Immortality of the Soul and The Salvation Army
May 13 2021
This paper was written as the final chapter of MDiv. Thesis, The Good Time Coming: The Impact of William Booth's Eschatological Vision (2005). I make a fairly bold suggestion in this chapter that the Army consider updating the way it talks about doctrine 11, or change the wording. Though probably not a result of this Thesis, I am happy to say the most recent Handbook of Doctrine gives a wonderful treatment of these three words. Please note that this paper was written before the new handbook of doctrine did a such a good job in officially clarifying what is meant by the "immortality of the soul."
In light of Rob Bell's forthcoming book, it is likely that much will be said about the "immortality of the soul" in evangelical theology and salvationist conversation in the next year. Hopefully this piece will help us have more fruitful conversations.
When commenting on the activities of the Salvationist in heaven, William Booth responded in military-like fashion,
“In heaven he [the Salvationist] is doubtless[ly] employed in some service for the King, for which his military training on earth has specially qualified him.”
Since his view of personal eschatology is crucial to understanding William Booth’s theology, his confidence in the reality of heaven, hell, judgment, and resurrection has already been affirmed in chapter one [coming to this blog soon]. Despite these explicit affirmations, there remains an elusive tension concerning the Salvation Army’s eschatological statement within its “Articles of Faith.” These articles were formulated under its previous name the Christian Revival Society in 1866-6/7 and later affirmed as The Salvation Army in 1878.
The eleventh article states,
“We believe in the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body….”
Some scholars suggest that these two confessions are mutually exclusive and that they represent an either-or situation. Others propose, however, that if immortality of the soul is qualified as merely a belief in personal existence between death and resurrection, that these statements are not antithetical to one another. Christians who assert a qualified immortality of the soul are indeed within the boundaries of biblical teaching and Christian orthodoxy. This study, however, suggests that such a dual formulation is unclear and possibly misleading concerning the nature of one’s eschatological doctrine.
The Army’s adoption of the immortality of the soul is linked to Booth’s background in New Connexion Methodism and its doctrinal statements. The impact of the early Army’s implementation of this language has been a continued support that has failed to explicitly deal with the possible implications of this expression. This theological affirmation was made without an awareness of the implicit consequences. In order for William Booth’s eschatology to be fully understood and appropriately applied to the present milieu, the Army must reaffirm the orthodox doctrine of the resurrection of the body or at least distinguish it from the blurred doctrine of the immortality of the soul. It is no longer sufficient to fall back on the argument of intentions (either Booth’s or the Army’s), which have never truly affirmed the immortality of souls in the Greek philosophical sense.
The Salvation Army and Immortality of the Soul
At best the immortality of the soul has two meanings. The immortality of the soul is a Greek understanding of ultimate reality that exalts the spiritual over the physical world, and it is also a Christian conviction that affirms personal survival beyond death.
Immortality of the Soul
The notion of the soul’s immortality finds its beginning within Socrates’ philosophical system which was later interpreted by Plato. This worldview projects that there is a dichotomy between the physical and spiritual worlds. The body then is the “cage of the soul,” which prohibits the soul from existence in the eternal world. Death for humanity is the great friend and liberator because it enables the soul to move into eternal reality. [See Oscar Cullmann, Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Body: The Witness of the New Testament, 19-27; Jürgen Moltmann, The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, trans. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 60.] Socrates’ death, as narrated by Plato in the Phaedo, is the prime example of this worldview for he welcomes death as it brings him to a greater understanding of reality through the freedom of his soul. Oscar Cullman contrasts Socrates’ death with the death of Jesus. Jesus’ distress about his immanent death and ultimately the pain and abandonment he feels on the cross is reflective of the fact that death is not welcomed as a liberating event. Immortality of the soul was the Greek philosophical perspective of life beyond the physical world. This metaphysical understanding was later embraced by Gnostic spirituality. In this discussion immortality is defined as a fact of existence and hence the ability to exist eternally. When combined with the belief in the soul, does this imply a preexistent state of the soul? If so, within a Christian worldview the only being who is truly immortal is the triune God who has no beginning and no end.
