verses that might refer to “spiritual death” as a theological term, one cannot simply change the meaning of every instance of “death” to “spiritual death”. A case needs to be made from the context.

 

Interpret unclear passages according to clear passages not the other way around.

Joh 10:34  Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'?

This is a rather obscure verse, and it’s just not good Bible study to ignore/reinterpret all the clear passages saying there’s only one God, in favour of this one passage saying people are gods. Instead we should interpret this passage in light of the clear teaching, not the other way around.

 

White coats on, it’s off to the lab to test the claims against the Bible.

If it is true that the fate of the unsaved is punishment by death and destruction, we should expect to find verses in the Bible that support this. Since another implication of the doctrine is that only one group of people gets to live to forever, we should also see this borne out in scripture.

Let’s explore the annihilationist case:

 

Paradise Lost

Gen 2:16-17  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Gen 3:19  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Gen 3:22-23  …lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—" therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

In the above verses we have a rule and a consequence for breaking this rule. The consequence is called death, and the death is described as returning to the ground from which you were taken.

Gen 3:22-23 is particularly relevant as well because we see God removing Adam and Eve’s access to the tree of life, and the reason given is, “lest they eat and live forever”.

The inescapable conclusion is that as a result of the fall, human beings are mortal, not immortal.

 

More verses that teach death/destruction for the unsaved.

Joh 3:16  "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Rom 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Mat 7:13-14  "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 

1Jn 5:11-12 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  

Jas 5:20  let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.  

2Ti 1:10  and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,  

Joh 10:27-28  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 

Joh 6:47-51  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." 

Mat 10:28  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 

Now you might object saying “Wait a minute! You’re reading these verses as if they’re talking about ordinary life and death, aren’t they talking about spiritual death and everlasting life in the sense of union with God?” you may ask.

If you believe these verses aren’t talking about ordinary life and death, then a case needs to be made for reading them differently. Nothing about them seems to suggest that they should be interpreted in any way other than their everyday meaning.

I agree that we’ve been taught in Sunday school to think of “perishing” in John 3:16 as “going to hell” and “everlasting life” as “going to heaven”, but my point is that the verses don’t say that. Instead the verses say exactly what we would expect them to say if the fate of the unsaved was simply death.

 

Did Jesus die in our place or was he eternally tormented in our place?

If the punishment that we justly deserved was eternal conscious torment, then how is it that the Bible says Christ died in our place? Jesus didn’t spiritually die in our place, He was actually crucified, and confirmed dead by the thrust of a Roman spear. So too is His resurrection a bodily resurrection, the tomb was found empty, and Thomas saw the holes in His hands and the felt the wound in His side. The resurrection is our proof that Jesus has broken the curse.

Paul vividly describes the beautiful symmetry of the Gospel:

Rom 5:12-21 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  

Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection weren’t mere earthly symbols of some greater spiritual reality. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the reality. The reality that ordinary everyday tragic death that plagues our existence, brought about by sin, has been conquered by the Lamb slain in our place, and by His resurrection from death we can trust in that resurrection that our enemy, death, has been defeated.

1Co 15:53-57  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  

We are mortal and we will see corruption, unless we partake in the gift of eternal life. This clearly contradicts the notion that everybody will life forever, either in heaven or in hell. The Gospel is a life and death matter, not a matter of where immortal being spent eternity.

 

Backfiring proof-texts for Eternal Conscious Torment

I believe most of classical proof-texts for Eternal Conscious Torment actually contradict the idea, when they are looked at carefully.

The flaw with the interpretation of these proof-texts are that, instead of being looked at through the lens of scripture and how their intended audience might have understood them, they are used as premises in logical inferences that seem to suggest eternal conscious torment.

Let’s look at them individually.

 

Unquenchable fire

Mat 3:12  Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire

What traditionalists do here is make logical inferences that look as follows:

1: The fire is unquenchable.
2: To be unquenchable is to burn forever.
3: To burn forever requires fuel that’ll last forever
4: It is the unsaved that fuels the fire
5: Therefore the unsaved will burn forever.

This is roughly the thought process that drives the belief that this is a proof-text for the traditionalist point of view. The problem is that premise 2 is a false premise, because this is not how “Unquenchable fire” is understood in Biblical language.

Let’s see if we can interpret the phrase in light of a clear passage elsewhere in scripture that might help us understand what the bible means by “unquenchable fire”:

Jer 17:27  But if ye will not hearken unto Me… then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.  

Eze 20:47-48  … Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. And all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled it: it shall not be quenched. 

Scripture then, seems to define an unquenchable fire as a fire that cannot be stopped from completely devouring that which it burns. This aligns even with our English language use of the word “quench”, which means to put out a fire. It’s not a description of how long a fire burns.

So if we look at how the “unquenchable fire” is used in scripture, it seems to better support the Annihilationist view, which is of a fire that consumes and devours rather than merely tormenting that which it burns.

 

Immortal worms

Mar 9:48  Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 

We’ve already covered unquenchable fire, but what about these pesky immortal worms?

Let’s look at the traditionalist inferences:

1: The worms don’t die
2: Worms that don’t die live forever
3: The worms are eating the unsaved
4: Therefore the unsaved are eaten forever

Let’s see if we can get some clarity on what’s going on here, by looking at the passage in the Old Testament that Jesus is quoting here:

Isa 66:24  And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh. 

The scene in Isaiah 66 depicts carcases being eaten by worms and being burnt up by fire. It’s not a picture of living souls being tormented by fires that burn forever and worms that never die.

