Conditional Immortality is Biblical
I, as the Pro in this debate, agree with this idea and challenge Con to defend the traditional idea that the soul is naturally immortal.
Round one is for acceptance.
Also, I will be using the Bible as my main source in this debate. I hope that Con will do the same.
As stated in round one, I believe that the Bible supports the idea that the soul is naturally mortal.
The first Biblical evidence I'll use is found in Genesis 3:22* which says "Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever"" This passage gives the idea that mankind would only become immortal after eating from the tree of life.
I'll sum this up with a question: Where in the Bible does it explicitly state that the soul (and therefore man) is naturally immortal?
Thanks for posting this debate. I too look forward to this interesting discussion.
Starting off, it is important to clarify the two positions of the pro and con. Pro: Contrary to the belief of an immortal human soul (a soul that survives past the death of the body), Conditional Immortality argues that immortality can only be achieved through the judgment of the Divine: the one and only being who is truly immortal.
In laymen’s terms, this argument is simple: God has the power to grant the human soul immortality, but this isn’t guaranteed (or natural for the soul). Those who accept Jesus Christ will continue to exist through eternal salvation, while those who reject Jesus Christ will die, no longer existing in any physical or spiritual form.
This contrasts with the idea of hell, which is popular in many forms of contemporary Christianity. As the Pro correctly points out, Conditional Immortality rejects this idea because the soul is only immortal through the acceptance of Jesus Christ. Since eternal damnation implies an immortal soul is required to experience an eternity of punishment, Conditional Immortality must reject this view.
Now to the Con’s position. First, it’s important to recognize that as Con, I’ve been asked to “defend the traditional idea that the soul is naturally immortal”. Given the common idea of an immortal soul within many forms of Christianity, and Pro framing this debate using Christian interpretations, I will use a mainstream, Christian interpretation of immortal souls.
This interpretation can best be summed up in the Westminster Confession1: a reformed confession of faith made in 1646 by the Church of England that remains influential for many forms of Christianity world-wide. The Westminster Confession defines the soul and the outcomes of accepting/rejecting Jesus Christ as this:
“The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption: but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them: the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect of holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day.” (Chapter 32)
Simple put: souls are immortal and will either go to heaven or hell. Pro raises a very important question: where in the Bible does this idea come from? The answer: it doesn’t. While most Christian faiths believe in an immortal soul, most biblical scholars agree that specific references to this idea are absent within the bible2.
So what gives? No religion exists within a vacuum. In other words, Christian beliefs aren’t born solely and directly out of the Bible. Early Christianity was influenced both from its Hebrew roots3, and ancient Greek philosophy4. Several early Christian writers touched on the influence of Greek philosophy, including:
Clement of Alexandria5 – "Philosophy has been given to the Greeks as their own kind of Covenant, their foundation for the philosophy of Christ ... the philosophy of the Greeks ... contains the basic elements of that genuine and perfect knowledge which is higher than human ... even upon those spiritual objects."
Eusebius6 – “But when I read those books of the Platonists I was taught by them to seek incorporeal truth, so I saw your 'invisible things, understood by the things that are made’.”
Immortal Soul Arguments
In defending the traditional idea of the Immortal Soul, I’m required to draw from these influences unless I want to commit a fallacy against my own position. The idea of an immortal soul found its way into Christian thought primarily from the teachings of Socrates and Plato7. In Plato’s Phaedo, Socrates distinguishes between two kinds of “things”8: things that are “perceptible, composed of parts, and subject to dissolution and destruction”, and things that are “ not perceptible, but intelligible (grasped by thought), not composed of parts, and exempt from dissolution and destruction.”
A relevant example of this idea would be the difference between Man and God. Man is perceptible: humans can be seen and destroyed. God is not perceptible: we can neither see God nor destroy God. From this distinction, Socrates argues that through logic, the “genuine and perfect knowledge which is higher than human” according to Clement, a soul must be immortal. He makes four arguments to support this claim:
These are some fairly complex arguments to make, so I’m going to end with a basic summary of my position and the challenges this position presents to Conditional Immortality.
First, I can’t adequately defend the con’s position (the traditional idea of immortality) from Biblical grounds alone because this traditional idea doesn’t stem from this source. The Greek influences that many modern Christian faiths draw from are important. Furthermore, my evidence above highlights that many Christian historians and theologians found divine knowledge and the pursuit of spiritual truth to be at the very core of this philosophy.