If immortality is meant to refer to the reality of survival between death and resurrection, then the New Testament does indeed affirm such a belief. The Greek word aphthartos is used as an adjective in the New Testament, and it is specifically used in a subjective genitive relationship with God, theos (see Romans 1:23 and 1 Timothy 1:17). Aptharsia is a closely related to the word translated “imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25; 15:42, 50, 52-54; Romans 1:23; 1 Timothy 1:17). Its usage as a noun, athanasia, is defined as “the state of not being subject to decay/dissolution/interruption.” Thus it is defined as “incorruptibility or immortality,” and only refers to God once, illustrating that he alone is immortal in 1 Timothy 6:16.
The other occurrences of athanasia (Romans 2:7, 1 Corinthians 15:53-54, and 2 Timothy 1:10) refer to a quality that is in concert with eternal life. It is in no way referring to an intrinsic quality that humanity possesses before and after human life. Immortality is something that mortals eschatologically “put on” (1 Cor. 15:53). Romans 2:7 specifically refers to immortality as something that people value along with “glory and honor.” People who are pursuing these things will be given “eternal life” as an eschatological reward. The New Testament witness does not signify immortality as a quality intrinsic to fallen humanity, nor does it pertain to a preexistent state of the soul. The New Testament presents immortality as a transformation of human existence. New Testament scholar Gorden Fee says that the imagery used in 1 Corinthians 15:53 “stands in sharp contrast to the Greek view [of immortality of the soul], in which one is naturally endowed with immortality, but not so Paul; immortality is the investure of the resurrection” It should be noted, however, that immortality is never attributed as a condition of the soul (psychē) in the New Testament.
In contrast to the Greek approach, which understands one’s soul as a purely spiritual entity existing before and after earthly life and thereby implicitly devaluing the body, the New Testament emphasizes a contrasting view to the immortality of the soul—the human person as a union of soul and body, and the resurrection of the body. Being an essential and defining doctrine of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus Christ endures as the primary theme of New Testament eschatology. Thomas Oden illustrates: “The Christian’s hope risks distortion if stated as if it were essentially a hope for the soul’s escape from the prison of the body into a purely spiritual realm. Christianity hopes for renewal of the whole person, where I will again be myself, will live again in my glorified body.” This event is the basis for a belief in the resurrection of the body. This alternative belief system is clearly seen in the Apostles’ Creed that mentions nothing of the soul’s immortality, but rather affirms:
“I believe in … the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”
The New Testament’s discussion of the soul or self (psychē) is not, however, giving the soul an attribute that belongs in other philosophical categories. Psychē is used in three separate ways in the New Testament. First, as “life on earth in its animating aspect making bodily function possible.” An example of this treatment is in Acts 20:10; after a person falls three stories to his presumed death, Paul explains, “Do not be alarmed, for his life [psychē] is in him.” Secondly it is “the seat of the inner human life in its many and varied aspects.” This usage is illustrated in John 12:27 when Jesus is looking at his imminent death, “My soul [psychē] is troubled…” The third variety of this term refers to personhood; for instance Romans 13:1 explains, “Let every person [psychē] be subject to the governing authorities.”
While biblical anthropology is not the focus of our discussion, there is no doubt that personal eschatology and anthropology converge on issues of the afterlife. The Old Testament equivalent of psychē is held within two words nephesh (“to respire,” “to breath,” “living”) and ruach (“spirit”). Nephesh is generally reflective of humanity’s total nature and concerns the human constitution. The classical text for understanding the role of nephesh is found in Genesis 2:7 where God declares man a “living [nephesh] being.” The Old Testament’s anthropological treatment of these words makes no clear distinction between the entities (i.e. body, soul, and spirit) that constitute humanity. Humans are always seen in their totality; body and soul are not separated but are inseparable concepts of body and life. The biblical witness as a whole understands the constitution of humanity in holistic fashion; body and soul are jointly viewed to establish the basis of personhood.
Within contemporary popular piety it has become fashionable to talk about the eternal state of the soul after death, to the exclusion of the resurrection of the body. This emphasis resurfaced as a popular way of discussing personal eschatology in the 18th century with the teachings of Swedish aristocrat and mystical theologian Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). His theological emphases drew attention to the correspondence of the physical world with the “true” invisible world. According to Swedenborg, the invisible world finds its basis in the attributes of God. His legacy breathes today through a group known as the “Swedenborg Society,” an assembly that was formed in the early nineteenth century. Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman, the American founder of this group, made his teachings popular in the United States. This Society promoted the immortality of the soul as the transmigration of souls from the physical world to the spiritual world after death. This system finds no room for the orthodox belief of the resurrection of the body. The Swedenborg tradition persists in part today in the way that popular piety portrays eschatology with songs and choruses that restrict heaven to a “place” to which our souls “fly away.”
