Not sure where to put this, but I have been ruminating recently on the subject of anthropology as it relates to the fate of the lost. So this could fit under sotereology, eschatology or anthropology.
In the reformed tradition it is customary to consider man to consist of two parts: a body and a soul. Origen, I believe, taught that man has three components, body soul and spirit. (Could someone look that up?) at any rate there are those who have taught (still teach? ) that. But it seems to me that when we discuss the fate of the lost, we need to be able to state what we believe happens to the distinct components of Man. Yes, his body goes into the ground and becomes worm food, but what about the rest of him?
Where does his soul go? What about his spirit? Are they the same thing or is the spirit more akin to the person hood of Man? Is the spirit something distinct from the soul that comes into existence when a soul finds its way into our body, whether at conception by means of immediate creation (Calvin), or by traducianism (Gordon Clark) or through a pre-existant soul being pl;aced within a body (Origen). Knowing what we believe about these things can help us exegete some of the more difficult passages we must face as universalists. I will share one example of this below.
Added to that, there is the question of the nature of person hood. What is a person? Some say a person consists of intellect will and emotion. Gordon Clark defined a person as a compilation of propositions. There are doubtless other theories as well.
So the question I have is, does one's person hood survive when that man or woman dies in a state of condemnation? This is an important question because if the soul leaves the body and the separation of soul and body results in the eradication of the spirit / person of the lost, then can we affirm both universal salvation and annihilation-ism at the same time.
Origen postulated, that an unregenerate, whose soul has left his body, may then, after suitable punishment, has been meted out, find himself in another body,. Could the former person hood of that new individual be lost in the process? If the soul lives on, to be eventually redeemed as this new person consisting of a new body/soul combination resulting in the birth of a new person and the old man had died could we not say that the original person died and wa annihilated, but that his soul was redeemed as part of this new person?
I know this probably sounds very speculative to most, but I think there is some merit to this idea, and it solves one sticky text for us universalists as well, namely the Judas passage.
If Judas' death resulted in his soul being placed in a new body with a new person resulting from that union, then Jesus' statement that it would have been better for him to have never been born would hold true even though he was to be eventually redeemed. His life as Judas resulted in ruin. It would have been better for him not to have lived that particular life since everything he build, and learned and experienced was to be destroyed. If the person hood or spirit of Judas perished when he died, and especially if that person hood first had to endure a purging for his sins before it was destroyed, it could well be said it would have been better had he never been born! For what benefit would thirty or so years of life be to, say, two hundred years of agonizing punishment and then annihilation? Better to never be born than to suffer such a fate.
But that is not the same as saying it would have been better if Judas' soul had never existed.For if after his person hood or spirit was destroyed his soul would still find itself in another body and that new person could be redeemed.
By way of analogy, if we liken the soul to a frame and the body to a canvas, then we can liken the spirit or person hood to the painting that is painted on it. Now if that painting should be poorly constructed or marred by the poor quality of the painting then the thing to do is to remove the canvas from the frame and replace it with a new canvas (body) and start fresh. In the end the new painting could be a masterpiece built over the same frame as the original.
Anyway, there you have it. The seeds for what I hope wil be a helpful discussion.
William M. Brennan