"A Balanced View of Man and His Destiny" E.K. Gedney Series Part 4
by Edwin K. Gedney
(This is the final 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")
The Nature of Man
We have stated that the materialist thinks of man as purely a physical being with mental and emotional development as a higher organization of his nerve system. The mystic thinks of man as essentially a spiritual being with a material body that is a temporary but not necessary residence. The Bible, however, presents man as a rational balance of both of these limited and distorted views. Let us look at God’s formula or equation for making man as found in Genesis 2:7-
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (KJV)."
Material substance + spiritual essence= living being (the body) (breath or spirit)(soul)
From this equation and the related context, we may draw interesting conclusions, some of which are at variance with both pagan and modern Christian ideas of man.
1. Both body and the spirit are necessary components of functioning man- the “soul.” The Bible consistently regard both as essential and man as incomplete without them. Probably Paul had this in mind when he stated that he did not want to be a naked spirit (2 Co 5:3-5).
2. The soul is not something that man has inside his body that is separable and can be removed like his appendix. The “soul of life” is something that he is- formed by the union of body and breath (spirit). The idea of a conscious, man shaped soul that is the real person and that can exist and function separately form the body and perform all activities without a body comes from animistic, Hindu, and Greek thought, not the Bible. It is neither biblical nor scientific, nor is it in harmony with this equation for man.
The Bible view of man, on the other hand, is not in harmony with the completely materialistic idea of man characteristic of modern secularism. Materialists envision a man as one who has no real understanding of himself, no perception of true values, no satisfying concept of destiny. The scriptural view clearly states that man has a spiritual aspect that is as vital to his nature as his body is. It warns positively that if God should withdraw this spirit, all flesh would perish (Job 34:14-15; Ps 104:29). Out of this combination of material and spiritual come all the primary aspects of man.
Thought and feeling are not higher integrations of the nerve systems, as the materialist state, but emerge form the interaction of body and spirit. They also would cease functioning when these basic elements, each incomplete without the other, are separated. Death is then properly described in the Bible by the word “sleep: in which one’s experience in relation to the environment is suspended for a time (Ecc 9:5, 10; Ps 146:4)
3. Man is intimately related to both the material creation and to the spiritual world and its Creator, and he is therefore able to develop understanding of both areas and gives both a proper place in his life and thinking. Education, then, should include the development of both aspects of man’s nature and perceptions. To neglect either is to produce a distorted person, blind to half of his nature and possibilities.
The development of only the spiritual aspects, as the mystics and ascetics propose, produces a person without a good relation to reality. The training fo the sense and mind alone, as the materialists urge, produces the earth-centered and often self-centered man whose values are focused in things. When God is displaced from the center of our culture, this worldly man assumes leadership in our society. Great evil has come upon the world in the twentieth century because of the products of this materialistic philosophy.
Securely based upon the biblical formula for man, Advent Christians have a truly balanced view, with appropriate emphasis placed on both the physical and spiritual aspects of his nature.
4. We perceive that man is not by nature immortal God addressed this newly made living soul shortly after his origin. He tells man that disobedience to his one restriction will result in man’s death (Ge 2:17). Death is not presented in the Bible as continuing life. It is revealed as the opposite of life and as a great enemy of the human race- the last enemy to be destroyed. Immortality as presented in these chapters of Genesis is always found in the Tree of Life, not in the person. The person is capable of death. When, influenced by Satan, he broke the one restriction, he was excluded from the vicinity of the Tree of Life, and a barrier was erected with the expressed purpose of preventing him form eating of the Tree (Gn 3:22-24). God preserved this source of life, however, and in the new Eden (Paradise) we find redeemed man back in contact with the Tree of Life (Rev 2:7; Ro 2:7)
5. We learn from later parts of the bible that the death noted here in Genesis is the dissolution of the living soul, the nature of which is set forth in Genesis 2:7. The parts of the soul are separated but not lost. The body returns to the earth form which it was made, the spirit (breath) returns to God, and the soul of life therefore ceases to function as a living being. This non-functioning state the Bible describes as like a sleep, for in sleep a person is not aware of nor participating in the affairs of life around him.
The Hebrews regarded death aa s a awaiting period until the resurrection of all men, not as a time of conscious activity. The body will one day be raised, and the spirit will be returned to it. This new life is what resurrection really is (Lk 8:55). The person is not complete without body parts. Death is not a punishment- that comes after resurrection and judgment. It is a consequence of mortal man being cut off form the Tree of Life. When the organic life with which he is born becomes exhausted, man dies. At the return of Christ hew ill raised, judged, and those who have not found eternal life in Christi will suffer the punishment of the second death (Rev 20:11-15)
6. No evidence, here or elsewhere, indicates that the soul of life as described in Genesis 2:7, was an immortal, self-sufficient, separable entity who could exist as one of its components. Some teach so, but apart form the ongoing attempt to integrate the Bible and Greek thought, one sees no reason for this view. Natural immortality is of recent origin and does not appear in the Scriptures.
7. Nothing in this passage indicates that God has made something which he must live with through all eternity because he cannot destroy it. God can and will destroy rebellious living souls after a proper hearing and judgment (Mt. 10:28). This destruction is called in the Bible the “second death” (Rev 20:14-15). Unless the common words perish, death, and destroy can be given ameaning the opposite of what they ordinarily mean, the condemned have no hope of recovery form it and no immortality in it. The antithesis of eternal life is death, not eternal life in hell.
God is not required to maintain evil people forever in conscious torment as a blot on his creation because he is powerless to do anything with indestructible, immortal souls. They will perish or be destroyed in gehenna (hell) as described in Matthew 10:28, just as refuse case into the Jerusalem city dump (valley of Hinnom) was consumed. God ‘s universe will be free of anything that cannot be related to Christ (Eph 1:10). To save people from this destruction, he sent his Son, Jesus (Jn 3:16).
The Bible gives us a balanced view of man, a reasonable mean between the extremes of materialistic humanism and vacuous mysticism. It provides information concerning man that is not obtainable from any other source. It answers the basic questions of personal identity and purpose that neither science nor philosophy can answer clearly. God is in the universe, the human creation is responsible to him, and one day each will be called to account to him with respect to how he ahs fulfilled the purposes for which he was made. Eternal life exists, but only in Christ, and those obtain it do so only by coming to God through Jesus. A glorious future awaits the world, but only when Jesus comes to replace the states of the present world with his kingdom of renewed people in a renewed earth.