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(the following is LONG..but you may like to save it and print out to use as a Progressive source against the fundamental interpreation of hell)...

 

 

Conditionalism

 

 

Where ever you see these * before a paragraph it means where I have added my own comments

 

In the list below are some who embrace this view or comfortably tolerate it. Naturally, while this may be true at the moment this list is written and posted, they could change or even recant their view. I do not promise that at the very moment you read this, this list is absolutely current. The following are some of the NON-JW churches that reject the view that hell is a place of eternal hellfire torment, and belive hell to mean to cease to be all together...

 

The Anglican Church (Episcopalian church in England).

 

The Advent Christian Church

 

The Church of God of Abraham Faith/ The Open Bible Church

 

Liberal/Progressive Or Moderate Luthers,

 

United Methodists

 

Disciples of Christ Church

 

The Presbyterian Church

 

 

The following evangelical Bible scholars and commentators have expressed a similar belief in one form or another:

 

John Stott (in the Anglican church and author of Evangelical Essentials, 1988 pages 313-320),

 

John Wenham (see The Goodness of God, 1974; Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, 1991, chapter

 

6: The Case for Conditional Immortality),

 

Christianity Today, October 23, 2000

 

What is hell-eternal torment or annihilation? A look at the Evangelical Alliance's The Nature of Hell.

 

By Robert A. Peterson 10/13/00

 

It was six pages near the end of the book that exploded like a bombshell within evangelicalism. The book was Evangelical Essentials (InterVarsity) and the year was 1988. As the book's subtitle announced, it was A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue between liberal Anglican David L. Edwards and evangelical Anglican John Stott. For 338 pages, Edwards and Stott ranged over many issues, including the gospel, biblical authority, miracles, ethics, and missions. But near the end, in those six pages, Stott tentatively defended annihilationism-the view that unbelievers are finally annihilated and thus do not experience torment that is eternal in duration (as fundamentallists believe).

 

Fundamentalists, who make up most of evangelicalism, were shocked. Some, like John H. Gerstner, went so far as to question Stott's salvation. Evangelicals have been debating the subject ever since, both sides producing books and articles defending their views and contesting the opposition.

 

The hell debate

 

With the publication of Stott's views, evangelicals were spurred to study the issue more deeply and to respond. Perhaps emboldened by Stott's example, others followed and declared their commitment to annihilationism: Philip E. Hughes resigned from Westminster Seminary and wrote The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ (Eerdmans, 1989), toward the end of which he took an annihilationist stance.

 

A 1992 Baker collection of essays, Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, included a piece by John W. Wenham, "The Case for Conditional Immortality." Conditional immortality, or conditionalism for short, is the view that human beings are not naturally immortal. God, who alone is inherently immortal, grants the gift of immortality only to believers. Unbelievers, because they lack this gift, do not live forever. Although technically not identical with annihilationism, conditionalism has come to be used as a synonym for it.

 

Through Wenham's influence, a previous book by Edward Fudge was revised and issued in 1994 by Paternoster Press as The Fire That Consumes: The Biblical Case for Conditional Immortality.

 

Plainly, the annihilationist side had taken up the debate, challenging the fundamental view.

 

Heavyweight fundamentalists did not stay out of the fray. D. A. Carson devoted 22 pages of The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Zondervan, 1996) to an exegetical defense of the fundamental view. J. I. Packer, a figure as revered by evangelicals as Stott, expressed his displeasure in Evangelical Affirmations (Academie, 1990) that Stott had advocated annihilationism.

 

Plainly evangelical Anglicans were lining up on opposite sides of this issue: Stott, Hughes, Wenham and Michael Green on the side of conditionalism; Packer, Harmon, Gerald Bray, and Alec Motyer on the side of fundamentalism.

 

Into the fray stepped the Evangelical Alliance (EA). Also called World's Evangelical Alliance, founded in 1846, EA is a Britain-based association of evangelical churches, parachurch organizations, and individuals. It is the umbrella organization for evangelicals in the United Kingdom. Seeing the controversy on hell and other issues dividing evangelicals, EA established the Alliance Commission of Unity and Truth Among Evangelicals (ACUTE) in 1995 "to work for consensus on theological issues that test evangelical unity, and to provide, on behalf of evangelicals, a coordinated theological response to matters of wider public debate."

 

ACUTE comprises three evangelical bodies: the Evangelical Alliance, the British Evangelical Council, and the Evangelical Movement of Wales.

 

One project of ACUTE is The Nature of Hell. It was written that evangelicals might stand united against universalism while disagreeing among themselves concerning the nature of hell.

 

The study group, consisting of fundamentalists and conditionalists, had the task of writing a report that would promote understanding and tolerance among member believers.

 

Building a foundation

 

After describing points of agreement among evangelicals, the report gives background regarding universalism (the idea that ultimately all will be saved), a recurring issue in English church history.

 

The report concludes that universalism is not an option for evangelicals because it lacks biblical warrant. Nevertheless, the report adds, "In an increasingly multicultural, pluralist society, the universalism which now underlies most forms of liberal Christianity is likely to present an ever-greater challenge for evangelicals."

