Culver’s Theology Corner – What happens to a non-believer’s soul after they die?

Culver's Theology Corner

Have you ever wondered what happens to people’s souls after they die? Some would contend that the souls of non-believers will be annihilated. In this excerpt from his systematic theology book, Robert Duncan Culver explores this idea.

Annihilationism or Conditional Immortality

Annihilation means to be brought to non-existence. Conditional immortality is the name for the view that the soul of man is neither ‘naturally immortal’ nor granted immortality (deathlessness) by God in creation; but that immortality is the gift of God to the saved only. In relation to the present topic, there are theologians and groups who teach that after the resurrection and judgment of the lost they will be annihilated by God – either immediately or after a term of punishment in hell. The saved will, after resurrection, be granted immortality (eternal life) and live forever with God. Their eternal life (immortality) is conditional upon their faith, repentance, conversion and the divine grant of immortality.

This view is frequently connected with the doctrine of ‘soul sleep’ (or psychopannychia in the Latin/Greek of Reformation times): that if the soul, or center, of consciousness exists apart from the body as instrument of consciousness, it is inoperative (unconscious) between death and the resurrection, but brought back into existence by resurrection. Among modern denominations Advent Christian and Seventh Day Adventists make this distinctive of their groups. It gained some notoriety, though not general acceptance, in the nineteenth center among a few Anglican clergyman. In recent years, as noted earlier in connection with the intermediate state, Oscar Cullmann revived the notion in scholarly circles.

In ‘evangelical’ circles – as indeed among orthodox Christians everywhere in every age – these notions are not only rejected but frequently condemned.

Excerpted from Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical by Robert Duncan Culver (Mentor, 2005).

Where to Buy:
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