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Mortality of the soul


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#1 Eric Todd

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 12:25 AM

In a number of the Fathers, we read that immortality is bestowed by God alone. This stands in contrast to Platonic notions of a dichotomy between the mortal body and the natually immortal soul. For example, St. Iranaeus writes:

"For life does not arise from us, nor from our own nature; but it is bestowed according to the grace of God. And therefore he who shall preserve the life bestowed upon him, and give thanks to Him who imparted it, shall receive also length of days for ever and ever. But he who shall reject it, and prove himself ungrateful to his Maker, inasmuch as he has been created, and has not recognised Him who bestowed [the gift upon him], deprives himself of [the privilege of] continuance for ever and ever. And, for this reason, the Lord declared to those who showed themselves ungrateful towards Him: If you have not been faithful in that which is little, who will give you that which is great? indicating that those who, in this brief temporal life, have shown themselves ungrateful to Him who bestowed it, shall justly not receive from Him length of days for ever and ever." (St Iranaeus, Against Heresies, II. 34)

To what extent do patristic sources give support to the notion of a "conditional immortality", that is, that souls in Hell following the Final Judgement will be mortal and cease to exist, not because God will annihilate them, but rather, because they cannot exist apart from God's sustaining presence?

Excuse me if this has been treated before--I did not find any threads.

#2 Mina Soliman

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 10:40 PM

Contrary to the views expressed by some interpreters of Irenaeus, it seems evident, as Francois Vernet has shown, that he taught a double immortality-that of existence and that of happiness.18 Each depends on the power of God. It is He who creates the soul, and it is He who preserves it. But whereas all without exception are given immortal existence, only those who are in Christ enjoy immortal happiness.19 On this basis, Irenaeus distinguished between the resurrection of the righteous and the resurrection of the wicked.

 

from http://www.biblicals.../1969-1_030.pdf

 

It seems to me that that it's one thing to say we are prone to non-existence, since we are made from non-existence.  But St. Irenaeus also confirms that while it is "He who preserves it", "all without exception are given immortal existence."



#3 Eric Todd

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 11:40 PM

from http://www.biblicals.../1969-1_030.pdf

It seems to me that that it's one thing to say we are prone to non-existence, since we are made from non-existence. But St. Irenaeus also confirms that while it is "He who preserves it", "all without exception are given immortal existence."


These authors below, supporters of Conditional Immortality, address the arguments you presented and dismiss them:

26. For our part, we do not know how any man of honest mind and common understanding can put a second meaning upon this long extract from Irenaeus. There are, however, men who stand deservedly high in estimation who do put a second meaning upon these words. Dr. Roberts, the translator of Irenaeus, gives the following annotation upon them: "As Massuet observes, this statement is to be understood in harmony with the repeated assertion of Irenaeus that the wicked will exist in misery for ever. It refers not to annihilation, but to deprivation of happiness."

27. We will merely say that we have read Irenaeus and have never met with any assertion of his that "the wicked shall exist in misery for ever." We will add that if such an assertion of his could be adduced it would only prove that Irenaeus contradicted himself as many men have done. We will lay down our indignant protest against a principle of interpretation which would make words of no use whatsoever to convey meaning. To tell us that "existence," and "continuance," spoken in the very same connection of the "enduring" of sun and moon and soul and spirit, mean "happiness " whether learned editors tell us this to save their author's consistency, or to prop up any favourite theory of their own— is just to tell us that we may cease the use of words altogether, because they may have any meaning that any one may choose to put upon them. To say that "sweet" means "bitter," or that "light" means "darkness," is just as allowable a use of words as to say that the "enduring" and "continuing" of one of God's works, such as the sun in the sky or the human soul, means, "the happiness" of these works. We dismiss such interpretation as an insult to our common understanding. http://www.truthacco...t/chapter17.php

Both of our sources are from heterodox Christians. Since Iranaeus is at times somewhat contradictory on this subject, I wonder if anyone here knows of Orthodox patristics studies of Conditional Immortality?