 

The report then identifies the key biblical texts in the debate on the nature of hell. In the Old Testament, the focus is on the present life, not on life after death. Sheol is a dark, dreary, silent underworld of half-existence. Only two Old Testament texts, Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2, refer to resurrection. The report then comments on the New Testament pictures of the afterlife, including Gehenna and Hades.

 

Two conclusions stand out. First, the report notes that the synoptic Gospels, Jude, and Revelation speak of "Gehenna," "Hades," and "fire." John, Paul, and the other epistles speak chiefly of "perishing," "destruction," and "death."

 

Second, the report recognizes that "this variation in biblical imagery stands behind much of the debate between fundamentalists and conditionalists."

 

The Nature of Hell next traces the history of each point of view. Fundamentalism: Tertullian, Lactantius, Basil of Caesarea, Jerome, Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Whitefield, and Wesley all endorsed eternal punishment.

 

Forms of conditionalism are found in Justin Martyr and Theophilus of Antioch.

 

The meaning of burning sulfur

 

After outlining key definitions (see "Coming to Terms: Five key phrases in the hell debate," p. 34), the report examines five critical exegetical issues that each side debates.

 

1. Destruction and perishing. Conditionalists argue that biblical language about the lost perishing (e.g., John 3:16) or being destroyed (e.g., Matt. 10:28) ought to be taken at face value to indicate extinction of being. Although the report almost always sets out the best arguments for both conditionalist and fundamentalist sides of an issue, here it includes only a weak fundamenallist response. A stronger one involves the "destruction" of the beast, foretold in Revelation 17:8, 11; he is later cast into the fiery lake of burning sulfur (19:10) and is "tormented day and night for ever and ever" (20:10).

 

2. The fire and the worm. Conditionalists maintain that the biblical imagery of hellfire indicates consumption and not the infliction of pain. Fundamentalists respond that the fire and worm in Mark 9:48, a key text, are "undying" and "unquenchable," respectively. Conditionalists counter by insisting, "Although both the worm and the fire themselves appear to be everlasting, the effect they have on any individual sinner may yet be terminal."

 

3. Eternal punishment and "the age to come." Fundamentalists historically have pointed to Jesus' parallel between the two destinies in Matthew 25:46: eternal punishment and eternal life (italics mine). Conditionalists respond by saying the text does not define eternal, and it could be rendered qualitatively rather than quantitatively; hence "the punishment of the age to come" and "the life of the age to come." Even if "eternal" punishment is the correct rendering, it could point to the everlasting effects of the punishment (conceived as destruction) rather than to everlasting suffering of the punishment.

 

Fundamentalists raise their eyebrows when conditionalists insist on a different meaning for the word eternal when it is used in two parallel phrases in the same sentence to describe the two destinies.

 

4. Jesus' account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. Fire imagery here plainly speaks of pain and not consumption (vv. 23, 24, 25, 28). Some fundamentalalists say this account teaches that the lost will endure eternal torment. But conditionalists correctly point out that Jesus' parable pertains to the intermediate rather than the final state.

 

5. Sulfur, smoke, and the "second death." The meaning of Revelation 14:10-11 is contested: the wicked will be "tormented with burning sulfur" and "the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night" for them. Fundamentalists assert that this text unambiguously teaches their view.

 

Conditionalists appeal to Old Testament texts that describe God's destruction of cities, "all of which are reduced to wastes of burning sulfur, but which themselves cease to exist as cities once they have been razed to the ground." The rising smoke in Revelation 14:10 is a trace of the destruction wrought by the consuming fire. And the torment relates to the moment of their destruction rather than eternal suffering.

 

But, fundamentalists, the text speaks of "the smoke of their torment" going up "for ever and ever" and thereby connects the suffering of persons with eternal duration. Fundamentalists also point to the sentence that follows-"There is no rest day or night" for the wicked-as evidence of eternal punishment. Conditionalists counter that this does not prove endless suffering but only suffering that lasts as long as the sufferers do.

 

Fundamentalists point to Revelation 20:10 as unequivocally teaching eternal punishment. After the devil is cast into the lake of fire, John reports that the devil, beast, and false prophet "will be tormented day and night for ever and ever." Because "day and night" is further modified by "for ever and ever.

 

They refuse, however, and instead argue that this text says nothing about human beings suffering eternal torment. Indeed, the devil, beast, and false prophet function symbolically here to denote opposition to God. In fact, the meaning of the imagery of Revelation 20:10 considered in its totality, they argue, is annihilation. This is confirmed, conditionalists claim, by the fact that a few verses later the lake of fire is defined as "the second death," a clear reference to cessation of being.

 

Fundamentalists remain unconvinced. The devil, at least, and probably his henchmen, are personal beings. Furthermore, Jesus in Matthew 25:41 assigns the "goats" to "the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Fundamentalists also reject conditionalists' equating the lake of fire with annihilation, arguing instead that death signifies not extermination but separation. The second death, therefore, stands for eternal separation from God. Moreover, the lake of fire signifies eternal torment in Revelation 20:10; if conditionalists' interpretation were correct, shouldn't John have indicated a change in its meaning five verses later when he speaks of humans being thrown into it?

 

From philosophy to blessedness

 

The report notes that four main theological issues also figure in the debate.

