Response to "The Word Maze"
R. Jim Seibert
1308 126th SE
Everett, WA 98208
The Word Maze column in the Sept. 1989 issue of Perspectives on the subject of "life/death" promotes the following observations.
Life/death can fruitfully be defined, as you did, in three different areas: the biological, the personal, and the spiritual. Taken singly, if I am alive biologically but "dead" personally and spiritually, I am in an irreversible, and relatively temporary coma, headed for both the grave and hell fairly soon. If I am alive personally but dead biologically and spiritually, I am in hell, or in the waiting state immediately before final consignment after the judgement. If I am alive spiritually, but dead biologically and personally, then I am in the state the Seventh Day Adventists think is the waiting state for redeemed souls before the resurrection, called soul sleeping to them, also a temporary state. None of these single conditions are normal.
Taken in pairs, the understanding becomes more fruitful. If I am alive biologically and personally but dead spiritually, then I am the usual garden variety of human-non-Christian. If I am alive biologically and spiritually but dead personally, then I am a redeemed person in a coma, a short-term state. If I am alive personally and spiritually but dead biologically, then I am "absent from the body but with the Lord," waiting for the resurrection. This is the traditional view of the state of the redeemed immediately after death, a relatively temporary condition. All of these paired conditions are temporary.
If I am alive biologically, personally, and spiritually then I am a normal redeemed person, or perhaps a resurrected, redeemed person. To accept this latter, then we must stretch our concept of biological to include the unknown future nature of the redeemed body we shall be given. If I am dead biologically, personally, and spiritually, then I do not exist-I am annihilated, a condition that the scriptures seem to rule out. Once I exist, I exist.
I have long used the communication model to describe personal "life" to a thinking person. The "I" needs a body to communicate with other persons and needs a spiritual "body" to communicate with other spiritual persons. Communication cannot proceed otherwise. If a person's body dies before he is given a permanent spiritual "body," then he will be given a temporary one, only long enough to stand for the judgement, after which he will have to endure endless isolation. To be isolated forever with the prurient memories intact and with the wicked tendencies now unchecked by God and unrestrained by society, this is the hell of hells. However benign the beginning, it will not take more than a few decades for even the strongest ones to experiment with evil. This, by the way, is the "paradise" the Muslim and the Mormon is looking forward to! Incredible! A place all his own, where he is the boss, where he sets the rules and where he calls the shots. A place filled with all the sensual pleasures-the good things of life forever. Unfortunately, man, man without The Good of God, will-absolutely will-experiment with evil. He will<-absolutely will-turn his benign paradise into a convoluted, wicked, roaring hell. Fallen man totally denies this fact of life. It is THE lie told by the enemy of his soul.
Whenever a scientifically trained person tries to explain something to a
theologically trained person, some interesting problems in communication
develop. A scientist is used to using models to convey ideas. He knows the
limits of models and unless it is his own model, and hence he has invested an
excessive vanity in it, or unless he is merely immature, he does not try to
learn overmuch from his model. It is a tool: a teaching tool, a memory tool, a
conceptual tool. A religious doctrine is very like a scientific model. It is
one's attempt to relate, and to describe, a collection of ideas. So far, so
good. The mischief comes when we begin to invest in our doctrines properties
they do not and should not possess. The whole becomes a great deal more than the
sum of its parts. Both the theologian and the scientist would do well to
remember the high value of excellent doctrine and of models, but the limitations
of them, too. All of them are manmade things. All contain a little bit of the
dung of the human condition. To deprecate others, or to persecute others because
they do not accept our particular scheme of relating ideas, is akin to the
use of force in making a conversion, perhaps impossible in the biblical sense.
Worse, it demonstrates that we have left the scientific or religious arena and
have decided to play in the political arena, and have determined to deceive
ourselves and others that we have not moved.
We must remember that our quest is for truth-not for the domination of our particular view of "truth." Fortunately, one of the names of Christ is Truth, and our quest for identification with Him can be total.
Thanks to you, Dr. Bube, for your long years of insightful works.