And now this sweeping portrayal of the centuries is before us—the age-old conflict over man's origin, nature, and destiny, the unceasing battle of conflicting schools of thought across the years. With rapid summarizing strokes let us epitomize this vast pageant that has been spread before us in documented detail in these two volumes.
Let us spotlight the leading witnesses to conditionalism, epoch upon epoch, so as to get the panoramic picture compactly before us. In this way we may fairly and faithfully evaluate the evidence and arrive at a verdict that will be sound and true. And this must be reached upon the basis of revealed Bible truth—the only dependable norm for evaluating the evidence, the lie detector for all testimony, the basis for all right conclusions, the authority for any sound verdict. We will thus find our own individual relation to it all.
While we are but distant spectators of the past, we are close-up observers of the present. Yes, we are more than observers—we are inescapable participants in the final clash between truth and error. The continuing conflict of the centuries is to reach its consummation in our day. We are to witness the climax of the struggle. And, on the basis of the Word the outcome is assured. Nor is this some vain speculation or empty, groundless hope. It is founded upon the covenanted Word of the living God who formed man, has guided his destiny across the ages, and according to the inviolable pledge of His promise, is soon to overthrow all error and establish truth forever.
He will end the controversy. He will overthrow Satan, the father of the twin lies spawned in Eden. He will expose those deceptions that have marred and scarred
the centuries. lie will crush this masterpiece of deception that has brought the conflict of the ages to the peak of the life and death struggle between God's truth and the devil's lie. The conflict will end at the personal return in the clouds of glory of Him who is the Truth and the Life, the Creator and Redeemer, the Resurrection and the Restorer. Let us go back, then, and first seek the main import of volume 5.
I. Build-up and Penetration of Immortal-Soul Concept
Volume 5 presented the Biblical norm by which we are to test all testimony and to weigh all evidence. We examined the multiple declarations of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures—the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. We compassed the amplified evidence presented in the New Testament—the explicit declarations of Christ and the apostles which started the newborn Christian church on its fateful way, outlined its course and its conflicts together with the triumph of truth restored ere the second advent of our Lord. That is the inspired basis of the Christian faith, the source of all truth concerning the origin, nature, and destiny of man.
A. Triple Origin of Immortal-Soul Innovation.—We then traced the alien origin of the postulate of universal innate immortality. Springing out of Orientalism—with its pantheism, pre-existence, emanations, transmigration, and reabsorption concepts—it was joined by the Egyptian version of immortal soulism and by the gross perversion of Persian dualism.
These elements began, around 900 B.C., to penetrate the thinking of the pagan Greek poets, cults, and mysteries. Thus Hesiod came to hold the separate survival of the soul, the Dionysiac cults to transmigration, and the Orphic Mysteries to their pantheism and reincarnation, and the Eleucinian Mysteries to their reincarnationism and the concept of the body as the prison house of the soul, longing to be freed.
From thence, around 640 B.C., this composite notion was espoused by the Greek speculative schools of philosophy—the Ionic, Pythagorean, Eleatic, Atomist, and the Compromisers. Despite their divergent views on emanated sparks, pre-existence, pantheism, reincarnation, transmigration, and dualism, they had one common denominator—the innate immortality of the soul. But the intense reaction of the Sophists checked this speculative phase. Meantime, the Old Testament canon had closed, about 425 B.C., and we entered the shadowy twilight zone of the intertestament period.B. Becomes Potent Philosophy Under Plato. —In the foupth century before Christ, under Socrates and Plato we entered the era of systematic philosophy, likewise with its pre-existence of the soul, its successive incarnations, with the soul acclaimed immortal and indestructible. And, significantly enough, Greek philosophy's four problems were (1) the origin of the world, (2) the nature of the soul, (3) the existence of God, and (4) the criteria of truth. Immortal soulism thus lay at the heart of its speculation.
But Aristotle abandoned the idea of personal immortality, and denied Plato's pre-existence and reincarnation postulate. The reactions of the Stoics set in, with their materialistic philosophy, along with the licentious Epicurean notions of unbridled indulgence, followed by permanent oblivion, the Sceptics with their quibbles, followed by the Roman writers that carried on.C. Jewry split Into Two Schools on Immortality.—That was the situation when something happened among the Jewish intertestamental writers of apocryphal and pseudepigraphical fame. First came the maintainers of conditionalism, holding to the Old Testament teachings. These included Tobit, Serach, the Sibyllines (with man mortal and the wicked turning to ashes), the Syriac Baruch (with the righteous sleeping in death and punishment terminating), and the Essene Dead Sea scrolls (with the righteous living forever, but the wicked ceasing to exist, and with wrong disappearing forever), and the Second Esdras (with the sleepers called forth, and the wicked extinguished). These represented one school, beginning about 200 B.C.