#4 Owen Jones

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 03:20 AM

The Platonic symbolisms regarding soul/body/immortality are not that different than the Christian.  That's why Christians, beginning at least with St. Paul, found it very easy to adopt a number of the concepts, and apply them to their own Christian experience.  The "dichotomies" between soul and body are pretty extreme in fact in a number of the saints of the Church.  Also, while it is said that a number of saints have been given a glimpse into heaven itself, and while they speculate based on experiences that we have a high degree of confidence in, it's still what you might call speculative theology.  That is, it does not fall in the area of a Conciliar statement of dogma.  So I think we have to read them for the spiritual power and benefit they confer.  For example, the above quote by Irenaeus.  He is urging us to be grateful.  The statement is primarily about gratitude and how being grateful not only is the proper attitude that we should take toward our creator, but it has benefits.  And a lack of gratitude thereby has its consequences as well.  So it gets back to the question:  is life, which we can all agree is something that we did not create ourselves, a blessing or a curse?  How you respond to that question will determine your destiny, both in this life and in the next.  So it is the spiritual message and the spiritual power of the message that we ought to be open to, and not try to nail down the facts of the case like Sergeant Friday.  And by hearing the spiritual message we are changed, so that it becomes self-fulfilling. 


Edited by Owen Jones, 02 February 2013 - 03:22 AM.


#5 Eric Todd

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 07:38 PM

For example, the above quote by Irenaeus.  He is urging us to be grateful.  The statement is primarily about gratitude and how being grateful not only is the proper attitude that we should take toward our creator, but it has benefits.  And a lack of gratitude thereby has its consequences as well.  So it gets back to the question:  is life, which we can all agree is something that we did not create ourselves, a blessing or a curse?  How you respond to that question will determine your destiny, both in this life and in the next.  So it is the spiritual message and the spiritual power of the message that we ought to be open to, and not try to nail down the facts of the case like Sergeant Friday. And by hearing the spiritual message we are changed, so that it becomes self-fulfilling. 


I have no problem with your reading St. Irenaeus as such. However, for the person who wonders what will become of unrepentant souls, this may be unsatisfactory. St. Irenaeus, St Justin Martyr and other Fathers appear to believe that unrepentant souls are somehow mortal, thereby rejecting the Platonistic view of the unconditional immortality of the soul. Is that an orthodox doctrine?

#6 Owen Jones

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Posted 04 February 2013 - 03:16 PM

No, there is not, to my knowledge, an Orthodox doctrine, i.e. Conciliar statement, on the mortality/immortality of the soul.  However, I could be wrong on this and people here who are learned in the Church Councils should be able to tell us.  But I suspect that there is an Orthodox doctrine that is not per se, that the Church has a tradition that it agrees upon.  St. John of Damascus is a reliable source in this:   


We shall therefore rise again, our souls being once more united with our
bodies, now made incorruptible and having put off corruption, and we
shall stand beside the awful judgment-seat of Christ: and the devil and
his demons and the man that is his, that is the Antichrist and the
impious and the sinful, will be given over to everlasting fire: not
material fire (6) like our fire, but such fire as God would know. But
those who have done good will shine forth as the sun with the angels
into life eternal, with our Lord Jesus Christ, ever seeing Him and being
in His sight and deriving unceasing joy from Him, praising Him with the
Father and the Holy Spirit throughout the limitless ages of ages (7).
Amen.
 

This is pretty standard Orthodox dogma.

 

Now, if you wish to base your understanding on the language of existence and non-existence, in the tradition of St. Dionysius and St. Maximos, it gets a little tricky.  We have to understand what they mean by existence.  For example, St. Maximos says that it is possible to relapse into a state of non-existence.  What does that mean?  It likely does not mean that we disappear into thin air.  The problem lies with contemporary convention concerning the term existence.



#7 Eric Todd

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Posted 04 February 2013 - 06:49 PM

No, there is not, to my knowledge, an Orthodox doctrine, i.e. Conciliar statement, on the mortality/immortality of the soul.  However, I could be wrong on this and people here who are learned in the Church Councils should be able to tell us.  But I suspect that there is an Orthodox doctrine that is not per se, that the Church has a tradition that it agrees upon.  St. John of Damascus is a reliable source in this:   We shall therefore rise again, our souls being once more united with ourbodies, now made incorruptible and having put off corruption, and weshall stand beside the awful judgment-seat of Christ: and the devil andhis demons and the man that is his, that is the Antichrist and theimpious and the sinful, will be given over to everlasting fire: notmaterial fire (6) like our fire, but such fire as God would know. Butthose who have done good will shine forth as the sun with the angelsinto life eternal, with our Lord Jesus Christ, ever seeing Him and beingin His sight and deriving unceasing joy from Him, praising Him with theFather and the Holy Spirit throughout the limitless ages of ages (7).Amen..


