RE-FORMATION THESES 19-21
Thesis #19 of 95 - The God-given soul and spirit of man is innocent but pliable (liable to corruption) Thesis #20 of 95 - Apart from gospel grace or infantile death the soul is bound to experience a measure of corruption Theses #21 0f 95 - The soul/spirit of man is not intrinsically corrupt having come from God, unlike the procreated vessel into which it is planted at birth
Eccles12:7 – Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it
1Thes5:23 – Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your SPIRIT AND SOUL AND BODY be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rom7:22-24 – For I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner man I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind, making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God, it is through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Gen6:3 – God said “My spirit shall not perpetually strive with man for he is flesh, so his days shall be (reduced to) 120 years [Note: this cannot be referring to the Holy Spirit, for fallen man by nature neither encounters nor possesses the Holy Spirit. Rather, he possesses a spirit from God which is constantly at enmity with his fleshly parts (body and brain) – so God does man a favour by reducing his time in the flesh].
1Pet4:6 – Therefore the gospel has been preached even to those who have died, so that though they have been judged in the flesh as people, they may live in the spirit in accordance with the will of God.
Three theses have been lumped together in this post as they are closely related, and each one hopefully helps explain the other two.
The biblical references are firstly to confirm that Paul (together with the writer to the Hebrews and the witness of the early Church) asserts that a human being consists of flesh, soul and spirit. As all Christians will agree, the spiritual essence of man is eternal, but the reference from Ecclesiastes affirms its origins as well as its destination. Man’s spirit came from God and shall return to Him when the body is laid to rest. Many Christians (“traducians”) effectively believe that the eternal soul/spirit is somehow derived through human procreation. Others (creationists) believe the spiritual essence of man is directly created by God and planted into the human embryo at some point before birth. These theses affirm the latter. Creationism is the official teaching of the Catholic Church, although in practice many (not least Augustine himself) have struggled with it in view of incompatibility with his distinctive teaching on original sin that the Western Church (alone) adopted. For it would imply that the God who is love personified implants a morally degenerated soul within man and then condemns him for possessing it. The traducian notion is equally illogical and irrational, for how can that which is spiritual and eternal be generated from what is mortal and material? – apart from which, as already indicated the notion is unbiblical.
The matter is resolved by Paul’s teaching in Romans chapter seven, that is when taken literally. The spiritual essence of man (which Paul refers to here as the “inner man” – elsewhere to the heart or spirit) is not the source of mankind’s problem with sin, for it instinctively loves what is good and in accordance with God’s law (7:22). The problem stems from what the apostle refers to as law in the body parts, by which he must mean the bodily senses as processed through the brain. It might appear blindingly obvious but I for one did not previously think the matter through – at death, the brain returns to the ground with the rest of the body. What goes into eternity, being the invisible spiritual essence planted by God is itself an intellectual entity, rational and memory-retaining. The parable of Lazarus and rich man confirms as much (Lk16:25 – note also from that verse why the rich man and Lazarus were experiencing what they were – to be covered in later theses). It is the moral tension between the fleshly and spiritual intellectual entities within man that Paul is describing in Romans 7, prompting him to ask, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” All Christians know Jesus Christ to be the answer, and Paul confirms it (v25). But what of the question? It pertains to the very purpose and nature of what the bible means by “salvation” – what it is from and what it is for (previous thesis).
The innocence of the soul
It is not the God-given soul and spirit but the procreated intellectual vessel they inhabit that prevents man by nature rightly relating to God in the present. Only the Christian is provided with the spiritual resources to “possess his own vessel in sanctity and honour” (1Thes4:4). That is so that his soul can be fitted for immediate divine service in the world to come. In the meantime, the Christian is to present his mortal body to God as a living sacrifice. That, says Paul, is his reasonable service (Rom12:1). But it is not what the apostle regards as the ultimate purpose of salvation, neither is “going to heaven when you die” which the bible (including Paul) describes as “falling asleep” (Acts7:60; 1Cor15:6). No, here is the focus and cosmic outworking of Paul’s gospel and it is line with the message of the Christmas angels: Good news/great joy/all people (Lk2:10) –
“The creation was subjected to futility, not of its own choice but because of Him who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. That whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only they, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit – we also groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption, being the redemption of our body” (Rom8:20-23)
This is not my gospel, it is Paul’s. Some of his teaching was new revelation; none of mine is, nor can it be. Rather, it is new interpretation that will appear alien to many. That is to be expected – for the Roman Church has long regarded Augustine as their preeminent doctor whilst the founder of the Protestant Church’s introductory statement for his 95 theses at Heidelberg declared Augustine to have been “Paul’s most trustworthy interpreter”. The Spirit has shown me something very much to the contrary, the supernatural aspect of the revelation testified to in a number of earlier posts. The resulting synopsis has been set out in The Little Book of Providence, made freely available to all as a PDF. What is more, I believe that such a course of events was foretold in Scripture – cryptically so in Revelation chapter ten, more overtly so in the non-canonical yet inspired and biblically quoted Book of Enoch – another earlier post refers.