This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I started this on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed blogging from that book on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. Since then, I have begun adding material from his Bible commentaries. I also re-blog many of the old posts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Conditional Immortality in Scripture?

QUESTION: Do these texts prove the doctrine of conditional immortality: (a) I Tim. 6:16, "Who only hath immortality" and (b) I Cor. 15:53-4, "And this mortal shall have put on immortality."

ANSWER:  (a) "God is said alone to have immortality, because he has it not from another's will, as other immortals have, but from his own essence" (Justin Martyr), "underived, independent immortality" (Wesley's note). (b) This is quoted from a chapter in which the future destiny of the righteous only is described. Paul believed in the resurrection of the unjust (Acts 24:15), as did Daniel in 12:2, and as Christ asserted in John 5:29. But Paul had no occasion to discuss the future of the unjust in this passage. Hence this omission does not disprove their endless existence. Study "eternal punishment" in Matt. 25:46 and Rev. 20:10, where two men "shall be tormented day and night forever and ever."

— From Steele's Answers pp. 31, 32.


  1. Here Steele is engaged in a losing argument. A friend on Twitter suggests Oscar Cullman's discussion of this, which can be found here:

    Here's what I think is going on. Steele feels he absolutely needs the doctrine that all souls God has created are immortal or his doctrine of the afterlife doesn't work. Particularly, the traditional concept of "eternal torment in Hell" would be in jeopardy if natural immortality of souls is denied. If the immortality of souls is denied the only alternatives become: (a.) soul extinction for the unsaved or (b.) miraculous resurrection by God to a life of eternal torment. The second possibility is incompatible with Steele's concept of the benevolence of God.

    We notice in the earlier entry on this topic ("Is Immorality Conditional?") that he is on shaky theological ground in his argument for the immortality of the soul.

    So, the question for our generation is this: has the movement against dualistic understandings of the human person essentially pulled the rug out from under the traditional concept of Hell?

  2. Click on "immortal"to bring up the other relevant entries.

    Here, I think, is the telling remark (from "The Immoral Soul"): "The resurrection of both the just and the unjust, the General Judgement of the whole race resulting in its everlasting awards, as in Matthew 25:46, and other texts, are sufficient proof that man has an immortal soul."

    He feels that without the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul the traditional eschatological scheme just doesn't work.

  3. "He feels that without the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul the traditional eschatological scheme just doesn't work." And I would agree but come to different conclusions: that the traditional view is not correct! God alone is immortal

  4. I see. The trend in contemporary scholarship is away from the concept of the immortal soul. This does give some support to conditionalism. Your post is a thorough reply to Steele's views.