REFLECTIONS
Articles Archive -- Topical Index -- Textual Index

by Al Maxey

Issue #835 -- December 17, 2021
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Souls are made of dawn-stuff and starshine.
Elbert Hubbard [1856-1915]

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The Myth of Immortal Soulism
A Response to Wayne Jackson's Article
in a Recent Issue of Christian Courier

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), an American attorney who was involved in a number of high-profile cases, including the "Scopes Monkey Trial" in 1925, made the following observation about the notion of human beings possessing a soul: "If there is a soul, what is it, and where did it come from, and where does it go? Can anyone who is guided by his reason possibly imagine a soul independent of a body, or the place of its residence, or the character of it, or anything concerning it? If man is justified in any belief or disbelief on any subject, he is warranted in the disbelief in a soul. Not one scrap of evidence exists to prove any such impossible thing" [from his essay "Why I Am an Agnostic"]. That our physical, mortal bodies possess some spiritual, immortal being (our "true essence;" an independent life temporarily trapped within our earthly bodies) is a teaching with which we are all familiar, and one which most of us were led to believe was Bible-based, and thus irrefutably true. Frankly, this is one of the greatest deceptions perpetrated against the Faith and ultimate Truth that this world has ever witnessed.

The belief that you and I possess (have trapped within us) an immortal soul that cannot die, a soul which is freed from its prison when the physical body dies, is an ancient belief, but it is nowhere taught in the Bible. Indeed, the phrase "immortal soul" never appears in either the OT or the NT writings. Yet, it is a dogma so common and popular that most just assume it must be of divine origin. It is not; its source is found in ancient pagan religions, and in the teachings of Plato. These misconceptions found their way into the thinking of the ancient Jews, and they were embellished and given new life during the Middle Ages. Josephus wrote, "All of us ... have mortal bodies, composed of perishable matter, but the soul lives forever; it is a portion of the Deity housed in our bodies" [The Jewish War 3.8.5; see also The Antiquities of the Jews 18.1.3]. In his classic work titled "The Republic," the Athenian philosopher Plato (428-348 B.C.) declared, "The soul of man is immortal and imperishable." Centuries later, the Platonist philosopher and historian Plutarch (46-119 A.D.) wrote, "The soul of man is a portion or a copy of the soul of the Universe and is joined together on principles and in proportions corresponding to those which govern the Universe." This thought would find its way into the future thinking and teaching of mankind, both secular and spiritual. John Steinbeck (1902-1968), for example, stated, "A fella ain't got a soul of his own, but only a piece of a big one" ["The Grapes of Wrath"]. It is a "piece of Deity" entombed within a mortal, thus dying-daily-by-degrees, body of flesh, blood, and bone; one's true essence freed at last to greater life by the physical death of its host ... or, so say those who have embraced these pagan beliefs. The Scriptures, on the other hand, teach no such thing!!

Sadly, this has not dissuaded a good many disciples over the centuries from perpetuating this pagan myth. I have taught repeatedly over the decades against this well-known and cherished dogma. I have 31 Reflections articles exposing this teaching and proposing a view I believe to be far more consistent with the intent of our God and His nature ("who alone possesses immortality" - 1 Timothy 6:16). These can be found on my Topical Index web page under the heading "Conditionalism." I have also dealt with this notion of an "immortal soul" in my five month long adult Bible class, which has been recorded and placed on two CDs for those who would like a copy. That study is titled "The Nature of Man and His Eternal Destiny" (details on how to order a copy are found on that site). I also have dealt with this false perception of the nature of man in a published debate with Thomas Thrasher that was held twenty years ago: The Maxey-Thrasher Debate on "The Eternal Destiny of the Wicked: Perpetual Torment or Ultimate Extinction? (An In-Depth Biblical Discussion)," a discussion that lasted almost a full year. It can be read in its entirety at the above link. I have additionally addressed the traditional view of man's nature in my most recent book "From Ruin to Resurrection," with a Foreword by Edward Fudge, which may be purchased from me in a number of formats, and which also may be purchased from Amazon.com in their Kindle format (as can all of my books). If anyone desires to know my views on this matter, and why I hold those views, the above resources will prove sufficient unto that end.

