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“”Many annihilationists claim that the idea is an unfair punishment for finite sins of people. How can this accurately reflect God’s ultimate victory over suffering and evil, they argue, when it permanently installs a place of suffering in the final, eternal order? Likewise, how can the saved live in blissful joy knowing that some of their loved ones burn forever in hell?
Annihilationism is the belief that the damned, rather than going to eternal punishment in hell when they die, instead cease to exist. Basically, everlasting death and destruction means literally destruction.
Annihilationist and other beliefs
Some annihilationists deny the existence of punishment in hell — they see hell as a synonym for non-existence. Others believe that hell does exist, but punishment in hell is limited in duration, and at the end of that duration the damned cease to exist. This goes with belief that god is too loving to allow eternal torture, also that infinite punishment is not just retribution for finite sins.
Annihilationism is contrasted with universalism – the belief that everyone goes to heaven – and eternal damnation – the mainstream evangelical Christian belief, that the damned are consciously punished with everlasting torment in hell.
Popularity and influence
Annihilationism is a minority view in Christianity, but was influential in the early development of protestantism. Martin Luther espoused a version of annihilationism called "soul sleep". It is apparently now mainstream within Anglicanism, with the US and English churches espousing variations. Some other modern denominations also accept the doctrine – for example, the Christadelphians, Seventh Day Adventist church, and the Jehovah's Witnesses. And with modern doctrines on hell often being "don't frighten the parishioners — we need bodies on pews", surveys have shown a significant minority of other clergy tending towards nothingness rather than eternal torment.
- Evangelical Alliance Commission on Truth and Unity Among Evangelicals (ACUTE). The Nature of Hell. Paternoster, London, 2000, p. 42–47
- Froom, ‘The Conditionalist Faith Of Our Fathers’, volume 2, p. 74 (1966)
- Church of England Commission Says Hell is Same _ Only Different, AP News, 1996
- Hell in Scotland, St Andrews University press release, Dec 5, 2005
- Destroyed For Ever: An Examination of the Debates Concerning Annihilation and Conditional Immortality, Tony Gray, Themelios 21.2 (January 1996): 14-18.
- 21st Century Evangelicals: A snapshot of the beliefs and habits of evangelical Christians in the UK, Archived 2011-01-16 at the Wayback Machine. Evangelical Alliance and Christian Research, 2011, p9