As we move into the twentieth century, we are confronted by the same three options of universalism, conditional immortality and eternal torment, albeit, as far as Christians of an evangelical or conservative inclination are concerned, positions have polarised mainly around either the traditional view or conditionalism. In broad terms, nothing of striking originality seems to have emerged, despite the abundance of books, pamphlets, articles, etc. on the doctrine. Nevertheless, there are some interesting and even surprising developments when it comes to the alignments of the contenders involved in the debate.
The pull towards universalism
A convenient name to bridge the two centuries is that of Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921), described as the "last of the great conservative theologians who defended Calvinistic orthodoxy from the chair of theology at Princeton Seminary (where Charles Hodge taught from 1822-1878)." Numbered among the so-called ‘fundamentalists' at the beginning of this century, he was, nevertheless, free from the science-phobia and obscurantism sometimes associated with them: his subscription to the theory of evolution being an example of such intellectual independence. As far as our doctrine is concerned, he is impressively bold and large-hearted when it comes to the situation of the lost. As Craig comments:
It should not be supposed that in his estimation Calvinistic particularism involves parsimony in salvation.
It is in the chapter, "Are They Few That Be Saved" (in his Biblical and Theological Studies), that we find a succinct account of Warfield's rejection of the established dogma of the paucitas salvandorum in favour of a more generous estimate of the number finally saved. He seeks to establish his claim, that only comparatively few will be lost, by a bold re-appraisal of the three relevant classical statements of Jesus (the dicta probantia as he calls them), Lk. 13:23; Mat. 7:13-14; & 22:14, which are used traditionally to teach that few will be saved. In general terms, he protests that these verses do not form an adequate basis for the conclusion that is too often based upon them; and that their purpose is "rather ethical impression than prophetic disclosure". Concerning the saying in Luke, Warfield claims that the context about the grain of mustard seed and the leaven rules out any interpretation that would understand it to mean that few will be saved; for the emphasis is on small beginnings rather than a small ending. Similarly, the saying in Matthew about the broad and narrow ways ought not to be pressed to present the final picture, but should be understood instead as a warning about how difficult following the right way is now. This is only a figure; and in other situations and at other times the scenario could be reversed. Likewise, "Many are called, but few are chosen" (Mt. 22:14) must be interpreted in its context of the parable of the royal marriage feast. Whether these words are taken to belong to Jesus or to the king in the story, the point is the same: they are not an absolute or definitive statement about the final state of the lost but a more relative or historical comment related to the rejection of Jesus by those living then.
Warfield pursues the idea of small beginnings by boldly affirming that the Church is still in its early or ‘primitive' stage of development; so that even present-day indications of the response to Christ must not weaken our hope about the ultimate triumph of God's saving plan. He certainly has a large and generous vision about the eventual outcome of human history :
. . . the number of the saved shall in the end be not small but large, and not merely absolutely but comparatively large; that, to speak plainly, it shall embrace the immensely greater part of the human race.
In support of this view he cites Alvah Hovey, Charles Hodge, Robert L. Dabney and W. G. T. Shedd. With full and evident approval and enthusiasm, he quotes Dabney, whose boundless zeal for the salvation of the world sounds almost universalistic :
. . . ultimately the vast majority of the whole mass of humanity, including all generations, will be actually redeemed by Christ . . . There is to be a time, blessed be God, when literally all the then world will be saved by Christ, when the world will be finally, completely and wholly lifted by Christ out of the gulf, to sink no more.
Of course, neither those cited nor Warfield, himself, can be claimed as universalists as such, despite their large vision for God's ultimate saving purposes. However, Craig points out that while Warfield did not go as far as some Calvinists in actually teaching universal salvation, he did teach ‘eschatological universalism' or ‘racial salvation'. As to what exactly this means, perhaps a good explanatory analogy is that used by Warfield's contemporary, the Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) : comparing mankind to a tree, the elect are as the tree or ‘stem', while those finally lost will be only as the leaves or twigs broken off, so that what is finally saved is the essential part of humanity. However, Warfield does not go along with the qualification that Kuyper makes that the tree eventually will be less in mass than the branches broken off for burning.
As for the motivation or inspiration of Warfield's hope, in addition to his compassionate grasp of God's love, which I think we can safely assume, there is the question of his post-millennialism and his evolutionary sympathies: a golden age must be an age of blessing and growth and if man develops within the plan of God that must be progress upwards. Further, although his ‘eschatological universalism' is not exactly the universalistic hope of Farrar, he shared his large-hearted view of divine mercy. Whether Warfield was aware of it or not, Farrar also addressed the problem of the number of the saved, preaching the week after his controversial sermon on hell, on the text, "Are There Few That Be Saved", in which he humbly and wisely pointed out that Jesus did not answer the question as such. Yet, a conservative thinker like Warfield would not have been able to share the post-mortem dimension of Farrar's optimism.
However, this extension of mercy after death is not entirely foreign to thinkers from the evangelical mould as we have already noted in the case of Henry Dunn. The modern radical evangelical, Nigel Wright, also affirms this in his proposal of post-mortem evangelism. Wright is bold in his promotion of ‘a kinder, gentler damnation' and of the larger hope, "that God in Christ has ways of reaching people which the Church does not have and does not know"; and appears to support also the idea of conditional immortality.
Another contemporary of Warfield, Herman Bavinck (1854-1921), who succeeded Kuyper at the Free University of Amsterdam (founded by Kuyper), addresses the same question of the number of the saved along similar lines. In his detailed study on eschatology, The Last Things, he approaches the issue of ‘The Wideness of God's Mercy' with an honesty and compassion, perhaps somewhere between Warfield and Kuyper :
Directly important to us is only that we have no need to know the number of the elect. In any case, it is a fact that in Reformed theology the number of the elect need not, for any reason or in any respect, be deemed smaller than in any other theology. In fact, at bottom the Reformed confessions are more magnanimous and broader in outlook than any other Christian confession. It locates the ultimate and most profound source of salvation solely in God's good pleasure, in his eternal compassion . . .
In his introduction to Bavinck's book, the editor, John Bolt, alluding to the answer in Bavinck's teaching to hypothetical universalism and conditional immortality, speaks of ‘contemporary evangelicals flirting with both views.' Indeed, our brief study of these champions of Reformed theology illustrates the subtle potential for a universalistic view of God's saving plan even in the stronghold of biblical orthodoxy. Perhaps, therefore, it is not too surprising that the evangelical Fourth Edinburgh Conference on Christian Dogmatics in 1991 devoted so much attention to the question of universalism. Trevor Hart, a systematic theologian at Aberdeen University, dealt with the two main and distinct types of universalism, pluralistic and Christian, represented by John Hick and John A. T. Robinson, respectively. Frederick W. Norris, professor of Christian Doctrine at Emmanuel school of Religion, Tennessee, addressing the universalism of Origen and Maximus, questioned the traditional understanding of Origen in this area. Pointing out that the problem with him is that he did not leave a single treatise on universalism and hell, unlike the Retractions of Augustine, Norris expressed confidence, nevertheless, that Origen's universalism has been overstated and that we cannot say much more than that the "universal aspect of salvation for Origen was the call, not the result". Professor Daniel A. du Toit of S. Africa examined the descensus (descent of Christ into ‘hell') and its potential for universalism, particularly in the thinking of the early Church. His conclusion is that, despite the fact that the descensus could have been so easily exploited in this connection, the early Christians never used it in this way.
John Colwell's Reflections on Barth's Denial of ‘Universalism' is reminiscent of Pusey's accusation that Farrar was a universalist despite his insistence to the contrary. As Colwell pointed out at the conference :
. . . while Barth consistently rejects universalism as a doctrine, he certainly does not reject the possibility that all men and women may ultimately be saved.
Barth refused to be a dogmatic or systematic universalist because insistence on that would undermine the freedom and sovereignty of God. God works primarily through grace and to presume on his love would limit God to acting on external necessity. As we can observe by now, Barth is in a long line of tradition of hopeful agnosticism, as we may describe it, regarding the ultimate end of God's saving purposes.
Also in 1991, before the Edinburgh Conference, appeared Ajith Fernando's, Crucial Questions About Hell, a book warmly commended by another speaker at that conference, Henri Blocher. The book is a sequel to or a development of Fernando's master's thesis on universalism and it covers the whole range of issues bound up in this doctrine. In the section on universalism he briefly refers to the doctrine of absolute predestination of Schleiermacher, which led to his rejection of the double predestination of the Calvinists and his adoption of the conviction that all will be saved; and he also notes that while Barth himself refused to take that final step to universalism many of his followers did, and he blames him for providing a ‘a big impetus to the movement towards universalism within the church'. To digress slightly but usefully, like Bavinck, Fernando is able to handle these issues in the wider context of comparative religion; and one of his reasons for the rejection of annihilationism is that it weakens Christian evangelism directed at Buddhists. For, it could be argued, there is little point in converting to Christ (if fear of hell is the motivation), if the alternative to rejecting him is similar to the Buddhist destiny of Nirvana.