Thank you, that is helpful. The "everlasting" or "unquenchable" fire seems to be the typical Orthodox metaphor. What happens to souls when they encounter this non material fire--whether they are mortal or immortal--I guess depends on the Father in question.

#8 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 06:23 AM

Without much time to write at present, it is perhaps worth mentioning that the Sunday of the Last Judgement, which will be upon us before too long, contains a rich collection of imagery that relates directly to this question. The hymns of the day from the Triodion are available in our library.



#9 Eric Todd

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 09:15 AM

Without much time to write at present, it is perhaps worth mentioning that the Sunday of the Last Judgement, which will be upon us before too long, contains a rich collection of imagery that relates directly to this question. The hymns of the day from the Triodion are available in our library.


That's rather terrifying. For this discussion, this is the most relevant part:

"I shudder in terror when I think of that dreadful day;
I weep as I consider the darkness that will never see light:
There the worm shall not cease, or the fire be quenched;
The pain of those who reject Thee will never end.!"

This could be understood a number of ways, it seems.

#10 AnthonyKana

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 12:32 PM

So in conclusion is the Soul Mortal ? or Immortal ?



#11 Eric Todd

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 10:29 PM

Based on my reading of some of the ante-Nicene Fathers, everything is mortal apart from God, both body and soul. For example St Irenaeus writes:

"2. And to as many as continue in their love towards God, does He grant communion with Him. But communion with God is life and light, and the enjoyment of all the benefits which He has in store. But on as many as, according to their own choice, depart from God, He inflicts that separation from Himself which they have chosen of their own accord. But separation from God is death.." (Against Heresies 5, 27:2

The key question is whether God sustains the soul in the unquenchable fire of Hell for eternity or whether unrepentant souls in Hell are mortal and eventually cease to exist. On this question, I see conflicting evidence, even within the writings of individual Fathers such as St, Irenaeus.

Perhaps Father Irenei or others here can shed some light on St. Irenaeus and the mortality of souls in Hell.

#12 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 10:18 AM

Of course nothing created and nobody is self-life. Only God is self-life. That is, all created life originates by God and held in life by God.
 
On the issue of mortality of the soul, the soul is not immortal in itself, remains in life because God keeps it alive after her separation from the body. The Holy Spirit enlivens the soul and the soul enlivens the body.
 
At the Second Coming of Christ  the resurrected body will be reunited with the living soul. As written in Matthew 25:46 "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life".
 
Both "punishment" is everlasting and "life" is eternal. If "unrepentant souls in Hell are mortal and eventually cease to exist" then the punishment will not be everlasting - it would be ceased when the souls ceased to exist.


#13 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 10:43 AM

Based on my reading of some of the ante-Nicene Fathers, everything is mortal apart from God, both body and soul. For example St Irenaeus writes:

"2. And to as many as continue in their love towards God, does He grant communion with Him. But communion with God is life and light, and the enjoyment of all the benefits which He has in store. But on as many as, according to their own choice, depart from God, He inflicts that separation from Himself which they have chosen of their own accord. But separation from God is death.." (Against Heresies 5, 27:2

 

 

We must understand that "everlasting punishment" and "eternal life" refers to people who have resurrected body united with soul - I say this because it is essential and it seems to me that Mr Todd is asking only about the soul.
 
As for the issue that "separation from God is death", it connotes something similar to this issue that is presented in chapter of Genesis where first created were warned that they will die if they violate the received order.
 
After our common resurrection - after the second coming of Christ - there is no natural death, Christ's Resurrection gives to everyone eternal physical life for free. "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!" - this "bestowing life" is an inalienable gift.


#14 Owen Jones

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 01:52 PM

First comment:  there is something in between metaphor and a pure literalism at work here.  For example, we don't really know what eternal is.  We cannot comprehend it.  We think of it as the continuous passage of time, but it is probably more like the absence of the passing of time.  The term existence applies to this life:  in between lasting and passing away.  Eternal is not a metaphor.  It is what it is.  But we cannot deal with it literalistically. 

 

Second:  good point on the resurrection of the body on the last day. 