Then, beginning about 150 B.C., a second school appeared, adopting and adapting the Platonic philosophy—Second Maccabees (proclaiming innate immortality and introducing prayers for the dead); the Jubilees (with the soul surviving, and the resurrection abandoned), Wisdom and its contradictions, followed by the famous Philo, who allegorized the Old Testament, taught emanationism, pre-existence, incarnations, embodied souls, and eternal punishing. And Philo's career largely paralleled the life of Christ. Jewry had been split into two irreconcilable schools through the inroads of Platonism. This created a grave and continuing dilemma in Jewry.D. Motley Situation When Christ Appeared. —Meantime, among the Roman writers pantheistic despair became preponderant. Manilius with his pantheism, Cicero holding to preexistence, and Virgil with his "world soul" were the discordant picture painted by these writers. Horace held to eternal sleep, Ovid to the divine spark, Cato with death as the utter end. Seneca the Stoic with his pantheism, Epictetus with refusion, Plutarch with his Platonism, Juvenal and his everlasting sleep, and Aurelius with his reabsorption present a motley Roman picture.
Such was the situation among the Jews and the Romans, with their recovering and regrouping eclecticism, when Christ appeared on the scene and reaffirmed the conditionalism taught in the Old Testament, and expanded the truth to sublime proportions. Without pausing to rehearse the clear conditionalism taught by Christ and the apostles, we note that in the pagan Neoplatonic school, the last stand of pagan philosophy was taking place. Lucius Apuleius held to the world soul, Numensius to his incarnations and punishments, Plotinus to emanation, dualism, and reabsorption, and Porphyry to the universal-soul notion. And finally Proclus, in the fifth century A.D., likewise taught emanation, reabsorption, and mysticism, tinctured with Orientalism. Such was the situation when such pagan teachings were forbidden by Justinian in 529.E. Apostolic and Ante-Nicene Conditionalists.—That forms the setting for the spreading Christian church. The first group of writers, the apostolic fathers, were largely conditionalists —Clement with immortality as a gift, Ignatius with death as a sleep, Barnabas with ultimate death eternal, Hermes with the wicked consumed, Polycarp with the resurrection as the supreme question, and Diognetus with the wicked terminated.
That brought us to the Ante-Nicene Fathers and Justin Martyr, with man a candidate for immortality and utter destruction for the wicked. Next came Irenaeus with eternal life bestowed and eternal loss for the wicked, who cease to exist. Then came Novatian, Arnobius, and Lactantius with immortality as a reward, and presenting a true eschatology.
But under the pressures that followed, the conditionalist voices waned, and only an occasional testimony was heard from this first school in a developing trilemma. Three competing schools of eschatology existed from now on. These were: (I) Conditionalism, (2) Eternal Tormentism, and (3) Universal Restorationism—the latter two with their false eschatologies. Such was the trilemma that was to confuse and plague the Christian church until the end of the age.
F. Eternal Tormentism Established by Tertullian.—Now recall the second school. After a fatal time gap, Athenagoras (first Christian Father to use the term "immortal soul"), about A.D. 188 contended that the soul is immortal and imperishable. Tertullian then developed this into a system. His argument was: Since all souls are immortal, the punishment of the wicked must be eternal. He stressed a sacred fire that never consumes but renews as it burns, eternally killing but never terminating. Following Chrysostum and Jerome, Augustine finally added his great prestige to the postulate of inherent immortality for all men, and conscious torment for the wicked forever. This soon became the predominant faith of the dominant church, continuing largely unchallenged through the medieval centuries. Meanwhile,
Gnosticism and Manichaeism (with its dualism and fantastic postulates) plagued the church and complicated the situation.
G. Universal Restorationisrn Projected by Origen.—But the great name of the third school was Origert of Alexandria, home of Philo the Jew. Adopting the view of indefeasible immortality for all, he rejected the contention of eternal torment for the wicked, holding the fires to be purgative and restorative. His was a determined revolt against the eternal-torment thesis. He contended for pre-existence, transmigration, a spiritual resurrection, and the ultimate restoration of all the wicked—though it involved a forced salvation. His principle of allegorization, with a spiritual resurrection, a figurative advent, and a false eschatology, was maintained by many in the developing Catholic church. But his restorationism was condemned by the Second Council of Constantinople in 544, and went into oblivion.