Blog comment: Though I must admit, I enjoying singing that song around a campfire.
The Formation of Salvation Army Doctrine
The primary search for eschatological clarity is not with William Booth’s theology as a whole. The battleground is more implicit, one that is seeking eschatological clarity and a hermeneutical basis for understanding the Salvation Army’s eleventh article of faith. If this statement presents the possibility of being internally inconsistent, what were the influences upon it?
The “Articles of Faith” were officially adopted by the first conference of the Christian Mission in 1870. The doctrinal statements are closely related to the doctrines of Methodist New Connexion, the group in which William Booth was ordained and served for a short period of his life (1854-1861). The final set of eleven doctrines were adopted by the Salvation Army in the Deed Poll of 1878 and later confirmed in The Salvation Army Act of 1980. These statements find their source within the Methodist New Connexion. What has been overlooked in past scholarship is the development of doctrines within this source.
After John Wesley’s death in 1791, various reform groups were seeking to bring about renewal within Methodism. These efforts prevailed despite Wesley’s intention not to become a schismatic group. Alexander Kilham (1762-1798) was one of the first reformers within Methodism. His desire was for the Wesleyan Methodist movement to adopt a church government that included an adequate representation of the laity. As a result of Killham’s strong views, he was expelled from the Wesleyan Methodist church in 1796 and in 1797 started the Methodist New Connexion with three other leaders. He died soon after founding this splinter of Methodism, leaving the leadership to William Thom and other leaders within this offshoot of Methodism.
During the first three years of its existence the Methodist New Connexion held no doctrinal statements. In a 1862 overview of their doctrinal history, the Connexion claimed that “they were Methodist, and that was supposed to be enough….The writings of Wesley were held by the New Connexion with an unwavering hand….They retained his Hymn Book, [sic] and avowed their unabated attachment to the doctrines he taught.” During its formative years, controversy arose, and the New Connexion was accused of being “Apostate” and “Anti-Methodistic in doctrine.” As a result they initially included five statements that they believed to be “necessary to salvation.”
For those reading this on a blog, this information was taken from documents held in the Asbury Theological Seminary Library. To my knowledge this information has never been published by the Army.
These statements were expanded in 1816 to make the Connexion’s distinction as a religious body clear. Interestingly the eschatological portion of the 1823 statement solely included a qualified statement concerning the immortality of the soul, but this statement did not include an article outlining the resurrection of the body. By 1838 the doctrinal statements of the New Connexion did indeed include a statement on the resurrection of the body (see graph below). Except for an additional statement on the meaning of baptism and the Lord’s Supper these doctrinal statements remained untouched until New Connexion Methodism united with (mainstream) Methodism in 1907.
Changes in the Eschatological Doctrines of Methodist New Connexion
Eschatological Doctrinal Statements of the Methodist New Connexion in 1823
IX. We believe the soul to be immortal, and that after death it immediately enters upon a state of happiness or misery.
X. We believe in general judgment at the last day, in the eternal happiness of the righteous and the endless punishment of the wicked.
Eschatological Doctrinal Statements of the Methodist New Connexion in 1838
11. We believe the soul to be immortal, and that after death it immediately enters upon a state of happiness or misery.
12. We believe in the resurrection of the body—in the general judgment at the last day—in the eternal happiness of the righteous—and in the endless punishment of the wicked.
The Salvation Army’s doctrine concerning eschatology is derived from Methodist New Connexion’s final two doctrinal statements on eschatology. Compared in the graph below is the Army’s first published doctrinal statement on eschatology when it was named the Christian Revival Society. Also included is the current eschatological doctrine of the Salvation Army that is slightly modified from the Christian Mission statement.
Methodist New Connexion
11. We believe the soul to be immortal, and that after death it immediately enters upon a state of happiness or misery.
12. We believe in the resurrection of the body—in the general judgment at the last day—in the eternal happiness of the righteous—and in the endless punishment of the wicked.
Christian Revival Society
7. We believe in the immortality of the soul—the resurrection of the body—in the general judgment at the end of the world—in the eternal happiness of the righteous—and in the endless punishment of the wicked.
