The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2


II. Reformation Sparks Resurgence of Conditionalism


The sweep of volume two covers the conflict over this theological trilemma from the sixth century on to 1963. Restorationism is banned and quiescent all through the Middle Ages. Not until after the Protestant Reformation was under way did it, under the name and concept of Universalism, become active again, first in Europe and then in Colonial America. But its real resurgence was reserved for modern times. CFF2 1263.1

The dogma that all men are Innately Immortal, along with paralleling insistence on the Eternal Torment of the wicked, was relentlessly imposed by the dominant Papal Church for a thousand years. To this had now been added the innovating concept of Purgatory, based upon the Apocrypha, to mitigate the horrifics of Hell. Classically portrayed by Dante, these concepts prevailed until the time of the Renaissance. CFF2 1263.2

Meantime Conditionalism-the original Christian school of conviction in the age-old conflict over man’s nature and destiny-had passed through its bleak and largely silent centuries. Only voices like those of seventh-century Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem; twelfth-century Greek bishop Nicholas; and certain Parisian professors, gave life to Conditionalist sentiments. These were followed by Wyclif, in Britain. But they made scarcely a ripple in the vast ocean of Immortal-Soulism. CFF2 1263.3


There were, however, certain medieval exceptions-definite connecting links traceable back to Early Church times and its Conditionalism. The Waldenses of the Piedmont Alps, in northern Italy, left record of holding to the mortality of man, which view they had preserved from early times, along with rejection of the consciousness of souls in Purgatory. Averroes, noted twelfth-century Arabic philosopher, had openly denied the Innate Immortality of the soul, and all who similarly denied the papal dogma were castigated as Averroists. CFF2 1263.4

The most notable medieval break with Eternal Tormentism was among the most celebrated of the medieval rabbis, beginning with Maimonides, then Nachmanides, and Abravanel, who took their stand on the complete, ultimate excision of the wicked. Theirs was a repudiation of the divergent Jewish tenet introduced by Philo. And this dissent continued on to Protestant Reformation times, when the burden was taken up by Christian leaders. CFF2 1264.1


Meanwhile, in Ethiopian Africa and over on the Malabar coast, among the St. Thomas Christians of Southern India, the positions of their founding fathers, pioneering missionaries from Europe, were perpetuated. Like the Waldenses, they had never accepted the papal innovations, but held that man sleeps in the interval between death and the resurrection. CFF2 1264.2


But in Italy celebrated philosopher-teacher Petrus Pomponatius revived and pressed the dormant concept that man does not possess an undefeasibly immortal soul. This thought spread among scholars of different lands and forced Pope Leo X to declare, in his famous Bull of 1513, the Catholic position on the natural immortality of the soul. The die was thus cast. The Papal Church was now officially committed to Immortal-Soulism and Eternal-Tormentism-and this just before Luther’s break with Rome. That meant war upon all challengers. CFF2 1264.3


Then, beginning with Luther in Germany and Tyndale in England, certain conspicuous Protestant leaders advanced the position that in death man sleeps until the awakening call of Christ the Life-giver on the resurrection morn, at His second advent. Likewise among the Anabaptists of Poland, England, and the Continent-and the Socinians of Poland-there was further challenge of Immortal-Soulism. A number were burned at the stake for holding the Conditionalist position, along witho ther views considered anathema to Rome. There were other Protestants, however, who insistently retained the dominant Roman Catholic position-such as Calvin with his violent attacks against the “sleep of souls.” CFF2 1264.4

Thus a split developed among Protestant bodies, though most Protestant creeds incorporated Innatism and Eternal Torment. The Anglican Articles, however, reduced from forty-two to thirty-nine, left the issue of the nature and destiny of man to the conviction of the individual clergyman. Then the conflict intensified as ministers and teachers, physicians and poets, philosophers and scientists, statesmen and publishers, and barristers of prominence in steadily increasing numbers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, took their stand for Conditionalism and left their ringing testimony on record. CFF2 1265.1


Richard Overton went to prison for his Conditionalist faith. Man, he held, is wholly mortal, with immortality bestowed as a gift at the Second Advent. The celebrated seventeenth-century poetstatesman John Milton so held. And Dr. Peter Chamberlen, physician to James I, Charles I, and Charles II, likewise maintained the Conditionalist view. A whole succession of witnesses in England and on the Continent so professed. High clerics, like Archbishop Tillotson, took their stand on the Conditionalist platform. The battle raged, with steadily increasing recruits to the Conditionalist cause, with its threefold position of immortality only in Christ, sleep in the grave during death, and ultimate and utter destruction of the wicked. CFF2 1265.2