Second, drawing from this philosophy, the soul is a unique, immaterial thing that, if we accept even the Conditional Immortality’s view of, can’t be mortal. Using this view alone, a soul is something that, through the salvation of Jesus Christ, can live forever while retaining a continued existence (i.e. retaining the same memories, thoughts, preferences, etc). Many ancient Greeks, and many Christian faiths, viewed the soul as something separate from the body, capable of holding knowledge and using the body to experience the material world.
If Conditional Immortality wants to maintain its position, it has to grant these qualities about the soul in order to allow for eternal salvation. If my soul can’t retain the things that defined my experiences in life, then my resurrection would be like hitting the reset button. If my soul isn’t in control of my body, then my body could go on living after the annihilation of my soul.
Finally, if Conditional Immortality upholds these qualities about the soul, then Socrates’ arguments for an immortal soul generates some complex questions Conditional Immortality needs to account for. How can a soul be made in the image of God, be immeasurable yet knowable like all other “not perceivable” things, and yet be destructible? If souls fall into this same general category of things as God, then how can they ever possess the opposite of their defining feature? Can God ever be imperfect? Can God ever possess the opposite of being all-powerful? If no, then how can a soul possess the opposite of life & life giving properties?
Furthermore, how can souls carry knowledge and experience into death through salvation, but not carry knowledge and experience into life for the things we know a priori (before)? If a body is capable of life, death, and life again through resurrection, like a human is capable of waking, sleeping, and waking again as long as his body continues to exist, then how can anything move through death without the constant of an immortal soul?
There are logical properties the soul must have in order to be called a “soul” that Conditional Immorality fails to explain, and that the traditional view accounts for. Therefore, a “conditionally immortal” soul simply can’t exist unless the Pro can show how and why our most fundamental concept of the soul (beyond whether it’s mortal or immortal) must be changed.
Con stated that "christian beliefs aren't born solely and directly out of the Bible... Several early Christian writers touched on the influence of Greek philosophy..." I disagree with the first part of this statement. I believe that Christian beliefs were born completely from the Bible. However, I don't deny the fact that Christianity has since been heavily influenced by many other philosophies, including Plato's immortal soul theory*. Nevertheless, the Bible has it's own teachings about the soul that are separate from Plato's ideas. I'd be happy to go into detail regarding these teachings in another round, but I'll dedicate my thoughts in this round to Plato's ideas.
Refutation of Plato's ideas as listed by Con:
"Affinity Argument." He who categorizes things in this manner commits a serious fallacy. The simple idea that the category an object is placed in characterizes said object is easily refuted. For instance, birds are placed in the category of 'Flying Animals.' The affinity argument claims that all birds must therefore, fly. But what about the penguin? It's a bird and yet it does not fly. This is because it isn't the ability of flight that characterizes a bird as a bird. In this example, the penguin represents the soul and birds in general represent those things which are not perceptible. Basically: just because the soul isn't perceptible does not mean that it follows the same rules as other "thought only" objects.
"Recollection Argument." The validity of this argument is based entirely on "a common assumption." Are common assumptions a valid base upon which to place truth? History says otherwise. Great numbers of people often assume the same incorrect "fact." This website lists a few of them: http://www.rd.com...
"Cyclical Argument." This argument give no actual evidence that the soul survives after it's served as the 'constant' for human life.
"Form of life Argument." I agree with the supporting evidence for this argument (three can never be an even number, love can't be hate), but I've already addressed the idea of the soul fitting into the non-perceptible world and my refutation of it in the Affinity Argument section.
*this is a side note which doesn't have much to do with the debate, I just wanted to throw it out there. My opponent referenced both Plato and Socrates as sources when he listed the arguments found in 'Phaedo.' It's basically redundant to cite both of these philosophers when referring to Plato's works. There is no evidence that the Socrates found in Plato's writings holds the views shared by the real Socrates. They were probably Plato's personal views that he put in the mouth of the book version of his teacher.
Once again, the Pro raises some interesting issues in this debate. I’ll keep things simple by going down his list of critiques.
The Scope Of This Debate
There seems to be some clash around the parameters of this debate. Pro points out that we’re debating whether Conditional Immortality is biblical or not, which in part I agree with. However, let’s look at the Pro’s original challenge in Round One:
“I, as the Pro in this debate, agree with this idea [Conditional Immortality] and challenge Con to defend the traditional idea that the soul is naturally immortal.”
This suggests a greater burden on the Pro than simply “proving” it’s biblical. To agree with something on the Pro suggests arguing for it, as the Con has been challenged to argue for an opposing idea. If the scope of this debate were just around the biblicalness of Conditional Immortality, I, as the Con, would simply have to “disprove” this position, which doesn’t require defending the traditional idea of an immortal soul. It just involves attacking Conditional Immortality.