Another example of the interest in or even sympathy for universalism as far as evangelical Christians are concerned may be provided by some correspondence I have had with Roger T. Forster of Ichthus Christian Fellowship. Quite openly in a letter (8.12.97) responding to my enquiry about his views on this doctrine, he shared that, while he leans to a position of conditional immortality, he instructs his ‘trainees' in all the main arguments allowing them to "make up their minds about eternal conscious torment, conditional immortality, and universalism." Like John Stott, another prominent evangelical inclined to conditionalism, Forster is an honorary vice president of the Evangelical Alliance.
Christians wrestling with the problem of theodicy and eternal punishment but who cannot go as far as full-blown universalism often find relief, then, either in the magnanimous ‘accounting' of the likes of Warfield or even in the more venturesome conviction that there may be salvation outside the Church. Again at the Fourth Edinburgh Conference already mentioned, a crucial paper was presented by Paul Helm, professor of the Philosophy of Religion, King's College London, entitled ‘Are They Few That Be Saved?' Addressing the issues of particularism and exclusivism, he starts with John Hick's syncretistic or pluralistic universalism which demands a shift of Copernican significance from the Christocentric to the theocentric. Yet, while Helm concedes that we need not insist on the exclusivism of any one religion we must insist, he urges, on the exclusiveness of Christ. Turning to key evangelical figures who have attempted to deal with the problem of particularism, while accepting without question the exclusive claims of the Gospel, he looks at the views of B. B. Warfield and W. G. T. Shedd, also shared by Charles Hodge, on what can be called ‘Calvinistic universalism'. Warfield's position we have examined above, and we need add only that Helm is not convinced by Warfield's arguments and he insists that the burden of proof rests on those who hold that most men and women will be saved; also, Helm suspects that the inspiration of Warfield's views is his post-millennial eschatology.
Noting how "some Calvinists, perhaps in response to the pull of universalism, have felt the need to soften the exclusivism of the Christian faith", Helm next turns to Shedd's view of salvation outside the Church or special revelation as such. We have already mentioned this, and Warfield's rejection of it, at the end of the previous chapter. Quoting freely from Shedd's Dogmatic Theology (1888), Helm demonstrates how Shedd can see God's saving work outside conventional church or missionary activity. Describing the essence of Shedd's conviction that "God the Holy Spirit is able to produce the disposition of faith in an intelligent adult who has never heard of Christ", he quotes :
It is evident that the Holy Ghost, by an immediate operation can, if he pleased, produce such a disposition and frame of mind in a pagan, without employing as he commonly does the preaching of the written word. . . . it is not indeed improbable that some individuals in these unenlightened countries, may belong to the secret election of grace, and the habit of faith be wrought in them [in the second part of this quotation, Shedd is in turn quoting Zanchius].
Helm observes that in addition to the Reformed theologian, Zanchius, the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) and Richard Baxter [Puritan], Shedd could have cited Zwingli, too, in support of his contention. Helm, who is clearly sympathetic to this aspect of the wider hope, helpfully refers to coming to Christ in knowledge as transparent exclusivism while opaque exclusivism describes the situation of those who unwittingly know and worship the true God. Appreciating that such a daring extension of divine mercy might not meet with general approval, he considers the expected objections, which we could sum up in the general complaint that such a claim would attenuate the uniqueness of the Gospel. Helm brings the two issues of particularism and exclusivism together in a thoughtful and cautious conclusion :
If such cases of saving faith in the absence of special revelation, cases of opaque exclusivism, do occur, they qualify, though in a quite marginal way, the exclusivism of the Christian faith. For they provide instances not of people being saved apart from Christ, but of being saved by Christ apart from the knowledge of Christ. Whether they qualify the particularism of the faith in a significant way, and give us reason for thinking that a majority of humankind will be saved, depends upon how many such cases there are. In the nature of things the answer to that question is, at present, known only to God.
In answer, then, to the question of the number of the finally saved Helm like Farrar is agnostic; but in view of his challenge to Warfield he appears to lack Farrar's optimism.
A kinder ‘hell' and the missionary imperative
In his assessment of Shedd's hope for mankind, Helm quotes John Stott as a contender for this wider view of salvation; for the conviction that as in the Old Testament even now men and women can benefit from Christ's work despite their lacking knowledge of him. This reference to Stott we may take as a ‘literary' bridge between the promulgation of this more generous view of final judgement found in Shedd for example, and the present century. One of the most daring and articulate exponents of this doctrine is Nigel Wright, whose kinder view of damnation we have already noted. In line with what Helm has said above about the possibility of being saved apart from the knowledge of Christ, Wright draws an important distinction between the ontological and epistemological dimensions of the efficacy of Christ's saving work: being in Christ without explicit knowledge of him. Despite his radical approach to salvation and hell, he stresses that he is not advocating a pluralist stance or the parity of all religions :
. . . Jesus Christ also acts beyond the boundaries of the covenant people not through the world religions as such but despite them.
Lesslie Newbigin in his penetrating contribution to the science of missiology, The Finality of Christ (1969), is even more radical and searching than Wright. While maintaining the uniqueness of Christ and the Gospel, he does not consider it essential even for converts to Christ today to join the Christian Church as such. It must be remembered, of course, that he writes out of his profound experience as a Christian bishop in Madras, not as a systematic or theoretical soteriologist or eschatologist. He cites, sympathetically, the case of Robert de Nobili's Brahman converts, who were not incorporated into the Portuguese mission church, which caused, unfortunately, some offence to his critics and may have given the appearance of a religious apartheid.As for the narrower issue of personal salvation, Newbigin is perhaps somewhat paradoxical in that while he believes in the need for repentance, faith etc., he is impatient with the ‘modern' one-sided stress on conversion as personal escape from hell:
The nineteenth century stressed one side of this tension [ i.e. between the call to all nations to be saved on the one hand and on the other the fact that in reality only an exemplary few begin to enter into the community of the Church]. It tended to be obsessed by the thought that all those who had not made that personal commitment were everlastingly damned. Missions were a heroic struggle to stem that appalling avalanche.
His ideas in this book, originally given as the Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale 1966, are not always easy to harmonise with one another; this and the general flavour of his theology seem reminiscent of Maurice in that there appears to be no interest in easy answers or neat systematic eschatology; his main concern is for a more mature and a less self-centred approach to following Christ in a world which desperately needs him. He concludes :
To claim finality for Jesus Christ is not to assert that the majority of men will some day be Christians, or to assert that all others will be damned. It is to claim that commitment to him is the way in which men can become truly aligned to the ultimate end for which all things were made.
The popular modern evangelical scholar, Michael Green, makes use of Newbigin's approach when he answers John Hick's universalism and claim that as far as Christians are concerned there is no salvation without going through explicit Christianity. Green quotes Newbigin, when he challenges Hick and makes it clear that insistence on the finality of Christ for salvation does not imply "the only doorway to eternal life is the Christian faith." Green seeks to defend the Christian faith from some of the misunderstandings which offend the likes of Hick, who would turn to pluralism as a relief from its apparent merciless exclusivism :
So to maintain with the writer of Acts (whose ‘primitive' Christology so appeals to Dr. Hick) that "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (4.12) does not mean that no man can be saved unless he has heard of Jesus : it does mean that Jesus is the only saviour of men.
What seems to be another attempt to make the ‘final' statistics less horrific is the somewhat curious proposal in J. Sidlow Baxter's, The Other Side of Death (1987). Baxter, a popular evangelical preacher and author, claims that not all the finally lost will be relegated to gehenna/the lake of fire. His view is connected with his understanding of the ‘book of life', which he takes to mean the record of all human life. He accepts that those blotted out from the book of life will be consigned to gehenna; but, in a somewhat idiosyncratic and confusing way, he does not believe that all the lost will be blotted out from that book. Albeit, only those in the book of life who are "that elect communion of souls which the New Testament calls ‘the Church' will share "that highest heaven" with Christ. Those finally rejected but not condemned to gehenna will be punished in varying degrees according to their deeds. However, Baxter warns that this is not to be seen as a second chance; and he is not prepared to speculate as to what will exactly become of the lost who are not relegated to gehenna.