The significance of the worms is rather interesting, because in Jewish culture it was considered shameful for a dead body to see decay. Bodies needed to be properly buried, not left out in the open to be devoured by scavengers, maggots and fire. The picture that Isaiah is describing, and which Jesus referencing is a picture of unstoppable decay and corruption.

We see a similar situation in Jeremiah:

Jer 7:33  And the carcases of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall fray them away.  

This time we have, not worms, but birds feeding on the dead bodies, and the description that there’ll be nobody to ‘shoo’ them away, and thus stopping the shameful consumption of these dead bodies.

We see the emphasis on not seeing decay clearly in the following Psalm:

Psa 16:9-11  Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

This Psalm expresses David’s desire to be protected from his enemies, to not be dishonoured by having his body rotting on the battle field, but the psalm is also looking ahead to Christ whose body didn’t see decay and corruption but was risen on the third day, as we see here:

Act 2:31  he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.  

So when Jesus is talking about the unsaved being burnt with unquenchable fire and eaten by worms that won’t die, he is simply saying that nothing will prevent the shameful destruction of the unsaved. The consumption of the bodies won’t be prematurely stopped by the death of the maggots, and the burning up won’t be prematurely stopped by quenching the fires.

 

Eternal Fire

Mat 25:41  "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Again this appears to speak of a fire that burns eternally if we construct inferences at the face value reading of words, but what if the eternal fire isn’t speaking about how long the fire burns but rather refers to the source of the fire, namely God, who is eternal?

If that were the case then we would expect to see an example of “eternal fire” referring to a situation where the fire doesn’t burn literally forever, wouldn’t we?

Here’s such an example:

Jud 1:7  just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

So, if we ask what a punishment by eternal fire looks like, we see that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah underwent punishment by eternal fire. Those fires aren’t still burning today, so they’re not eternal in the sense of burning eternally, instead they called eternal because God is eternal and He sent the fire. The biblical interpretation of eternal fire, seems to be like saying “divine fire”, or “heavenly fire”.

So we see Jesus calling the punishment of the unsaved, eternal fire, and we see in Jude that Sodom and Gomorrah serve as an example of punishment by eternal fire.

There’s an even more direct link between the fate of the ungodly and what took place at Sodom and Gomorrah and that is the following verse:

2Pe 2:6  if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

So if we were to ask for an example in scripture on what will happen to the ungodly, this verse answers that question directly, and the answer is: extinction.

 

Eternal punishment vs Eternal Life

Apart from two verses in Revelation that I’ll discuss next, the following is probably the most quoted proof-text offered for the traditionalist view.

Mat 25:46  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Let’s look at two criteria that the verse sets for us:

Criterion 1: The righteous gets to live forever, and therefore it is implied that the other group does not.
Criterion 2: The punishment is eternal.

If our doctrine is to conform to this verse, it needs to meet the two criteria, right?

The traditionalist view fails to meet Criterion 1 because traditionalists believe that both the saved and the unsaved live forever, the only difference being where they spend eternity.
Only the Annihilationist can nod in agreement to both criteria. We believe that the unsaved will die, and Criterion 1, implies that clearly. We also believe the punishment of death, unlike the first death, is permanent. The unsaved will remain dead forever, and thus we can nod in agreement to criterion 2 as well. 

 

Smoke Rising forever

Rev 14:11  And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. 

 One can understand why this verse is popular among traditionalists, because at face value it seems cut and dried. Here you have a description of beast worshippers, being described as having the smoke of their torment ascending forever.

The logical inference here is simple:

1: The smoke of their torment rises forever
2: Therefore the torment must be happing forever

 

Except that once more when we look at how this phrase is used elsewhere in scripture, it does not describe a scene of people being eternally tormented, but a scene of massive and total destruction.

Isa 34:9-12  And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.  It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.  But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. 

The images that John saw in his visions in Revelation consist entirely of images found the in Old Testament. It seems to me then that we cannot read these images in a vacuum without looking at their original use, and as with all the other images in the book of Revelation. When we do that though, we see Isaiah vividly describing the laying waste of a kingdom, where birds and reptiles roam former palaces, where owls nest, and carrion eaters like ravens dwell. It seems then that smoke rising forever, doesn’t mean what one might infer from a face-value reading, but a scenario where the destruction is total and final. Clearly this is not a scene of people being eternally, and consciously tormented.

Revelation 18 describes the harlot also being tormented with fire and the smoke of this torment is also described as going up forever. When John’s angelic interpreter interprets the vision for John however, the interpretation has nothing to do with torment. The Harlot symbolises the city of Babylon and her torment symbolizes her destruction.

Rev 18:21  And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all

So can we use this a key to decode the other things being tormented, in the Lake of fire? If something is tormented in the vision, then the interpretation is that it is being destroyed:

Rev 20:10  and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

We see, death and hades thrown into the lake of fire, and both Traditionalists and Annihilationists agree that this symbolizes the end of the underworld and the end of death itself.
We see the angelic interpreter himself interpret the symbol of torment in Revelation as the destruction of a city. We see, another symbol of the smoke of torment, also symbolizing destruction and the laying waste of a kingdom.

So when we see another instance of torment, this time the beast, the false prophet and the devil being thrown into the lake of fire and tormented in Revelation 20:10, do we conclude that this time the torment must be literal eternal torment or do we trust the consistency of the rest of Revelation and assume that this must mean the end of them?

