There once was a time when a preacher could stand up and say, “You have an immortal soul, your soul is worth much to God,” and not be questioned. Today, however, the theological climate has changed, as a number of theological viewpoints have arrived that seek to challenge traditional understandings.
One of these challenging viewpoints is Conditional Immortality (CI), a view that says that either 1) the soul is mortal and dies with the body, or 2) the soul is conditional upon faith in Christ. The second position is more of the mainstream view within Conditional Immortality, as it says that immortality itself is “conditional” upon salvation. Conditional Immortality is also known as Annihilationism and Conditionalism, and you can find research on the topic with all three terms.
The other viewpoint is advocated by a theologian named Edward Fudge, a man who is leading the way to make the case that Conditional Immortality best represents the viewpoint of the Scriptures. And yet, our Pastor charges forth once again with her response to what she believes is a gospel issue.
Pastor D.M. has penned yet another book, titled Terror Of The Lord: Critiquing Conditional Immortality, Answering Annihilationism’s Apologists, where she responds to Edward Fudge’s work The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment. Fudge’s book is now present on the market in a few editions, but his argument remains the same: that is, the soul is mortal and dies when the body dies. If any man lives forever, Fudge would say, it’s because God allows him to. Man is not born with an immortal soul but is instead given immortal souls and immortal bodies when he is transformed.
In contrast, Pastor D.M. Richardson counters with the traditional position on the Doctrine of Soul Immortality or The Immortality of the Soul. From a number of passages in Scripture in the Gospels where Jesus taught, it can be shown that the soul is anything but mortal. The Scriptures don’t speak of a mortal soul, but instead, point us to the seat of all emotions and rationality. And the rational and emotional parts of man, the invisible, immaterial parts, exist to remind us that not all of man is mortal. Jesus says in Matthew 10:28 that, while man can kill the body, he cannot kill the soul. This statement alone proves the immortality of the soul.
Fudge’s main premise in Conditional Immortality, however, concerns the fate of the wicked, what happens to the wicked when they are judged by God. Fudge holds to some measure of conscious torment of the wicked but argues it is temporary and that humans are then physically annihilated afterward and “cease to be.” He uses poetic language from Scripture where James would say that “as the flower fades away, so does the rich man” to argue that man is equivalent to the flower and is thus “crushed” as the flower is.
Of course, Jesus says in the Gospels that man is much more important than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:26, 30), so man can’t be annihilated in the same way as the birds and flowers. Man has an immortal soul, a soul that lives on when the body returns to the dust. The birds and flowers do not. This is a qualitative distinction Conditional Immortalists/Annihilationists/Conditionalists fail to grasp.
Richardson is no stranger to Edward Fudge, as she has engaged him at a personal blog of hers around 5-6 years ago, so she’s encountered his argument along the way. But her stake in this debate concerns the gospel. “The gospel is at stake,” she said in an interview. “When one side of believers is telling the traditionalists that the eternal Hell fire is temporary and that the wicked cease to be afterward, it is damaging to the gospel. How can the wicked fear the wrath of God when Conditional Immortalists soften the eternal judgment with promises that the fire is temporary in nature? How can conditional immortalists argue temporary torment for the wicked in eternity, yet advocate eternal bliss for the righteous? The logic of Conditional Immortality, and its attempt to build a scriptural defense, leaves a lot to be desired.”
Richardson says that the title of her book shouldn’t be missed. “I titled my book Terror Of The Lord because the phrase itself is taken from the very words of Scripture, 2 Corinthians 5:11. In that chapter, Paul writes about believers being clothed with immortal bodies (he assumes immortal souls but doesn’t mention it) and he mentions that, ‘knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.’ We evangelize, warn, teach, and preach for men and women to be saved because, as Paul says, believers know God’s terror, how bad it’s going to be. If it’s all going to be temporary, what need is there to evangelize at all? What do men need to fear if the torment ‘isn’t as bad as traditionalists believe it is,’ a view held by Conditional Immortalists? Immortal souls are at stake in how we articulate the gospel.”
Pastor D.M. is the author of five other books. Her very first book, Short-Sighted Faith: Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS) and the Doctrine of Perseverance, tackles the Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS) doctrine and its erroneous interpretations, as she points to a number of passages that assume one can fall away from salvation. The book makes the case that either OSAS is right or the classical Arminian view of apostasy is correct; both can’t be right.
In books 2 and 3, titled Doctrinal Deception: Responding to Carlton Pearson’s The Gospel of Inclusion and More Doctrinal Deception: Bishop Carlton Pearson’s Inclusion, Further Examined, Richardson responds to the arguments of a universalist, former Pentecostal Bishop and Gospel Music-recording artist Carlton Pearson, who has turned from the traditional doctrine on Hell to the idea that Hell is metaphorical and not literal.
Book 4 is Richardson’s informal Arminian Theology, titled Lydia’s Heart: The Case for Prevenient Grace, where Richardson proves through a number of discussions that Hell, for instance, was not prepared for humanity but for the Devil and the fallen angels. And yet, the wicked are allowed to go to Hell not because of divine predestination or divine reprobation/damnation but because of man’s hard-heartedness and his refusal to repent and believe the gospel.
Book 5, Theo-LOGICAL: Understanding Calvinism and Arminianism, is written as an introduction to these two salvation systems (Calvinism and Arminianism) and their modified counterparts (4-point Calvinism, 4-point Arminianism). Richardson uses Jesus’ discourses with the Pharisees to arrive at God Logic and then uses God Logic to assess these theological systems — whether they’re internally coherent and consistent or not.
Terror Of The Lord: Critiquing Conditional Immortality, Answering Annihilationism’s Apologists is now available for pre-order at Amazon.com on Kindle (230 pages). The book will see its official release on Christmas Day 2019 alongside the paperback version (450 pages) for $40.00.
Richardson says that she’s not done with the year just yet. She plans to release the world’s first Reformed Arminian acronym (along with the titles of five Arminian doctrines on salvation) in honor of the Word of God and the memory of Dutch Reformed theologian, James Arminius, on Christmas Day as well. Pre-orders for the upcoming Reformed Arminian theology will commence October 10th.
For more information, you can follow Pastor D.M.’s Amazon Author page.