An Introductory Post to a Longer Post that Will Argue Against Conditional Immortality and Annihilationism from a Barthian and Torrancean Doctrine of Election

I am currently writing a long post/mini-essay as an argument against what is called Conditional Immortality and/or Annihilationism. In the post I will clarify what that all entails, definitionally, and then of course I will refute CI and ‘annihilationism’ by appealing to Karl Barth’s, Thomas Torrance’s, and to a lesser degree, Athanasius’s doctrine of election and the imago Dei. While we wait for that, let me quickly share a quote I’ve had in my sidebar ever since I started this blog; it’s a passage that comes from Thomas Torrance. In this passion you’ll note some theo-logic that implicitly undercuts the logic being used to argue for the CI position. I will explain what I mean about that in the long post to come. Here’s what Torrance writes about the Incarnation, Atonement, and what that means in regard to what it means to be human vis-à-vis God:

God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualised his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.[1]

The basis of my argument against CI and annihilationism will be what I emboldened in the Torrance quote. These emboldened parts, in particular, are quite loaded theologically; and they are funded by an antecedent theology of election/reprobation and, indeed, understanding, in light of a Christologically concentrated doctrine of election, how the imago Dei functions as the basis upon which all of humanity, even originally in the garden, have a [human] being that is grounded de jure in the vicarious humanity of Christ; the humanity that God elected for himself in Christ before the foundation of the world. I will follow this theo-logic out in such a way that its application will organically, all by itself, undercut the thesis of conditional immortality that claims that ‘immortality’ is only something given to human beings who receive Christ as their savior. I think already, you can already start to see how the way I will approach this will indeed, if the case, undercut the premises that fund CI.

I just became a member of group on Facebook called Re-Thinking Hell. I didn’t realize it when I joined, but they are proponents of conditional immortality and annihilationism. Me joining this group is what has prompted me to think about this issue, and then want to deploy the unique and theologically rich resources that Barth’s and Torrance’s theologies offer, respectively, in order to undercut the CI position.

 

[1] T.F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 94.

Advertisements

9 comments

  1. Dear Bobby,

    I have been reading your posts for several years and have appreciated your sand, even when I have not agreed with you. While I have had a long interest in TFT and a more recent interest in Barth, I am not a Confessional Christian. I have studied church history, Christian thought and historical theology enough (M.A., Wheaton Grad School) to realize the diversity that exists within Christianity makes for significant challenges to the Reformation concept of the authority of God as it is mediated through Scripture.

    Two years ago, after considerable consideration, I changed my understanding of Hell, from the traditional ECT view to CI. I have found RethinkingHell.com a useful site for that understanding. However, I do not merely believe just anything that they post. The test of truth for the evangelical believer must, in the final analysis, be Scripture. If I find a weakness in your site it is that your appeal to the truth of your theological understandings on just about any biblical text or theme seems to loyalty to Torrance and Barth.

    I await you your follow of today’s post and trust that you will seek to make a greater place for the Scriptures themselves (i.e. some independent exegesis) instead just of using TFT and Barth as your support.

    Blessings in Christ,

    Phil Lueck pelueck@live.com

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

    Like

  2. Phil, this idea of “independent exegesis” is a death knell, and only means one thing: ie a deconfessionalized exegetical approach grounded in an Enlightenment rationalistic/naturalist approach. I was once that guy, that’s my training, but I’m not that guy anymore. When I read the exegesis provided by CI proponents it’s very clear that they have smuggled in many many theological assumptions and presented it simply as independent exegesis. I see that as either very naive or disingenuous; or it could be both.

    If you’re interested in defeating the idea of election etc articulated by Barth and Torrance and Athanasius provided for by the theo-logic embedded in the homoousion then go for it. But I don’t find your comment helpful or really worth engaging beyond my comment here.

    Like

  3. Let me ask you this, Phil,

    What’s your view on predestination/ election-reprobation? The problem you have is that all of this is inimically Dogmatic and theological.

    Like

  4. Bobby, I’ve enjoyed re-discovering your blog, I’ve been away from the broadly Reformed blogosphere for a couple of years working on other projects, and have moved a wee bit beyond my harder confessionalism in the process. That said, I get that a lot of these CI arguments rest on biblicist assumptions, because it is extraordinarily hard to argue such a position while holding to anything that resembles some form of historic Christian doctrine. There’s more historic precedent in universalism than CI. I consider myself a hopeful maximalist on the matter of hell at this point – I do believe that there will be people in hell, but I think that the majority of humanity will be saved, and that the electing purposes of God are vindicated in human choice.

    Anyhow, I’ve been thinking a lot lately on how theology proper might inform our understanding of hell. In particular, I have been delving into the doctrine of Divine simplicity and I do see this shaping my own conception of hell. If simplicity is to be believed (I think it’s pretty important), how the elect/damned experience God speaks to the difference in the creature not the creator. To put this in an Eastern Orthodox way of speaking, in a very real sense I believe that the same light that shines on the elect also shines on the damned

    Anyway, just some thoughts. Cheers!

    Like

  5. Hey Jedidiah,

    Welcome back! Yes, I agree w/ you about the biblicism inherent to this argument; it’s similar to arguing for the eternal functional subordinationist (EFS) view of God, and other things. It requires a noodling down of the text to its purported “bear minimum,” and then requires the rationales of the interpreter to build things back up from the ground floor. Now it might be ironic that I would be critical of that, given my appreciation of Barth; but I think Barth works within the trad of the church, even while attempting to reformulate things, in his own kind of biblicist fashion, from the ground up (but he only does that constructively in convo w/ the categories provided for by the trad not w/o that).

    You say you’ve moved a bit; are you Eastern Orthodox now?

    And I tend to be hopeful about the eschaton; I’m not a Christian universalist, but I’m yet hopeful. Thanks for commenting and letting me know you’re back. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. No, as much as I love Orthodoxy, I remain Reformed – just less *truly reformed*. I’ve been taking a detour through the Patristics (especially Irenaeus) and this has made me reassess my ambivalent stance on Barthian theology. I’m still in the PCA because I love my local church, but if I were ever to move I might shift denominational alignment.

    BTW, If I am looking to read TFT’s writings the first time, what’s the first volume I should reach for?

    Like

  7. I like the route you’re taking, sounds good. Especially your ambivalent stance on Barth. 😉

    On TFT: The Mediation of Christ, Incarnation&Atonement, Christian Doctrine of God to start. Those will give you a really good grasp of his theology in the main.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.