Pope Francis is an annihilationist


Based on the evidence currently available, we should view Pope Francis as an annihilationist, and attempts from within the Vatican to downplay this fact are unconvincing. The current Pope does not believe the doctrine of eternal torment, affirming instead the biblical doctrine of conditional immortality: That the saved will have eternal life, but the lost will not live forever – not in hell or anywhere else.

The Catholic Church has caught up with the Anglicans! The ninety-eighth Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr William Temple was also a proponent of this view – the view that nobody will be tormented forever in flames (or some other terrible eternal place or state), but rather only those who are saved through Christ will live forever, and the rest will not live forever at all – not in hell or anywhere else.

The Pope’s comments were summed up by the elderly journalist and longtime friend of the Pope Eugenio Scalfari as follows:

They are not punished. Those who repent obtain God’s forgiveness and take their place among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. A hell doesn’t exist, the disappearance of sinning souls exists.

Eager to ward off concerns about the Pope’s theology, the Vatican issued a statement soon after the interview became public knowledge. The Vatican warns:

What is reported by the author in today’s article is the result of his reconstruction, in which the literal words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted. No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.

Scalfari has since confirmed that this is strictly true. He does not transcribe his conversations, but he recalls them when they are finished. But notice how little the Vatican is prepared to explicitly deny. The most they will say, in effect, is that these are not exact quotes (i.e. a “faithful transcription”). But that is a very mild caution indeed. Why not simply come out and say “this is not the Pope’s view. He does not think the lost will cease to exist”? How difficult would this be to say, if it were true?

Some things are easy to misunderstand. But when it comes to fairly specific claims like the ones in question, it is hard to see how they could be completely off-track. Take the claim that those who reject God’s forgiveness will disappear forever rather than stick around to be punished forever. That is a specific claim that is difficult to hear on the basis of misinterpretation.

In fairness to Scalfari, many Christians make this same mistake! … they report (incorrectly) that I have said that hell doesn’t exist.

Take, however, the claim that Francis’s Catholic defenders are all pouncing on: “hell doesn’t exist.” Catholics are making the point that elsewhere Francis has affirmed that hell does exist, and that he has (for example) warned organised criminals that they risk hell if they do not repent. This claim can easily be heard on the basis of misunderstanding. Scalfari, himself not a Christian, doubtless has a notion of hell that is shared in popular culture – it is a place of eternal torment in flames. But Francis denies that this place exists, affirming that the lost will cease to exist. So in Scalfari’s ears, this amounts to saying that hell doesn’t exist – so that is what he wrote. In fairness to Scalfari, many Christians make this same mistake! They hear people (like me) explain that the biblical view of hell is not eternal torment but rather the final end of the lost, who will not live forever. They have their own doctrine of hell as a sort of eternal prison where the lost suffer forever, they see that I am not affirming this view, so they report (incorrectly) that I have said that hell doesn’t exist. They might be generally describing my view correctly, but they are mistaken to report that I am denying the existence of hell. Rather, I am correcting misperceptions about what the Bible really says about hell.

All things considered, this appears to be what is going on in the case of Mr Scalfari and Pope Francis. The view of Francis, as reported, is that the lost who reject God and who do not receive forgiveness will one day be no more. In Scalfari’s view, this amounts to saying that there is no hell – but this is not what Francis said, and this is where there is truth to the Vatican’s warning. This is Scalfari’s summary, not a direct quote from Pope Francis himself.

But unless there is some quite clear evidence to the contrary, we should view Pope Francis as sharing with many other Christians the doctrine of conditional immortality – that the saved will live forever, and the lost will come to an end and be no more.

One of us! One of us!
Glenn Peoples


Similar Posts:

21 thoughts on “Pope Francis is an annihilationist

  1. Well, this is a surprise to me. I had suspected up until now that the initial reports had misinterpreted the Pope’s words.
    But whether he accepts the truth of annihilationism or not is not my concern. I simply find it mildly amusing that the Evangelicals are now pouncing on this as proof of the Pope’s endemic heresy.
    I guess he can join the rest of those who have been cast out.
    Best regards.