 

How has God punished sin, thus far?

If prolonged torment is really the only just way to punish sins against an infinite God, as the argument goes, then why isn’t this justice reflected in God’s dealings with mankind throughout history?

God, has dealt consistently with sin, but the consistent consequence of sin has always been death, never once has it been torment of any length of time. There was corporal punishment in the Law of Moses but never sustained torture. In fact the number of stripes a man could receive were limited to forty (Deu.  25:3)

The most heinous of crimes however were always punished by death.

We see this consistency every time God’s patience with man’s wickedness grew thin. In the days of Noah, God dealt with sin by sending a flood which killed the wicked.

And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them."

(Gen 6:6-7)

As we’ve seen, when sin abounded in Sodom and Gomorrah God sent an angel who destroyed the city with fire, laying it to waste, killing everyone except lot.
When Egypt oppressed God’s people, God sent plagues culminating in death of the first born not covered by the Lamb’s blood and finally Pharaoh’s entire army was drowned.
When the Israelites made the golden calf in the desert, grieving God, God’s desire was to rid the earth of them.

Exo 32:10  Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you."

Further, God ordered the Canaanites to be killed by Israel when the measure of their wickedness was full, and God sent famines, calamities and warring armies against Israel when their wickedness was on the land.
And so on.

There is no lack of consistency in God’s dealings with sin, but the consistent consequence of sin throughout the Old Testament was never torment.

 

Paradise Regained

How does the Bible describe the end game? For one we see mankind once again reunited with the tree of life, but not all of mankind only those who have the right to enter into the Holy city.  

Rev 22:14  Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.

What else do we see in God’s end game? We see the last enemy to be defeated is death and that all things are placed in subjection at Jesus’ feet.

1Co 15:24-28  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For "God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "all things are put in subjection," it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

How is it possible that the last enemy to be destroyed is death when nobody can actually die and instead both the saved as well as the unsaved enemies of God, live forever? How can all things be subjected to Jesus if every evil that has ever existed will keep existing eternally? 

According to Annihilationism, God doesn’t merely quarantine evil, He gets rid of it. What remains are the real servants of God and they will be immortal having been given everlasting life.

So, given this view, the end game results in literally everybody submitting to God, and literally everybody living forever, because evil doesn’t exist anymore, as such these passages take on a much fuller meaning.

 

Conclusion

Annihilationists are often said to be “changing the plain meaning of the text”. I think, those who say this demonstrate an ignorance of their own interpretive process.
Any biblical doctrine will encounter some verses requiring harmonizing.

Annihilationists read “forever tormented” in Revelation 20:10 and we interpret it as meaning “destruction” and we give reasons why. Likewise Traditionalists read “destruction” in Matthew 7:13 and they interpret it as meaning “forever tormented” and they, in turn, need to give reasons why.

It is the quality of these reasons that should determine where one falls on this issue. I have no reasons to doubt a face value reading of the many passages in scripture that describe the fate of the unsaved as death, perishing, destruction, and that describe immortality as a gift for the saved alone.

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Wow, that is a lot to respond to, :)   I will need a few days to consider and respond.  I will not be able to respond line for line, as I just don't have that much time on hand, but I will cover all of the issues raised by Luftwaffle.  :)

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To really get at the heart of a theological principle, you need to study it in terms of its history and in the light of the main proponents of that principle.  It is not enough to simply talk about what one’s personal theology is pertaining to that principle. So, in studying out the theology of Annihilationism, we need to get a better grip on where it came from.

Annihilationism is not a new concept.   It actually goes back to the 1800s. It has gained resurgence in the late 20th century among post-conservative and postmodern thinkers in the Church, the least of which was a man named Clark Pinnock.   Clark Pinnock was a former conservative theologian who spent the latter parts of his life pretty compromising on every conservative value he had espoused and adopting other views contrary to Scripture.  He flip-flopped on the inerrancy of Scripture, no longer holding to that view and he adopted the openness/limited omniscience view of God as well.  Clark is, perhaps, the most outspoken of those in the annihilationist camp along with John Stott.  In fact, many UK theologians are in fact, annihilationists. 

When one reads Pinnocks’s statements about his views you find an argument that relies heavily on emotion.   Pinnock’s argument is that the love of God is inconsistent with the doctrine of an eternity of suffering in Hell. “There is a powerful moral revulsion against the traditional doctrine of the nature of hell. Everlasting torture is intolerable from a moral point of view because it pictures God acting like a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for his enemies whom he does not even allow to die. How can one love a God like that?”[1]

And one can read other statements of Pinnock that seem to indicate that he agrees with those who characterize the traditional view as one that actually takes pleasure in the torture of sinners hell. “Unfortunately, Augustine is not alone in thinking this way but rather speaks for orthodoxy. The Protestant J. Edwards is every bit as rigorous in his doctrine of hell, as is well known. His sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is (in)famous for the picture of God dangling sinners over the flames like a loathsome spider. J. Gerstner, an Edwards scholar, summarizes Edwards’ view in this way:  Hell is a spiritual and material furnace of fire where its victims are exquisitely tortured in their minds and in their bodies eternally, according to their various capacities, by God, the devils, and damned humans including themselves, in their memories and consciences as well as in their raging, unsatisfied lusts, from which place of death God’s saving grace, mercy, and pity are gone forever, never for a moment to return.4  Not only is it God’s pleasure so to torture the wicked everlastingly, but it will be the happiness of the saints to see and know this is being faithfully done. It would not be unfair to picture the traditional doctrine in this way: just as one can imagine certain people watching a cat trapped in a microwave oven squirming in agony and taking delight in it, so the saints in heaven will, according to Edwards, experience the torments of the damned with pleasure and satisfaction.[2]

What I find when I read about the annihilationist view is that it reduces God down to one principle: LOVE.   God is love.  And you have many, many people today who reject not only eternal conscious agony in Hell, but the very existence of Hell.   They reject the notion that a loving, benevolent God who loves every person, could ever send anyone to Hell.