One of the most recent examples of an attempt by a leader within the ultra-conservative wing of the Churches of Christ to validate this traditional misconception about the nature of man was brought to my attention by a reader of my Reflections who referred me to an article titled "Do Human Beings Have an Immortal Soul?" by the late Wayne Jackson (1937-2020). "Wayne Jackson preached for the East Main church of Christ in Stockton, California for 56 years, from 1961 to 2017. In 1965, he founded the Christian Courier, a monthly journal of biblical studies. Over the course of his tenure, he wrote more than 3,000 articles, 43 books, and engaged in 21 public debates. In 2017, Wayne and Betty moved to Jackson, Tennessee, and they have been faithful members of the North Jackson church of Christ" [from the Obituary for Wayne Jackson placed online by this congregation]. I never met Wayne Jackson in person, but he and I exchanged emails now and then, and over the years I have responded to a number of things this man has taught in the Christian Courier. For those who might like to examine these interactions, check out the following: "Elders, Prayer, and Oil: A Study of James 5:14-15" (Reflections #76) ... "The Silence Syndrome: Arguing for Exclusion...Again" (Reflections #228) ... "A Study of Rebaptism: Taking the Plunge...Again" (Reflections #407) ... Read the "Special Update" at the end of the Readers' Reflections section of Reflections #235 ... Read the next to last comment and my response in the Readers' Reflections section of Reflections #276.

If you have not yet done so, I would ask that you read Wayne Jackson's article in which he addresses the question, "Do Human Beings Have an Immortal Soul?" (click on the link in the above paragraph). I have always thought it only fair that if I'm going to review someone's article, then the reader should have access to that article in its entirety. Don't just take my word for what someone may or may not believe, go and actually take the time to read what they write on the matter. If you have read his article (as well as other writings he has done on the topic), you are aware that Wayne firmly believes that "immortal soulism" is consistent with biblical teaching, and he tackles a few of the passages that are used against that belief. In 1 Timothy 6:16 the apostle Paul declares that deity "alone possesses immortality." This simply means, Wayne tells us, that "the passage addresses an immortality that is underived from another source. Paul spoke of an immortality that is intrinsic to the very being of God" [emphasis is his]. Man's immortality, on the other hand, "was imparted to him." I agree with Wayne on this distinction. The "I AM" is and always was; immortality (as well as omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, etc.) are aspects of His eternal nature, and are thus not derived from some other source. Although man may be given the gift of everlasting life, such immortality is not inherently an aspect of his human nature or being. It can be given, and it can also be taken away, but only by our Creator. Men or deadly circumstances may kill us here on earth, but they cannot terminate God's right to raise up once again to life those they have killed. The giving and taking of the gift of immortality lies in HIS hands, not ours.

Again, Wayne and I do not differ with one another up to this point. Where we differ is with respect to how and when this gift of immortality is imparted to us, and whether or not that gift can be taken back by the One who gave it. Notice again Wayne's words on this: "Man possesses an immortality that was imparted to him as a part of the original creation procedure. Soul immortality appears to be one aspect of the blessing of being created 'in the image of God' (Genesis 1:26-27). This idea may be later suggested when Solomon says that God 'has set eternity in their heart' (Ecclesiastes 3:11)." Wayne believes that one of the inherent, underived essential aspects of God's eternal nature (i.e., immortality) was placed within mankind (Adam and Eve) "as a part of the original creation procedure." All human beings thereafter, therefore, are born with this eternal essence "set in their hearts" by God. I believe Wayne is wrong about this; he has misunderstood, and thus misapplied, these texts to promote a false view of the nature of man. These texts do not teach what Wayne claims they do.