The Salvation Army
11. We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.
The differences between these doctrinal statements are the New Connexion’s explanation of the immortality of the soul as opposed to the Army’s statement of belief in such a doctrine. The second difference is situated in its terminology concerning the end of the world: the New Connexion Methodist statement “general judgment at the last day” and the Army’s “general judgment at the end of the world ” [emphasis mine]. Despite these differences, it is clear to deduce that in a confessional sense, the Army adapted its own eschatological statement from New Connexion Methodism.
The Army’s Self-Understanding of Immortality of the Soul
If the Methodist New Connexion was the source of the Salvation Army’s confessional statements, are these statements representative of the early Army’s theology? Did William Booth ever address “immortality” or “immortality of the soul”? The continued self-understanding of the Army as represented in various handbooks of doctrine reveals the way in which the Army has interpreted these eight words, “We believe in the immortality of the soul.”
Nowhere does Booth clearly outline his understanding of what is meant by the immortality of the soul. William’s clearest explanation of Salvation Army doctrine comes in his catechetical instruction booklet, The Doctrines and Disciplines of The Salvation Army: Prepared for the Use of Cadets in Training for Officership. [The General [William Booth], The Doctrines and Disciplines of The Salvation Army: Prepared for the Use of Cadets in Training for Officership, 3rd ed. (London: The Salvation Army Book Department, 1890). The earliest edition was published in 1881, and was reprinted in 1890. It was slightly modified and published in 1911 and. See R.G. Moyles, A Bibliography of Salvation Army Literature in English 1865-1987 (Lewiston, NY: E. Mellon Press, 1988).] The basic resource of Doctrines and Disciplines was Rev. Benjamin Field’s The Student’s Handbook of Christian Theology. Field’s text is interesting to this discussion because he never once posits a belief in the immortality of the soul. Field specifically cautions against the belief of the “Baron of Swedenborg” which he identifies as one of three “principal heresies … propagated with regard to the resurrection of the body.” In a similar fashion to Field, Booth answers dialogical questions so as to give the reader a quick response to theological questions.
In the section of Doctrines and Disciplines entitled, “Death and After,” Booth never developed a concept of the immortal soul. Answering a question about the existence of the soul after death, Booth responds, “His [the Salvation Army soldier who experiences death] glorified spirit enters heaven the moment it leaves the body, and is welcomed by God and the angels and the blood-washed soldiers with whom he fought below.” Booth further emphasizes the importance of the resurrection of the body when answering the question, “But what comes of the body after death? Does that live again?” Booth responds:
Yes; at the morning of the resurrection, the bodies of the saints are raised and made perfect and reunited with the soul, from which they were separated at death, and then perfectly redeemed from all the consequences of sin, the glorious service of God is engaged forever. Even so the bodies of sinners, raised at the same time, and reunited with the spirits that were their companions in sin on earth, will share the punishment from which they would not allow God to save them.
In this small book, Booth does use the word “immortal” to describe human beings. He resists the danger of making immortality ontologically intrinsic to human souls.
In a 1904 address concerning the importance of every human life, Booth does in fact use the word “immortal.” This usage does not, however, align with the classical Greek philosophical system, but with an understanding that something exists for the saint and sinner beyond death. He clarifies his understanding of personal immortality while challenging his audience:
If you don’t think that people are of any great worth you won’t be likely to face either fire or water to save them. But if you believe—1. That they are immortal, that they will live forever. 2. That their souls are of indescribable worth. 3. That God loves them, and wants to get them into Heaven. 4. That Christ thought them of sufficient value to lay down his life for them. 5. That they are every hour in peril of the wrath of God and the damnation of Hell. If you believe all this, or a reasonable part of it, you will work, and weep, and pray, and fight to save them. Believe! Believe!
Within William Booth’s eschatological outlook was a deep burden for the eternal welfare of persons. This burden for humanity lacked any development of the “immortality of the souls.” Even in his volume that was intended to expound the doctrines of his movement, William Booth ignores the concept of “immortality” as it relates to the human soul. Booth’s understanding of immortality of the soul remained a qualified notion. He never recognized the need to differentiate his understanding of immortality from the Greek concept. His intention was pure and consistent with his eschatology, but the eschatological language of his movement was imprecise and ambiguous within the landscape of Christian orthodoxy. Should his movement today continue to follow his lead? It seems that the Salvationist who is aware of the ambiguous nature of this language must reinterpret this language, which has already been defined.