 

1. The place of philosophy. Annihilationists claim that the church Fathers imbibed uncritically the Greek notion of the immortal soul and consequently were misled into the Fundamental doctrine of hell. If all human beings live forever, the argument runs, they must forever inhabit either heaven or hell. Fundamentalists point out that, aside from the debated question of Platonic influence on the Fathers, the important thing is whether the Bible teaches immortality. Fundamentalists take different paths here, some claiming Scripture affirms immortality, others saying Scripture implies it. Matthew 10:28 ("Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell") is hotly contested: conditionalists insist on the plain sense; fundamentalists say destruction is a metaphor for terrible loss.

 

2. God's love and justice. How could God's love and justice possibly be made known in the everlasting conscious torment of human beings? Indeed, the report notes, "This question is regularly cited by conditionalists as a starting point for their abandonment of the fundamental position." How is it just for God to punish for eternity sins committed in a finite lifetime? Some Fundamentalists have followed Aquinas in insisting that sins against an infinite God deserve infinite recompense. They have maintained that only a holy and just God (not sinful human beings) is qualified to determine the consequences of sin. They suspect that conditionalists "are succumbing to contemporary cultural representations of pain as the ultimate evil to be avoided, when sin against God is in fact a more heinous thing." And Fundamentalists have affirmed that eternal conscious punishment will bring glory to God, the righteous Judge.

 

3. God's triumph. According to conditionalists, the fundamentalist picture of the end mars the biblical hope of God's ultimate victory, for fundamentalism pictures an eternal eschatological dualism between good and evil.

 

Fundamentalists reply that Revelation 21 and 22 paint a picture that includes the lake of fire as well as the new heavens and new earth. They insist that God will reign over heaven and hell and be glorified in both places.

 

4. The blessedness of the redeemed. Conditionalists argue that the joys of the saved in heaven would be diminished by their knowledge of the never-ending suffering of the lost in hell. The standard fundamentalist response is that God will remove any pain that those in heaven might otherwise experience.

 

The need for sensitive reflection

 

The report next seeks to remedy the fact that evangelicals on both sides of the debate have produced little in the way of pastoral reflection. It calls all to hold solemn and sensitive attitudes toward hell. Evangelicals historically have understood hell as a spur to evangelism. Recently, however, some have debated how prominent a place hell should have in Christian witness.

 

Fundamentalists accuse conditionalists of underestimating the fate of the lost, and conditionalists criticize fundamentalists for unnecessarily adding to the scandal of the gospel. The report calls for a truce and urges Christians to combine words of God's justice and love when presenting the gospel.

 

For example, on the issue of what believers are to say to terminally ill patients who do not know Christ: While demonstrating God's love in their actions and avoiding exploitation, Christians are to speak of God's judgment as background for sharing the good news of Christ. Concerning pastoral care of the bereaved, pastors should rejoice at the home-going of a believer, but it is inadvisable to pronounce that a specific person is in hell. Instead, pastors should preach the gospel to the living.

 

Room at the evangelical table [*?]

 

Though the report acknowledges that Fundamentalism is the majority view among evangelicals, it strives to maintain fellowship with conditionalists. Although a few fundamentalists have questioned the right of conditionalists to be called evangelical Christians, the working group that drafted The Nature of Hell affirms that right.

 

In terms of doctrine, the study confirmed that the main conditionalists show a high regard for the authority of Scripture and attempt to base their case chiefly on biblical exegesis. Historically speaking, though, conditionalism fares far worse than fundamentalism.

 

Although evangelicals are wary of appeals to tradition as compared to Scripture, the testimony of history, in which few major theologians have wavered from fundamentalism,places a considerable burden of proof on conditionalists.

 

Yet conditionalism seems to share an evangelical worldview or ethos with fundamentalism. Furthermore, conditionalists bear a "family resemblance"; they are part of the same relational network. Indeed, "when it comes to those who have moved from fundamentalism towards conditionalism, the familial ties remain strong," the report notes.

 

Conclusions and recommendations

 

The Nature of Hell ends with 11 conclusions (each accompanied by biblical proofs) and 11 recommendations. First, a summary of the conclusions:

 

All human beings will die and will be resurrected to face God's judgment, issuing either in eternal glory or condemnation to hell. Furthermore, "God has revealed no other way to salvation and eternal life apart from through Jesus Christ."

 

"While rejecting universalism and postmortem repentance, the report affirms, "In his sovereignty, God might save some who have not explicitly professed faith in Jesus Christ," although we are not to assume this in any specific case. Christians should therefore evangelize, assuming that it is through proclamation of the gospel that God saves people."

 

*..."I" reject universalism but I embrace postmorttem repenance completely

 

"The gospel is chiefly good news but also includes the message of hell:"

 

"Hell is more than mere annihilation at the point of death. Rather death will lead on to resurrection and final judgment to either heaven or hell." Hell involves separation from God, severe punishment, and is "a conscious experience of rejection and torment."

 

*..."I" do not concure. "I" am NOT a fundamentalist.

 

"Furthermore, "There are degrees of punishment and suffering in hell."

 

*...This too I view ######. There are no "Degrees' of ceasing to be. You either cease or you don't.

 

Then come the recommendations:

 

"Hell understood as eternal conscious punishment is the historic view of the church and is the mainstream evangelical position."

