But, annihilationists believe they have already made significant inroads within the evangelical community.
I think that we are at a time and place when there is a growing suspicion of adopting tradition for the sake of tradition. Origen Adamantius , a third-century theologian, believed the wicked were punished after death, but only long enough for their souls to repent and be restored to their original state of purity. This doctrine, known as universalism, envisioned that everyone—including Satan—would eventually be redeemed and reunited with God.
Contemporary theologians generally credit Irenaeus of Lyons , a second-century bishop, as the intellectual forefather of annihilationism. In his seminal five-volume work, Against Heresies , he emphasized that the soul is not inherently immortal—eternal life would be bestowed upon the good with the resurrection of Christ, while the wicked would be left to die and fade from existence.
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Augustine's interpretation of hell set the tone for official doctrine over the next 1, years. Hell existed not to reform or deter sinners, he argued.
Its primary purpose was to satisfy the demands of justice. Critics fault it for its lack of proportion. Why would a loving God punish a single lifetime of sin with endless lifetimes of torture?
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And, among sinners, does an adulterer merit the same punishment as a murderer? And what about the billions of people whose only sin was to follow a different faith? Revelation , which implies that the penalty inflicted will be commensurate with the evil done. But, across the centuries, defenders of ECT have emphasized that sin is not something that can be measured by how it affects others. If they do these things against God, do they deserve capital punishment?
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The Bible's consistent answer is yes. Mark Galli , the editor of Christianity Today , points to Psalm 51 , where David expresses remorse for adultery and his complicity in murder. We realize there's something else we've violated here.
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That something else is a moral code that transcends us. And that moral code, of course, is written by God. Preston Sprinkle recalls, with embarrassment, his younger days in seminary, when he first heard that the evangelical leader John Stott was an annihilationist. But, back six years ago, when I truly revisited the question of hell, I was kind of shocked at how little biblical support there was for the traditional view. Nor do they claim to advocate for a version of hell that represents a soft view on sin or a low view of God.
We fight tooth and nail to preserve our lives at all costs. But traditionalists remain steadfast in their belief that ECT is a pillar of evangelical faith, and some worry that weakening it threatens to bring down the entire edifice.
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