The Heirs of Booth
William Booth’s son and designated successor, William Bramwell Booth (1856-1929) was also an important figure in the shaping of Salvation Army doctrine. William Booth’s leadership circle consisted of Catherine Booth, Bramwell Booth, and George Scott Railtion, who were the most influential leaders in the Army’s early development. Of these three, Bramwell’s influence would remain constant until William Booth’s death, serving as his father’s “chief of staff.” In 1923, eleven years into Bramwell’s Generalship, a Handbook of Salvation Army Doctrine was published under his “guidance and supervision.” The major structural revision that is presented, as compared to William Booth’s Doctrine and Disciplines was its expansion, placement, and discussion concerning the Bible. Doctrine and Disciplines, places its chapter on the Bible at the end of the work and only relegating to it a few pages. Bramwell’s Handbook of Salvation Army Doctrine positioned this chapter at the very beginning providing considerably more information. This organizational concern is indicative of the Handbook itself and Bramwell’s leadership as a whole. His leadership is attested as the organizational genius of the Army.
Concerning eschatology, Bramwell’s Handbook staunchly defends the immortality of the soul with fervor unmatched by the founder. With a simple explanation clause the Handbook states with regards to the soul’s immortality, “It will never cease to exist.” This statement might imply a preexistent soul if were not further explained. This basic definition, however, illustrated the inherent danger of using the term “immortality.”
This Handbook equates the immortality of the soul with life everlasting as an inborn longing that
“men instinctively feel … this feeling it reflected in nearly all heathen religions.”
Bramwell’s Handbook then makes an unparalleled leap in Army literature, explaining that the biblical view of the soul’s immortality is argued from silence. The Handbook illustrates,
“The Bible confirms it by taking for granted the immortality of the soul.”
The Handbook further continues to explain the soul as a necessary part of human anthropology in light of eternity.
The next Handbook of Doctrine coming from the authority of the Salvation Army’s General did not appear until 1969, under the leadership of General Frederick Coutts (1899-1986). This handbook made considerable strides in presenting the doctrinal basis of the Salvationist movement. In 1982 this Handbook appeared in an abridged form under the title The Doctrine We Adorn. Both of these volumes ignore any exposition of the clause “We believe in the immortality of the soul…” even though the purpose of such a handbook is to make finer points of theology clear. These books do contain a one-page summary that present a belief in life after death, but these sections disregard the immortality of the soul.
Between the publishing of the 1969 Handbook and its abridgment in 1982, international headquarters published a “study of the background and meaning of Salvation Army doctrines,” entitled This We Believe, in 1976. General Fredrick Coutts’ theologically educated son, John, acknowledges that immortality of the soul is a Greek concept that was “another tradition concerning the after-life.” In contrast to his knowledge of Greek philosophy, John Coutts never articulates what is meant by the Salvation Army’s doctrine of immortality.
The United States National Headquarters of the Salvation Army published a catechetical instruction book for students seeking to become soldiers (i.e. lay members) in 1968. The study was written by Milton Agnew, and revised in 1978 and 1985 entitled, The Manual of Salvationism. In the chapter entitled “God’s Future Plans” Agnew suggests that immortality of the soul “
means that we believe the soul will never cease to exist. Since man was created in the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26, 27; 9:6), he was created for immortality, that is, for an unending existence.”
Agnew’s intention seems to point toward personal life beyond death, but the phrase “never cease to exist” and “unending existence” comes very close to an understanding of immortality that similarly has no beginning. Agnew’s statement remains a qualified doctrine, and therefore orthodox, because he affirms that humans were “created for immortality.”
The latest exposition based upon the Army’s articles of faith is Salvation Story: Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine. The international doctrine council prepared this handbook. When the group that came into existence in 1992, it was charged with the task of producing a new Handbook with a “fresh approach.” Salvation Story approaches the doctrine of eschatology within the theme of the “Kingdom of the risen Lord.” The discussion of immortality begins by affirming that immortality is the way that “Christians have often expressed belief in life after death.” The authors then underline the difficulties of this language by saying “this phrase needs to be clearly understood.” Salvation Story avoids the trap of referring to the immortal soul as something that has a persistent quality stating, “
apart from God’s action there is no part of us that naturally survives beyond death. Our eternal existence is based on God.”