Wayne would have us go back to the creation of man to find the moment God imparted immortality to mankind. He quoted Genesis 1:26-27, in which the text speaks of man (and woman) being created "in His image." We will look at that in just a moment. Wayne failed to mention another text, however, that is equally important: "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being/soul" (Genesis 2:7). In this one verse we see body, breath (spirit), and being (soul). If we are to understand the nature or essence of man, we must understand each of these terms. Failing to grasp what they mean has led to some of the most horrendous theology with respect to man's nature and his destiny. In one of my early issues of Reflections, I delved in quite some depth into each of these terms: how they were used in the Scriptures, and how they were related to a right perception of man's nature. I would plead with the reader to please take a moment and read that study: "What Is Man? Body - Spirit - Soul" (Reflections #32). The OT affirmed a holistic view of man. One of the important truths conveyed in the OT Scriptures, as the nature of man is considered, is that man is a unified whole, rather than a loose fusion of separate and disparate entities. It was much later that the pagans began to influence the thinking of the people of God in the direction of two (dichotomy) or three (trichotomy) distinct parts. This dualistic manner of conceptualizing human beings has persisted throughout most of Christian history, and began in the so-called intertestamental period to influence the Jewish thinking as well. "A human being is a totality of being, not a combination of various parts and impulses. According to the Old Testament understanding, a person is not a body which happens to possess a soul. Instead, a person is a living soul. Because of God's breath of life, the man became 'a living being' (Genesis 2:7)" [Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 61].

Dr. Everett Ferguson, a dear brother in Christ, in his book "Early Christians Speak: Faith and Life in the First Three Centuries" [ACU Press], comments on some statements that are found within the noted second century work "The Epistle to Diognetus" (two of which are: "The invisible soul is imprisoned in a visible body" and "The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tent"). Dr. Ferguson then observes: "From the standpoint of the biblical doctrine of man, one can fault the author for his Greek distinction between body and soul. The sharp separation he makes is more in accord with Greek philosophy than it is with the biblical view of the unity of the whole man" [p. 198]. Everett later comments, "The author's anthropology is faulty" [ibid]. "The ancient Hebrews did not approach man dualistically as have the Greeks nor, by implication, the general public of contemporary Western society" [Dr. Arnold De Graaff and Dr. James Olthuis, Toward A Biblical View Of Man, a paper produced for the Institute For Christian Studies, p. 81]. "Man is not a soul imprisoned in a body. Both belong together in a psychosomatic unity. ... There is no dualism in the sense of separation, as though there could be full man either as body alone or as soul alone. ...together they make up the one man" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. 134].

"Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living SOUL/being" (Genesis 2:7). Some traditionalists virtually equate this last phrase ("living soul") with "immortal soul." But, that is NOT what the passage says. God put breath within this body and the body became a living being. The exact same words are used of animals in Scripture. Further, the text doesn't say man was GIVEN a soul, it says man BECAME a soul. Big difference! A fellow minister once told me: "The one thing which distinguishes man from monkey is his 'living soul.' To my knowledge this expression is used ONLY of man; I don't find it used of bugs or bulls." Thus, according to this minister, that which makes man unique among the living creation of God is: man has a "living soul," and those other life forms DO NOT. Again, we see this phrase "living soul" incorrectly being equated with "IMMORTAL soul." It would probably shock a great many to know that the phrase "living soul" is actually used more often in Genesis with reference to animals than with reference to man! Notice some of these other passages where "living soul" IS used of bugs, bulls, birds, and beasts.

Lest you think "poor demented, deluded Al" has really lost it here, let me quote from an article by a well-known and respected scholar in the Churches of Christ: Dr. Jack P. Lewis (who was formerly a professor at Harding Graduate School of Religion). In an article titled "Living Soul," which appeared in the March 16, 1976 issue of Firm Foundation, he began by quoting Genesis 2:7. Then, he wrote the following (I am only quoting a small portion of that article): "It is in particular the line of reasoning premised upon this verse which argues that man has a living soul and that animals do not have souls that I wish us to look. For many people, this verse in Genesis describes the one distinctive thing that makes man different from animals. The phrase at issue in this passage is NEPHESH HAYYAH which occurs in several Old Testament passages and is translated into Greek as PSUCHE ZOSA. That which has been obscured to us because of variety in our English translation is that the creatures are also NEPHESH HAYYAH. Only in one out of the several passages where NEPHESH HAYYAH occurs is man the exclusive object of discussion. It would seem that arguments which try to present the distinctiveness of man from the term 'living soul' are actually based on the phenomena of variety in translation of the KJV and have no validity in fact. Had the translators rendered all these occurrences by the same term, we would have been aware of the fact that both men and animals are described by it."