Mission, evangelism and the wider hope
Newbigin's words on the obsession with and motivation provided by eternal damnation, characteristic of the nineteenth century, should not be snatched out of context to discredit the heroic missionary enterprise of that period. The expansion of the Christian faith at that time was closely associated with the sacrificial dedication of missionary pioneers, who were profoundly moved to action by the thought of the masses of perishing heathen. James Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission in 1865, humanly speaking, through an overwhelming conviction about the doom of the unevangelised millions in that great land. Some years later, James Fraser (of Lisuland fame), gave up a promising career in engineering to go to China in 1908, again conscious of the appalling spiritual need and danger of those outside of Christ. The same passion for the lost characterised the ministry of William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army in 1865, the year Taylor founded the CIM. His famous saying that twenty four hours in hell would do his trainee recruits more good than his Training College is typical of his fiery zeal! Even the Christian universalist or conditionalist must acknowledge the depth of compassion and sincerity that motivated such apostles of the historic faith and the permanent value of what they achieved, even though they might not share their view of the nature of final judgement.
The encompassing liberality of Newbigin and Green may encourage the sensitive mind disturbed by the thought of billions now and throughout history outside of Christ. However, for the traditional view their way seems too broad. No doubt there are many prepared to make the Gospel known and to leave the rest with God. Others, and not surprisingly they represent the modern missionary movement, feel that a sharper outlook is necessary however unacceptable it might appear to compassionate human instinct. Such a firm and uncompromising line is taken, for example, by Dick Hillis, ‘missionary to the Orient', who went to China with the China Inland Mission in 1933. In his short but disturbing book on this subject, he sees the missionary imperative reinforced by his failure to see in the Scriptures any "evidence of salvation apart from Christ." An even harder line is taken by Dick Dowsett. Commissioned to write a book, by Overseas Missionary Fellowship (formerly China Inland Mission), "on the very controversial and highly important issue of eternal judgement", Dowsett pulls no punches as he fiercely advocates that there is no hope whatsoever for any outside of Christ, for those who have not consciously responded in faith to him. The kind of teaching we find in Newbigin and Green he would dismiss as "special pleading" which robs us of the incentive to get down to the task of reaching the lost. He believes, no doubt, that he is championing the biblical cause of the purity of the Gospel or Christian exclusivism, when he unequivocally affirms, after drawing a sharp distinction between the salvation of the ‘saints' of the Old Testament era and the need now for explicit faith in Christ :
. . . it is not surprising that there is not the remotest hint in the New Testament of any way that people might be saved without personally putting their trust in Jesus and in Him alone.
Similarly, the British evangelist, John Blanchard, is dismissive of the notion that there can be salvation without hearing about Christ. In his lengthy and well-documented treatise on the defence of the traditional view of hell, he cannot go along with the missiologist (and Principal of the London Bible College at the time of the publication of his views), Peter Cotterell nor with the Canadian conditionalist Clark H. Pinnock in the expression of the hope we noted in Michael Green. Of course, Blanchard writes as an evangelist; and like the conservative missionary he sees the softening of judgement and hell as weakening the impact of the appeal of the Gospel to lost sinners. However, it would be wrong to presume, therefore, that only those with a robust orthodox belief in hell (as eternal conscious punishment ) can have a genuine evangelistic or missionary zeal. This will be obvious as we consider some of the great champions of conditionalism.
The growth and consolidation of Conditional Immortality
Another kind of bridge between nineteenth and twentieth century developments in this doctrine may be found in the figure of the renowned and beloved Archbishop William Temple, 1881-1944, (Son of Frederick Temple of Essays and Reviews), who has been " commonly adjudged one of the greatest church leaders of the twentieth century and possibly the most gifted teacher ever to fill the See of Canterbury . . . Of massive intellectual and spiritual power . . .". In the discerning and compassionate tradition of Maurice and Farrar, when it comes to future punishment, his writings also reveal conditionalist sympathies. His ideas on this are comprehensively expounded in his article, The Idea of Immortality in Relation to Religion and Ethics, in The Congregational Quarterly, 1932, repeated in his Gifford Lectures, 1932-34. Eternal torment is flatly rejected as "it offends against the deepest Christian sentiments." While he is happy about the growing conviction "that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot be conceived as inflicting on any soul that He has made unending torment" he is disturbed by the moral indifference that this has engendered in too many. In the light of this he stresses that the desire for personal immortality as such should be subordinate to moral convictions and to a real love for God. Self-interest whether in the fear of hell or the desire for life after death is to be discouraged.
His definition of immortality is conditionalist; and with scholarly conviction he demonstrates, with a brief exegesis of Plato's Phaedo, Republic and Phaedrus, how the doctrine of inherent immortality crept into Christian thought and writing through Platonic influence. Although the New Testament may relapse occasionally into the Hellenistic point of view,
. . . its prevailing doctrine, as I think, is that God alone is immortal, being in His own Nature eternal; and that He offers immortality to men not universally but conditionally.
Again, speaking of the word eternal he claims that it
. . . has primary reference to the quality of the age to come and not to its infinity. The word that strictly means "eternal" is not frequent in the New Testament, but it does occur, so that we must not treat the commoner word as though it alone had been available, and when a vital issue turns on the distinction it is fair to lay some stress upon it. And after all, annihilation is an everlasting punishment though it is not unending torment.
Clearly, this is supporting conditional immortality - and Froom acknowledges this. Albeit, Temple believes that every personality survives bodily death (cp. Edward White's position). However, as the article concludes we can see a tension in Temple's thinking between the possibility of the sinner holding out against God and ending up in perdition (annihilation) and his growing hope (which is seen later in J. A. T. Robinson's Christian universalism) that God's persuasive love will, in the end, be victorious :
There is, therefore, no necessary contradiction in principle between asserting the full measure of human freedom and believing that in the end the Grace of God will win its way with every human heart.
While we can recognise here the universalistic hope of Farrar, etc., the significant or even unique difference is that, in the event of the failure of universalism, we have, so to speak, the safety net of annihilationism. Also of significance is that Temple's teaching on this subject seems to have played a part in the ‘conversion' to thorough-going conditionalism of the well-known Baptist evangelical William Scroggie. A popular speaker at the evangelical Keswick Convention and pastor at Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle London (1938-1944), Scroggie corresponded with and received visits from LeRoy Edwin Froom in the 1940s and 50s up to his death; and it was through Froom that Scroggie came to appreciate the views of Temple and others on this topic. Towards the end of his life he became convinced, telling Froom that he could be quoted freely as "being a believer in Conditionalism".
Yet, without question, the most influential name in the development of British conditionalism in twentieth century mainstream evangelicalism is that of Basil F. C. Atkinson of Cambridge. His conviction that there is life only in Christ in no way weakened his concern for those outside of Christ or diluted his spiritual devotion. He was Under-Librarian at the University Library (1925-1960) and a scholar of some distinction (a double First in the Classical tripos and a Ph.D. in linguistic work); yet, his contribution to student life was more than academic. A ‘man of prayer', as Pollock describes him, he was a loyal and valued member and adviser of the Christian Union (C.I.C.C.U.) and displayed great vigilance in its welfare and in its outreach to the uncommitted, and proved to be a tower of strength and wisdom in the pre- and post-war decades. Oliver Barclay's account of him, however, is not quite so generous and a little mixed: describing Atkinson as a staunch pacifist (who had been in prison during the First World War for such views) and as a strong N. T. Greek scholar, he also refers to him as an eccentric bachelor, who was "a linguist rather than a theologian or a doctrinally deep thinker."
In his account of the conditionalism of this renowned Bible expositor, Froom refers to Atkinson's ‘excellent' commentary on the book of Genesis in which innate immortality is refuted and annihilation affirmed. Yet, Froom had published before Atkinson's Life and Immortality, the best and most comprehensive source of his [Atkinson's] conditionalist teaching. Atkinson had to publish this privately, no doubt because of its explicit conditionalism (for which the main body of evangelicals were not ready): no date is attached, but John Wenham reckons that it was in the mid sixties. The book, of which the sub-title is An Examination of the Nature and Meaning of Life and Death as they are revealed in the Scriptures, is an exhaustive and meticulous examination of all the relevant words in the original Hebrew and Greek (in transliteration). Atkinson is a thorough and consistent conditionalist - unlike, for example, Edward White and Harold Guillebaud (whom we shall consider next), who hold to some kind of conscious existence immediately after death. His position is clearly and concisely laid out in the opening paragraph of the introduction :
In this book I seek to prove that throughout the Bible the terms "life" and "death" are used and to be understood in their natural, normal and elemental meaning. If we allow this to be so, we find that man instead of being bipartite is a unity, that death is a period of unconsciousness brought to an end by resurrection, that the second coming of the Lord in glory and a glorious resurrection and rapture are the only but assured hope of the believer, and that the doom of all unrepentant sinners together with the devil, evil angels, sin and death and evil of all kinds is complete extinction and destruction out of the creation of God.