This handbook then seemingly contrasts this viewpoint with others by distinguishing: “What the Christian doctrine of immortality says…[emphasis theirs].” If there is a non-Christian doctrine of immortality, it is probably based in Greek metaphysics. This is not, however, mentioned in this explanation of the immortality of the soul. The statement further concludes with a basic anthropological outline,
“What the Christian doctrine of immortality says is that we are whole persons, originally brought to life by God, and because of God’s action there is no loss of integrated, embodied personality in the life beyond present existence. God brings us all into eternity to participate in the general resurrection and submit to the final judgment of Christ.”
Each doctrinal area within Salvation Story concludes with a summary that affirms the essentials of each doctrine in contemporary language. The summary of the chapter on eschatology does not mention the immortality of the soul. This statement and the extreme qualification of the phrase immortality of the soul, demonstrate that the international doctrine council responsible for writing Salvation Story was well aware of the possible ambiguities of this language. This handbook, however, never established the fact that this statement can be identified with the Greek metaphysical system. Instead, it continues the tradition set by other official explanations, in that it is forced to defend a statement that is problematic. It would be more helpful for the Army at least to admit such language can have two meanings. It might be time for the Salvation Army to pursue further clarity in doctrinal language. Such language could be consistent with the Army’s heritage, which has never in spirit affirmed the negative side of the immortality of the soul. Considering the fact that the origins of this phrase are with New Connexion Methodism and not with William Booth or the early Army, it might be (or it is) time for the contemporary Army to refine rather than defend this statement.
Luther Lee and the Wesleyan Church
The Wesleyan Church, originally known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church, began at a similar point in history as the Army. Its principal early leaders, Orange Scott and Luther Lee, were deeply moved in 1843, to separate from the Methodist Episcopal Church as a protest to its stance on slavery. Luther Lee wrote a thorough study entitled The Immortality of the Soul. His basic affirmation is very similar to William Booth’s and is a fair representation of how immortality can be qualified with the resurrection to affirm life between death and resurrection.
If Luther Lee was a strong defender of the applicability of this phrase in the mid-to-late-nineteenth century, it is interesting to note how the denomination he led followed suit. Interestingly The Discipline of the Wesleyan Church published in 1968 has no reference to immortality of the soul.
William Booth’s personal eschatology demonstrates that he was thoroughly convinced that there is more to human existence than life and death. This belief was rarely expressed with the phrase “immortality of the soul” in his personal eschatology. His movement shortened the doctrinal statements that it inherited from New Connexion Methodism to include this phrase. The impact of this phrase on the Salvation Army has steadily been a posture of defense rather than explanation or redefinition. Though the intention of the Salvation Army and William Booth was also within the framework of orthodoxy, it is possible that the actual phrase itself can be confused for a concept that is unrelated to the New Testament’s eschatological witness. In light of the possible confusion that can result from a belief in an immortal soul, the contemporary Army would profit theologically by clarifying its eschatological doctrine. Two suggestions are possibilities: 1. Change the phrase “immortality of the soul” to “continued existence of the soul after death.” 2. Take out the phrase altogether, so the Salvation Army doctrinal statement would follow: “We believe in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.” It might be better to drop the word “soul” and use another term like “self ” or “life.” Letting go of the phrase “soul” would not dictate a monistic position for the tenth doctrinal statement explicitly mentions the soul.
The way in which William Booth spoke of the veracity of eternity was never ambiguous. The doctrinal statement that the Salvation Army adopted regarding eschatology is, however, misleading. This study has demonstrated the approach that William Booth took toward the eternal destiny of individuals. The doctrinal statements that Booth adapted from New Connexion Methodism possibly reflect a problematic understanding of the immortality of the soul. This understanding when unqualified leaves the door open to misunderstanding today. The contemporary Army has never “officially” addressed this conceivably misleading concept. The Army should reconsider its word usage in the eleventh doctrinal statement or should present an explicit clarification that distinguishes it from the Greek philosophical concept of the immortality of the soul. An acknowledgement of ambiguity would further a biblical understanding of the resurrection of the body.
Blog Note: See the 2010 Handbook of Doctrine which wonderfully clarifies some confusion they even sue Moltmann as a source.