As Dr. Lewis has pointed out, many of the translations (perhaps following the lead of the KJV and its self-proclaimed desire to provide "variety" in translation) have rendered this term "living CREATURE" when it is used of animals, but "living SOUL" when speaking of man. Yet the term is exactly the same for both in the original. The word itself simply conveys the concept of "BEING," or "LIFE." When God took this body He had created from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life, that body then BECAME a living, breathing BEING. This is said of both man and animal. And that is ALL the original text says! Nothing is ever said in these passages about either man or beast (or bug or bird) being anything other than "living BEINGS." "Soul" is not what a living, animate physical body HAS, rather "soul" is what a living, animate physical body IS. They cannot be separated. "Body and soul cannot be observed separate from one another. Body and soul do not form two separate substances. Instead, they comprise the one individual human in inseparable union. ... Also, in the New Testament, body and soul are two inseparable aspects of the one human being -- Matthew 6:25" [Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 202].

"The Hebrew word 'nephesh' is a key Old Testament term (755 times) referring to human beings. ... A person does not have a soul. A person is a living soul (Genesis 2:7). That means a living being that owes life itself to the Creator just as the animal does (Genesis 2:19). ... The soul does not represent a divine, immortal, undying part of the human being after death as the Greeks often thought" [ibid, p. 1295]. A brother in Christ, John T. Willis, in his commentary on Genesis [Sweet Publishing Company], writes, "The Hebrew expression 'nephesh chayyah,' which some insist on translating 'a living soul,' is used of fish and marine life in Genesis 1:20, 21; land animals in 1:24; beasts, birds and reptiles in 1:30; and beasts and birds in 2:19. If 'soul' means the eternal part of man in Genesis 2:7, it must mean the eternal part of a fish in Genesis 1:20, 21; etc." [p. 103-104]. "The word translated 'being' in the RSV ('nephesh') means the whole person" [ibid, p. 104]. "While man became a living soul, he did not thereby automatically become an immortal soul, or being. The same Hebrew term, 'living soul,' is applied to the lower animals. In fact, nephesh (soul) is four times applied to the lower animals before it is used of man - Genesis 1:20, 21, 24, 30. And out of the first thirteen usages in Genesis, 'nephesh' is nine times used of the lower animals. ... Man BECAME a living soul - a single entity, an inseparable unit, a unique individual. ... The soul is the living person or being himself, not a separate, independent 'something'" [Dr. Leroy Edwin Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers: The Conflict of the Ages Over the Nature and Destiny of Man, vol. 1, p. 34-35, 39].

More could be said about the "soul," obviously, and those interested can find this additional in-depth study at my web site. It is available for any to examine free of cost. For those still seeking to prove an "immortal" something housed in our mortal bodies, the next attempt is to say it is the "spirit" God breathed into man at the creation. Since Wayne believed that it was at the creation of man that this "eternal essence" was imparted, and if it is not the "soul," then it must be the "spirit," right?! Well, he will have no better luck there! Genesis 2:7 declares, "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the BREATH of life; and man became a living being." It is this "breath of life, " this "spirit of life," that is proclaimed by some to be immortal, and which consciously survives the death of the physical body. "In the Hebrew there are two words for breath: 'neshamah,' and more commonly 'ruach.' In general, they are used interchangeably for 'breath' and 'spirit'" [Dr. Leroy Edwin Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers: The Conflict of the Ages Over the Nature and Destiny of Man, vol. 1, p. 36]. The Greek word employed is "pneuma." "In the OT Hebrew 'ruach' means first of all wind and breath, but also the human spirit in the sense of life force and even personal energy. ... It is explicit that God is the source of human breath. ... In the NT Greek 'pneuma' can mean wind. It can also have the meaning breath. ... Both 'spirit' and 'mind' are used of the whole person and not simply of component parts" [Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 1248].