  2. The early church fathers were Conditionalists. God is a consuming fire. Believe or perish is nothing new to the church.

  3. RCs are coming into the CI conversation a little later than some, but I feel that they just may be coming none the less. Robert Wild, a Catholic Priest from Canada, has published a book with Wipf and Stock, ‘A Catholic Reading Guide to Conditional Immortality’. Wild sides with CI being the “more probable”. Taking this stand may be old hat for some , but for Wild I’m sure it’s a bold move. His dedication is to ” Those in Protestants traditions who suffered loss of reputation and positions for reintroducing this teaching into the Christian world”.
    Welcome Father Wild.

  4. Pope Francis by biblical definition isn’t a christian-he isn’t saved by grace which the bible clearly teaches, he’s saved according to Catholic doctrine by works. He also believes garbage like Allah is the same as the God of the bible, in praying to Mary etc etc so the supposed fact he also believes in conditional immortality is further proof to discerning christians of the Popes continual slide into yet more heresy. One of us? You can have him.

  5. Err, Chris, annihilationism isn’t heresy. If anything, it’s a stricter and more rational hermeneutical approach to scripture.

    And just in case you’re unclear on the subject, heresy is the denial of a core doctrine of the Christian faith. “Eternal punishment” is a core doctrine. “Eternal torment” is not.

  6. No need to marvel Glenn just read what the RCC teaches-it’s pretty clear they do works to be saved-you’re meant to be a pretty clever guy I would’ve thought you would already know what they teach.

    Err, Rob, annihilationism is heresy (and I’m very clear on the subject) because it deviates from orthodox, accepted belief-eternal punishment/eternal torment are one and the same despite the efforts of a tiny minority of supposed christians to persuade people otherwise.

    1. Chris, you made that claim about Catholics a long time ago here at this blog. Back then, I asked you to check with your local Catholic Bishop to check if that’s what they believe. You told me that you wouldn’t do that, and you also declined to share anything from their catechism stating that they believe they are saved by doing good works. So at this point I’m disappointed that you’ve returned and made the same allegation. This is the sort of claim that requires clear evidence, and you just won’t check with Catholics that this is their view.

      Moreover, annihilationism is the teaching of Scripture and it was taught by a number of Church Fathers. It is compatible with the Apostles Creed and The Nicene Creed. There is no meaningful sense in which it is “heresy.” The biblical case is fairly decisive. When you say that it is not “accepted” belief, well sure, it’s not accepted by those who believe in eternal torment, but what of that?

    2. I’m going to defer to Dr People’s more erudite replies on this, but I feel compelled to answer your backhanded reference to SDA and similar organizations as proof that annihilationalism is heresy.

      I agree that these orgs are cult-like in their demands on the members to recognize non-Biblical texts as doctrine, and to not question the authority of false prophets, much like the Roman Catholic Church.

      But unlike the RCC, some well educated individuals in these same orgs have produced very important research material to expose the corruption hidden within the sepulchuric nature of the Vatican, and by extension the RCC as a whole. Since the facts revealed within these publications cannot be easily dismissed, it’s clear that the reputation of the authors cannot be so easily tarnished by the organizations to which they belong.

      This courtesy should also be extended to both annihilationalists and members of the RCC.

  7. Glenn you misrepresent me-I told you previouslywhy I don’t need to have a wee chat with a local Catholic bishop-and to reiterate that for readers here now it is because I know what they believe because I have read their Catechism on the subject. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 1213-1284 is the section on baptism-1277 in particular explicitly states “Baptism is birth into the new life in Christ. In accordance with the Lord’s will it is NECESSARY for salvation, as is the Church herself, which we enter by baptism.” (emphasis mine). Doesn’t get much clearer than that. And for the record every Catholic priests/bishops blog or website I’ve looked at, and they’re numerous, state exactly the same thing.

