The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 1


From Author to Reader

A LITTLE more than a century ago the celebrated historian and theologian Dr. Philip Schaff predicted in his History of the Apostolic Church that eschatology would constitute the final area destined to engage the interest and concern of Christian scholars. The issues, he held, would revolve around the involvements of eschatology. It was a profound observation, for all the faults and errors of traditionalism, in the area of our concern, have sprung from false concepts of eschatology. CFF1 9.1

It is significant that the major periods of church history have been called upon to unfold and place in clear light particular aspects of Bible truth to counteract a corresponding error. For example, it was necessary for the Nicene age to assert the doctrine of the eternal deity of Christ and the personality of the Holy Spirit—the doctrine of the Trinity—to counter the deviations of Arianism. In the Augustinian period the call was to vindicate the doctrine of human sinfulness and divine grace—as against the vagaries of Pelagianism. CFF1 9.2

The doctrinal task of the Protestant Reformation was to recover the inward appropriation of salvation, especially the truth of justification by faith, or salvation as effected by Jesus Christ—in opposition to the Roman concept of legal righteousness. In Wesley’s day the summons was to the doctrine of Free Grace in contrast to rigid predestinarianism that was then prevalent. This process has gone on until the whole circle of Christian truth has been largely covered. And now in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the doctrine of the last things, or eschatology—death, judgment, the Second Advent, resurrection, and immortality—is indeed having its vital turn. That is the area of our immediate concern and the justification for and burden of this work. CFF1 9.3

The time had clearly come for an examination in depth of the conflict of the ages over the nature and destiny of man. During the past century there has been a rising crescendo of discussion over this issue. And a growing demand has come from men of many faiths in various lands for someone to go to the bottom of this vital question that has agitated the minds of countless numbers of earnest Christians across the centuries—as well as intriguing the philosophers of pagan times prior to the Christian Era. These current appeals have urged that the salient facts be sought out and spread before the reader for candid examination and evaluation, holding that such a definitive study is long past due. CFF1 10.1

This present work has been undertaken in response to that call. The search for the full facts has involved the combing of the greatest libraries of the Old World and the New, and the cooperation of librarians and other scholars in every quarter of the globe. The initial result of this combined endeavor has been the assemblage of an unprecedented Immortality Source Collection that has brought together the testimony of the key witnesses across the years. The portrayal here presented is based on these original sources. And the tangible results of this comprehensive search are here submitted to the scholars of all faiths. CFF1 10.2

The role of the church historian in bringing forth a specialized history in a designated field—such as concerns the conflict of the centuries over the nature and destiny of man—is not an easy one. And his responsibility is great. The task calls for thoroughness of investigation, tenacity, candor, competence, and accuracy of conclusions. The historian must not be swayed by bias or prejudgment. He must get back of outward appearances to inner causes. He must uncover the underlying principles and basic issues. Only thus can a true delineation be produced. CFF1 10.3

This we have sought to do in these two volumes. We have ferreted out the original writings and secured reliable translations, for such constitute the imperatives for this portrayal. We have used the most competent authorities for checking, and for getting the biographical facts and historical setting for the presentation. We have traversed the centuries in order to compass the whole story. Any evasion or suppression of the facts of history in this great dialogue of the ages could only lead to biased concepts and faulty conclusions. That could not be tolerated. Fidelity to fact has been our guiding principle. CFF1 10.4

We have been compelled to penetrate to the very heart of church history, and its inevitable clashes with the encroachments of philosophy, which have exerted such a powerful and often fateful influence upon the course of mankind. The subtleties of human philosophy have all too often had a sinister effect upon man’s concept of divine truth. Thus the theological views of the early church were altered by Greek Platonism, and those of medieval schoolmen changed by the logic and dialectics of Aristotle. CFF1 11.1

Relatively few have been able to emancipate themselves from the dominant philosophy and public opinion of their own age. But always there have been some, and these have often been intellectual giants. So the dictates of philosophy and the mandates of Bible doctrine have moved forward warily, side by side, alternately attracting and repelling one another. But in the end the transcendence of divine revelation will prevail, and the wisdom of the world will be lost in the wisdom of God. CFF1 11.2

The pursuit of historical truth led back to the source of truth in divine revelation, in contrast to the vagaries of human reason. It led through the agelong struggle between conflicting principles, and will terminate in the ultimate recovery and re-establishment of the original truth. That constitutes the battle line of the centuries over the nature and destiny of man, as unfolded in these pages. The tracement has been a fascinating and rewarding pursuit, bringing assurance and satisfaction to the seeker for truth. CFF1 11.3