The body of man is animated and sustains life as long as the "breath" dwells within it. In other words, a breathing body is a living body; a body where the breathing has ceased for an extended period is a dead body. God animated the physical body by placing within it the "breath of life." Life is a gift of the Life-Giver. He can also withdraw it. Psalm 104:29, speaking of animals, declares, "Thou dost take away their spirit/breath, they expire, and return to their dust." When the breath departs from the body, the body returns to the dust. Solomon points out that men and beasts "all have the same breath/spirit" (Ecclesiastes 3:19). This is an interesting fact, and a troubling one, for those who would suggest the "immortal part of man" is the "spirit." Animals have the same spirit!! Thus, if this is the immortal part of man, why not also of the other living creatures? The simple fact of the matter is, when the breath is withdrawn, men and animals die. God is the Giver of this gift of the breath of life, and thus this life-force returns to Him who gave it. "The dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit/breath will return to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). This passage does not suggest some "immortal spirit" (which is the real us) flies off to heaven to dwell with God. It merely declares the life-force has departed the body (thus rendering it a dead body). Rachel "breathed her last, for she was dying" (Genesis 35:18, NIV). Since God is the Giver of this life-force, it is depicted as returning to Him who bestowed it.

Notice Ezekiel 37 (the vision of the valley of dry bones). The prophet was asked, "Can these bones live?" (vs. 3). Ezekiel didn't really commit himself, so the Lord said of the bones, "Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. And I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you that you may come alive" (vs. 5-6). The prophet watched as the bodies were recreated and reformed. "But there was no breath in them" (vs. 8). Then he was told to prophesy, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life" (vs. 9). He did so, and "breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood on their feet" (vs. 10). This is almost reminiscent of Genesis 2:7, isn't it? God formed man, and breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living being! The breath is the life-force of the body. Without it the body is dead. And this gift of the breath of life comes from God. "In Him we live and move and exist (have our being)" (Acts 17:28). "He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25). It should also be pointed out that "spirit" is not infrequently used in Scripture to represent the less physical aspects of man's being: personality, emotions, attitude, and the like. Thus, one might be "mean-spirited" or have a broken spirit (Psalm 51:17) or a willing spirit (vs. 12). These terms do not suggest an immortal being trapped inside the body, but merely reflect the mental and emotional aspects of man's nature. "In both the Old and New Testaments, spirit is used of humans and of other beings. When used of humans, spirit is associated with a wide range of functions including thinking and understanding, emotions, attitudes, and intentions. ... spirit is used extensively with human emotions. ... A variety of attitudes and intentions are associated with spirit" [Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 1300].

Some suggest that Psalm 31:5 ("Into Thy hand I commit my spirit"), which was voiced by Christ on the cross, proves that the "spirit/breath" is the immortal something which survives death, and is that immortal, conscious, personal part of us that lives on with God. However, the "spirit" of both men (good and wicked) and animals is withdrawn unto God. This seems to preclude such dualistic notions (unless you want heaven infested with the "immortal spirits" of rodents!). All that is suggested by this expression is that the one expiring is entrusting back to God the gift of the breath of life. The confident hope and expectation of such a statement, of course, is that He will raise us back up and bestow the gift of life once again. Paul, as he contemplated his impending death, wrote confidently, "I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until/for that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). I think Paul also knew that his breath of life was in good hands, and would one day be bestowed again when his body was raised from the dust of the ground and reconstituted! When would that be? Paul informs us in 1 Corinthians 15. When our bodies are raised, and when this perishable/mortal "puts on" the imperishable/immortal, THEN comes about the saying that death is swallowed up in victory (vs. 54). Wayne says that immortality was put on at the creation of Adam and Eve; Paul says it will be put on at the resurrection when the Lord returns. I think I'll stick with Paul's version! Our hope of immortality is made known in the Good News brought to us by God's Son! Paul wrote that Jesus "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). "There is no indication in the Bible that the spirit of life given to man at creation was a conscious entity before it was given. This gives us reason to believe that the spirit of life has no conscious personality when it returns to God. The spirit that returns to God is simply the animating life principle imparted by God to both human beings and animals for the duration of their earthly existence" [Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, p. 74]. "Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His breath/spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psalm 146:3-4).