 

*...WRONG. hell as understand as as eternal conscious punishment is the Fundamental position..NOT the mainstream position.

 

"Still, "Conditional immortality is a significant minority evangelical view. Furthermore, we believe that the fundamentalist-conditionalist debate on hell should be regarded as a secondary rather than a primary issue for evangelical theology."

 

*...Good luck with that, = to get Fundamental to agree that any of their interpretations are secondary rather than promary is all but impossible.

 

"Furthermore, "We understand the current Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith to allow both fundamentalist and conditionalist interpretations of hell"; nonetheless it would be helpful to add a clause on eschatology that includes conditionalism. The evangelical fundamentalist-conditionalist debate should continue with the parties maintaining "constructive dialogue and respectful relationships."

 

*...That WOULD be nice but so far I have not personally seen where fundamentalists acknoweldge the conditionalists views. The few times I have seen a Progressive Baptists, Luthern or United Methodists try..instantly the fundamental Protestant presumes they are either Mormon or JW and proceeds to call them an unorthodox "cult."

 

An American assessment

 

The report is a model of how evangelicals can study together constructively, even when they must agree to disagree. The working group did its homework well, as the extensive bibliography and footnotes attest. A spirit of Christian fairness pervades the report. Fundamentalist and conditionalist views are given on every debated point.

 

Too often evangelicals have ended up with black eyes before the world by conducting their debates with acrimony and rancor.

 

From the perspective of evangelical Anglicanism, the report must be deemed a success. It has a clear purpose: not to allow the fundamentalist-conditionalist debate to further divide evangelicals in the United Kingdom. This is evident in the candor with which it describes the history of the debate, in the makeup of the working group (including scholars on both sides), in its design (the first and last two chapters form a literary inclusion that calls for theological inclusion), and in its conclusions and recommendations:

 

Readers should not miss the point: the book is not a debate between fundamentalist and conditionalists concerning the nature of hell. Instead, it is a summary of that debate written to bring fundamentalist and conditionalists together. It is an attempt at damage control.

 

"As an American evangelical and a Reformed theologian, I have learned from The Nature of Hell. I have added to my bibliography, learned new ways conditionalists handle exegetical and theological problems, been brought up short a few times (the report cites my Hell on Trial frequently, usually favorably, but twice offers criticism), and appreciated the pastoral applications. I agree that the fundamentalist-conditionalist debate does not extend to matters of salvation."

 

*...I appreciate this. But unforuantly I think you are rare in this.

 

"Yet I do not agree that the fundamentalist -conditionalist debate should be regarded as "secondary," if that means a debatable matter as church government and eschatology are debatable. In my view conditionalism is a more serious error for three reasons."

 

*...Oh dear. I guess I bragged on you too soon.

 

"First, despite good intentions, the conditionalist exegesis of the key texts falls short. After studying the report's presentation of the key exegetical debates, my conviction that fundamentalist is the teaching of Scripture has been strengthened."

 

*...Just as with the Evangelical book, "A Cause For Faith," that Evangelical author too came away beliving this. That is positions and explainations help shoot down any support in favor of conditionalism...but as a Conditionalist myself I concluded the complete opposite.

 

"Second, conditionalism frequently leads to systemic error, adversely affecting other doctrines. So it is in the case of Edward Fudge, perhaps the conditionalist most cited in The Nature of Hell."

 

*...Us conditionalists say the same of you fundamentalism. You believe your defense in support of hellfire is convincing..yet in your over confidence..you fail to see how your very belief that hell is eternal fire torment..you contridict the very basics that God is love. And you fail at resolving the question that if God has already deemed that a person can not be rehabilitated...then what is the point of conscious punishment? Is not the purpose of pushiment the hope for reform? Even when Saul or Tarsus was blinded ..this DID prove to be a punishment act that DID lead to paul reform and thus his salvation. What's the point or logic in keeping someone around forever if they can't learn from their errors and become reformed?

 

"I fear that conditionalism might have a negative effect on evangelism and missions. If fundamentalism is correct, then conditionalism seriously underestimates the pains of hell"

 

*...Oh gee! If we stop using scare tacticts in our sermons and simply rely on love then how can we scare people into coming back each week?

 

"Indeed, the lost would rather be annihilated because their suffering would be over."

 

*...His words there, not mine. ;)

 

D. A. Carson speaks a hard but necessary truth:

 

"Despite the sincerity of their motives, one wonders more than a little to what extent the growing popularity of various forms of annihilationism and conditional immortality are a reflection of this age of pluralism. It is getting harder and harder to be faithful to the "hard lines" of Scripture. And in this way, evangelicalism itself may contribute to the gagging of God by silencing the severity of his warnings and by minimizing the awfulness of the punishment that justly awaits those untouched by his redeeming grace."

 

*...Fear not. I don't think Southern Baptists or the extremists Jihads are in any near future danger fading away...not that is..unitll Judgement Day...

 

Robert A. Peterson is professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. He is the author of Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (P&R) and, with Edward Fudge, Two Views of Hell: A Biblical & Theological Dialogue (IVP).

 

Related Elsewhere

 

Be sure to read the related stories to this article, "Rightly Dividing the Hell Debate Advocates and Writings" and "Coming to Terms in the Hell Debate."