This kind of thinking either  that God is too loving to either send someone to Hell, or the annihilationist view that God would put someone through eternal torture, skews the holiness of God.  I say that because contrary to popular consensus, God’s primary attribute is not love; it is holiness.  Before God is anything else, God is holy and He has a perfect hatred of sin.  This was view espoused by Augustus Strong in his book on Systematic Theology: “There can be no proper doctrine of the atonement and no proper doctrine of retribution, so long as Holiness is refused its preeminence. Love must have a norm or standard, and this norm or standard can be found only in Holiness. The old conviction of sin and the sense of guilt that drove the convicted sinner to the cross are inseparable from a firm belief in the self-affirming attribute of God as logically prior to and as conditioning the self-communicating attribute. The theology of our day needs a newview of the Righteous One.”[3]

What we have with annihilationism is a compromise on the chief attribute of God and an inappropriate emphasis on the “love” of God.  Annihilationism is gaining popularity today due to a more liberal, postmodern society that has infiltrated the Church.    So, I would argue that annihilationism didn’t get it start from a principled, conservative approach to Scripture is rooted in a misunderstanding among other things, a wrong view of God, Himself.  

Another problem with annihilationism is the view it takes about death.  Luftwaffle states: 

 

 

Quote

 

“We define death in the plain everyday use of the term and as such synonymous with the definition of annihilation meaning “ceasing to live”, “no longer being alive” and so on.

When I say my pet fish died, I am saying that it is no longer alive. When I’m saying that David killed Goliath and he is now dead, I’m saying that Goliath has ceased to live.”

 

The question then is:  Is this how the Bible uniformly deals with death?   I believe the answer to this is, “no.”  The Bible deals with death differently in terms of physical death than it does with spiritual death.  I am not going to waste time proving that physical death means cessation of life or extinction.   That does not have to be belabored upon.   I will say that the Bible uses the word "death" three ways:

It has three different usages in the Bible in reference to:

1. Spiritual death—separation from God because of sin (Ep. 2:1; Jn. 5:24; Col. 2:13).

2. Physical death—separation of the spirit from the body (Mt. 2:15; Ge. 35:18; Jam. 2:26).

3. Eternal death or Second death—the final, eternal separation of the unsaved from God and life (Re. 20:14;
21:8; 2 Th. 1:9).

The problem as I see it, is what the Bible’s theology of death is in terms of the spiritual condition of the unredeemed.   To make the definition of cessation of life or non-existence, hence annihilation the working definition of “death” for duration of this conversation simply will not do.

The Bible uses “death” to describe living people. In Genesis 2:17 we read: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”  Did Adam and Eve die when Adam ate of the fruit?  Yes, they did.  Did they go out of existence? No, they did not.  They were dead, yet neither their physical body nor their soul became extinct at that point.   They clearly died spiritually. They were filled with shame and terror of God and hid themselves from His presence.   So Adam and Eve were dead, but they did not go out of existence.  

In John 5:24, It says, “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”   This is not possible IF the dead are out of existence.

In Eph. 2:1, 5 we find that unregenerate humanity, apart from Jesus Christ are “dead in trespasses and sins” or “dead in sins.” And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)

 

In I John 3:14 we also read, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”   So again, death is described as a state of being for a living person.   One can be dead and yet still be alive.

 

I think I have given enough evidence that death does not mean, in theological terms regarding unregenerate sinners, what death means in normal, everyday parlance.  Death can also refer to the unregenerate of unsaved people who are separated from God.

 

In addition, It is important to note that Luftwaffle makes a fundamental error, theologically in this statement:

 

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If the punishment that we justly deserved was eternal conscious torment, then how is it that the Bible says Christ died in our place? Jesus didn’t spiritually die in our place, He was actually crucified, and confirmed dead by the thrust of a Roman spear. So too is His resurrection a bodily resurrection, the tomb was found empty, and Thomas saw the holes in His hands and the felt the wound in His side. The resurrection is our proof that Jesus has broken the curse.

 

Jesus' death on the cross fully satisfied the payment for our sins.  Jesus was not paying for our sins during the 3 days nights he was in the grave.   Jesus' death on the cross accomplished that, which is what Jesus meant when He said, "It is Finished"  (Tetelestai - "Paid in full").  Jesus did not suffer in Hell, because the moment He died on the cross, sin was paid for.

Hell is what we deserve even if we don't commit a single sin our entire life because no one goes to hell for the sins they commit; they go to Hell for dying while in a state of separation from God.  They go to Hell for being dead in their sinful state, not for the sins themselves.  Jesus bore the penalty of the curse of the law on our behalf and fully satisfied the wrath of God against sin.  No one who goes to Hell is paying for their sin(s).

 

 


[1] Pettegrew, Larry D.. "A Kinder, Gentler Theology of Hell?." The Master's Seminary Journal 9, no. 2 (Fall 1998): 203-17.