Atkinson's anthropology is ‘unitary' in that body and soul are a unit in life and death, so that the immortality of the soul is meaningless. Life beyond death is bound up with the final resurrection, which will be the experience of the just and unjust, albeit there may well be an interval between the resurrection of the two groups respectively. His word-study of biblical anthropology centres around the Hebrew nephesh (soul), ruach, n'shamah (spirit) and the Greek psyche (soul) and pneumatos (spirit) and concludes that the body and soul die together and that the spirit/breath returns to God. A detailed appraisal of Atkinson's understanding of these terms would unbalance our study at this point; and the same holds for his intricate examination of the Hebrew/Greek terms for death, maveth/thanatos and the words for hell, sheol, hades and Gehenna. Indeed, it would take a biblical linguist of no mean stature to judge the competence and accuracy of Atkinson's research! Atkinson's immense and seminal influence in this doctrinal area is seen in his impact on another early conditionalist of this century, Harold Guillebaud, archdeacon, missionary, Bible translator and author of the classic, Why The Cross? (1937).
Guillebaud's views on this subject are stated in his book, The Righteous Judge 1964, the sub-title of which is A study of the Biblical Doctrine of Everlasting Punishment. As in the case of Atkinson's book, it had to be published it privately, despite the fact that the Inter-Varsity Fellowship had already published his book on the Cross and another, Some Moral Difficulties of the Bible (1941). In his Foreword to The Righteous Judge, Atkinson claims that if more Christian leaders were convinced of the doctrine Guillebaud expounds they would preach more openly on the neglected subject of God's judgement. Froom has been fortunate to have access to the manuscript of the book  containing a Foreword by Mrs. Guillebaud in which is given an account of how the book came to be written and how her husband re-examined his beliefs on eternal punishment, when he discovered that the well-known evangelical scholar Basil Atkinson believed in the ultimate destruction of the unrepentant. As with Atkinson, Guillebaud's adoption of conditionalist views did not weaken his evangelistic concern as was shown by his continuing involvement in Ruanda.
The Righteous Judge is a compact and, in my view, convincing account of Guillebaud's new understanding of Scripture; and like Atkinson his discussion of the issues involved is firmly linked to the biblical text at every point. The book is in two parts : What does the Bible teach? and Objections answered? The first part deals with key topics such as the immortality of the soul, the continuation of evil, the word eternal, unequal opportunities, the teaching of the Bible, and universalism. In his consideration of objections from the traditional side he gives a needed warning about the tyranny of tradition:
But we Evangelicals, who criticize the Roman Church for putting tradition on a level with the Bible, must be very careful that we ourselves do not unwittingly fall into the same snare. Every Evangelical, we are sure, would agree in theory with this proposition: but the mind naturally tends to be suspicious of an interpretation of Scripture which clashes with a traditional belief held by saintly men of God for centuries past.
Such an attitude of fear and reluctance to question ‘received' tradition was, no doubt, responsible for the barriers confronting Atkinson and Guillebaud in the propagation of their views. However, by the time Atkinson's greatest ‘disciple', John Wenham, was ready to go to print the evangelical climate had become more favourable to this challenge to the orthodox view. Wenham took the opportunity to give a full and explicit account of his spiritual and doctrinal pilgrimage in this subject at the Fourth Edinburgh Conference on Christian Dogmatics, 1991, at which he delivered his lecture on The Case For Conditional Immortality. He learnt the doctrine of conditional immortality from Basil Atkinson around 1934; but when he left Cambridge in 1938 he was restrained and reserved in his propagation of his developing views until he joined the staff at the evangelical Tyndale Hall, Bristol (around 1953), where he taught conditionalism with more confidence. The ‘crisis point' was in 1973, when, after some initial reluctance, the Inter-Varsity Press agreed to publish his The Goodness of God, which includes a chapter on hell commending conditional immortality as a serious alternative to the traditional view. This Wenham saw as a great step forward considering the difficulties Atkinson and Guillebaud had met.
Significantly, around this time The Evangelical Alliance must have been sensitive to the way in which things had been developing, and between 1967 and 1970 revised its articles of faith. Such a change still maintains the eternal consequences of sin but does not explicitly require belief in eternal punishment. This, of course, allows conditionalists to be conscientious members of the E.A.
The Goodness of God (and its second edition The Enigma of Evil) proved to be crucial in the rapid growth of conditionalism. Making public the hitherto restricted views of Atkinson and Guillebaud, and backed by a leading evangelical publishing house it gave respect and credence to this alternative to everlasting torment, which had been troublesome to many thoughtful Christians. Wenham's presentation of the case for conditionalism is clear and certainly not lacking in conviction, albeit he does not call for the immediate abandonment of the traditional view, for "traditional orthodoxy" is "not to be surrendered lightly". This might help to explain the success of the book; for suspicious minds of an orthodox persuasion may have their fears somewhat calmed when the reader is warned against relinquishing his orthodox heritage with five caveats, the third of which notes that the modern revival of conditionalism was pioneered by Socinians and Arians and that it is an important element in the teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians. Playing ‘devil's advocate', so to speak, Wenham - at this stage in his grasp of things - does not want any significant shift to conditionalism, which is not based on a considered re-evaluation of the biblical evidence. The book is essentially an attempt to grapple with theodicy, and honestly examines the moral problems associated with biblical religion. In such a context the real nature of the problem of hell becomes clear. Wenham certainly does not exploit or abuse his opportunity: his views are expressed with some caution and restraint.
By 1991 and the Fourth Edinburgh Conference of Christian Dogmatics, Wenham has become much bolder and more open in expressing himself. After a thorough presentation of the case for conditional immortality and an examination of the objections to it, he concludes by reaching a crescendo of passionate affirmation:
I have thought about this subject for more than fifty years and for more than fifty years I have believed the Bible to teach the ultimate destruction of the lost, but I have hesitated to declare myself in print . . . Now I feel that the time has come when I must declare my mind honestly. I believe that endless torment is a hideous and unscriptural doctrine which has been a terrible burden on the mind of the church for many centuries and a terrible blot on her presentation of the gospel. I should be happy if, before I die, I could help in sweeping it away. Most of all I should rejoice to see a number of theologians (including some of the very first water) joining Fudge in researching this great topic in all its ramifications.
The reference to Fudge reminds us that the conditionalist debate has been productive on both sides of the Atlantic, his book, The Fire That Consumes, worthy of being considered the most definitive and authoritative current work on the subject. Earlier in his address, Wenham says that he has been waiting since 1973, the publication of The Goodness of God, for an orthodox response to the works of Atkinson, Guillebaud and Fudge. To his knowledge there have been four serious attempts to answer them :
- The Banner of Truth reprint in 1986 of W.G.T. Shedd's, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment (1885);
- Paul Helm's, The Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell, 1989;
- John Gerstner's, Repent or Perish, 1990;
- J. I. Packer's Leon Morris Lecture, The Problem of Eternal Punishment, published in 1990.
Wenham refers to them as four serious attempts; but it needs to be remembered that in general terms the literature of this period is considerable with respect to the traditional view and its conditionalist challenge. Indeed, at the Edinburgh Conference itself there was a strong attack on conditionalism and its contemporary evangelical supporters by Kendall S. Harmon, who advocated that part of the answer to the problem of eternal punishment is in "the neglected image of eschatological personal exclusion".
Other advocates of conditionalism
However before looking in more detail at these and other attempts to re-affirm the conventional view, we need to note the contribution of some others to the consolidation of conditionalism, notably, John Stott, P. E. Hughes and Michael Green. The well-known conditionalist sympathies of John R. W. Stott (1921-), the doyen of the evangelical scene today, are found in his liberal-evangelical dialogue with David Edwards, published as Essentials in 1988. His approach to the subject is firm and compassionate :
I want to repudiate with all the vehemence of which I am capable the glibness, what almost appears to be the glee, the Schadenfreude, with which some Evangelicals speak about hell. It is a horrible sickness of mind and spirit. Instead, since on the day of judgement, when some will be condemned, there is going to be ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth' . . . should we not already begin to weep at the very prospect?