 

The Evangelical Alliance's press release about its report is available on the organization's Web site.

 

Media coverage of The Nature of Hell includes:

 

Is there a Hell? Yes, experts say, and it's awful-The Age (Apr. 3, 2000)

 

So Hell is a real place after all. Thank heavens for that.-The Independent (Apr. 3, 2000)

 

Children 'should be told of hell' | Liberals twitch as evangelicals turn to fire and brimstone-The Guardian (Apr. 15, 2000)

 

Unless Jesus Says Otherwise, Hell Exists, Asserts Evangelical Report | British group acknowledges differences on annihilationism, but says doctrine of hell must be preached again.-Christianity Today (Apr. 18, 2000)

 

Hell Is There and "Occupied" | The UK's Evangelical Alliance reaffirms the reality of hell in a report to be published next week.-Religion News Service/Beliefnet

 

British evangelicals emphasize Hell-Evangelical Press/B.C. Christian News (May 2000)

 

Hell is back in business | Trends come and go, so don't be surprised when you hear the latest: Hades is hot, angels are not.-Salon.com (June 12, 2000

 

Read Robert A. Peterson's meditation on "Christ Our Kinsman-Redeemer."

 

Previous Christianity Today articles on hell include:

 

'Hell Took a Body, and Discovered God' | One of the oldest and best Easter sermons, now 1,600 years old, is still preached today. (April 24, 2000)

 

Unless Jesus Says Otherwise, Hell Exists, Asserts Evangelical Report | British group acknowledges differences on Annihilationism, but says doctrine of hell must be preached again. (April 18, 2000)

 

Is Hell Forever? | Annihilationists anticipate one ultimate destiny for the wicked, an undifferentiated nonexistence. (Oct. 5, 1998)

 

Can We Be Good Without Hell? | (June 16, 1997)

 

October 23, 2000, Vol. 44, No. 12, Page 30

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I took the the time to read your somewhat extended discussion of the thermodynamics of Hell because you suggested it relevant to progressive Christianity. What it did for me was to suggest how little progress has been made if this is true.

 

Are we still enamored of a three- tiered Universe in this era of Hubble and modern Astrophysics? I thought demons had long been defined as delusions of man. But then I must admit that some of us feel that way about God as well. There is a better way!

 

Jeep

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This post has a great interest, have you noticed, the people involved were British , for my own I have been taught with the fundamentalist point of view , and after studying greek, and exegetical arguments I have changed my mind to conditionalism..

 

And my Conservative Baptist denomination has not expelled me, as member of the Evangelical Alliance they consider both opinions can be supported..

 

In fact , Conservative Baptists in Europe think both opinions can be supported, there is a real difference between denomination ..

 

The same denomination can support different view on this point, depending on the place they are located..

 

The founders of the church have been imbibed by the doctrine of immortality of the soul, but this argument is not asserted in the Bible,neiter in the Old Testament, neither in the New Testament..

 

And the opposite is affirmed clearly : (1 Tim 6:16)

 

15which God will bring about in his own time--God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

 

So immortality is not a part of the nature of man , immortality has been brought by christ (2 Tim 1:9-10)

 

This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel
.

 

The central problem of man is death , even in Eden the death was existing, in order to support the life, the human beings need the relation to God, in the christian perspective this relation is restored by the Apokastasis (the restoration of all the things, includint life and resurrection)

 

Conditionalist can challenge the old assertions and fundamentalist views with good basis..

 

The question of Gehenna ? Gehinom was a special place near Jerusalem were the rubbish of the cities were burned .. A place of destruction , the idea Jesus wants to show, is - as he has revealed God, the place for opponents or so called "wicked" is a place for destruction, a similae place, ..)

 

Centuries of centuries .. Aion - Aioniom in Greek , it doesnot mean eternity , but relates to a long time..

 

Supporting the fundamentalist assertion of Everlasting Torment in the Biblical Frame need to support the idea :

- humans are mortal, even the soul

- so to punish them with an everlasting torment, God has to raise them, again and again for them to suffer again and again.. An eternity of work to raise people to life ..

 

Doctrine of the Everlasting Torment - in my opinion - is an insult to the majesty of the God Jesus Christ has revealed..

 

Jesus Christ has not revealed a God who whould be "The Sadistic Torturer of the centuries"

Edited by Oak
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You are very right, Oak...in that the fundamentalists feel they 'need' the teaching of eternal hellfire in order to maintain and gain converts. Waldo Emerson once said, "The Bible says that man was created in God's image. But the problem is that man has created God in his image." Unforuantly, much of the human race is revenge-minded. It is not good enough for THEM for the evil to simply cease to be...no they want to image them punshed forever...because it is they way THEY think.

 

They churches that constantly harp on warnings of hellfire or getting "Left Behind" or armageddon and the highest memebership numbers. That is truely sad. They would LIKE to believe it is because they are the real form of Christaintiy and we Progressives are the false version. But the real moviation factor behind their zeal is morbid fear.

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  • 2 weeks later...

BrotherRog: Thanks for the link on the thermodynamics of hell. Very funny.