Always, in every major epoch when truth is revived and comes to grips with error, there have arisen devout scholarly men who have championed unpopular truth and protested and unmasked error. This is the undeviating testimony of history. CFF1 11.4

God has had His witnesses and His warriors in every age, as He has today. And this principle embraces the conflict of the ages over the nature and destiny of man. CFF1 12.1

Many significant treatises of the past, having served their immediate purpose, were allowed to go out of circulation and sight. To recover them from the archives of the Old World and the New has been a tremendous task. Our first obligation was to retrieve these well-nigh lost witnesses that provide the vital testimony of their times, for they were the voices that represented their generation. And these men of the past prepared the way for the current widespread revolt against the traditional positions so long dominant. Those entrenched concepts sprang from Protestant retentions of papal errors, which in turn had been derived from the Platonic philosophy that penetrated the Christian Church in the third, fourth, and fifth centuries. That is the lineage. CFF1 12.2

But all the while, protesting against such grave digressions, there has ever been this line of stalwart dissentients—actually champions of positive Bible truth. This venerable procession, emerging from the past, constitutes the trek of the centuries in man’s noble march toward the ultimate restoration of the Con-ditionalist faith. These stalwarts transmitted the protest of the centuries against entrenched error, along with the recovery of apostolic truth on the nature and destiny of man. CFF1 12.3

The search for the basic issues disclosed three conflicting views, or schools of thought, regarding the destiny of the wicked—(1) that of Eternal Torment for the wicked, (2) Ultimate Restoration for all men, and (3) Ultimate Utter Extinction of the incorrigibly evil. The ceaseless conflict between these views has occupied many of the finest minds of the centuries, because it is a question of both transcendent importance and deep personal concern. CFF1 12.4

Must it be either the eternal misery of the many or the enforced blessedness of all? Or does the true position lie between the two? Is there a position that harmonizes the justice, righteousness, and mercy of God? Is there a view that vindicates both the character and the government of God, and meets the demands of reason? Is there a position that reconciles seemingly conflicting statements in Holy Writ? Yes, say the witnesses, there is. And this is borne out by the findings of history. This view has been held, then lost, and finally regained by the church during the passage of the centuries—and without impairing confidence in either God or man. CFF1 12.5

This is the story in a nutshell, as unfolded by the evidence. The fateful spark that set off the battle of the ages over the veracity of God as to the nature and destiny of man was ignited within the very gates of Eden. It was the sinister work of a malign tempter. Its success brought about the fall of man, changed his entire nature, and jeopardized his destiny. But this catastrophe resulted, in turn, in the provision of redemption through a divine Saviour-Substitute, who was pledged to restore man’s lost righteousness and life, and ultimately to destroy the tempter and end the cruel experiment of sin and banish death forever. CFF1 13.1

The conflict between truth and error, personalized in Christ and Satan and involving all mankind, loyal and disloyal, has raged across the centuries. But it will end with the declared triumph of Christ, the utter overthrow of Satan, sin, and sinners, and the restoration of Paradise in the earth made new, where will dwell the immortalized saints forever. For this may be cited the pledge of God in His Word. It eventuates in a clean universe forever. CFF1 13.2


The first two of the four sections of volume 1 are devoted to the full Bible evidence—first that of the Old Testament, and then the fuller witness of the New. These have been covered in depth, as the Scriptures constitute the only norm by which to judge the historical departures that have developed. The remaining parts (III and IV) are historical. Part III portrays the telltale origin of the postulate of Immortal-Soulism, and its development into a devastating system under Greek Platonism, then its penetration into the Jewish faith with dire results. Part IV compasses the first five centuries of the Christian Era, depicting Platonism’s subsequent infiltration into the Christian Church, though it did not appear therein until about A.D. 187. Then is traced the resultant split of the Christian faith, developing into three conflicting views, or schools, on man’s nature and destiny. This permanent cleavage was consummated during the third, fourth, and fifth centuries, thus resulting in an irreconcilable theological trilemma. That epitomizes the scope of volume 1. The conflict characterizing the remaining centuries of the Christian Era has been among these three schools. And that, in a word, is the general scope of volume 2. But it all leads to a climax in the triumph of truth. CFF1 13.3

Washington, D.C. November 16, 1965.