Edited by shiloh357
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First of all, I apologise for the length of these posts, but this is a debate about which view is best described by the Biblical data, and the good thing about the annihilationist case is that it is supported by multiple lines of evidence and sweeping themes throughout scripture, as opposed to a handful of proof texts as is the case for the Traditionalist view. The downside is obviously that there is a lot of ground to cover, and I like to be thorough.

In support of the Biblical case for Annihilationism I have followed 3 lines of argumentation:

 

  1. I have shown that the Bible describes the fate of the unsaved in terms of death, destruction and perishing using numerous passages from the Bible.
  2. I have shown that the common arguments for the Eternal Conscious Torment view, actually support Annihilationism when read according to the Bible.
  3. I have argued that if Christ took the punishment that we deserved (penal substitutionary atonement) and that the nature of the punishment was death not eternal conscious torment, then the punishment that the unsaved will face is death not eternal conscious torment.

Shiloh’s response contains 3 major points, the first of which appears to be aimed at casting doubt on the credibility of Annihilationism by arguing that it’s motivated by emotion and theological liberalism and originated in the 1800s. The second being that the definition of death as ceasing to live is incomplete and that we need additional definitions of death. The third argument seems to be a misunderstanding of the thrust of my third argument regarding penal substitutionary atonement.
 

Will the real history of Annihilationism please stand up?

Shiloh said as part of his first argument regarding Annihilationism, “It actually goes back to the 1800s. It has gained resurgence in the late 20th century among post-conservative and postmodern thinkers in the Church...”.

While this debate is a debate about what the bible says and not the history of the two views, I am actually quite glad that we’re going slightly off-topic here, because just like the Biblical case, the historical case for Annihilationism is pretty compelling, and the history of the Eternal Conscious Torment view shows its Hellenistic, rather than Biblical roots.

The claim that annihilation goes back to the 1800s is just plain wrong.  Even critics of Annihilationism agree that the 4th century Church Father, Arnobius of Sicca, was an annihilationist, and since he was a Church father it means at the very least that there was a community Annihilationists who held that belief, unless one wishes to argue that Arnobius was a church father without a church.

Looking further back to the writings of especially the apostolic fathers, these are Christians who lived at the time of or shortly after the apostles themselves, such as Clement of Rome, Irenaeus and Athanasius these were most certainly Annihilationists too.

I won’t go into depth here but I will include some additional quotes, references and video links in the footnotes.

We also see later church fathers such as Justin Martyr, with a particularly interesting conversion from being a Greek philosopher as a young man, to believing that the soul will die, after converting to Christianity. Now why would a person who believes in the immortality of the soul, deny it after conversion to Christianity if Christianity was compatible with it?

Conversely, looking at the history of the Eternal Conscious Torment view we see Christianity gradually adopting the ideas of Plato such as the immortality of the soul and the defining of death as a separation. This culminated in Tertullian teaching eternal conscious torment and Augustine formulating the first systematic theology of eternal conscious torment. Most of the current doctrine of eternal conscious torment was developed by Augustine. Both Tertullian and Augustine were heavily influenced by Plato and quite open about it. Again see footnotes for more info.
 

Who is really appealing to emotion?

Shiloh says, “Pinnock’s argument is that the love of God is inconsistent with the doctrine of an eternity of suffering in Hell” and concludes that Annihilationism is largely based on emotion.

The problem is that I haven’t once argued an emotional case or argument against hell based on the love of God. In fact my wife says my writing is too dry, so this is nothing but a sweeping generalization.

But isn’t the sweeping generalization itself an emotional appeal? To paint Annihilationists as theological liberals, at odds with Biblical inerrancy, at odds with conservative Christianity, emotional, who sacrifice truth and a Biblical understanding of God’s Holiness for a wishy washy Christianity, isn’t an argument from scripture neither does it address the annihilationist case, instead it is purely meant to make Annihilationism appear unappealing. It says that if you’re one of the good guys then you should be a Traditionalist, because Annihilationists aren’t genuine Christians.

Unfortunately this appeal works too well, because most people are ignorant of what the Bible really says on this issue and they’re ignorant of the pros and cons for both views being discussed here. They believe Eternal Conscious Torment is biblical because they’re told it’s Biblical and they’re told that conservative Christians shouldn’t question Eternal Conscious Torment. It’s marketing and good marketing at that, and like all marketing it is itself an appeal to emotion.
 

The gospel according to Plato.

Traditionalists often argue that “death” should not be read as ceasing to live, but instead it must be read as “separation”. This is problematic for a great number of reasons:
 

Its origin isn’t Biblical.

As I mentioned earlier Plato famously believed that death must not be seen as the ending of life, but as a separation of the body from the soul. When Traditionalists say “death is a separation” they think they’re stating biblical theology but they’re actually quoting Plato.

Here’s an excerpt from Plato’s Phaedo:

"And they are right, Simmias, in saying this, with the exception of the words “They have found them out”; for they have not found out what is the nature of this death which the true philosopher desires, or how he deserves or desires death. But let us leave them and have a word with ourselves: Do we believe that there is such a thing as death?
To be sure, replied Simmias.
And is this anything but the separation of soul and body? And being dead is the attainment of this separation when the soul exists in herself, and is parted from the body and the body is parted from the soul—that is death?"
- Plato's Phaeo 61-64 (
http://www.bartleby.com/2/1/31.html)

Unlike Plato, the Bible never actually defines death as a separation although this hasn’t stopped Traditionalists from attempting to read it into the Bible.