 

All: When I think of "hell" I think of it as a symbol of divine wrath for injustice. Thus it points to a break in the divine relationship and separation from divine authority. Therefore, for me, it is important to continue the rhetoric of fires of judgement to make rhetoric of the kingdom of God meaningful. To say that hell exists (metaphorically speaking), is to say that God is not a pushover God and does not support or condone injustice. So, the language of hell is the language that justifies saying "no!" in the face of those who would engage in wonton atrocity in this world.

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the fundamentalists feel they 'need' the teaching of eternal hellfire in order to maintain and gain converts. Waldo Emerson once said, "The Bible says that man was created in God's image. But the problem is that man has created God in his image." Unforuantly, much of the human race is revenge-minded. It is not good enough for THEM for the evil to simply cease to be...no they want to image them punshed forever...because it is they way THEY think.

 

They churches that constantly harp on warnings of hellfire or getting "Left Behind" or armageddon and the highest memebership numbers. That is truely sad. They would LIKE to believe it is because they are the real form of Christaintiy and we Progressives are the false version. But the real moviation factor behind their zeal is morbid fear.

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Jeep: Great quote! Thanks.

 

BeachOfEden: Robert Fuller's Naming the Antichrist: The Historyof an American Obesssion says something about this. In his conclusion he writes,

The apocalyptic heritage to which modern premillennialists are heir is adept at projecting such anxiety onto a mythic villain.  The symbol of the Antichrist shapes an ontological reality congruent with these anxieties and in so doing satisfies the believer's need to interpret the surrounding world (e.g., humanistic education, rock music, ecumenical religion, hopes for world peace) as frought with danger and deceit.  The tyranny and deceit attributed to the Antichrist mirror the anxiety and self-loathing aroused by one's own continuing inclinations to jeopardize connection with the "Higher Other" of Christ.  ...The point here is that psychological as well as sociological threats to our sense of agency and self-worth are likely to dispose us to apocolyptic, as opposed to prophetic, modes of religious discourse.  ...Those who engage in naming the Antichrist feel themselves exorcised of the demons of disbelief and consequently numbered among those who will be vindicated on the day of final reckoning.  Like all obsessions, however, the naming of the Antichrist seeks to preserve the self by narrowing rather than enlarging its field of vision.  The tragedy of this obsession is that it closes off believers from the possibility of finding an idealized or "Higher Other" immanent in the world about them.  Obsession with the Antichrist closes off persons from discovering the redemptive and wholeness-making possibilities of teh many persons, ideas, and cultural activities that lie immediately before them.  In religious terms, the obsession with the Antichrist has channeled many Americans' desire to be loyal to God into hate-filled crusades rather than into efforts leading to a deepened receptivity to, or communion with, the "Higher Other" (whether conceived as trascendent or immanent) in relation to which they can know themselves to be inherently valued and prized.

What disturbs me about the "heaven/hell" rhetoric as the membership imperative is the way that it promotes what I see as quite frankly being unhealthy psychological and sociological states that actively prevent people from laying claim to the life, the destiny, that they have received from God. (Hence, my own personal bitternes toward "fundamentalism" in any religion.)

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"What disturbs me about the "heaven/hell" rhetoric as the membership imperative is the way that it promotes what I see as quite frankly being unhealthy psychological and sociological states that actively prevent people from laying claim to the life, the destiny, that they have received from God. (Hence, my own personal bitternes toward "fundamentalism" in any religion.)"

 

I agree with you 100%. With Fundamental Protestants this unhealthy fear is based on eternal hellfire torment, getting "Left Behind" in the rapture and thus not getting into heaven. With the Fundamental version of Mormon it is the fear of not getting into the 3rd and highest relm of heaven. With Jehovah's Witnesses there is no hellfire but this is replace with a fear of getting killed at Aramageddon and ceasing to be forever and thus not getting into paradise.

 

The question is: WHy do the Fundamental Protestnat constantly pester their family members to come to Harvest Crusades, church and revivals? Why do JW's constantly pester their family to attend the Kingdom Hall meetings and become JW? And with both these fundamental groups why are they so aggressive even after you poltiely say no thanks time and time again? The answer is because all these faith groups are fundamental in nature and unforuantly the spiritual leaders of these groups when they stand up their and give their sermons/talks they constantly stir their congerations up and and cause them to panick because they keep warning their members how their family members who don;t agree with 'their' interpretations of the Bible are going to be eternally screwed.

 

So their devotion and zeal and love for God and family gets mixed up with an UNhealthy fear.

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  • 11 months later...

I enjoyed your input conserning hell. I am an 81 year old Doctor of Theology. You may enjoy my book "What the Church Does Not Want You to Know" by Kenneth C. Conrad. This is online or in all major book stores by title and/or author.

My conversion to conditionalism has cost me a lot as you may imagine. Outside of writing a weekly news column on religion the church has no need of me. I thank God for that.

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I really can't get into anything that takes a literal hell seriously, even making it more "just"

by having the possibility of salvation somehow always available.