Since the Con was challenged to strictly defend the traditional idea, I argue that this debate goes beyond the mere biblicalness of Conditional Immortality, given the requirements the Pro set forth in round one. Obviously, if the Pro wants to defend this idea through biblical references, as he did in round two, that’s his choice.
Revisiting Biblical Reference To An Immortal Soul
The Pro is attempting to argue that I’ve essentially “given him the round” by admitting that the Bible makes no specific reference to an immortal soul. First, let’s look at my statement beyond what the Pro quotes:
“…where in the Bible does this idea come from? The answer: it doesn’t. While most Christian faiths believe in an immortal soul, most biblical scholars agree that specific references to this idea are absent within the bible2.”
First, apply my previous argument about the scope of this debate to my defense here: just because it’s not directly stated in the Bible doesn’t automatically discount it as an idea. To ask the Con to defend this idea from the bible alone, when this traditional view was not strictly born in the Bible, would be an extremely abusive act on the Pro’s part.
Moving forward, if you don’t accept this line of argument, at least consider this. My original point was that the Bible never specifically references this idea, much like it never specifically references the exact theory that Conditional Immortality argues for. This doesn’t automatically mean that an idea such as an immortal soul can’t exist within the teachings of the Bible. I will be demonstrating this point more in my defense of Christianity’s Greek influence.
Finally, the Pro is attempting to win this argument on an over-simplified logic fallacy: either Conditional Immortality is biblical, or the Traditional View is biblical. This discounts any other possible option without any sort of logical reasoning. Case in point: the soul may not be immortal at all… or may not even exist. Most importantly, whether something is biblical or not doesn’t answer the greater challenge the Pro initially set forth for both sides.
Greek Influence In Christianity
The Pro seemed dissatisfied with my reasoning for bringing in Greek philosophy to challenge the logical inconsistencies with Conditional Immortality. He argues that, contrary to what the various biblical scholars/theologians I’ve cited argue, Christian beliefs do come directly from the Bible. Let’s consider this argument a bit further.
The Pro “believes that Christian beliefs were born completely from the Bible.” If this is the true, and current mainstream Christian faiths believe in an immortal soul going to Heaven or Hell, then these beliefs must come from the Bible. Keep in mind, I demonstrate the second point in round two through my example of the Westminster Confession, which the Pro hasn’t challenged. Unfortunately, we can’t accept both of these premises without creating an interesting paradox. If beliefs come strictly from the Bible, and I’ve demonstrated that this traditional view is never directly mentioned in the Bible, then how can any mainstream Christian faith believe in this view? Do all these faiths actually believe in Conditional Immortality? If so, then why isn’t Conditional Immorality the “traditional view”? Or perhaps the Bible actually does directly mention the traditional view of an immortal soul, and I just missed it. If so, is that a point for Con?
The point is, the Pro’s belief that the Bible is the sole influence on Christian beliefs goes against what most Christian faiths currently believe in. As I’ve demonstrated, the Bible makes no specific reference to the traditional idea of an immortal soul, and yet it’s a cornerstone belief of many Christian faiths. The Pro can’t reconcile this discrepancy under his own logic, but the answer is simple. All of the biblical scholars/theologians are actually right: Christian beliefs have been influenced by sources outside of biblical scripture.
Even if the Pro wants to maintain this distinction between the Bible and Greek influence, let’s examine the Bible itself. Take, for example, the concept of Hell. In the New Testament, a few passages that directly mention the presence of Hell include1:
All of these passages describe a place of eternal damnation, which sits quite well with the traditional idea of an immortal soul. Interestingly enough, we also find references to Greek translations of hell:
On Gehenna (Greek for “the fires of hell”) and Tartarus (Greek for “lower regions”):
2 Peter 2:4
It seems that we can’t easily dismiss these Greek influences, even within the Bible, which all argue for an immortal soul that can be sent to Hell for eternal judgment.
Finally, to address my opponent’s critiques on Socrate’s four arguments:
1 & 4. Pro argues that some things don’t fit within overall categories, as in a flightless penguin. Socrates is only arguing for things that are perceptible and not perceptible (you can either observe something or can’t). Using the Pro’s own example: “all birds are perceptible”… proving the Pro’s point would require a bird that doesn’t exist in this material world.
2. Pro challenges my argument because of the common assumption that people retain their identity in Heaven. Perhaps the Pro would like to offer counter evidence as to why this isn’t a component of the traditional idea of an immortal soul?