So with conditionalism largely strangled and universal restorationism suppressed, Augustinianism with its universal innate immortality and its endless torment of the wicked becomes the dominant faith of the controlling church for a thousand years. The radical departures from the apostolic platform were crystallized and established. That was the essence of the story unfolded in volume 5.
II. Reformation Sparks Resurgence of Conditionalism
A. Bleak and Largely Silent Centuries.—The sweep of volume 6 covers the conflict over this theological trilemma from the sixth century on to 1963. Restorationism is banned and quiescent all through the Middle Ages. Not until after the Protestant Reformation was under way did it, under the name and concept of universalism, become active again, first in Europe and then appearing in Colonial America. But its real resurgence was reserved for modern times.
The dogma that all men are innately immortal, along with paralleling insistence on the eternal torment of the wicked, was the position relentlessly imposed by the dominant papal church for a thousand years. To this had now been added the innovating concept of purgatory, based upon the Apocrypha, to mitigate the horrifics of hell. Classically portrayed by Dante, it prevailed until the time of the Renaissance.
Meanwhile, conditionalism — the original Christian school of conviction in the age-old conflict over man's nature and destiny—had passed through its bleak and largely silent centuries. Only voices such as seventh-century Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem, twelfth-century Greek Bishop Nicholas, and certain Parisian professors gave voice to conditionalist sentiments, followed by Wyclif in Britain. But these made scarcely a ripple in the vast ocean of immortal soulism.
The most notable medieval break with eternal tormentism was among the most celebrated of the medieval rabbis, beginning with Maimonides, then Machmanides, and Abravanel, who took their stand on the complete, ultimate "excision" of the wicked. Theirs was a repudiation of the divergent Jewish tenet introduced by Philo. And this dissent continued on up to Protestant Reformation times, when the burden was taken up by Christian leaders.
Thus a split developed among Protestant bodies, though most Protestant creeds incorporated innatism and eternal torment. The Anglican Articles, however, reduced from forty-two to thirty-nine, left the issue of the nature and destiny of man to the conviction of the individual clergyman. Then the conflict intensified as ministers and teachers, physicians and poets, philosophers and scientists, statesmen and publishers, and barristers of prominence in steadily increasing numbers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries took their stand for conditionalism and left their ringing testimony on record.F. Notable Recruits to Conditionalist Cause. —Richard Overton went to prison for his conditionalist faith. Man, he held, is wholly mortal, with immortality bestowed as a gift at the Second Advent. The celebrated seventeenth-century poet-statesman John Milton so held. And Dr. Peter Chamberlen, physician to James I, Charles I, and Charles II, likewise maintained the conditionalist view. A whole succession of witnesses in England and on the Continent so professed. High clerics, like Archbishop Tillotson, took their stand on the conditionalist platform. The battle raged, with steadily increasing recruits to the conditionalist cause, with its threefold position of immortality only in Christ, sleep in the grave during death, and ultimate and utter destruction of the wicked.
In the eighteenth century, scholars like William Whiston, poets like Isaac Watts, physicians like Dr. Scott, clerics like bishops Warburton and Law, scientists like Priestly, educators like Dr. Peter Pecard, swelled the growing chorus. Condi tionalis t Archdeacon Blackburne produced his priceless history of the witnesses, extending from the Council of Florence to his own day in the mid-eighteenth century.
G. New-World Voices Add Their Testimony. —Meantime in the New World, along with the conflict over revived universalism and such avid champions of eternal torment as Jonathan Edwards and Samuel Hopkins, there developed a revulsion against Calvinism. In 1795 the first North American treatise appeared, maintaining that after the sleep of death man's immortality is conferred at the resurrection.
And as the nineteenth century dawned the chorus of conditionalists grew stronger, and the parts were augmented by noted scholars. The caliber of the proponents creates respect. Bishops such as Porteus and Hampden, and Free Churchmen like Watson and Hall lend the luster of their names. And Archbishop Whatley became a standard-bearer. A conditionalist congregation—the Crescent Meeting House—is the first of its kind. (Prior to this, conditionalism was confined to individual adherents.) And there was wide denominational spread.
H. Fresh Revolts Add New Impetus.—Meantime, in North America, Bishop William White, who arranged for the New Episcopal daughter church of Anglicanism, so held. Elias Smith, founder of the Christian Connection, gave impetus to conditionalism. Man after man joined the ranks in the New World.