The verses that Shiloh offered is a fairly common approach, but none of these proof-texts lead to the desired conclusion unless one is already committed to looking for separation in the Bible.

Eph 2:1  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins

The logical inference here is:

Paul is speaking to people who have not yet ceased to live.
Paul referred to them as having been dead.
Therefore being dead doesn’t mean ceasing to live.

From here an extension of Plato’s definition of death is then read into the passage interpreting the formerly unsaved sinful state as “separated from God” and then the final conclusion is that death must mean separation from God, even though the text states nothing of the sort.

The next step in the traditionalist approach is to switch to this newly formulated definition of death in quite an ad hoc way, to get around the fate of the unsaved described as death.

Even if we grant that death in some context might mean separation from God, what is the exegetical justification for reading that particular definition into every instance that describes the fate of the unsaved as death?

So, even if Shiloh’s claim that Ephesians 2 proves that death means separation goes through, he’s only half way to doing what is needed, but Ephesians 2 doesn’t even do that, because the phrase “being dead in trespasses and sins” is clearly prolepsis when looked at in context.

Prolepsis occurs when you’re using present tense language to describe something that’ll happen in the future, for instance the term “dead man walking” is used in when a person to be executed is walking to the electric chair. He isn’t dead at the time, but the prolepsis is used to describe that he is “as good as dead”. Paul’s description of the unsaved being dead in trespasses and sins, is prolepsis, saying that the death of the unsaved was a certainty, until Christ redeemed them.

The prolepsis obvious if we look at the entire passage:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

(Eph 2:4-7)

Paul describes the former state as being “dead in trespasses” and he describes the new state as “being raised up and seated with Him in heavenly places”. These people hadn’t been raised up and seated with God at the time Paul wrote that, but Paul is using prolepsis to indicate their future glorification in the same way that he used prolepsis to describe their former state.

So, Paul isn’t introducing a special definition of death here.

 

What about John 5:24?

If we just read the very next verse, we see that Jesus follows His description of the unsaved passing from death to life with a description of the future resurrection, where the dead will be resurrected unto everlasting life.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

(Joh 5:24-25)

This verse is actually a pretty good example of how the Traditionalist view switches between definitions of death, not based on exegesis, but based on theological necessity.
Shiloh has claimed that the “death” in view in verse 24 is “spiritual death”, but what is the definition of “death” in verse 25? Clearly this can’t be ‘spiritual death’ because the spiritually dead aren’t going to hear the voice of God and live at the time of resurrection and judgement. This is referring to the physically dead. So either Jesus is mixing definitions mid-sentence or the idea that spiritual death is in view here is wrong. Not only is mixing definitions awkward, but there’s no reason to interpret it that way.

 

Separation of body and soul

The following 3 verses are offered as proof that the Bible defines physical death as the separation of body and soul.

Mat 2:15  And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 

Gen 35:18  And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. 

Jas 2:26  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. 

To be honest I’m not sure how Matt 2:15 supports the “death = separation” at all.

As for the other two texts, none of them actually define death as the separation of the body and soul. Sure, that could very well be what happens when a person physically dies, but to take that entailment and to define “death” according to that entailment, is quite a leap.

It is no less strange than if someone were to argue that “death” means “to smell bad”, because when people die, they smell bad.

None of these verses would convince anybody that a new special definition of death is at play here, unless they're approaching the text looking for some way to read separation into the "death". When just read plainly, these verses don’t offer a challenge to the Annihilationist perspective at all: If, as James 2:26 says, the body is dead when the soul, having not yet died, departs from it, what does this say about the state of a man when both the body and the soul has been destroyed?

Mat 10:28  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

If the soul is still conscious when the body dies, it doesn’t mean that the soul will be conscious when both it and the body dies.

 

Death as separation is logically incoherent.

If we’re supposed to read death as a separation then should both the separated things be considered dead or only one of them?

If we say that it applies to both, then if death equates to separation of the body and soul, is the body dead because it’s separated from the soul, and is the soul also dead because it has separated from the body? That can’t be right?

By extension if so-called spiritual death is the separation of the person from God, then is both God and the person dead as a result of the separation, or is only the person dead?

If we say it applies only to one, then it favours the annihilationist view, because then death isn’t the separation of two things, but rather a description of a state of one of the separated things.

So when the body dies the thing that’s dead is the body, it’s not the state of separation that is the “death”. Thus if Jesus says that both the body and the soul will be destroyed in Gehenna, both the body and the soul will in fact be dead, which is perfectly in line with the annihilationist perspective.

 

It doesn’t account for the worms

The bible doesn’t merely describe the fate of the unsaved as “death” leaving open the possibility to redefine death and be done with it. The Bible vividly describes the fate of the unsaved in terms of corpses being consumed by fire and maggots. Adam’s curse is described as returning to ground. Sodom and Gomorrah is offered as an example of the fate that awaits the unsaved, and their death was very much ordinary everyday death. Then we have words like perishing, corruption (referring to decay) and desolation all offering additional evidence of what’s in view here and none of it is compatible with “separation”.

 

A third kind of death?

Furthermore Shiloh offered Revelation 20:14, 21:8 and 2 Thes 1:9 as proof-texts for a third definition of death which he calls “eternal or second death”, but that begs the question. These are only examples of a different kind of death if one assumes the Traditionalist view in the first place, but that’s what needs to be proven.