The idea that God would allow or be even tangentially related to a place that treats it's criminals worse than the worst governments on earth, worse than the Holocaust, or the most brutal murderers well I could never believe in that sort of God. Most civil governments (I'm thinking the US isn't fitting there right now so well) do not believe in torture, even if the torture were very short. I think that would make human society better than God's. ( I can understand bad things happening on earth-- somehow allowed-- because they are part of creation of the universe or Earth or biological processes. This doesn't quite work for hell, as it supposedly always existed. There is no positive payoff-- like creation of a mountain.)

 

I can take the metaphorical hell seriously, but not the literal one. Metaphorically hell is the place outside The kingdom of God. Hell could also be any no. of conditions that are awful for the victims. Hurricane Katrina was like a hell, I suppose; also third stage cancer; etc.

I really liked the Thermodynamics of Hell though. :-)

I esp. liked this comment:

 

"As for souls entering hell, lets look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to hell. Since, there are more than one of these religions and people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all people and all souls go to hell."

:-)

 

I think, in fact, that religions have used hell as a scare device to scare it's populace into not wandering. If you wander you are possibly going to hell. I think there are many people scared out of questioning their beliefs- why question it when there is so much to lose.

 

I think Huckleberry Finn had the great line, when Tom tore up the letter to turn in Jim and said "all right then I'm goign to hell".

 

 

--des

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I enjoyed your input conserning hell. I am an 81 year old Doctor of Theology. You may enjoy my book "What the Church Does Not Want You to Know" by Kenneth C. Conrad. This is online or in all major book stores by title and/or author.

  My conversion to conditionalism has cost me a lot as you may imagine. Outside of writing a weekly news column on religion the church has no need of me. I thank God for that.

 

Cool! I have been waiting along time to find a pro-conditionalist writter! thanks for letting us know! I will check out your link! :)

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While I haven't stopped in for a visit in awhile, do routinely check into conversations. I'd never heard of conditional immortality before, so may not be understanding these posts correctly. But if I understand conditional immortality to mean you believe or you blink out of existence, then we've merely progressed in our view of God, anthrpomorphically speaking from a jealous, sadistic narcissist who'd cast one into eternal damnation if not only aChristian, but a particular kind of believer to a God who's merely xenophobic-wll only allow Christians to hang out with Him-none of these Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc :P Gee and I thought when God made the diveristy of Creation and deemed it good it implied he liked alot of different colors in the old crayon box. I'm with that great comparative religion scholar, Huston Smith, who, though he practices forms from a variety of religions, is a Christian, thought all of the world's religions were divinely inspired. If we choose to view God anthrpomorphically, then can't see how his Being would be less ethically evolved than humanity, then this is the era of recycling-we try not consign anything to the trash heap ;) Have a good one, Earl

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I don;t recall ever reading anything about any conditionalist saying Jews, Buddhists,ect are not nor can not be a part of the resurrection. First, we must realize that the vast majority of conditionists are of mainstream or Progressive/moderate Protestants: United Methodists and Presbyterians..as such I can not see where they would support the fundamental far right view when a "members-ONLY" salvation is held.

 

If a "memebers-ONLY" salvation IS held..then how could one truely be considered mainstream Christian, Progressive or even Moderate?

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Hey Des - check out The Great Divorce by CS Lewis - he has an interesting and, I think, more fitting idea of hell as a state/place people choose by being caught up in what they want vs what God wants for them which, while they can't see it, is a much grander, richer existence.

 

Enough of a run on sentence for ya??? :>

 

Anyway, the book is hilarious and humbling. He hits all the little things we all do all the time as choices that drive us from God. Most people don't see it as being as funny as I do, but I think most of the people here would understand!!!

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I have come to think of hell as eternal, opaque repetition; and, heaven as eternal, transparent change.

 

Or think of it as being a soul that either has an eternal case of acute obsessive-compulsive disorder (doing the same thing over and over without EVER getting it right ) as compared to being a musician who never runs short of the ability to perform novel improvisational riffs; or, maybe an artist or poet who never runs out of novel subject matter to create.

 

Again, I highly recommend the film, Defending Your Life, as an object lesson. To me it makes much more sense than ecclesiastical blather. I believe that it's all about being a courageous soul which seeks to create wellbeing for others through one's activities and beliefs in life.

 

 

flow.... :rolleyes:

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I do agree that any notion of a "God" who literally tortures people by throwing them into a never-ending furnace for breaking his laws is repugnant. This isn't divine "justice" or "holiness" as some people claim -- it's pure bloodthirstyness, a projection of the worst human abuses of power onto God. At the same time, as I've largely come to read the core stories of the Bible archetypally and allegorically, I ask myself what reality might the "eternal torment" view of Hell -- which does come out of the mouth of Jesus in the gospels, and is pretty hard to miss in Revelation -- possibly be pointing at?

 

I think it comes down to two things. First, choice. Hell is our persistent willful choice to remain separate from God, and to stay wrapped up in attachments and identities that create pain and suffering and destruction, for ourselves and everyone around us. However, since God is the eternal Ground, the True Self of everything that exists, real separation from God is actually impossible. We are all equally eternally surrounded and bathed in the radiating love of God; the difference between Heaven and Hell has to be in our own hearts. To a heart that continually rejects its inescapable union with God in favor of the impossible condition of separation, the radiating waves of God's love actually feel like flames that are trying to destroy us. The fact is, we're really in Heaven, and always have been -- we only believe we're in Hell. As C. S. Lewis says, "The gates of Hell are locked from the inside."

