Seed of Doubt
Sidney Hatch heard the call of God to ministry when he graduated from the University of California. He continued his education at Dallas Theological Seminary, preparing for a career as a Baptist pastor. That’s when he hit a bump! I’ll let him tell you about it in his own words:
“One day in a theology class one of the school’s leading professors was asked if it were really necessary as ministers of the gospel to believe in the eternal hell-fire torment of the lost.
“The gist of the professor’s reply was that, admittedly, there were problems, and the traditional view did seem harsh, but, after all, it was the orthodox view and the most practical one to hold.”
That willingness to rely on “the orthodox view” rather than the words of Scripture troubled Sidney Hatch.
“Suffice to say I left the class with a seed of doubt in my heart; small, yes, but it was there just the same.”
That seed of doubt took root and sprouted, nurtured by Hatch’s interest in Old Testament Hebrew. “
Needless to say, it did not take long to see that the Hebrew word for soul, 'nephesh,' was used for all other living creatures as well as for man.”
His study of that Hebrew word convinced him that neither man nor beast have an immortal soul; the traditional doctrine, orthodox or not, was false and based on pagan ideas. Nevertheless, he entered the ministry as a Baptist preacher – in spite of his unorthodox views.
As pastor of a Baptist congregation in Los Angeles he emphasized in his sermons that believers have eternal life only through faith in Christ. He was walking on thin ice. Some parishioners objected to his non-traditional teachings about death and eternal torment.
“Ultimately it led to several things: a change of pulpits, a change of denominations, a change of friends, and the misunderstanding of many people.”
Below is Sidney Hatch’s clear explanation of Conditionalism. See if it corresponds well with what you believe.
“Conditional immortality is a very simple and clear doctrine. It resorts to no difficult theological or philosophical gyrations. It is the belief that man may become immortal on one condition and that is that he believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. This immortality, or everlasting life, shall then be put on at the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the believers, not before.”
Conditionalism may still be a minority position among Christians, but it is attracting more and more positive attention from both Protestant and Catholic theologians. Pray that this trend will continue. Conditionalist beliefs are a vital protection against the threat of spiritualism and occultism in all of its forms – and I believe that threat is growing every day.
(Quotations are from Sidney Hatch’s booklet, “Why I Believe in Conditional Immortality.” You can download a copy for yourself right