    Moreover, annihilationism is the teaching of scripture and supposedly decisive according to you and a very small handful of christians (not to mention the cultish Seventh Day Adventists and other aberrant groups) not to the majority and furthermore any church fathers who believed it were also in the minority. So there is a very meaningful sense that this teaching is heresy despite you trying to say it isn’t.

    Additionally, you try and argue that a finite sin shouldn’t be punished infinitely for the one who committed it yet you fail to grasp this point-I don’t
    believe time in the next life is like time as we know it now-there will be no clocks and no concept of yesterday, tomorrow, seconds, minutes or hours but only a concept of being in the “now”. Therefore a sinner being punished in hell, or a saint in the presence of God worshipping Him will have no concept of hey I’ve been here 1000 years or 2 minutes etc etc. An important point you and your fellow annihilationists haven’t even thought of.

  8. I also find it rather perverse in your chant-One of us! One of us! in regards to the pope’s supposed embrace of your annihilationist position, that you somehow legitimise this man because of your commonality on this one position. You cast aside however everything else this man stands for and teaches (not to mention a little thing that happened 500 years ago called the Reformation) so I’m somewhat bemused. I assume Glenn you consider yourself an evangelical Christian? The pope and the RCC teach salvation by works, praying to Mary, purgatory, indulgences, scripture as secondary to the church’s teaching, transubstantiation, veneration of relics, they have altered the 10 Commandments just to name a few which I think you would wholeheartedly disagree with yet you agree with him on your pet subject! As I said earlier, you can have him.

  9. Chris, I didn’t misrepresent you. In fact you openly declined to find out if you described Catholic beliefs fairly.

    You have just now – for the first time in this discussion thread – brought up the issue of baptism. A number of Christians teach that baptism is required. You casually say “it doesn’t get much clearer than that,” as though this absolutely settles their doctrine of salvation by works. It doesn’t, and you are blurring issues together. The idea of justification by works as opposed to faith, as far as doctrines go, is distinct from the idea that baptism is necessary. You’re confusing matters by treating them as one. Take a person who explicitly taught justification by faith – Martin Luther. And yet there he was, writing as plain as day that baptism is necessary.

    Moreover – just because you raised the different matter of baptism – you seem unaware of the Catholic concept of a “baptism of will,” allowing that those who for one reason or another cannot be baptised but would have been baptised under the right conditions can still be saved.

    So I represented you fairly, and you don’t really understand Catholic theology as well as you think (or categories of theology, for that matter). And it continues to be terrible that you feel free to state what Catholics believe without even getting their word on the matter. Honestly, you really would be helped by graciously and humbly speaking to your local bishop to get a better grasp on what they actually think.

    “The pope and the RCC teach salvation by works” – No, this is not true. You must stop this. You have shown your unwillingness to even go and speak to the people you are accusing. No more please.

    “you somehow legitimise this man because of your commonality on this one position”

    Chris, this is more unfairness. When I said “one of us,” no reasonable reader thinks that I am affirming everything about the Pope’s beliefs on all matters. I mean one of us annihilationists, obviously.

    1. And you’re still misrepresenting me! I never openly declined to find out whether I represented Catholic beliefs fairly-I’ve stated again and again I’ve studied their Catechism and read dozens of Catholic articles/blogs etc-what I’ve declined is having you tell me what to do ie talk to a local Bishop. The reason why I don’t need to do that is self explanatory I would’ve thought-a local Bishop is not going to tell me anything different than what the Catechism states and what every other Catholic author states! So maybe we can put that to rest once and for all.

      I bring up baptism because IT IS A WORK-self evident surely! It is something you must do in order to be saved according to Catholic doctrine. Therefore I’m not blurring anything. Ot seems to me you’re the one who’s confused if you can’t understand adding anything to faith alone to be saved is a work.