In the eighteenth century scholars like William Whiston, poets like Isaac Watts, physicians like Dr. Scott, clerics like bishops Warburton and Law, scientists like Priestley, educators like Dr. Peter Peckard, swelled the growing chorus. Conditionalist Archdeacon Blackburne produced his priceless history of the witnesses, extending from the Council of Florence on to his own day in the mid-eighteenth century. CFF2 1265.3


Meantime, in the New World, along with the conflict over revived Universalism and such avid champions of Eternal Torment as Jonathan Edwards and Samuel Hopkins, there developed a revulsion against Calvinism. In 1795 the first North American treatise appeared maintaining that after the sleep of death, man’s immortality is conferred at the resurrection. CFF2 1265.4

Picture 1: Paradise Restored
The immortalized redeemed will dwell with their Saviour throughout eternity in radiant paradise restored.
Page 1266

And as the nineteenth century dawned, the chorus of Conditionalists grew stronger, and the parts were augmented by noted scholars. The caliber of the proponents created respect. Bishops such as Porteus and Hampden, and Free Churchmen like Watson and Hall lent the luster of their names. Archbishop Whately became a standard-bearer. A Conditionalist congregation-attending the Crescent Meeting House-was the first of its kind. (Prior to this, Conditionalism was confined to individual adherents.) There was wide denominational spread. CFF2 1266.1


Meantime, in North America, Bishop William White, who arranged for the New Episcopal daughter church of Anglicanism, held to Conditionalism. Elias Smith, founder of the Christian Connection, gave impetus to Conditionalism. Man after man joined the ranks in the New World. CFF2 1266.2

Shortly after, in the Old World, beginning about 1877, there was a fresh revolt against Eternal-Tormentism that forced the issue to the fore, and spread it to overseas continents. Various Conditionalist journals were launched, and both a scholarly and popular literature developed-along with a wave of reprisals. Laymen were ostracized and clergymen were severed from their denominations for espousing Conditionalism. CFF2 1266.3


In England, Congregationalist Dr. Edward White became a shining figure with his emphasis on Life Only in Christ. Canon Constable produced classic books in the field, and noted Congregationalist Dr. R. W. Dale declared his Conditionalist faith. Dean F. W. Farrar startled the religious world in 1877 by his famous sermons in Westminster Abbey denouncing Eternal Tormentism. Scores, yes, hundreds of clergymen took up their positions, pro or con. An interdenominational Conditionalist Association was formed in Britain, with members comprised of clergymen of all faiths. CFF2 1266.4

Symposiums appeared in periodicals and books. Numerous journals, such as The Rainbow, the Messenger, the Bible Echo, and the Standard, championed the Conditionalist cause. A whole library of Conditionalist works was produced. Outstanding scholars stood up and were counted. Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland, and Italy contributed their witnesses. Missionary leaders in Australia, Africa, India, China, and Japan added their voices, and sometimes were sent home as a consequence. CFF2 1267.1

Statesmen like Prime Minister Gladstone wrote with singular soundness, and scholars like Dr. R. F. Weymouth and Bishop Perowne lent their support. Famous preachers such as London’s Joseph Parker voiced their convictions. Great Conditionalist classics, like Dr. Emmanuel Petavel’s French work, soon translated into English, stand on record for all time, as do the writings of Dr. E. W. Bullinger. Well-known missioners like Hay Aitken gave strong impetus. So closed the nineteenth century in the Old World. But because these men championed an unpopular cause, their witness is not well known. But it has been given voice in this volume. CFF2 1267.2


We must also bear in mind the paralleling American testimony. In the mid-nineteenth century Deacon Henry Grew inspired George Storrs, who, with his Bible Examiner, gave great impetus to this then-unpopular testimony. The widespread revival of the study of Bible prophecy and eschatology in the early decades of the nineteenth century had laid the foundation for the awakening interest. Professor Hudson produced several American classics on Conditionalism. Physician Dr. Charles Ives, of Yale Medical School, made a notable contribution. Pettingell produced important books, and clergymen like Bishop Mann, and J. M. Denniston in Jamaica, Dr. G. D. Boardman of Philadelphia, Moncrieff in Canada, Dr. A. J. Gordon, and many others added their influential voices in emphasizing various aspects of the Conditionalist truth and exposing the errors of the traditional position. The stage is now set for greater advances in the twentieth century. CFF2 1267.3