 

Third:  Resurrection per se is not really unque to Christianity.  Even resurrection of the body.  Glorification is.  Which includes glorification of the body.  As with all Orthodox Christian symbols, you cannot examine them in isolation from all other symbols.  One necessarily leads to something else.  However, the resurrection of the body on the last day is a very key, necessary Christian doctrine which can only be understood in the context of the Genesis understanding of Creation, of the true nature and meaning of life and death. 

 

In Deuteronomy, Moses offers a choice to his people:  life and blessings, death and curses.  He urges them to choose life.  What does he mean?



#15 Eric Todd

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 04:17 PM

Both "punishment" is everlasting and "life" is eternal. If "unrepentant souls in Hell are mortal and eventually cease to exist" then the punishment will not be everlasting - it would be ceased when the souls ceased to exist.


Well I am not so sure about this. John 3:16 juxtaposes "perishing" and "eternal life". Perishing is the punishment for unbelief in God's only Son. The suffering associated with the perishing of the soul would not be eternal (if one can speak of time in Hell), but the punishment-non existence- is eternal because it is permanent.

#16 Eric Todd

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 04:23 PM

First comment:  there is something in between metaphor and a pure literalism at work here.  For example, we don't really know what eternal is.  We cannot comprehend it.  We think of it as the continuous passage of time, but it is probably more like the absence of the passing of time.  The term existence applies to this life:  in between lasting and passing away.  Eternal is not a metaphor.  It is what it is.  But we cannot deal with it literalistically. 


This would seem to be an extremely important point here. If Hell is outside of time and space, how does one contemplate eternity in Hell. We "see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face".

#17 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 05:15 PM

Well I am not so sure about this. John 3:16 juxtaposes "perishing" and "eternal life". Perishing is the punishment for unbelief in God's only Son. The suffering associated with the perishing of the soul would not be eternal (if one can speak of time in Hell), but the punishment-non existence- is eternal because it is permanent.

 

 
 
I think the following verses answer your question. I think that phrases like "everlasting fire",  "everlasting contempt and shame", "unquenchable fire", "the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched",  "everlasting destruction", "smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever", "they will be tormented day and night forever and ever" suggest that punishment is not a punishment of "non existence". 
 
Daniel 12:2
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt
 
Matthew 25:41
Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels
 
Matthew 3:12
His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
 
Mark 9:47-48
And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,  where “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched"(Isaiah 66:24)
 
2 Thessalonians 1:9
These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power...
 
Revelation 14:10-11
he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.
 
Revelation 20:10
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.


#18 Eric Todd

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 10:51 PM

 
 
I think the following verses answer your question. I think that phrases like "everlasting fire",  "everlasting contempt and shame", "unquenchable fire", "the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched",  "everlasting destruction", "smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever", "they will be tormented day and night forever and ever" suggest that punishment is not a punishment of "non existence". 
 
Daniel 12:2
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt
 
Matthew 25:41
Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels
 
Matthew 3:12
His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
 
Mark 9:47-48
And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,  where “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched"(Isaiah 66:24)
 
2 Thessalonians 1:9
These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power...
 
Revelation 14:10-11
he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.
 
Revelation 20:10
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.


That is a lot of verses to discuss! Let's take just one: 2 Thessalonians 1:9

"These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."

Would it not seem strange if people who are said to suffer destruction are in fact not destroyed? The word "destruction" would be rendered meaningless if there is not a point where the destruction is complete, would it not?

Holy Scripture speaks elsewhere about "destruction":

2 Peter 2:6-9
6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; 7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— 9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,

This suggests the ungodly will suffer destruction like in Sodom and Gomorrah--that is, burnt to ashes. Jude suggests this is what the "eternal fire" is all about--I.e. destruction to ashes.

Jude 1:7
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

So if the unjust shall be destroyed with the "eternal fire" like in Sodom and Gomorrah, it would seem to suggest not eternal suffering for their souls, but rather mortality.

I write this not looking for a tit-for-tat bible verse exchange but rather with the hope of eliciting some further patristic understanding of these verses.

#19 Lakis Papas

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 12:08 AM

Regarding "eternal fire", Ι suggest reading the following article: http://orthodoxinfo....tmark_purg.aspx where you can find the following statement:

 

As fire naturally destroys, whereas those who are doomed to eternal fire are not destroyed, the Apostle says that they continue in fire, preserving and continuing their existence, though at the same time they are being burned by fire.



#20 Owen Jones

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 01:57 PM

God is a consuming fire, and according to our inner disposition He either illuminates or burns. 






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