Wayne Jackson, in his article, mentions that men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and that this suggests they are given one of the aspects of His eternal nature (i.e., immortality). Wayne may infer or assume this, but no such thing is ever actually stated in Scripture. The most he can say is, "Soul immortality appears to be one aspect of the blessing of being created 'in the image of God'." Again, I believe Wayne has woefully misunderstood the meaning of this passage. I examined this passage in quite some depth in my study titled "Investigating Imago Dei: Created in the Image of God" (Reflections #51). I think you will find the study fascinating and enlightening. You will also find that Wayne is way out on a limb on this one! His view is based on nothing more than assumption and speculation (even by his own admission). As for Ecclesiastes 3:11, where we are told God "has set eternity in their heart" (NASB), that too has nothing to do with God placing an "immortal soul/spirit" inside the human species. You and I are time/space dwellers; we live in a temporal realm. Yet God, who dwells within and beyond the temporal, dwelling in an eternal realm, has placed within us a longing for something above and beyond our space/time realm. This concept of seeking to become much more than we are, of that which is finite being absorbed into the infinite, is universal among mankind. All cultures, whether primitive or advanced, ancient or modern, have some sense of awareness of something greater than themselves and a need to, in some way, lay hold of and partake of this vast Resource. Scripture informs us that the Creator Himself has placed within mankind an awareness of the eternal (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and yet our minds are seemingly incapable of fully grasping that which is so far above us. But, men strain toward it nevertheless. Such intense longing is inherent within our very nature. It is this of which the writer speaks, not that some eternal spirit being has taken up residence in our bodies. That is a pagan myth. So that mankind might seek Him, God has gifted us with some level of insight into the eternal realm; a glimpse into the very nature of our Creator. This is implied rather strongly in Ecclesiastes 3:11 where we are told that God has placed within our hearts an awareness of that greater realm and reality, and with it a longing for it. Notice the following translations of this text:

  1. Amplified Bible - He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God].
  2. Complete Jewish Bible - He has given human beings an awareness of eternity; but in such a way that they canít fully comprehend, from beginning to end, the things God does.
  3. God's Word Translation - He has put a sense of eternity in peopleís minds. Yet, mortals still canít grasp what God is doing from the beginning to the end of time.
  4. New International Reader's Version - He has also given people a sense of who He is. But they canít completely understand what God has done from beginning to end.
  5. New Life Version - He has put thoughts of the forever in manís mind.
  6. The Voice - God has also placed in our minds a sense of eternity.
  7. Young's Literal Translation - that knowledge He hath put in their heart without which man findeth not out the work that God hath done from the beginning even unto the end.

