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Mere Evangelical Conditionalism – 1

(Note: This is part two of a series on evangelical conditionalism/annihilationism. Part one is located here.)

In the last post I introduced the terms “traditionalism” and “conditional immortality.” I raised some worries that showed some ways that the terms can give rise to conceptual confusions. I engaged in a bit of clarification and settled on a refined description for each term: (1) Mere Evangelical Traditionalism, and (2) Evangelical Conditional Immortality (which I shortened to Evangelical Conditionalism). I then let “MET” = (1), and “EC” = (2).

One of my main goals for the series is to develop a MET model that is superior to EC, or at least equal in terms of explaining the relevant texts. That model will be presented a few posts down the road. My immediate goal is to lay out what I take to be the EC core. By “the EC core” I mean the main biblical tenets that conditionalists think traditionalism is simply unable to account for, and it is in virtue of this inability to account for these tenets that conditionalism is said to be superior. It’s precisely this core that my MET model aims to meet.

In spelling out this core I will try to follow some of the things conditionalists have told me about their view. The first thing is that conditionalism is consistent with both dualism and physicalism. Thus, a doctrine of anthropology will not feature on the list of core tenets. Second, conditionalists have told me that their view is consistent with a wide variety of views on the intermediate state, namely it is consistent with (i) claiming that the person ceases to exist after bodily death, (ii) the person exists but is in some sense unconscious( a view often called “soul sleep”), and (iii) the person persists consciously through the intermediate state. Thus, a doctrine of the intermediate state shall not appear on the list of core doctrines. Third, these entail that conditionalism is not committed to the view that death just is the cessation of the person’s existence (however, MEC does want to say that the second death (Rev 2:11; Rev 20:6, 14; Rev. 21:8.) marks the end of the person’s existence; a discussion of ‘death’ will be discussed in a future post). A person may therefore exist after death, or not, and we are told that conditionalism is consistent with both of these options. Thus, assuming that death just is the cessation of existence will not feature on the list of core tenets.

In light of this, I propose one more amendment to a term introduced in the last post. Since I am trying to respect the conditionalist’s claims of neutrality between the above views—offering something like “big tent” conditionalism—I will call the view presented below, Mere Evangelical Conditionalism (hereafter “MEC”). This gets at the “big tent” theme, and also is fits nicely with the opposing view, MET.

I shall present the main tenets of MEC over the next three posts (including the present post). In this post I shall discuss what is perhaps the key tenet of MEC: God alone is immortal. By calling this a “key tenet” of conditionalism, I am not thereby implying that other views on personal eschatology deny this doctrine. Nonetheless, to the conditionalist, this tenet can rightly be called “foundational.” I turn to it now. (more…)

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Conditional Immortality: What’s in a name?

(This is my first post in a series of posts on the propriety of the term ‘Conditional Immortality’ to uniquely pick out the set of doctrines more popularly known as ‘Annihilationism’.)

1. Introduction

Traditionally, systematic theology has divided the various views about the final fate of all humans into three views: (1) Annihilationism, (2) Traditionalism, and (3) Universalism. It is my view that there are evangelical versions of each of these views. I think there are well-intentioned, biblically literate, regenerate Christians who hold to each of these views; and furthermore, I believe that there are many who do so because they are convinced that the Bible teaches said view. That is to say, it is not the case, in some instances, that those who hold one of the above views do so primarily for emotional or philosophical reasons.

This is not to say that I don’t think one or more of these views are false. To lay my cards on the table, I hold to (2). To disclose further: I feel fairly comfortable with my understand of the best arguments for (3); however, I previously had not given much attention to (1). There’s various reasons for this, but the past is in the past and I’d like to start turning my attention to (1). At this stage in my understanding of (1) I want to raise conceptual and philosophical difficulties and perplexities for (1). As I dig through the literature (e.g., E. Fudge The Fire that Consumes, C. Date et al. (eds) Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, etc.), I will slowly offer some (broadly) theological criticisms of (1) (that’s the plan, anyway!). Now, if you read the previous sentence (especially the parenthetical), you’ll note that one of the books mentions the word, ‘Conditionalism.’ What does that mean? It refers to “Conditional Immortality.” Many contemporary defenders of (1) wish that “Conditional Immortality” could be substituted for (1). I don’t think that name is very helpful. In fact, I don’t think “traditionalism” is either. In this post I want to offer some of my reasons for why I think what I do. In the course of doing so, I hope to raise some interesting questions and concerns.  (more…)