A good friend asked me a good question today. In my own words, the question was "Can you, as a Wesleyan who has agreed with the Wesleyan articles of religion, in good conscience believe and/or teach the conditional immortality view of Hell?" Here is my response:
The Articles of Religion section XXI is about the destiny of all people.
I will quote it below with my comments in CAPS
250. We believe that the Scriptures clearly teach that there is a conscious personal existence after death.
I ALSO AGREE THAT THERE IS A CONSCIOUS PERSONAL EXISTENCE AFTER DEATH FOR EVERYONE. I AM NOT ENTIRELY CONVINCED THAT CONSCIOUSNESS IS UNBROKEN FOR THE WICKED (THEY MAY BE UNCONSCIOUS UNTIL JUDGMENT DAY) NOR AM I CONVINCED THAT THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE WICKED CONTINUES ON FOREVER (THEY MAY EVENTUALLY CEASE TO EXIST).... BUT SINCE I DO BELIEVE THERE WILL BE AT LEAST SOME PERIOD OF CONSCIOUS PERSONAL EXISTENCE, MY BELIEF FALLS WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF THE STATEMENT.
The final destiny of each person is determined by God's grace and that person's response, evidenced inevitably by a moral character which results from that individual's personal and volitional choices and not from any arbitrary decree of God.
I CERTAINLY AGREE WITH THAT
Heaven with its eternal glory and the blessedness of Christ's presence is the final abode of those who choose the salvation which God provides through Jesus Christ,
CERTAINLY AGREE WITH THAT
but hell with its everlasting misery and separation from God is the final abode of those who neglect this great salvation.
OBVIOUSLY THIS WOULD BE THE STATEMENT MOST AT ODDS WITH MY OWN VIEW. I WOULD HAVE LITTLE PROBLEM WITH THE 'SEPARATION FROM GOD' PHRASE. MY ISSUE IS WITH THE PHRASE 'EVERLASTING MISERY.'
I THINK THE PEOPLE WHO MADE THE STATEMENT CERTAINLY BELIEVED IN THE ETERNAL TORMENT VIEW, BUT I ALSO THINK I CAN, IN GOOD CONSCIENCE, SUPPORT THE STATEMENT WITH MY OWN INTERPRETATION.
NOTICE IT SAY 'ITS' (HELL'S) EVERLASTING MISERY. IT DOESN'T SPECIFICALLY SAY THE WICKED WILL RECEIVE EVERLASTING MISERY. I DO BELIEVE THAT HELL WILL FOREVER BE A PLACE OF TORMENT (FOR SATAN AND HIS MINIONS), BUT I DO NOT BELIEVE WICKED HUMANS WILL FOREVER REMAIN CONSCIOUS IN HELL.
IN OTHER WORDS, I DO SUPPORT THE STATEMENT THAT HELL IS A PLACE OF EVERLASTING MISERY, BUT I DO NOT NECESSARILY THINK THAT HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS REMAINS FOREVER THERE. AND I THINK THE STATEMENT IS FLEXIBLE ENOUGH TO ALLOW THIS INTERPRETATION.
SO WHAT SAY YOU? AM I TAKING TOO MANY LIBERTIES? SHOULD I RESIGN THIS VERY HOUR?