 

Secondly, patience. God so thoroughly respects our freedom to choose union, that God allows us to persist in our rejection eternally if we so choose. The "eternal" in "eternal torment" isn't so much a statement about our punishment, as it is a statement about God's patience. It points to the fact that God will never abandon our hearts to self-destruction; God will wait forever if need be. Origen -- and possibly even St. Paul, though that's debatable -- long ago, and Unversalism today, believe that God's grace is so irresistable and so powerful, that every person will eventually return to God. I have to say I resonate more with this view than with Conditionalism, which feels to me like God eventually gives up on you and puts you out of your misery if you reject him long enough.

 

Overall, I think the "traditional" doctrine of Hell -- symbolically, of course -- does point us in the right direction by emphasizing both our freedom and God's infinite patience. That's my $.02, take it for what it's worth....

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I've considered myself a Universalist for a while.

 

I've been a Universalist from a philosophical and metaphysical viewpoint for years, but recently began investigating whether or not Universalism is a Christian teaching. In a nutshell, I've decided yes, it is.

 

Perhaps it's not definitive, but simply researching the word "aeon" (translated as "eternal") was enough to make me go "Hmmm ... " :)

 

Origen -- and possibly even St. Paul, though that's debatable -- long ago, and Unversalism today, believe that God's grace is so irresistable and so powerful, that every person will eventually return to God.

 

Dang, there is that synchronicity again! Origen came up a couple of times in "The Soul of Christianity" when I was reading it yesterday. I thought "I have to ask Fred if he recommends a resource for reading Origen." Do you?

 

I have to say I resonate more with this view than with Conditionalism, which feels to me like God eventually gives up on you and puts you out of your misery if you reject him long enough.

 

I agree. Even conditionalism (and as an ex-JW I know what conditionalism is, inside and out) paints a God whose patience, love, forgiveness, etc ... has limits.

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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I've considered myself a Universalist for a while.

I have strong Universalist leanings, but I also want to maintain that God will not force our return, no matter how long we hold out. I saw this expressed very jarringly -- and effectively! -- in a defense of Hell I read recently: if God forced people to love him, that would essentially be tantamount to rape.

 

I think of it more in the sense that, as long as we can hold out, God will hold out longer -- as long as it takes for us to return of our own free will.

 

Dang, there is that synchronicity again! Origen came up a couple of times in "The Soul of Christianity" when I was reading it yesterday. I thought "I have to ask Fred if he recommends a resource for reading Origen." Do you?

Well, the "essential" Origen is On First Principles. You can find parts of it in the Classics of Western Spirituality volume, Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer, and Selected Works. From a cursory search on Amazon.com, it looks like there is also a nice anthology available called Origen: Spirit & Fire: A Thematic Anthology of His Writings, edited by Hans Urs Von Balthasar (one of the greatest modern Catholic theologians, died in 1988). Might pick that one up myself.

Edited by FredP
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Here is an article in Christianity Today which summarizes the debate within Evangelicalism, since Anglican John Stott's "tentative" defense of annihilationism in his Evangelical Essentials in 1988:

 

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/012/1.30.html

 

It also points out the fine distinction between conditionalism and annihilationism (which I was under the impression were the same thing): "Conditional immortality, or conditionalism for short, is the view that human beings are not naturally immortal. God, who alone is inherently immortal, grants the gift of immortality only to believers. Unbelievers, because they lack this gift, do not live forever. Although technically not identical with annihilationism, conditionalism has come to be used as a synonym for it." "... Stott tentatively defended annihilationism -- the view that unbelievers are finally annihilated and thus do not experience torment that is eternal in duration (as traditionalists believe)."

 

The pro-conditionalist and/or -annihilationist books cited in the article are:

 

The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ, Hughes, 1989

Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, essay by Wenham, 1992

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I have strong Universalist leanings, but I also want to maintain that God will not force our return, no matter how long we hold out.

 

I don't think God would force our return either. Actually, I've never talked to a Chrisitan Universalist who believes that (although I imagine there are a few out there).

 

Are you saying that it is the "norm" for Universalists to believe that God will force non-believers into returning to him? It's always been my understanding that (as you've said) God will simply wait as long as is necessary. Grace has no time limit.

 

Well, the "essential" Origen is On First Principles. You can find parts of it in the Classics of Western Spirituality volume, Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer, and Selected Works. From a cursory search on Amazon.com, it looks like there is also a nice anthology available called Origen: Spirit & Fire: A Thematic Anthology of His Writings, edited by Hans Urs Von Balthasar (one of the greatest modern Catholic theologians, died in 1988). Might pick that one up myself.

 

Thanks Fred. I'll go save "On First Principles" in my favorites at Amazon (as well as the Classics of Western Spirituality). I searched on Amazon earlier and saw the "Spirit and Fire", but I had no idea if it or the editor was any good.

 

It also points out the fine distinction between conditionalism and annihilationism (which I was under the impression were the same thing)

 

I didn't know that conditionalists and annihilationists drew that fine distinction between themselves. I guess JW's fall more into the annihilationist camp. Of course, in their view, annihilation is conditional upon response or non-response (ie: believing the "right" things) to God.

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