"A Balanced View of Man and His Destiny" E.K. Gedney Series Part. 1
by Edwin K. Gedney
(This is the first part of a four part series excerpting the work of E.K. Gedney as found in "Our Destiny We Know" a compilation of essays in honor of E.K. Gedney. Entitled "A Balanced View of Man and His Destiny." In that book, this section was taken from Gedney's work "We Believe: A Biblical Anthropology")
One of the things that is most attractive to me about the Advent Christian denomination is its biblical and completely reasonable view of man. When I first met the Advent Christian group, I was a graduate student majoring in geology at Brown University and later at Harvard. I was a Bible-believing Christian and a member of a large conservative Protestant church. However, there were one or two things taught by my church that I, as a scientist, had great difficulty accepting.
The most important of these was its doctrine of the nature of man as a naturally immortal soul existing in a body-shell which was a temporary shelter to be discarded at death . After death, this soul was said to do all the things it formerly did in life without the mechanisms for doing them, and in an invisible intangible state. Speaking, talking, and doing other physical actions without the physical structures with which to perform them put a great strain on my credulity. However, I accepted this because I considered it a part of the Christian faith.
My church also taught me that I, as a disembodied soul, would go at once to a reward at death, although my Bible seemed to state that this did no occur until after a formal judgment. After death my invisible immortal soul go at once to bliss in heaven or to hell where it would begin to experience endless torment. IF it were hell, I would have to stay there forever- endless billions of years in real physical suffering because my soul, being immortal, could not be destroyed,. The obvious biblical teaching of a future general judgment followed by sentencing and reward did not seem to fit picture very well.
I also discovered that the other great religions of the world, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, held similar views of the essential nature of man as an immortal soul for which a body is a temporary and relatively unimportant residence. In the view of these religions, the great emphasis of education and culturally development should be placed on their inner soul. The body should be ignored or even subdued by ascetic practices.
In my courses in various sciences, I was met by a still different and completely opposite view- that the only real man is what we see. Man is a purely a psycho-physical being with no spiritual essence dwelling in him. What we call mind and emotion are simply higher integrations of a physical nervous system, more elaborate but not basically different from that of the animal world. Man is purely a product of emergence from the physical world by processes of natural law. He has no specific spiritual component or any destiny beyond death except in the inheritance passed on to his children. The emphasis in education and cultural development should therefore be placed on training the physical and mental aspects only. This view is the one now generally adopted and taught in all communist cultures and in most modern Western schools. It is responsible for much of the frustration, alienation, and lack of meaning and purpose in life common in our Western youth today.
While confronted by these entirely opposite views of man, I discovered the conditionalist view held by the Advent Christian people. The view seemed to me to be strictly biblical, not modified by tradition, pagan philosophy, or materialism. I discovered that many people in other denominations also held this view. It is a balanced view of man in which the body and the spiritual aspects are both regarded as vitally important as they are in the Bible. Immortality and eternal life are recognized as the properties of God, not of man. They are brought to man through Jesus Christ. Man’s possession of them is conditioned upon his possession of Jesus as a personal Savior. Without Jesus he has neither immortality nor any life beyond that with which he was born.
The conditionalist view does not involve and indestructible immaterial soul enduring constant torment for billions of years. It does not hold that God has made something he cannot unmake but must perpetuate as a little island of sin forever in his otherwise perfect cosmos. It has all men in death wait together for a judgment at which they will be sentenced- not beginning punishment before judgment. On the other hand, it does not think of man as a purely material biopsychic organism whose personality ends forever at death. Because it is truly biblical, it is also truly rational. It is, indeed, the only truly rational, logical, and spiritual view fully acceptable to the scientific mind today.