Hello! I’m Didyma’s identical twin. I joined this forum to cut out the middleman in our discussion. I would prefer that we only discuss one of the topics my sister pointed out in the OP: Christian Anthropological Monism/Materialism/Physicalism, or Conditionalism/Annihilationism. I’d rather not debate both at once. It seems like the people here are mostly discussing annihilationism, and I’m newer to the Christian anthropological monism view, so I’m not as good at explaining it. Therefore, I’d like to just discuss annihilationism, if that’s fine with you guys. If you want, I’ll refer you to the podcasts that persuaded me to take on the CAM position, but I won’t be discussing them (not in this thread, at least). (Don’t be surprised if I don’t start the CAM thread. I’m pretty busy adjusting to college right now.)
I’m a little busy right now, so to start us off I’ll attempt to post my essay outlining the argument for annihilationism/conditionalism from the Biblical language of destruction that my sister posted earlier:
“As many Christians have noticed, one of the main issues non-Christians have with Christianity is the doctrine of the eternal conscious torment of the unsaved in Hell. The doctrine of ECT (as Eternal Conscious Torment will be called here on out) understandably clashes with most people’s sense of justice. It clashes with mine, too. In fact, I’m sure that the vast majority of Christians have had at least some emotional distress when they thought about the traditional view of Hell. Of course, just because something is emotionally displeasing doesn’t mean that it isn’t true, and which view of Hell is true is one of the most crucial things one can know. Hell is too important for careless thinking and taking one’s own view for granted. Christians must make sure whether such a major doctrine such as ECT aligns with the Bible. If it doesn’t fit with Scripture, well, I’m sure God is very displeased His followers are saying such things about Him. So, does the Bible really require us to believe that God will keep people alive in Hell forever just to suffer?
I won’t beat around the bush any longer. I don’t think so. I’m a Conditionalist. You may have heard of other views of Hell held by Christians besides the majority ECT one, which I will sometimes refer to as Traditionalism. The largest alternative view of Hell is Universalism, also known as Universal Reconciliation. Conditionalism, also known as Annihilationism or Conditional Immortality, is less famous (or infamous, I suppose) than Universalism. Simply put, it holds that eternal life is a gift from God, so the unsaved just won’t live forever.
A more detailed explanation of Conditionalism is that the unsaved will be resurrected, but unlike the saved, will not be gifted with immortality. Instead, they will be punished with permanent destruction, which includes a certain degree of suffering during the destruction. Though the amount and strength of the finite suffering that is involved in the destruction will vary person to person according to divine justice, all the unsaved will eventually cease to exist. Though the suffering will be finite, the punishment (complete destruction) will be eternal, since there will be no coming back from oblivion after this Second Death.
'Which verses support your view?' you are right to ask. Before I tell you, however, I would like to point something out. Many, or even most Christians are committed to the belief that the soul is either indestructible or will never be destroyed. While this may not be the only factor that causes someone is a Traditionalist (or a Universalist, for that matter), it’s inevitable that this would affect what a Christian believes about Hell. I would like any reader who holds this view about the human soul to at least acknowledge how this could affect how they take the defense of my view. It is very likely that you have read the verses that I am about to quote many times over, but through a sort of ECT 'filter.' I would therefore ask you to acknowledge this figurative filter, and to try to remove it, if possible, just for the sake of trying to understand my position.
Now, on to the scriptural support. In this essay, I will focus on the Biblical language of destruction, since the argument for Conditional Immortality that is based on it is the most straightforward.
John 3:16 is among the most quoted verses, and for good reason. It very succinctly explains the gospel in a way that is easy to understand. Since it is so commonplace, it is easy to miss important messages in the text. 'For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.'
I can’t think of a clearer way of saying it.
'[...] whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.'
I have heard the explanation that perishing can mean being apart from God. And it does mean that. People who don’t exist can certainly be considered apart from I Am. But interpreting a word like “perish” in such a straightforward context as meaning 'Living forever (but in a horrifyingly painful place)' is simply bad hermeneutics.
Here’s another verse: Romans 6:23. 'For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.' The wages of sin is death, and eternal life is a gift, not a given.
Another important verse is Matthew 10:28, in which Jesus says to fear God, who can destroy the whole person in Gehenna. (While Gehenna is usually translated as Hell, I and many other Conditionalists believe that that translation is unhelpful, since when one thinks of Hell, one usually thinks of images from the traditional, ECT view.)
In 1 Corinthians 3:17, it states that God will destroy the wicked. In 2 Thessalonians 1:9, it says that the wicked will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power. In Psalm 104:35, it states that the wicked will be no more. According to Psalm 139:19, God will slay the wicked. The wicked will be like smoke that vanishes, and the ashes of burned chaff under the feet of the righteous, according to Psalm 68:2 and Malachi 4:1-3, respectively. I won’t list all of the verses I know of that support the Conditionalist view. That would be monotonous. I am confident that you can understand the language of the verses I’ve already quoted, but in case you would like to see more, I will include a fuller list in the description. [meaning the description in deviantart]
One of the verses that is most often used by Traditionalists against Conditionalists is Isaiah 66:24, and by extent Mark 9:48, which quotes it. These verses can actually be used to support Conditionalism. Based on the definition of the word “quench,” a fire never being quenched means that it won’t be put out, not that it will never burn out. In addition, the worm, according to the closest translations to the original manuscripts 'will not,' 'shall not,' or 'does not' die. The worm will not 'never' die. To interpret 'never' from 'will not' makes matters absurd. For example, if a park ranger told me that if I took a certain precautions that I would not die, it wouldn’t be rational to think he was saying that I would never die. He would be saying that if I followed his instructions, I would not die at that time. A good example from the Bible would be Genesis 42:20, where Joseph tells his brothers to verify their claims by bringing their youngest brother, and they will not die. Joseph didn’t mean that by bringing Benjamin to him, his brothers would attain immortality. He just meant that if they followed his instructions at that time, he wouldn’t have them killed. In that context, they were offered life, but outside of that context, life was not guaranteed. It’s the same with Isaiah 66:24 and Mark 9:48. It is assured that the worms (and the fire) will not be prevented from consuming the corpses, but the worm and fire are not guaranteed continuance after that. The agents of destruction will do what they do best until their job is done.
However, the permanence of the worms and the fire is not really the most important part of these verses. In Isaiah 66:24, those who rebel against God are not described as alive in any sense. They are corpses. The corpses are being destroyed, not tormented by the worms and the fire. In Mark 9:48, Jesus is quoting Isaiah 66:48, so based on that fact and the wealth of verses referring to the death and destruction of the unsaved, He is also referring to corpses.
Does the imagery in these verses paint a picture of people living in torment forever, of people being refined for eternal life with God, or of people perishing?
When I was first shown what these verses were clearly saying, my mind was (pleasantly) blown. This certainly sounded a lot more like God. I was expecting to fight the Conditionalist view more, but I soon happily switched sides. If, after you have read these verses, you find that the Conditionalist view makes better sense out of these verses, don’t be afraid to reconsider your view, too.”
It is important to note that the argument from the Biblical language of destruction is not the only argument for annihilationism.
Here's the proof (outlined in video form) about church fathers who were annihilationists [these are only the ones with the least disputable texts. The Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the author of First and Second Clement (Clement?), all say annihilationist-sounding things, but those things are more disputably annihilationist]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=je3AW6QeXzk&autoplay=1
Here's the list in the video: Ignatius of Antioch, Barnabas the author of the Epistle of Barnabas, Irenaeus of Lyons, Arnobius of Sicca, and Athanasius the Great.