Yet, while he treats the subject of hell seriously, his careful examination of the relevant biblical terms and texts lead him in the direction of annihilation of the impenitent. At one point, however, Stott seems to lack his characteristic accuracy and distinguishes between annihilation and conditional immortality in a way that would be unacceptable to biblical conditionalists. For him, conditional immortality means that only the saved survive death, while for the ‘annihilationist' the whole of mankind will survive and be resurrected', the impenitent for judgement and annihilation. Concluding this part of the debate, Stott admits his uncertainty:
I do not dogmatise about the position to which I have come. I hold it tentatively. But I do plead for frank dialogue among Evangelicals on the basis of Scripture. I also believe that the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment.
We find the same cautious approach in his discussion of the question of those who will go to hell. He points out that neither the Lausanne Covenant nor the Keele statement said anything about the final destiny of those who have never heard of Christ or of those who have never had a reasonable opportunity. Again, he mentions the suggestion of Sir Norman Anderson, another evangelical scholar and ‘statesman', that those who have never heard of Christ, will be saved on the ‘basis' of Christ's death because of their penitent attitude - which is, of course the firm conviction of Michael Green and others. However, while Stott is attracted by Anderson's view, he feels that ‘the most Christian stance is to remain agnostic'; and he points out that, when Jesus was asked if few were going to be saved, he refused to answer.
Another evangelical Anglican who has joined this debate, but with more certainty than Stott, is Philip Edgecumbe Hughes, whose The True Image, was published a year after Essentials. Wenham, who replaced Hughes as vice-principal of Tyndale Hall Bristol in the early 50s, contrasts Hughes' firmness of conviction about conditionalism with the hesitation or agnosticism of Stott and F. F. Bruce. The True Image is a substantial and closely argued work exploring the mutual relationship between anthropology and Christology, with a view to demonstrating that Christ is the True Image, the pattern of our original creation and of our transformation. The merit of the book is reflected in the tribute it contains from another doyen of evangelicalism, J. I. Packer, despite his differing views on eternal punishment. Despite, or because of, his Calvinistic convictions, Hughes has to take issue with Calvin over the immortality of the soul. Although he agrees with Calvin's rejection of soul-sleep [in his Psychopannychia] and his affirmation of the conscious survival of the soul after death, he rejects his doctrine of the immortality of the soul as being unbiblical and having a Platonic ring to it. In connection with its influence on the doctrine of everlasting punishment, he adds :
It has also commonly been argued either a priori that the immortality of the soul demands the everlasting punishment of the wicked as well as the everlasting blessedness of the redeemed, or a posteriori that the endless punishment of the wicked as well as the endless blessedness of the redeemed demands the immortality of the soul.
And speaking as a convinced conditionalist he affirms :
The immortality which was potentially ours at creation and was forfeited in the fall is now ours in Christ, in whom we are created anew and brought to our true destiny.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a paradigm of the ultimate destruction of all sin and wickedness and the purging of God's creation all defilement. Death and destruction, therefore, are understood logically. Consequently, he finds Augustine's view (in his City of God) of everlasting punishment as death everlastingly endured to be flawed. However, he charitably concedes that Augustine's harsh view was motivated by his need to refute universalism, just as Jonathan Edwards' insistence on the endless misery of the damned was inspired by his passionate concern to drive people away from hell to God's mercy and salvation. The problem he has with Augustine's view of everlasting death is compounded by Augustine's belief in literal hell-fire, introducing a change into the meaning of death to sustain his literal ideas of such torment. Hughes' description of the apparently more logical if not compassionate alternative is worth full quotation :
First of all, because life and death are radically antithetical to each other, the qualifying adjective eternal or everlasting needs to be understood in a manner appropriate to each other respectively. Everlasting life is existence that continues without end, and everlasting death is destruction without end, that is destruction without recall, the destruction of obliteration. Both life and death hereafter will be everlasting in the sense that both will be irreversible: from that life there can be no relapse into death, and from that death there can be no return to life. The awful negation and the absolute finality of the second death are unmistakably conveyed by its description as ‘the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord' (2 Thess. 1:9).
Continuing with a carefully Bible-based argument he insists that sin and its consequences are foreign to God's original purpose; and that the new creation demands their elimination. He has to take issue again with Augustine's teaching in Enchiridion III that there will be two eternal kingdoms, Christ's and the devil's. Divine victory cannot tolerate any place for a second kingdom of darkness. In the light of biblical teaching and in the interests of theodicy, it is difficult to understand how a Christian teacher of Augustine's stature could maintain such a position. As for the criticism often levelled at his own position, Hughes rejects the common objection that annihilation would mean sinners getting off lightly, with a reminder of ‘that dreadful day' and ‘indescribable terror' the Bible says awaits the wicked and impenitent.
Hughes is described by Wenham as a fine scholar. Likewise, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, of Westminster Chapel fame, wrote to him in 1945 :
Of all the young men I have met in all my contacts with evangelicals you are not only the only one who can write but you are the only one who has a theological mind. And above all, it is so perfectly balanced and controlled by your over-ruling devotion to our Lord and your passion to serve him.
Without labouring the point, this esteem for Hughes by Lloyd-Jones is all the more interesting - if not significant - because of the traditional views on eternal judgement held by Lloyd-Jones. At this point it would be a useful and logical diversion to consider the views of this somewhat unique and internationally influential leader of Nonconformist evangelicalism, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. In his renowned Friday night sessions at Westminster Chapel on biblical doctrine, Eschatology and the Church were covered during the 1952-1955 period. Regarding the immortality of the soul, he sees it not as an inherent characteristic but the gift of God, who alone is immortal essentially. His treatment of conditionalism is fairly standard, claiming that the conditionalist use of terms such as destruction, perish and death goes against the general drift of Scripture. As for the word eternal, while he admits that it sometimes refers to an age, he insists that the best Greek scholars agree that no stronger word could be used to express the idea of endlessness. Again, at an international conference of evangelical students in Austria in 1971, his definition of a true evangelical involved the assertion that such a one :
. . . believes in hell, eternal punishment; and he is concerned about those men dying in spiritual darkness about him.
Incidentally, while his view of eternal judgement is quite conventional, his view of the ultimate bliss of the redeemed may appear to some to be idiosyncratic in that it understands that the eternal state of the believer will not be "in the heavens, in the air, in some vague, nebulous spiritual condition" but "on the glorified earth under the new heavens"- heaven in the eternal sense will be "heaven on earth".
The year following Hughes', The True Image, there appeared Michael Green's Evangelism Through The Local Church, a book soon acclaimed - inside and outside the Anglican church, at home and abroad - as a great achievement and an indispensable resource for all engaged in evangelism. Green, who had been rector at St. Aldate's Oxford and then Professor of Evangelism at Regent College, Vancouver, was the Archbishop of Canterbury's Adviser on evangelism at the time. As already noted above, he played a significant part in the defence of Nicene orthodoxy when he edited and contributed to The Truth of God Incarnate in 1977, in which he took a generous stance regarding the fate of those ignorant of the Gospel. This view he repeats in Evangelism Through The Local Church claiming that "it validates the justice and mercy of God"; and he denies that such a hope cuts the "missionary nerve". As for the question of eternal punishment, he rejects conscious unending torment as firmly as its opposite, universalism; and boldly asserts that the God connected with such a doctrine "is not the person revealed in Scripture as utterly just and utterly loving". While he feels it right to speak of hell and eternal ruin, he understands these in terms of conditional immortality or annihilation, which, he is confident, fit in better with the biblical terms and evidence. Green's attention to this topic in this weighty book is concise and persuasive; and thus he shows by example how this difficult problem does not have to be laboured or to detract from the urgency of evangelism. Incidentally, he is addressing the problems of eternal punishment and the fate of those who have never heard the Gospel, in the context of evangelism in a multi-faith society. So when he says :
Christians, therefore, should reject the doctrine of conscious unending torment for those who have never heard the gospel [italics mine] just as firmly as they reject universalism.
he must not be understood to mean that the matter is different in the case of those who have heard and not accepted; for in his explanation of terms like destruction, immortality and eternal he clearly intends their use in a comprehensive manner.
When we consider the growing attraction of conditional immortality and the consequent backlash, it is virtual déjà vu as we recall the situation of the second half of the nineteenth century. However, there is a significant difference in the fact that a considerable number of evangelicals have affirmed boldly their belief in or strong sympathy for this view. This steady consolidation of evangelical conviction in the ultimate extinction of the unredeemed is made all the more obvious by the volume and nature of the reaction by traditionalist evangelicals.
Reaction against conditionalism
Perhaps the most savage attack on this departure from orthodoxy has been made by John Gerstner's Repent or Perish. Gerstner makes a fierce onslaught on the great names among modern evangelicals for their rejection of the uncompromising traditional view; and in the context of our interest in Birks, etc. he makes the significant comment :
Since punishment itself never produces repentance, justice requires it to go on forever.
