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on December 12, 2001
The meretricious devotion this author holds toward canonized scripture humors me, as does that of his far greater predecessors in the conditional immortality debate. His work is by no means revolutionary, and without having read it, I can already recommend better authors in his field. (Dr. Leroy Froom, for example, whose works are put at the forefront.) Invariably, the usual arguments catch the laity off guard, but genuine biblical scholars of orthodox theology are not led astray by the heresy of ultimate annihilation, anthropological monism, or conditionalism.
Is conditionalism an ancient doctrine? Yes, and the origins are readily available. To briefly summarize what would otherwise be several volumes of refutation, conditional immortality was originally advocated by Arnobious of Sicca- c. 327 C.E., whose personal record as a Christian apologist is amongst the most pitiful, albeit entertaining, in clerical history. Also hailed as Arnobious the Elder, he was an enemy of both Judaism (Unlike Paul) and Christianity and a proponent of Asiatic mysticysm. According to the tale told by his subsequent disciples, Arnobious met a spiritual Jesus after awakening from a bad dream, who transformed the mystic into a self proclaimed sage, endowing him with the knowledge of God apart from scriptural reading. Rather than acknowledging mainstream Christianity, Arnobious opened his own school and taught his remarkable "dream" philosophies in Sicca, Africa, where he wrote a flawed, though sincere, theological treatise titled "Against the Pagans" c. 305 C.E. In this work, conditionalism, annihilation, and anthropological-monism appear for the first time in Christian history. Amazingly, Arnobious confounded the Pharisees with the Sadducees in several references to Jewish sects, and quoted the New Testament only ONCE in the treatise. As Catholic Friar Jurgen comments, the treatise does hold water- not in the realm of theological truth, but certainly in its revealed information about the cults of the time. This is the historical basis for conditionalism.
On the purported claim that immortal soulism was derived from Greco mythology and Platonism, such an idea is true only for those without knowledge of Judaic sects of Essene or Kabbalist, both of which held to the doctrine of an immaterial, immortal spirit. Contrary to what conditionalist scholars would have you believe, Orthodox Judaism itself has always taught immortal soulism, and rabbinical interpretation of the Old Testament does not find man and beast to be equal. Let it never be said, therefore, that the Hebrew Bible does not teach immortal soulism, on the contrary, those to whom it belongs find it amusing that conditionalists unable to speak Hebrew consider themselves expert on a Hebraic eschatology. (It should come as no surprise, since conditionalists also rate themselves as the sole beneficiaries of Y-w-h's irrevocable blessings to the Jews. How strange they cannot grasp the Old Testament's clearly defined salvation of Israel, while nonetheless being able to comprehend nebulous doctrines inferred by "divine inference".) As for the human soul in Hebrew, the solitary "nephesh" is contextualized, but with blatant arrogance, conditionalists assume their fragmented knowledge is somehow supplemented by divine illumination- in combination, of course, with the authority of Arnobious the Dreamer. On this threefold foundation rests every claim of conditionalism; the dogma gains momentum by its humane appeal to modern society. Yet as a fly in the face of both mainstream Christianity AND Judaism, conditionalists maintain a long tradition of denying reality, whilst usurping the texts of two major religions. (I suppose at least it speaks for the short lived worth of Arnobious's own text.) (...) There's little doubt I know more about his own theories than the author of the book.