The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 1

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Part III-Historical Development of Innate, Immortality Concept (900 B.C. to the Time of Christ)-Rise of Platonic Postulate and Penetration Into Jewry

Pictorial Chart I Timeline 900 BC -150 BC:
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Pictorial Chart II Timeline 150 BC - 600 AD:
Page 519

Text to Charts
IMPACT OF GREEK PHILOSOPHY ON EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH
(Covering Descriptions for Pictorial Chart I 1. THREEFOLD ORIGIN OF IMMORTAL-SOULIST CONCEPT.
Pictorial Chart I
on the following pages affords a compact panoramic view of the battle of the centuries over the origin, nature, and destiny of man, extending from 900 B.C. to A.D. 600. With rootage in the ethnic religious concepts of India, Persia, and Egypt, and embracing Immortal-Soulism with a decidedly pantheistic tinge—and involving emanation from the All-Soul, pre-existence, reincarnation, transmigration, reabsorption, and Persian Dualism—these concepts penetrated the earliest Greek cults and mysteries (Dionysiac, Orphic, and Eleusinian), which followed the Greek poets Homer and Hesiod, who also held to the continuing persistence of the soul, believed imprisoned in human bodies.
Then follows a series of conflicting schools of Greek speculative philosophy—the Ionic, Pythagorian, Eleatic, et cetera—between 640 and 550 B.C., each having Immortal-Soulism as the common denominator but infused with varying degrees of pantheism, emanation, pre-existence, reincarnation, and Dualism.
2. PLATONISM—SUMMIT OF HUMAN REASONING.
Next, in reaction, the Sophists with their skepticism and the Atomists with their materialism well-nigh hated this speculative philosophy. Nevertheless, under PLATO, Greek systematic philosophy reached the summit of human reasoning on human destiny, yet retained the previous notions of pre-existence and successive incarnations of the immortal and indestructible soul, but now with eternal persistence of personality, as well as punishment for the wicked.
However, a second reaction set in, spearheaded by ARISTOTLE, who denied the theory of pre-existence and reincarnation and decried the persistence of the personal or individual immortality concept—with further repudiations by the Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics. Greek philosophy was thus thrown into a confusion that persisted throughout the Roman writers. It became marked by pathetic despair and was eventually recast through eclectic selection and reorganization into the powerful Neoplatonic School of Philosophy.
3. PENETRATES JEWRY DURING INTER-TESTAMENT PERIOD.
Meantime, in the inter-Testament period two groups of Jewish Apocryphal and pseudepigraphical writers appeared, during the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. The earlier writers maintained the Conditionalist position of their forefathers—and this line culminated in the Conditionalist witness of the Dead Sea scrolls.
The second paralleling group, but appearing fifty years later, reflected the Greek survival-of-the-soul concept, prayers for the dead, outright immortality of the soul, and denial of the resurrection. This Immortal-Soulist group came to climax with the powerful PHILO of Alexandria, who allegorized the Old Testament to bring it into essential accord with Platonic Greek philosophy, with its emanationism, pre-existence, reincarnation, unbodied souls, and eternal punishment. And PHILO (d. c. A.D. 47) was clearly the precursor of the Neoplatonism of the early Christian Era.
4. CHRIST IMPLANTS CONDITIONALISM IN APOSTOLIC RANKS.
At that very time Christ and the apostles appeared in Palestine, confirming, clarifying, and enlarging the Conditionalist teaching of the Old Testament, with immortality through Christ for the righteous only, bestowed as a gift at the resurrection, and with unrepentant sinners to be ultimately destroyed.
Thus there is essential Conditionalist unity and continuity between the Old Testament and the New. This view continued intact throughout all the Apostolic Fathers, and in a conspicuous line of Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Justin, Irenaeus, Novatian, Arnobius, Lactantius, et cetera).
5. INNATE IMMORTALITY BELATEDLY INFILTRATES CHURCH.
Not until c. A.D. 180 did ATHENAGORAS become the first Christian writer to claim the soul to be innately immortal, which Platonic term and concept TERTULLIAN developed into a system based on universal Innate Immortality for sinners as well as saints, and thus involving Eternal Torment for the incorrigibly wicked—which doctrine is simply the continuation of Persian Dualism.
But, in protesting against this dogma of eternal torture (with a fire that renews but does not consume as it burns), ORIGEN, the Christian Neoplatonic philosopher of Alexandria, while holding the identical universal Innate-Immortality postulate—derived directly from Plato and indirectly through Philo—and now allegorizing the New Testament truths of the resurrection and the Second Advent, developed the rival school of the ultimate Universal Restoration of all the wicked, which involved the enforced final salvation of all sinners, including the devil himself.
6. ETERNAL-TORMENT DOGMA ASCENDANT BY A.D. 600
However, it was Tertullianism, with its Eternal-Torment corollary, that spread relentlessly, later augmented by the powerful pen of AUGUSTINE, until it became the dominant position on the soul and its destiny. And proportionately Restorationism declined, while Conditionalism was now narrowed to a thin line of occasional voices. So by A.D. 600 the three rival “systems,” or schools, had become established.
But the Conditionalist line, with its fidelity to the Word and its true eschatology, was largely in eclipse until the Protestant Reformation, as was also Restorationism (or Universalism) until post-Reformation times. Meanwhile, Tertullian-Augustinianism, boldly established on the Platonic (and Philonic) platform, prevailed for a thousand years, until the reaction and revival of Conditionalism came under the Protestant Reformation.
7. TRUTH ENTERS TWILIGHT SHADOWS.
Such is the significance of this chart. Immortal-Soulism was thus clearly conceived and brought forth by pagan philosophy, and adopted first by the Alexandrian Jews, and then accepted by Christians in Northern Africa—chiefly Tertullian of Carthage, Origen of Alexandria, and Augustine of Hippo, and their respective followers. This subsequently developed and continued on into the predominant medieval Roman Catholic position on the nature and destiny of the soul. No other conclusion can rightly be drawn that accords with the sum total of the facts of history.
Such was the situation as we enter the shadows of the Dark Ages when truth was largely silenced for centuries. The emergence is presented in volume 2, and pictured in Pictorial Chart II Page 519
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