3. Pro is asking for evidence that the soul survives after being the constant for human life. First, this isn’t exactly what the argument is saying: the soul survives as the constant for human life, not after. Second, science has been working on the whole “evidence” and “proof” thing for many Christian beliefs… starting with the proof of God’s existence. I’ll wait until that challenge is tackled before finding proof for the human soul. Socrates’ arguments survive on the logic I explained in round two.
Finally, in his side note, the Pro seems dissatisfied that I haven’t cited Socrates directly. I’d be happy to, if he had in fact written anything down to begin with. All of Socrates’ teachings are only available through the writings of students who came after, particularly Plato. This has been sufficient for the generations of philosophers who’ve followed, and should be sufficient for this debate.
To wrap up: I have defended why the Pro’s initial challenge for both sides must go beyond the simple biblicalness of each idea. I demonstrated how the Pro’s belief that Christian beliefs come solely from the Bible contradicts both contemporary theologian literature, and the reality of mainstream Christian faiths that believe in an immortal soul. I’ve shown how the Greek influence I introduced in round two actually exists within the Bible, and describes the presence of a Hell that requires an immortal soul for eternal damnation. Finally, I challenged the Pro’s critiques of Socrates’ logical support for an immortal soul.
I’m looking forward to round four.
Revisiting Socrates Arguments:
I will address the critique of the critique
1 & 4. Whether or not penguins are perceptible was not the point I concerned with. It was an analogy to try and show that the catagory doesn't characterize the subject.
2. I agree with Con that people retaining their identity in heaven is a component of the traditional idea regarding the soul. What I was saying is that common assumption doesn't make this component true.
3. Fair play. However, I would like to add that simply because the soul survives death doesn't mean it survives eternally.
As for Con's side note on my side note: I, once again, have been misunderstood. I wasn't saying that Socrates should be directly sited (I understand the impossibility of this), I was saying that he shouldn't be sited at all when it comes to Plato's dialogues.
Greek influence in Christianity.
To quote my opponent "The Pro seemed dissatisfied with my reasoning for bringing in Greek philosophy to challenge the logical inconsistencies with Conditional Immortality. He argues that, contrary to what the various biblical scholars/theologians I"ve cited argue, Christian beliefs do come directly from the Bible." What I actually said was that Christian beliefs were BORN from the Bible. They certainly have been influenced by many philosophies, but they did not start this way.
Round four... ready, set, go!
Scope Of The Resolution
Both the Pro and Con seem to be on the same page now regarding the scope of the debate.
1 & 4. Penguins being perceptible is the analogy that closer relates to Socrates' categories of "perceptible" and "not perceptible". Just because one subject (penguins) doesn't fit in a category (flight) doesn't mean that all categories/subject pairs will be flawed. Socrates' categories are meant to describe a basic ontological property of all everything that divides the material world and spiritual world.
2. Granted, common assumption doesn't make a component necessarily true, however I'm not concerned with the absolute truth of a retained identity, but that it is a component of the traditional idea of an immortal soul. The point remains: no reset button is pressed when you get into heaven... if this button was pressed, then you'd have no recollection of the actions/reasons that got you into heaven in the first place.
3. The idea that a soul survives death without eternal existence is a far fetched notion that isn't found in the traditional view of the soul, nor Conditional Immortality as far as I'm familiar with. Further more, as my biblical quotes on Hell point out, it's kind of an eternal sentence. You don't go to Hell for a few years and then just die. Neither is this true for Heaven.
Socrates As A Reference
My apologies if my summary communicated a misunderstanding, but even concerning the Pro's argument that Socrates shouldn't be cited in reference to Plato's dialogues, my original argument still stands: there is no way to cite Socrates otherwise. More importantly, this doesn't provide a solid reason for why we ought to reject Socrates' arguments in this debate. Plato's dialogues are simply a secondary source for Socrates' ideas.
Let's revist the Pro's original argument: "There is no evidence that the Socrates found in Plato's writings holds the views shared by the real Socrates. They were probably Plato's personal views that he put in the mouth of the book version of his teacher."
If we accept this logic, then we might as well erase Socrates from the field of philosophy altogether. More importantly, if we're going to remain consistent with this logic, then lets erase the Christian faith. Where exactly did Jesus or God pen their own words within the Bible? How is it that ten commandments that Moses brought down weren't probably his personal views that he put into the mouth of the stone version of his creator?
Once again, I apologize for not being more nuanced in my summary of the Pro's argument. Christian beliefs are born out of the Bible... great. As my refutation demonstrates, however, the Greek influence I speak of is in the Bible, and have a connection with the descriptions of Hell that hint at the necessity of an immortal soul. Therefore, even if we want to trace all Christian beliefs to the source of the Bible, these Greek influences remain.
