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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…)

The Glory Principle and the Humanity Principle

According to some versions of what I’ll call Augustinianism, God wills all things for his own glory. Call this principle, the Glory Principle (GP, hereafter). On a first read, the GP sounds perfectly pious; but, when we add that it includes God’s willing some proper subset of humans to hell, a non-insignificant subset of contemporary Christians strenuously object. I’ll call these objectors, Arminians. Now, Augustinians will say something like, “God’s willing some people to hell allows for his justice to be glorified.” There are of course many objections an Arminian could, and does, raise to the GP. One objection finds its root in Kant’s principle that we should never treat our fellow humans as a mere means to an end, rather than as an end in themselves. Call this principle, the Humanity Principle (HP, hereafter). It’s important to note that, for Kant, ‘human’ in the HP doesn’t mean only human persons like you and I, i.e., persons identical to or constituted by or associated with a human animal. It basically refers to beings that can engage in rational behavior and direct themselves toward ends of their choosing.

Now here’s the problem (or one way of putting it, at any rate). If God wills that some person S ends up in hell, and the end (purpose) of God’s so willing is his own glory, as the GP would have it, then, the objection goes, God has used S as a mere means to an end, and this is contrary to the HP. In what follows I want to push back against this objection. It will be my contention that this objection ultimately begs the questions against Augustinianism. (more…)