      Direct quote please for your claim that Luther stated baptism was necessary for salvation-he said it was “necessary”-but not for salvation as far as I understand from Luther’s writings.

      I’m more than familiar with “desire of will” however this is an exception, not the rule when it comes to baptism and it’s still adding something other than faith alone. I also have to ask-where is this “desire of will” taught in scripture? It isn’t.

      So I do actually understand Catholic theology despite you saying otherwise-it borders on arrogance you stating such when you don’t even know me.

      And you can think it unfair if you like on the “one of us!” issue but I still find you lauding his position because he’s the Pope as somehow legitimising or lending weight to your annihilationist position, very strange.

      Lastly, you haven’t even responded to my time issue I raised earlier-have you deliberately avoided this or what??

    2. Chris, again, I am not misrepresenting you. I said that you should talk to a local bishop to see if they really believe what they say. You declined but continued to talk like an expert on what they believe. everyone can see this.

      “Lastly, you haven’t even responded to my time issue I raised earlier” – Sorry, I don’t really think it’s a serious argument. You said:

      “I don’t believe time in the next life is like time as we know it now-there will be no clocks and no concept of yesterday, tomorrow, seconds, minutes or hours but only a concept of being in the “now”.”

      That makes no sense. Do you even believe in the resurrection of the dead? Surely you do. Physical human beings exist in time, and it’s that simple. To speak of a risen, bodily person who exists outside of time is nonsensical. Moreover, what Scriptural reason could you possibly have for thinking that human beings will somehow be timeless?

      Direct quote please for your claim that Luther stated baptism was necessary for salvation-he said it was “necessary”

      Chris, what do you think “necessary” means? Necessary for what? Necessary for getting wet? The necessity of baptism just means the necessity of baptism for salvation. However, if that is not enough, here is Luther writing in his Larger Catechism, the fourth part, concerning baptism:

      Moreover, it is solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptized or we shall not be saved, so that we are not to regard it as an indifferent matter, like putting on a new red coat. It is of the greatest importance that we regard baptism as excellent, glorious, and exalted.

      And yet it’s no secret that Martin Luther overtly taught justification by faith.

      Chris, no offence but I’m getting the impression that anti-catholicism is a hobby for you, and I’m going to ask that it cease now. You’ve aired your stance. I’ve stated that I think it’s unreasonable of you to explicitly choose to not communicate with the Catholic Church while pontificating (pun intended) on their theology, absolutely unwilling to be corrected by them. That continues to be my view, but this blog post is not about Catholic theology in general, only about the fact that Pope Francis affirmed annihilationism.

  10. Everyone can see that your argument demanding I talk to a local Bishop otherwise my argument doesn’t count or is somehow false is absurd yet you keep repeating it like a broken record. Whatever.

    Time is a construct that was created along with the universe-before creation time didn’t exist and God Himself exists outside of time and is not constrained by it. Laws of thermodynamics and entropy also come into play in this universe as things deteriorate and wind down and physicists state that the universe will eventually die from heat death. However, a new heaven and new earth are hardly likely to be imperfect and subject to entropy as this universe is so in my opinion it’s not a stretch to believe time or how we perceive it will somehow be different. I have no scriptural warrant to base this on-merely my opinion after much thought on the subject. You will also find others postulating similar ideas on the internet so don’t be so quick to rubbish it.

    We have a problem with Mr Luther then don’t we? Can’t have it both ways!

    1. Thanks for conceding (sort of!) your position on Luther’s belief. I’ve said all I need to about your position on baptism and justification by faith/works in that case. So back to annihilationism. 🙂

      “Time is a construct that was created along with the universe-before creation time didn’t exist and God Himself exists outside of time and is not constrained by it.”

      Other than using the word “construct,” yes you’re right, time came into being with the physical world. But I would just press my question again: Chris, do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Once we’ve got agreement on that, we can talk about the issue of time.

