There is a particular form of conditionalism requiring special mention which seeks to avoid the difficulties of annihilationism, by teaching, not the total extinction of the souls of the wicked, but rather, as it is commonly phrased, their "transformation" into impersonal beings incapable of moral action, or indeed of any feeling. This is the form of conditionalism which is suggested by James Martineau and by Horace Bushnell. It is also hinted at by Henry Drummond when he supposes the lost soul to lose not salvation merely but the capacity for it and for God; so that what is left is no longer fit to be called a soul, but is a shrunken, useless organ ready to fall away like a rotten twig. The Alsatian theologian A. Schäffer similarly speaks of the wicked soul losing the light from heaven, the divine spark which gave it its value, and the human personality thereby being obliterated. "The forces out of which it arises break up and become at last again impersonal. They do not pass away, but are transformed." One sees the conception here put forward at its highest level in such a view as that presented by Professor O.A. Curtis, which thinks of the lost not, to be sure, as "crushed into mere thinghood" but as sunk into a condition "below the possibility of any moral action, or moral concern...like persons in this life when personality is entirely overwhelmed by the base sense of what we call physical fear." There is no annihilation in Professor Curtis' view; not even relief for the lost from suffering; but it may perhaps be looked at as marking the point where the theories of annihilationism reach up and melt at last into the doctrine of eternal punishment. (Warfield, Works, Vol. 9, pp. 456-57; References cited in original were omitted here)
- At least in the quotes Warfield cites there is no discussion of body and soul condemned to hell just what happens to the soul. (Although Warfield does not cite these works in whole--my concern is that we think in terms of body and soul in the lake of fire).
- The Biblical discussion of worm and fire that is not quenched seems to indicate that the worm and fire does not consume though it is clearly torturous. In this form of conditionalism while the suffering is eternal, it seems that this conception the fire does consume away at the soul in some fashion, albeit not a strictly annihilationist conception.
- While creation in general currently bears the curse of sin, God's Wrath is not abstract by directed at personal beings. If God's wrath 'burns' away their personhood, at what point is it no longer his wrath directed at them but just an abstract concept.
- Finally, at the state that the person is non-personal can they really be considered to be being punished and suffering eternally?
It seems to me that Warfield is right (not to mention clever) to say: "it may perhaps be looked at as marking the point where the theories of annihilationism reach up and melt at last into the doctrine of eternal punishment." While I'm not convinced from what I know about these views that they are Biblical, and while there is a limited value is some of what Wright says on the issue, it is important to note that the view is not traditional annihilationism or even proper annihationist. In other words they may give up something, but they do not give up as much ground as the annihilationist-- in the same way the annihilationist does not give up as much Biblical doctrine as the "Christian universalist". While truth is truth, it is helpful to recognize that wrong views are not all equally wrong to the same extent.