The ferocity of Gerstner's approach to what has been going on among evangelicals both sides of the Atlantic, is understandable in the light of his earlier work Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell, 1980, in which he makes much use of Edwards' famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God", 1741. Gerstner understands Edwards to preach that this world in conflagration after the resurrection and day of judgement will be hell; and that God's presence will be the real torment of hell. There will be degrees of torment according to the number of sins; and according to Gerstner this is one of the reasons Edwards preached hell to children and pleaded with them for their conversion. Clearly, Gerstner shares this severe view of hell; and he is impatient or disappointed, to say the least, with A. H. Strong's description of hell, which he feels tones it down too much and betrays the teaching of Jesus and Jonathan Edwards ! The gloom of such a presentation is not relieved by any hope of a large harvest of the redeemed. Gerstner contrasts the view of Strong, Shedd and Hodge, who stress that the lost will be few (the latter two arguing that the lost compare in number as the inmates of a prison to the general community) with that of Edwards.
A more acceptable protagonist contending for the traditional view is the renowned J. I. Packer, whose Leon Morris Lecture, 1990, like Gerstner's book, is one of the four serious attempts (according to Wenham) to respond to the challenge of contemporary conditionalism. Packer affirms that Jesus and the apostles taught eternal punishment; albeit, they were drawing on a stock of ideas already present in the inter-testamental literature of Judaism. He rejects universalism and annihilationism/conditional immortality (clarifying the point that ‘biblical conditionalists' believe in eventual annihilation rather than immediate annihilation), and laments the drift of evangelicals such as Wenham, Fudge, Hughes and Stott to conditionalism. He considers such a view to be weakening for a number of reasons (e.g. lack of zeal for soul-winning) and hopes that the trend will soon be reversed. His tone is measured and moderate; and he advises his audience that he is going to avoid certain words, albeit biblical, because they can be misconstrued - e.g. instead of ‘torment' he is going to use the somewhat awkward phrase ‘divinely executed retributive process'. He warns against trying to imagine what hell is like; and, in this connection, he regrets the lurid word-pictures of Dante, Edwards and C. H. Spurgeon. A harsher kind of tone, however, is adopted by Packer in his Foreword to Ajith Fernando's Crucial Questions About Hell :
During this century some Bible-believers have shifted their ground with regard to the assertion of hell. At one time, evangelical Protestants stoutly maintained the unending agony of those who leave this world without Christ against all suggestions of universal salvation or the post-mortem annihilation of the godless, and they enforced the missionary imperative from the viewpoint of such as Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael, namely that all need to hear of Christ because without him all are lost. Today, however, universalism, the doctrine of a finally empty hell, is rampant, and so are theories of salvation through non-Christian religions and of unbelievers being finally snuffed out. . . Swimming against the stream can be hard, and being put on the defensive can cause failure of nerve. Yet the teaching of Scripture stands.
The penultimate sentence indicates the strength of the opposition that has grown against the conventional view. Again, in his Foreword to John Blanchard's Whatever Happened To Hell?, Packer speaks, somewhat uncharitably, of :
. . . the same ‘less terrible' view that Spurgeon opposed in the era of late-Victorian sentimentalism, namely conditional immortality or annihilationism, is getting renewed exposure through the advocacy of some well-respected evangelical veterans.
The Reformed publishers Banner of Truth Trust have played a significant part in seeking to re-instate the traditional view. We have already noted the contribution of W. G. T. Shedd's The Doctrine of Endless Punishment, first published in 1885 and that its republication in 1986 is seen by Wenham as another of the four serious attempts (up to 1991) to deal with contemporary conditionalism. Another such attempt (according to Wenham) is that of Paul Helm in The Last Things : Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell, 1989, also published by the Banner of Truth. Wenham is disappointed with this as with the other three ‘serious attempts'. He regrets that Helm gives no references for his view about conditionalism and that he wrongly sees it as immediate extinction without any prospect of judgement.
Another contender for the traditional Reformed position has been Eryl Davies, a leading influence in the Evangelical Movement of Wales and Principal of its Theological College in Bridgend. His persistent attempts to guard the strict orthodox view came at significant times in the contemporary debate, appearing in the form of The Wrath of God, 1984 and Condemned For Ever, 1987. In the former, which is based on addresses he gave at the annual ministers' conference of the Evangelical Movement of Wale, Bala 1981, he echoes Edwards in claiming that "God makes hell and He is hell . . .". Its sequel is no less severe, warning that "the Bible pulls no punches; it says that hell is an awful place and infinitely more dreadful than a Hiroshima or a nuclear war"; and that such misery will be unending with no hope of annihilation. 
Wenham : the sequel
The monumental contribution of John Wenham to the cause of conditional immortality has been recognised recently by Professor E. Earle Ellis (of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas). At the third Tyndale Fellowship Triennial Conference, on Eschatology in the Bible and Theology, held in 1997 at Swanwick, Derbyshire, his address, New Testament Teaching on Hell, a thorough exposition and able defence of conditionalism, is dedicated to the memory of the late Wenham. Reminiscent also of Basil Atkinson, he affirms that the Bible throughout represents "individual personality as a complex and totally mortal monism", leaving no room for the "anthropological dualism" which is at the root of innate immortality. The critical response to this by Peter Head (of Oak Hill Theological College, London) briefly considers the New Testament evidence. He is confident that Jesus' references to Gehenna, unquenchable fire and deathless worms support the traditional view of eternal punishment. He admits that Paul says little on the subject; but he finds the Apocalypse especially emphatic about eternal torment. Tony Gray's response, which is also critical of Ellis, argues that a "third option" (to that of conditionalism or traditionalism) - that of Harmon's "personal exclusion" from God's presence - needs to be explored. In his discussion of "conditionalism and the justice of hell", Gray agrees with Stott that "the experience of our emotions" must not be allowed too much influence in deciding for or against the traditional view. Evidently, he considers Michael Green and Stephen Travis, both conditionalists, guilty of this, when they seem to give too much room to what might be regarded as emotional considerations, when deciding against eternal conscious punishment. However, one wonders whether this kind of objection can be over-worked. Any valid religious experience, like any other for that matter, comprises mind, emotions and will; and a balance must be maintained. One has observed too much emphasis on the intellect at the expense of valid emotion, when addressing the doctrine in question. This, of course, is not to encourage emotionalism, which is an entirely different matter.
Continuing conflict and official consensus
While the twentieth century has witnessed great strides in the advancement of the conditionalist cause among leading evangelicals, the debate is far from over. However, the Anglican Church has arrived at annihilation as its official position. Its Doctrine Commission met from 1989-1995, publishing its findings as The Mystery of Salvation in which a conditionalist or annihilationist position is declared, albeit allowing some room for the ‘larger hope' :
Hell is not eternal torment, but it is the final and irrevocable choosing of that which is opposed to God so completely and so absolutely that the only end is total non-being. . . . Annihilation might be a truer picture of damnation than any of the traditional images of the hell of eternal torment. If God has created us with the freedom to choose, then those who make such a final choice choose against the only source of life, and they have their reward. Whether there be any who do so choose, only God knows.
As for those of other faiths, it adopts the charitable line we have noted in Lesslie Newbigin, Michael Green, etc.
Of significance to this study is the fact that a number of the members of the Commission were evangelicals; and that acknowledgement is made of the assistance of K. S. Harmon [of Fourth Edinburgh Conference fame, a doctoral student of Geoffrey Rowell, who was also a member].
In concluding this section, it may be rhetorical to ask how far developments in the penal system have influenced the thinking of Christians with regard to the doctrine under discussion. The abolition of corporal and capital punishment has made it difficult for Christians to preach divine retribution, let alone reprobation. This appears to be reflected also in the tendency of some modern translators of the Bible to use expiation instead of propitiation, the impersonal direction of the former term virtually erasing the notion of God's wrath. This preference for the word expiation is rejected by the evangelical scholar, Leon Morris, who sees no justification for it in the original Greek. In support of propitiation, he says that it "is a reminder that God is implacably opposed to everything that is evil, that his opposition may properly be described as ‘wrath', and that this wrath is put away only by the atoning blood of Christ."
 Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, op. cit., p. 1156.
 John Stott, Evangelical Truth, Leicester, IVP, 1999, p. 20f acknowledges Warfield's part in this fundamentalist movement; but he goes on to insist that the great majority of evangelical Christians (especially European) would now repudiate the ‘fundamentalist' label. Another famous fundamentalist at this time was Sir Robert Anderson, who wrote Human Destiny : After Death - What?, Glasgow, Pickering and Inglis, 1913 (8th ed.), in which he examines the contribution of the 19c. and deals critically with Eternal Hope, Salvator Mundi, life in Christ, annihilation and conditional immortality.
 Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, op. cit., p. 1156; and Biblical and Theological Studies, Benjamin B. Warfield, Ed. S.G. Craig, op. cit.,, p. xii & n., where we note that despite his ‘outgrowing' Darwinism he still held to the evolutionary principle as a kind of adjunct to creation.
 Biblical and Theological Studies, op. cit., p. xxx.
 Ibid., p. 334.
 Ibid., p. 337-8.
 Ibid., p. 338f.
 Ibid., pp. 340-344.
 Ibid., pp. 344-346.
 Ibid., p. 348f.
 Ibid., p. 349.
 Ibid., pp. 349-50.
 Ibid., p. xxxf.
 Ibid., p. 335-7.
 Nigel Wright, The Radical Evangelical, London, SPCK, 1996, p. 97.
 Ibid., p. 96.
 Ibid., p. 91.
 Herman Bavinck, The Last Things, op. cit., p. 166.
 N. Cameron (editor), Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, Carlisle, Paternoster, 1992, pp. 1-34. On p. 21f is an interesting account of Robinson's ‘kerygmatic hell'( perhaps reminiscent of Maurice), which is real enough as an alternative to choosing Christ; albeit, through the persuasive mercy of God all will be enabled eventually to choose Christ.
 Ibid., pp. 35-72, esp. p. 61. It would appear from this learned address of Norris that the actual views of Origen have been distorted by the impatience of his readers to systematise his thoughts too neatly - something detested, as we have seen, by the likes of Maurice and Farrar.
 Ibid., pp. 73-92.
 Ibid., p. 140.
 Ibid., p. 141f.
 Ibid., p. 292.
 Ajith Fernando, Crucial Questions About Hell, Eastbourne, Kingsway Publications, 1993 reprint, p. 13f. Clearly, Fernando is regarded highly especially by evangelicals taking the traditional view on this doctrine. The strong and passionate Foreword to the book by the redoubtable champion of evangelical orthodoxy, J.I. Packer, is proof of this as is the fact that Fernando was one of the speakers the famous evangelical Convention at Keswick in 1999 (Evangelicals Now, July, 1999, p. 2).
 Ibid., pp. 60-61.
 Ibid., p. 43f.
 Roger Forster's teaching on this can be found in Eternal Destiny Heaven and Hell, 1994, Ichthus Media Services Ltd., 107-113 Stanstead Road, London, SE23 1HH, albeit it does not claim to be ‘a comprehensive enquiry nor a definitive statement'.
 Universalism, op. cit., pp. 260-264.
 Ibid., p. 274.
 Ibid., p. 269f.
 Ibid., p. 270f, where he quotes from Shedd's Dogmatic Theology, Vol. I, 1888, p. 437.
 Ibid., p. 271f.
 Ibid., p. 278.
 Ibid., p. 279f.
 Ibid., p. 281.
 Ibid., p. 277.
 Nigel Wright, The Radical Evangelical, op. cit., p. 96.
 Ibid., p. 97.
 Lesslie Newbigin, The Finality of Christ, London, SCM, 1969, p. 105. Compare the modern phenomenon of ‘Messianic Jews', Jews converted to Christ but remaining outside the mainstream of Christianity.
 Ibid., p. 114.
 Ibid., p. 115.
 The Truth of God Incarnate, ed. Michael Green, London, H & S, 1977, p. 118 which is a reply to John Hick and co. in The Myth of God Incarnate.
 Ibid., p. 118. A similar view can be found in C.S. Lewis' last book of the Narnia Chronicles, The Last Battle (1956), London, Lions, 1990 print., pp. 154-5, where Aslan accepts Emeth (avowed loyal follower of Tash, the devil) because his noble qualities of loyalty, truth, etc. indicate that he is really a follower of Aslan: "Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that has truly sworn, though he know it not and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted."
 Ibid., p. 119.
 See Revelation 20:7-15 for the relevant biblical background.
 The orthodox evangelical view is that the book of life is "the roster of believers", as F.F. Bruce describes it. See his article on the ‘Book of Life', New Bible Dictionary, 2nd edn., J.D. Douglas ed., Leicester, IVP, 1982, p.146f.
 J. Sidlow Baxter, The Other Side of Death, Wheaton, Tyndale House, 1987, p. 40f.
 Roger Steer J. Hudson Taylor : A Man In Christ, Singapore, OMF, 1990 on p. 173 records Taylor's distress while attending a Christian convention in England : " . . . unable to bear the sight of a congregation of a thousand Christian people rejoicing in their own security, while millions were perishing for lack of knowledge, I wandered out on the sands alone, in great spiritual agony . . ."
 Mrs. Howard Taylor, Behind The Ranges, Fraser of Lisuland, London, OMF Books, 1973 ed., on p. 22 we read of his disgust that Christians are negligent of their duty while the unevangelised "are being left in millions to perish."
 Eternity, Ed. W.E. Allen, Belfast, The Revival Movement, no date p. 21.
 Dick Hillis, Are The Heathen Really Lost? Chicago, Moody Press, 1961, p. 58.
 Dick Dowsett God, that's not Fair, Carlisle, Paternoster (for OM Publishing), 1982, in Foreword by Martin Goldsmith.
 Ibid., p. 39.
 Ibid., p. 38. His argument for the O.T. characters being in a different position to mankind after Christ rests on Paul's words to the Athenians, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent . . ." (Acts 17:30), which seems to artificially limit God's saving power.
 John Blanchard, Whatever Happened To Hell?, Darlington, Evangelical Press, 1993p. 111f.
 Ibid., p. 291f, et al.
 Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, op. cit., p. 1071.
Published as Nature Man and God, Macmillan, London, 1934 in ch. XVIII, Moral and Religious Conditions of Eternal Life.
 The Congregational Quarterly, January 1932, p. 11.
 Ibid., p. 12f.
 Ibid., p. 15.
 Ibid., pp. 16-17.
 Ibid., p. 18.
 Froom, Conditionalist Faith,Vol. II, op. cit., pp. 747-757. Froom reckons on p. 757 that Temple never changed his view.
 Temple, op. cit., p. 19.
 Ibid., p. 20.
 Froom, Conditionalist Faith, op. cit., Vol. II, 908-11 & 934.
 J.C. Pollock, A Cambridge Movement, London, John Murray, 1953, p. 220. Could Pollock be referring to Atkinson's conditionalist thinking , when he writes here " . . . his Bible expositions influenced generations in the colleges . . . though his frankness and strong views did not always commend him to his fellow senior members"?
 Ibid., pp. 243f, 249, 258, 260.
 Oliver Barclay, Evangelicalism in Britain, 1935-1995, Leicester, IVP, 1997, p. 26f.
 Froom's Conditionalist Faith, Vol II, op. cit., pp. 881-88, 1015f, where ref. is made to Atkinson's The Pocket Commentary of The Bible, The Book of Genesis, Part One and Two, London, Henry E. Walter, 1954, especially p. 181 (on Gen. 19: 24), where eternal fire is seen as completely consuming.
 John W. Wenham, The goodness of God, London , IVP, 1974, p. 40. (This is now published as The Enigma of Evil, Guildford, Eagle, 1994.)
 Basil F.C. Atkinson, Life and Immortality, n.d., p. iii.
 Ibid., p. 61.
 The only place where I feel able to question Atkinson's thesis is in his treatment of the story of the so-called Witch of Endor (I Sam. 28). I find his attempt to explain away the re-appearance of the late Samuel as a demonic impersonation (in order to sustain his teaching of post-mortem unconsciousness) unconvincing.
 Froom, op. cit., p. 804f. Apparently both Guillebaud and his wife had been troubled by the traditional doctrine for some time, but it was Mrs. Guillebaud who first embraced conditionalism after a sermon on annihilation in Cambridge. Later she was joined in her view by her husband after his discovery of Atkinson's views. At the time, Guillebaud was working on his book Some Moral Difficulties of the Bible, which was to have included a final chapter on everlasting punishment but which he was not able to address to his satisfaction (see Fudge, op. cit., p. 35 first ed., p. 9 2nd ed.).This was set aside for the writing of The Righteous Judge, which in turn was completed en route to the mission field in Ruanda.
 The Righteous Judge, privately published, 1964, Ch. V, pp. 20-27, carefully examines the ‘four excepted passages', Mt. 18:34, 35; Mk. 9:43-48; Rev. 14:10,11; 20:10, which the orthodox view considers decisive. As with other conditionalist attempts to explain these difficult texts, Guillebaud's is persuasive as long as one is prepared to appreciate the metaphorical facet of much of Jesus' teaching.