Shortly after, in the Old World, beginning about 1877 there was a fresh revolt against eternal tormentism that forced the issues to the fore and now spread to overseas continents. Various conditionalist journals were launched, and both a scholarly and popular literature developed—along with a wave of reprisals. Laymen were ostracised and clergymen were severed from their denominations for espousing conditionalism.
I. Notable Champions Arise in Britain and on the Continent.—In England, Congregationalist Dr. Edward White became a shining figure with his emphasis on life only in Christ. Canon Constable produced classic books in the field. And noted Congregationalist Dr. R. W. Dale declared his conditionalist faith. Dean F. AV. Farrar startled the religious world in 1877 by his famous sermons in Westminster Abbey denouncing eternal tormentism. Scores, yes, hundreds of clergymen took up their positions, pro or con. An intradenomin.ational conditionalist association was formed in Britain, with members comprised of clergymen of all faiths.
Symposiums appeared in periodicals and books. Numerous journals, such as The Rainbow, The Messenger, The Bible Echo, and The Standard championed the conditionalist cause. A whole library of conditionalist works was produced. Outstanding scholars stood up and were counted. Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland, and Italy contributed their witnesses. Missionary leaders in Australia, Africa, India, China, and Japan added their voices and sometimes were sent home as a consequence.
Statesmen like Prime Minister Gladstone wrote with singular soundness, and scholars like Dr. R. F. Weymouth and Bishop Perowne lent their support. Famous preachers like London's Joseph Parker voiced their convictions. Great conditionalist classics, like Dr. Emmanuel Petavel's French work, soon translated into English, stand on record for all time, as do the writings of Dr. E. W. Bullinger. Well-known missioners like Hay Aitken gave strong impetus. So closed the nineteenth century in the Old World. But because these men championed an unpopular cause their witness is not well known. It has been given voice in this volume.
J. America Keeps Pace With Old World.—We must also bear in mind the paralleling American testimony. In the mid-nineteenth century Deacon Henry Grew inspired George Storrs, who with his Bible Examiner gave great impetus to this then-unpopular testimony. The widespread revival of the study of Bible prophecy and eschatology in the early decades of the nineteenth century had laid the foundation for the awakening interest. Professor Hudson produced several American classics on conditionalism. Physician Dr. Charles Ives of Yale Medical School made a notable contribution. Pettingell produced important books, and clergymen like Bishop Mann, and Denniston in Jamaica, Dr. C. D. Boardman of Philadelphia, Moncrief in Canada, Dr. A. J. Gordon, and many others, added their influential voices in emphasizing various aspects of the conditionalist truth and exposing the errors of the traditional position. The stage is now set for greater advances in the twentieth century.
III. Brilliant Array of Witnesses Mark Twentieth Century
As the nineteenth century saw certain entire denominations adopt conditionalism so in the twentieth century the past three decades have witnessed augmenting radio and television mass communication coverages present the conditionalist faith on occasion. At the same time, an increasing number of outstanding scholars in Britain and on the Continent as well as in the United States and Canada have been champions of conditionalism. Anglican and Free Church leaders have adapted the conditionalist faith, endorsing it in whole or in part.
Ground Swell of Revolt Against Traditional Positions.—A group of some six Swedish and Norwegian bishops repudiated the dogma of eternal torment amid heated debate. In truth, a wide-ranging ground swell of revolt against the traditional positions has swept over large sections of Christendom. The issues are being more sharply defined, and the battle lines drawn between the three great schools concerning this age-old theological trilemma—eternal tormentism, universalism, and conditionalism. Men are choosing sides and changing sides in harmony with what they discern to be truth.
The spread is impressive. In this twentieth century scholarly Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, German, French, British, American, Canadian, and Japanese voices have broken forth. University professors, college presidents, archbishops, bishops, deans and canons of cathedrals have spoken—such as Canterbury, St. Paul's, and Birmingham. Bible translators, commentators, editors, rectors, and pastors have borne witness. And these voices have appeared in Anglican, Episcopalian, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Reformed, Congregational, Methodist, and various other communions.
Many hold high posts in famous universities —such as Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, London, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Erlangen, Zurich, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, McGill, Toronto. And they are found, for example, in such theological seminaries as Union, General, Augsburg, Drew, Hamma, and Butler. Books and periodicals have been augmented by the use of radio and television channels. Conditionalism is growing, spreading through largely unpublicized contemporary development.