The very fact that the second death is called the second death may very well be because it’s the second occurrence of death which the unsaved will experience.

If the first death is ordinary death then the second time it happens, it’s only reasonable that it would also be ordinary death.

 

Ceasing to exist vs ceasing to live.

In my opening statement I have been careful to define death and annihilation as ceasing to live and I have also stated explicitly that I am not arguing cessation of existence.

It is curious then why Shiloh states the following:

“To make the definition of cessation of life or non-existence, hence annihilation the working definition of ‘death’ for duration of this conversation simply will not do.”

“Did they go out of existence? No, they did not. They were dead, yet neither their physical body nor their soul became extinct at that point.”

“This is not possible IF the dead are out of existence.”

Since this isn’t what I argued I see no need to respond.

 

Jesus died for our sins.

It seems that Shiloh misunderstood my argument that Jesus’ death on the cross, is evidence that the fate of the unsaved is death.

Both Shiloh and I agree that the punishment that Jesus bore on our behalf is death.

He says, “Jesus' death on the cross fully satisfied the payment for our sins.  Jesus was not paying for our sins during the 3 days nights he was in the grave.   Jesus' death on the cross accomplished that, which is what Jesus meant when He said, "It is Finished"  (Tetelestai - "Paid in full").  Jesus did not suffer in Hell, because the moment He died on the cross, sin was paid for.”

Exactly! So if the thing that Jesus suffered in our stead is death and not torment in hell, then the punishment for sin cannot be torment in hell but death. This creates a dilemma for the traditionalist who holds to penal substitutionary atonement. Here’s why:

1.      If the punishment for sin is eternal conscious torment
2.      And if Jesus took our punishment on our behalf
3.      Then Jesus would have been eternally consciously tormented on our behalf.
4.      Jesus wasn't tormented eternally on our behalf.
5.      Therefore the punishment isn't eternal conscious torment

 

Conversely:

1.      If the punishment is death
2.      And if Jesus took our punishment on our behalf
3.      Then Jesus would have died on our behalf.
4.      Jesus did die on our behalf
5.      Therefore the punishment is death

 

Traditionalists have two options here:
1.      Abandon the penal substitutionary atonement view of the cross, which teaches that Jesus took the penalty for our sins that we were meant to receive.
2.      Find some way to make Jesus death on the cross equate to eternal conscious torment while still somehow being a valid substitution. The only real attempt I’ve seen at dealing with this problem is the pseudo-mathematical equation from Anselm, stating that finite sins against an infinite God require a punishment infinite in duration. While this is certainly clever, the Bible doesn’t mention this anywhere, and the first occurrence of this idea is more than a millennium after the gospel was given. It also equivocates infinity as a quantity of duration with God’s qualitative holiness.

 

Conclusion

It appears then that proponents of the Traditionalist view of hell attempt to force a kind of Platonist definition of death, which is separation, onto the Bible by looking for instances where death is used in reference to living people, and then making a logical leap that this must be a special theological kind of ‘death’.

A further logical leaps are then made to conclude that this death must be separation because some verses can be interpreted that way even though none explicitly say so. Only then is the word death, able to be harmonized with the view that the unsaved will live forever in conscious torment.

 

Footnotes

Justin Martyr on the Hellenistic error of the immortality of the soul:

DIALOGUE TO TRYPHO CHAPTER V -- THE SOUL IS NOT IN ITS OWN NATURE IMMORTAL.

"'These philosophers [Referring to Greek philosophers who teach that the soul is immortal] know nothing, then, about these things; for they cannot tell what a soul is.'

"'It does not appear so.'

"'Nor ought it to be called immortal; for if it is immortal, it is plainly unbegotten.'

"'It is both unbegotten and immortal, according to some who are styled Platonists.'

Source: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/justinmartyr-dialoguetrypho.html

 

ON THE RESURRECTION CHAPTER 10 - 

...why do we any longer endure those unbelieving and dangerous arguments, and fail to see that we are retrograding when we listen to such an argument as this: that the soul is immortal, but the body mortal, and incapable of being revived? For this we used to hear from Pythagoras and Plato

Source: https://st-takla.org/books/en/ecf/001/0010666.html

Church fathers who were Annihilationists

 

Irenaeus - Against Heresies (Book II, Chapter 34)

And therefore he who shall preserve the life bestowed upon him, and give thanks to Him who imparted it, shall receive also length of days for ever and ever. But he who shall reject it, and prove himself ungrateful to his Maker, inasmuch as he has been created, and has not recognised Him who bestowed [the gift upon him], deprives himself of [the privilege of] continuance for ever and ever. And, for this reason, the Lord declared to those who showed themselves ungrateful towards Him: “If you have not been faithful in that which is little, who will give you that which is great?” indicating that those who, in this brief temporal life, have shown themselves ungrateful to Him who bestowed it, shall justly not receive from Him length of days for ever and ever.

 

Athanasius the Great - On the Incarnation of the Word, Chapter 6

The human race then was wasting, God’s image was being effaced, and His work ruined. Either, then, God must forego His spoken word by which man had incurred ruin; or that which had shared in the being of the Word must sink back again into destruction, in which case God’s design would be defeated.

 

Athanasius the Great - Discourse 3 Against the Arians, Chapter 29  

For it beseemed that the flesh, corruptible as it was, should no longer after its own nature remain mortal, but because of the Word who had put it on, should abide incorruptible. For as He, having come in our body, was conformed to our condition, so we, receiving Him, partake of the immortality that is from Him.