Once again, I've mainly concenrated on the critiques of the Pro on Socrates' arguments. I've demonstrated why these critiques are argumentatively unfounded, and more importantly fail to dismiss the challenge that Socrates' sets forth on the idea of a mortal soul. Hopefully the Pro will find my characterizations of the Socrates-as-a-reference issue, and the Greek influence issue satisfactory, and will see the logic in my responses.
I'll dedicate this last round mainly to addressing some Bible passages used by Con in round 3 and throwing a few more out there myself. I'll end with a very brief final look at Socrates arguments.
What does "Hell" mean:
A lot of the New Testament of the Bible was written in Greek, which leads to the reason why the term "hell" is found there. There were several different terms (Hades, Sheol, Gehenna) which were all translated in English as Hell. This was a bit of a mistake, as each of these words has a separate meaning attached to it. These can be found, I believe, in any dictionary.
Eternal "Hell" verses:
I believe that many of the verses presented by Con (Mark 9:43, Jude 7, Matthew 25:41, 2 Peter 2:4) have been misinterpreted because 'Natural Immortality' has become such a common presupposition. None of these verses mentions people/souls surviving for eternity. Some of them mention eternal fire, but not the eternal survival of those thrown in the fire.
1, 2 & 4. I don't think there's much more I can say regarding these points.
3. Con stated that "The idea that a soul survives death without eternal existence is a far fetched notion that isn't found in the traditional view of the soul, nor Conditional Immortality as far as I'm familiar with." This is, in fact, the whole point of Conditional Immortality. The soul survives the death of the body and then either lives or dies, depending on where you end up.
I want to thank Con for a great debate! I appreciate him sticking with this debate and it's drifting topic.
Thanks for a good debate. I'll be addressing the Pro's final critiques, and then wrapping up this debate with an overall summary.
Even though the Pro never brought these critiques up the round after I made these arguments, I will address these issues nonetheless. Just to summarize: first, the Pro argued that the Greek terms I cited actually reference a variety of terms, and therefore can't be grouped under the general translation of "hell". Second, the Pro argued that many of the verses I've presented have been misinterpreted since some only mention eternal fire instead of external survival.
If we look back to round 3, we can see that I originally introduced these verses to demonstrate the connection between the Bible and its Greek influences. This was in response to the disagreement between Christian beliefs and the biblical vacuum, where I was arguing that the very source of Christian beliefs had Greek influences. Now then, the Pro seems to recognize this point, and even highlights the fact that the New Testament was originally written in Greek. What we have to see here is simple: any notion of Hell and eternal damnation isn't just from "Natural Immortality" becoming a common presupposition. These concepts of Hell were present within both Greek culture and the Biblical references to eternal damnation.
Furthermore, recognize that I never claimed that these terms all translated into "Hell". In fact, I gave direct translations which included "eternal fires" and "lower regions". Specifically, these translations are refering to aspects of Hell, and therefore describe the concept as opposed to simply refering to Hell as a location. Granted, as the Pro claims, some of the verses I cited only reference eternal fires. Others, however, make reference to the eternal nature of those who are sent there: Revelation 14:11 refers to "no rest day or night" for those who've sinned; Acts 2:27 refers to the abandoning of one's soul to Hades; 2 Peter 2:4 refers to "chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment". These verses describe aspects of a Hell that are consistent with eternal damnation: abandoning a soul vs. destroying it; casting a soul to chains to be kept until the judgment; giving a soul no rest day or not. None of these verses allow for a soul to simply "die" as Conditional Immortality suggests.
The pro only offered one final critique on Socrates' third argument (the necessary constant presence of a soul) by arguing that Conditional Immortality means a soul survives physical death, and then can die. This is the first time such a distinction is being made. The Pro never distinguished between the soul surviving physical death, or simply dying with the body in the opening rounds. Furthermore, the Pro doesn't offer any support for this distinction. Finally, this interpretation of Conditional Immortality still fails to escape the illogical inconsistencies of Socrates' other arguments that the Pro stops critiquing. My final summary will address the importance of this point.
What we have here is a concept of a "conditionally immortal soul" that fails to overcome the illogical inconsistencies of a mortal soul. I've shown where the influence of Greek thought and belief has impacted both the Bible and Christian beliefs, and how the notion of a mortal soul raises many problematic issues. A constant, immortal soul is required to accept the eternal salvation people who accept Christian mandates will gain. A constant, immortal soul is necessary to give and preseve the life of one's identity and very existence - the same identity/existence that is carried over into this eternal salvation.
Once again, thanks for a good debate!