Author’s Introduction (Full Text, truncated)
- Why write a book on the Biblical view of human nature and destiny? Isn’t this a dead issue that theologians have settled long time ago? What is the point of investigating this question again? Do people really care about what the Bible teaches about the make-up of their nature and God’s plan for their destiny?
- The truth of the matter is that the question of human nature and destiny is far from being a dead issue. In recent years, numerous Bible scholars, philosophers, and scientists have re-examined the traditional dualistic view of human nature, consisting of a material, mortal body, and a spiritual, immortal soul. They have found such a view to be contrary to Scripture, reason and science.
- A close re-examination of the basic Biblical terms for man (body, soul, spirit, flesh, mind, heart) has led many scholars to conclude that in the Bible there is no dichotomy between a mortal body and an immortal soul that “comes apart” at death. Both body and soul, flesh and spirit are an indivisible unity, part of the same person who ceases to exist at death until the resurrection. Reading these scholarly studies, one almost gets the impression that Christianity is coming out of a stupor and is suddenly discovering that for too long it has held to a view of human nature derived from Platonic dualism rather than from Biblical holism1.
- The massive scholarly assault on the traditional dualistic view of human nature eventually will filter through the rank and file of Christian denominations. When this happens, it will cause intellectual and personal crisis to Christians accustomed to believing that at death their souls break loose from their bodies and continue to exist either in the beatitude of paradise or in the torment of hell. Many Christians will be sorely disappointed to discover that their beliefs in the afterlife2 are a delusion.
- There is no question that Biblical scholarship is bound to cause a great deal of existential anxiety to millions of Christians who believe in going to heaven at death with their disembodied3 souls. Any challenge to traditionally held beliefs can be devastating. The purpose of this study is not to intensify such anxiety, but to encourage all Christians committed to the normative authority of the Scripture to re-examine their traditional beliefs and reject them if proven to be unbiblical. The Christian hope for a better tomorrow must be grounded on the unmistakable teachings of God’s Word, not on ecclesiastical traditions.
- Reasons for Writing this Book
- Two major reasons have motivated me to undertake this research. The first is the awareness that in spite of the massive attacks by Bible scholars against traditional dualism, the belief in conscious existence after death is gaining greater popular acceptance. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 71 percent of Americans believe in some form of conscious life after death4. The increase in this belief can be attributed to such factors as the polished image of mediums and psychics, the sophisticated “scientific” research into near-death experiences5, and the popular New Age channelling with the alleged spirits of the past. Methods such as these are very successful in making people believe Satan’s lie that no matter what they do, they “shall not die” (Gen 3:4) but become like gods by living for ever.
- The second reason for undertaking this study is that most scholarly studies on this area are technical in nature and limited in scope. They are written in a technical language, making use of original Hebrew or Greek words that most lay readers do not understand. Their scope is also limited, often dealing exclusively either with the question of human nature (Biblical anthropology) or that of human destiny (Biblical eschatology). Biblical scholars seldom have attempted to show the correlation between the Biblical teaching on the make-up of human nature and its teaching on the nature of human destiny.
- The awareness of the growing popular acceptance of the belief in conscious existence after death and the scarcity of popularly written books addressing this issue from a Biblical perspective convinced me of the need to write this book. My goal is twofold. On the one hand, I attempt to unmask with Biblical reasoning the oldest and possibly the greatest deception of all time, namely, that human beings possess immortal souls that live on forever. This deceptive teaching has fostered a whole spectrum of erroneous beliefs that have adversely affected Christian thought and practice. On the other hand, I endeavor to show how the Biblical holistic view of human nature enhances our appreciation of our physical life, this present world, redemption, and our ultimate destiny.
- The procedure that I have followed consists of two steps. First, I have investigated in chapters 2 and 3 the Old and New Testaments understanding of human nature by examining the meaning and usage of key terms such as soul, body, spirit, flesh, and heart. This study shows that these terms are often used interchangeably because the Biblical view of human nature is holistic, not dualistic. The body and soul, the flesh and spirit, are characteristics of the same person and not detachable components that “come apart” at death.
- Second, I have shown in chapters 4 to 7 how the holistic view of human nature relates to the Biblical teachings regarding the nature of death, the state of the dead until their resurrection, the Second Advent, the final punishment of evildoers, and the world to come. The study shows that there is a clear correlation between the Biblical holistic view of human nature and its realistic view of human life and destiny. This means that what we believe about the make-up of our human nature, determines what we believe about our present life and future destiny.
- Christians who hold to a dualistic view of human nature consisting of a mortal body and an immortal soul that survives the death of the body, also envision a dualistic type of human life and destiny. They define dualistically the present life, death, the state of the dead, the resurrection, the Christian Hope, the final punishment, and the world to come.
- Dualism has fostered a negative view of the body in contrast to the positive role of the soul. “Saving souls” is more important than preserving bodies. Vita contemplativa is superior to vita activa. Redemption is an internal experience of the soul rather than a total transformation of the whole person.
- Dualism defines death as the separation of the soul from the body; the state of the dead as the conscious existence of disembodied6 souls either in the bliss of paradise or in the torment of hell; the resurrection as the reattachment of a glorified material body to a spiritual soul; the Christian Hope as the ascension of the soul to the bliss of paradise; the final punishment as the eternal torment of body and soul in hellfire; and paradise as a spiritual, heavenly retreat where glorified, spiritual saints spend eternity in everlasting contemplation and meditation.
- By contrast, Christians who accept the Biblical holistic view of human nature, consisting of an indivisible unity of body, soul, and spirit, also envision a holistic type of human life and destiny. They define holistically death as the cessation of life for the whole person; the state of the dead as the rest of the whole person in the grave until the resurrection; the Christian Hope as the expectation of Christ’s return to resurrect the whole person; the final punishment as the annihilation of the whole person in hellfire; paradise as this whole planet earth restored to its original perfection, and inhabited by real people who will engage in real activities. The Biblical holistic view of human nature determines the realistic view of this life and the world to come.
- Method and Style
- This book is written from a Biblical perspective. I accept the Bible as normative for defining Christian beliefs and practices. Because the words of the Bible contain a divine message written by human authors who lived in specific historical situations, every effort must be made to understand their meaning in their historical context. My conviction is that an understanding of both the historical and literary context of relevant Biblical texts is indispensable in establishing both their original meaning and their present relevance. This conviction is reflected in the methodology I have followed in examining those Biblical texts that relate to human nature and destiny.
- Concerning the style of the book, I have attempted to write in simple, nontechnical language. In some instances where a technical word is used, a definition is provided in parenthesis. To facilitate the reading, each chapter is divided into major parts and subdivided under appropriate headings. A brief summary is given at the end of each chapter. Unless otherwise specified, all Bible texts are quoted from the Revised Standard Version, copyright 1946 and 1952. In few instances, some key words of a Bible text have been italicized for emphasis without footnoting them, since the reader is aware that the English Bible does not italicize words.
Footnote 1: For some reason, holistic and holism are spelled “wholistic” and “wholism”, throughout the text. I have corrected the text passim.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)