 

Athanasius the Great - On the Incarnation of the Word, Chapter 4

"We have seen that to change the corruptible to incorruption was proper to none other than the Savior Himself, Who in the beginning made all things out of nothing; that only the Image of the Father could re-create the likeness of the Image in men, that none save our Lord Jesus Christ could give to mortals immortality, and that only the Word Who orders all things and is alone the Father's true and sole-begotten Son could teach men about Him and abolish the worship of idols. But beyond all this, there was a debt owing which must needs be paid; for, as I said before, all men were due to die. Here, then, is the second reason why the Word dwelt among us, namely that having proved His Godhead by His works, He might offer the sacrifice on behalf of all, surrendering His own temple to death in place of all, to settle man's account with death and free him from the primal transgression."

 

Athanasius the Great - On the Incarnation of the Word, Chapter 4

For transgression of the commandment was turning them back to their natural state, so that just as they have had their being out of nothing, so also, as might be expected, they might look for corruption into nothing in the course of time. 5. For if, out of a former normal state of non-existence, they were called into being by the Presence and loving-kindness of the Word, it followed naturally that when men were bereft of the knowledge of God and were turned back to what was not (for what is evil is not, but what is good is), they should, since they derive their being from God who IS, be everlastingly bereft even of being; in other words, that they should be disintegrated and abide in death and corruption.

 

Ignasius - The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 18

For this end did the Lord allow the ointment to be poured upon His head, John 12:7 that He might breathe immortality into His Church. Be not anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; let him not lead you away captive from the life which is set before you. And why are we not all prudent, since we have received the knowledge of God, which is Jesus Christ? Why do we foolishly perish, not recognising the gift which the Lord has of a truth sent to us?

 

Ignasius - The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians

Let us not, therefore, be insensible to His kindness. For were He to reward us according to our works, we should cease to be.

 

Video link to Church Fathers who were Annhilationists:

http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2013/07/church-fathers-who-were-conditionalists/

 

Immortality in the early church. A comprehensive study in e-Book form:

http://bryangrayministries.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Immortality-in-the-Early-Church.doc

 

Platonist influences of Church Fathers like Augustine and Tertullian

"Intellectually, Augustine represents the most influential adaptation of the ancient Platonic tradition with Christian ideas that ever occurred in the Latin Christian world. Augustine received the Platonic past in a far more limited and diluted way than did many of his Greek-speaking contemporaries, but his writings were so widely read and imitated throughout Latin Christendom that his particular synthesis of Christian, Roman, and Platonic traditions defined the terms for much later tradition and debate."https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Augustine

 

“The utterance of Plato, the most pure and bright in all philosophy, scattering the clouds of error . . .” - Augustine of Hippo

 

"Chap. III. - Some Truths Held Even by the Heathen, They Were, However, More Often Wrong Both in Religious Opinions and in Moral Practice. The Heathen Not to Be Followed in Their Ignorance of the Christian Mystery. The Heretics Perversely Prone to Follow Them.

One may no doubt be wise in the things of God, even from one’s natural powers, but only in witness to the truth, not in maintenance of error; (only) when one acts in accordance with, not in opposition to, the divine dispensation. For some things are known even by nature: the immortality of the soul, for instance, is held by many; the knowledge of our God is possessed by all. I may use, therefore, the opinion of a Platowhen he declares, Every soul is immortal.” I may use also the conscience of a nation, when it attests the God of gods. I may, in like manner, use all the other intelligences of our common nature, when they pronounce God to be a judge. “God sees,” (say they)(say they); and, “I commend you to God.” (compare the 

De Test. Anim. ii., and De Anim. xlii.) But when they say, What has undergone death is dead,” and, “Enjoy life whilst you live,” and, “After death all things come to an end, even death itself;” then I must remember both that “the heart of man is ashes,” (Isa_44:20) according to the estimate of God, and that the very “Wisdom of the world is foolishness,” (as the inspired word) pronounces it to be. (1Co_1:20, 1Co_3:19) Then, if even the heretic seek refuge in the depraved thoughts of the vulgar, or the imaginations of the world, I must say to him: Part company with the heathen, O heretic! for although you are all agreed in imagining a God, yet while you do so in the name of Christ, so long as you deem yourself a Christian, you are a different man from a heathen: give him back his own views of things, since he does not himself learn from yours. Why lean upon a blind guide, if you have eyes of your own? Why be clothed by one who is naked, if you have put on Christ? Why use the shield of another, when the apostle gives you armour of your own? It would be better for him to learn from you to acknowledge the resurrection of the flesh, than for you from him to deny it; because if Christians must needs deny it, it would be sufficient if they did so from their own knowledge, without any instruction from the ignorant multitude. He, therefore, will not be a Christian who shall deny this doctrine which is confessed by Christians; denying it, moreover, on grounds which are adopted by a man who is not a Christian. Take away, indeed, from the heretics the wisdom which they share with the heathen, and let them support their inquiries from the Scriptures alone: they will then be unable to keep their ground. For that which commends men’s common sense is its very simplicity, and its participation in the same feelings, and its community of opinions; and it is deemed to be all the more trustworthy, inasmuch as its definitive statements are naked and open, and known to all. Divine reason, on the contrary, lies in the very pith and marrow of things, not on the surface, and very often is at variance with appearances." - Tertullian

Edited by LuftWaffle
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