 Ibid, p.46.
 Another who would look to Atkinson as his mentor in this matter is Roger T. Forster. In his Eternal Destiny, Heaven and Hell, op. cit., p. 20, he speaks of Atkinson as "the spiritual father figure of my Cambridge days".
 N. Cameron, Universalism, pp. 161-191. The same account can be found in Wenham,s autobiography, facing hell, Carlisle, Paternoster, 1998, pp. 230-257; while pp. 258f give his assessment of some of the contributors at the Edinburgh symposium.
 Universalism, op. cit., p. 163.
 Ibid., p. 163f.
 This is discussed more fully in the Conclusion.
 The Goodness of God, p. 40 mentions the valuable works of Atkinson and Guillebaud and notes in the bottom margin that they may be obtained from the Rev. B.L. Bateson of Chard, Somerset. Froom's massive contribution is also introduced.
 Ibid., pp 37 &. 41.
 Ibid., p. 37f.
 Cameron's Universalism, op. cit. p. 190f.
 Houston, Providential Press, 1982, with a Foreword by F.F. Bruce, albeit he confesses to being neither a traditionalist nor a conditionalist, his views being in line with those of C.S. Lewis. A second edition came out in 1994 published in Carlisle by Paternoster Press, with a new Foreword by John Wenham in addition to that of F.F. Bruce. This new edition is able to respond to new developments and to attacks upon his book such as that of Kendall Harmon (a doctoral student of Geoffrey Rowell), who gave the paper at Edinburgh on The Case Against Conditionalism.
 Cameron's Universalism, p. 164f.
 Ibid., p. 219f. His emphasis was to be taken up later by Tony Gray at a later conference on eschatology - see below.
 David L. Edwards, John Stott, Essentials, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1988, 1990 print p. 312f.
 Ibid., e.g., p.315f, where his understanding of the Greek verb apollumi (to destroy) is that it indicates ‘an extinction of being', which interpretation is possible if we accept that the immortality of the soul is not a biblical concept but Greek.
 Ibid., p. 316. See Froom's classical definition, Conditionalist Faith, Vol. I, op. cit., p. 19f. Russ Magaw, in his review of Stott's argument, points out this confusion; but he in turn adds to the confusion by claiming that Stott is confounding conditional immortality with universalism! See his book review in The Restitution Herald, (conditionalist organ of the Church of God, USA), August/September 1989. Wenham, finds Stott's way of distinguishing annihilationism and conditional immortality, ‘somewhat confusing' (Universalism, op. cit., 166n). Kendall Harmon also notes this confusion (Universalism, op. cit. p. 198n) claiming, correctly in my opinion, that Stott errs through ‘failing to distinguish between conditionalist uniresurrectionists and conditional eventual extinctionists, thereby identifying all conditionalists with the Jehovah's Witness' position.
 Essentials, op. cit., p. 320.
 Ibid., p. 320.
 Ibid., p. 326-7.
 Facing Hell, op. cit., p. 233. (In Universalism, op. cit., p. 166, Wenham records that Stott told him that that he preferred to describe himself as an agnostic in this matter, which, he told Wenham, was the position of F.F. Bruce).
 P.E. Hughes, The True Image, Grand Rapids/Leicester, Eerdmans/Inter-Varsity Press, 1989, pp. 393-397.
 Ibid., pp. 398-400.
 Ibid., p. 400.
 Ibid., p. 401.
 Ibid., p. 402.
 Ibid., p. 403.
 Ibid., p. 403/404.
 Ibid., p. 405.
 Ibid., p. 405-6. The edition of the Enchiridion cited above (in ch.1) positions this ref. differently (in ch. CXI), The Works of Aurelius Augustine, op. cit., p. 253.
 Ibid., p. 406-7.
 Facing Hell, op. cit., p. 141. Other indications of his scholarship are his contributions to the New Bible Dictionary (1st & 2nd eds.), IVP, 1962, 1982 and Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, op. cit.
 Iain H. Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, vol. II, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1990, p. 130. There are copious refs. in the book to the close friendship between the two men, Hughes being described as an ‘old friend' at least three times (pp. 715, 739, 745); and they frequently corresponded.
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Church and the Last Things, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1998, p. 64f. He also acknowledges Salmond's The Immortality of the Soul as one of the best books on the subject.
 Ibid., p. 72.
 Ibid., p. 73f.
 D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Knowing The Times, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1989, p. 335.
 D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans (Ch. 8. 17-19 : The Final Perseverance of the Saints), Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1975, p.88f.
 Michael Green, Evangelism Through The Local Church, London, Hodder and Stoughton, (1990), 1993 edn. pp. 70-76.
 Ibid., p. 69.
 Ibid., p. 69f.
 Ibid., p. 70. The words I have italicised appear also at the beginning of his digression on eternal punishment, on p. 69. A similar ambiguity is on p. 70 where he writes that " the devil, the beast and the false prophet, who are not individuals at all, but principles of evil, which will be totally annihilated"; for, it is unlikely that his Bible-based doctrine would deny the personality of the devil.
 Ibid., p. 69.
 John Gerstner, Repent or Perish, Ligonier PA 15658, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1990.
 Ibid., p. 61f.
 John Gerstner, Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell, Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1980, pp. 60, 93.
 Ibid., p. 61f.
 Ibid., p. 91f, the ref. being to Strong's Systematic Theology, Judson Press, 1917, p. 1035.
 Ibid., p. 92.
 Leon Morris' own teaching on the subject can be found in his article Eternal Punishment, in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, op. cit., p. 369f, in which he holds to the traditional view, rejecting universalism and conditional immortality, albeit he does not attempt to speculate as to what eternal punishment might be.
 J.I.Packer, The Problem of Eternal Punishment, (The Leon Morris Lecture for the Evangelical Alliance, 31 August, 1990), Orthos, Disley, Cheshire, p. 6.
 Ibid., p. 12.
 Ibid., p. 14.
 Ibid., pp. 7 & 8.
 Ibid., p. 14.
 Fernando's Crucial Questions about Hell, op. cit., p. 10f.
 John Blanchard, Whatever Happened To Hell, Darlington,Evangelical Press, 1993.
 Universalism, op. cit., p. 165.
 Ibid., p. 165, where the ref. is to Paul Helm's The Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1989, p. 117. Helm's treatment of annihilationism is astonishingly brief and inaccurate - in contrast to his fellow symposiast at Edinburgh, K. Harmon. Helm seems to understand it in terms of the Jehovah's Witness teaching on this subject!
 The EMW has been represented on the ACUTE Steering Group dealing with the doctrine of hell. Incidentally, it may be claimed that Clause 3 of its 1955 Constitution (The unbelieving will be condemned by Him to hell, where eternally they will be punished for their sins under the righteous judgment of God.) does not have to imply conscious torment.
 Eryl Davies, The Wrath of God, Bridgend, Evangelical Press of Wales, 1984, p. 51.
 Eryl Davies, Condemned For Ever, Welwyn, Evangelical Press, 1987, pp. 83 & 99.
 K.E. Brower & M.W. Elliott (eds.), The Reader Must Understand, Leicester, Apollos, 1997, p. 211.
 Ibid., p. 227.
 Ibid. p. 241.
 Ibid. p. 233f, where he refers to Stott's [and Edwards'] Essentials op. cit. p. 314. The New Testament scholar, Donald Guthrie, is also cited in support; see his New Testament Theology, Leicester, IVP, 1981, p. 892.
 Ibid. p. 234. He quotes from Green's Evangelism Through the Local Church, op. cit. p. 69, and from Travis' Christian Hope and the Future of Man, Leicester, IVP, 1980, p. 135.
 This is certainly how the press understood it. The Daily Telegraph, 11.1.96, headed its review of the book, ‘We believe in Hell, says the Church (but without the flames)' and goes on to report that the Doctrine Commission says "that Hell is a state of annihilation rather than eternal torment."
 The Mystery of Salvation, London, Church House Publishing, (1995), second impression 1996, p. 199.
 Ibid., p. 180f, esp. p. 183.
 Ibid., pp. v, vi & xiii.
 Compare, e.g., Romans 3:25 in the 1611 Authorized Version (propitiation) and in the 1946 Revised Standard Version (expiation). That this appears to be more than updating language is indicated by the use of propitiation in the fairly recent Revised Authorized Version (1982), which is based directly on the Authorized Version. See also I John 2:2 & 4:10. (Both hilasterios in Rom. 3 and hilasmos in I John. are derived from hilaskomai, which means to appease or propitiate.)
L. Morris, Propitiation, New Bible Dictionary, eds. J.D. Douglas et al, Leicester, IVP, 1982, p. 986f.