    2. So I’d just ask you to think about what that implies for time. If you believe that we will be physically raised from the dead and liver forever – as orthodox Christianity has always taught – then as soon as you understand what you believe about that, you must also believe that time goes on forever and we along with it.

  11. Glenn-the bible quite clearly states in Revelation that this earth/heavens will be destroyed and a new earth/heavens will be created plus there will be no sun or moon as God provides a supernatural light-therefore time as we know it HAS to be experienced differently to how we experience it at the moment-hence my belief we will continuously live in a “now” moment/awareness with no thought of seconds/minutes/hours, night/day etc.

    I can see why you want time as we currently know it/experience it/measure it to be the same in the next life because it’s part of your annihilationist doctrine. If I’m right however it provides your argument less to stand on.

  12. Chris, you didn’t give a reason for thinking that a new earth would be timeless. Just saying that you believe time will be experienced differently does not mean we will not experience time. Have you consulted biblical commentaries to see what they say about the comments in Revelation about no sun etc? (I would hope so, and you haven’t just arrived at this view on your own). You didn’t even give a reason for thinking that time will be experienced differently. At most (if we roll with your interpretation of the new Jerusalem, which most would not), it would mean that the day / night cycle and the source of light would be different than it is now. But that doesn’t mean time somehow is experienced differently.

    More importantly however, in the back and forth of conversation you didn’t return to the discussion where my comment left off. To reiterate: “If you believe that we will be physically raised from the dead and liver forever – as orthodox Christianity has always taught – then as soon as you understand what you believe about that, you must also believe that time goes on forever and we along with it.”

    Do you believe our bodies will be actual bodies? ie. they will have spatial dimensions? If you join with Christians throughout history and say yes, then surely this argument is utterly decisive. You are committed to believing that we will actually have experience over time forever.

    “I can see why you want time as we currently… [etc]”

    Chris, let’s not pretend to be psychiatrists. It would be trivially easy for me to say: “I can see why you want to reject the historical view of the Christian faith on eternal life and say that we will become timeless beings, so that you can make this argument against a doctrine you don’t like.”

    “it’s part of your annihilationist doctrine” – Well, only in the sense that Christians who are annihilationists hold the view of eternal time in the future (during which the saints will experience eternal life) that Christians in general hold. We don’t hold a special view, we hold the normal Christian view. But if we were to adopt a somewhat historically unusual view and say that human beings will become timeless, that there will be no time in which we interact and do things, it would not undermine annihilationism. All it would mean change is our understanding of the state of the saints. The lost would still, as Scripture teaches, not inherit eternal life, whatever that eternal life looked like.

    Try to ignore what you think I “want” and focus on the arguments. I don’t think you have a good argument for our timeless existence in the future, and you currently believe something (the resurrection of the dead) which seems to rule out our timeless existence. How do you think that argument is best addressed, without bringing up a different argument? And what drives your position on this, that we will be timeless? Surely not biblical data.

    Also, note that I combined your last two short comments into one. Not to sound like a neat freak, but as outlined in the blog policy, back-to-back posting is messy and I don’t generally allow it.

  13. “The view of Francis, as reported, is that the lost who reject God and who do not receive forgiveness will one day be no more. In Scalfari’s view, this amounts to saying that there is no hell – but this is not what Francis said, and this is where there is truth to the Vatican’s warning.”

    Hmm. If I am reading between the lines correctly, what the pope is saying (and Glenn agrees with this position, I think) is that unbelievers will be terminated at some point in time…which leaves open the possibility that Hell exists and that unbelievers WILL suffer some type of punishment there, whether physical or psychological is unclear, for possibly many years (thousands??) before that “elimination” and relief from torture occurs. Is that correct?

    I guess that is some improvement over “eternal torment”, but five minutes of torture for a “thought crime” is still unjust in my humble, non-Christian opinion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available