If one accepts the doctrine of "Immortal Soulism," as Wayne Jackson does, one is faced with the question of what God intends to do with such a "never-dying spirit" that survives our physical death. This is part of the "reasoning" behind the horrific doctrine that a loving, merciful God will torture such "immortal souls" by setting them on fire and burning them for zillions and zillions and zillions of years just because they sang praises unto Him with musical accompaniment (or some other "act of satanic godlessness"). Thankfully, the Bible teaches no such thing. Those who do not receive the gift of immortality at the end of time, will receive the wages of their sin: death! They will be executed, and they will cease to be! God is not a monster; yet, the teaching of eternal conscious torment suggests such about our Father. In my view, that is blasphemy!! God has promised to terminate those who embrace evil, not torture them without end. I have dealt with this in a number of my articles, classes, books, etc. All are on my web site. Perhaps the following articles I wrote are a good place to start: "A Study of Revelation 14:9-11 - Tortured or Terminated?" (Reflections #45) and "God's Consuming Fire: Examining the Final Fate of the Wicked in Light of Biblical Language" (Reflections #46). Edward Fudge has written a fabulous book on this: "The Fire That Consumes" (he even mentioned my own work on this topic in his 3rd Edition of that book; he also wrote the Foreword for my own book on this subject: "From Ruin to Resurrection"), so also have many others. Wayne is apparently unimpressed by any of them, and says the following in his article: "The annihilation-of-the-wicked theory was argued recently by F. LaGard Smith in his seriously flawed volume 'After Life'." Actually, I thought that book was pretty good!

There is more that could be said in response to Wayne Jackson's article, but I will bring this to a close (as I'm sure some are going to take me to task for being "too wordy" - lol). I just pray that more and more disciples of Christ will dare to be bold enough to rethink their religious indoctrination, and to be open to a leading of the Spirit of God to a better understanding and appreciation of what our Father really expects of His children. If you are, and if you do, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. May God bless you in your studies and reflections!

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Readers' Reflections
NOTE: Differing views and understandings are always welcome here,
yet they do not necessarily reflect my own views and understandings.
They're opportunities for readers to voice what is on their hearts, with
a view toward greater dialogue among disciples with a Berean spirit.

From a Dr. in British Columbia, Canada:

Al, my email address has changed. Would you please change my address in your mailing list file for your Reflections? I appreciate your studies so much! God bless you, and keep up the good work.

From a Reader in Nevada:

Al, would you please send me a copy of your 13 week adult Bible class study of "The Great Prayers of the Bible," which you have on CD. I'm sending you the price of the CD through your PayPal account. Thank you, brother. I really look forward to listening to these classes.

From a Reader in California:

Hey Brother Al, I saw a quote somewhere, and I can't remember where it was, but the writer had a great bit of satire. He said, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, and you shall receive the gift of the New Testament." Obviously quoted tongue-in-cheek. I thought this illustrated very clearly a false teaching which is basically that the Bible saves you. Have you ever seen this before?

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, I came all the way from Texas to see you and Shelly; you must have known I was coming, as you both had taken off (LOL). So sorry that I missed you both, and I hope you had a super Thanksgiving! I plan to be back your way after the first of the year, and I hope to see you then. Love you both so much. Also, the new church building looks great!!

From a Reader in South Carolina:

Al, I really enjoyed your Reflections article titled "The Divine Shellfish Sanction: Are Christians Required to Abide by Ancient Jewish Dietary Restrictions?" (Reflections #834) which arrived in my email today! All of your studies are so interesting. Additionally, I wanted to say "Thanks!" for mentioning my new book ("The Spirituality of Women Serving in Worship") in the readers' section of this issue I received. Be safe on your travels during your vacation, and try to rest some! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

From an Author in Texas:

Al, I noted your comment to the reader in Alabama (in the readers' section of Reflections #834) on Preterism and the late date for the NT book of Revelation. I held that position for fifty years myself, but several years ago I developed material for the early date entirely from internal evidence. It became the introductory chapter to my commentary: "Revelation Realized: Martyr Vindication from Genesis to Revelation" (available on Amazon.com). I believe you will find that it's worth a read. I'm a Preterist, by the way, and although this view of the early date of Revelation is compatible with Preterism, it doesn't depend on it at all. Please give it a read and some consideration. If you spot any weaknesses, please let me hear from you.

From a Reader in Ukraine:

Shalom, Al. I just read your study on "The Divine Shellfish Sanction." Since I have a seafood allergy, I will just say (and to catch the full import of my words, this needs to be read aloud), "I am not a shellfish person" (you know how I love puns). Along with your reader from North Carolina (in the readers' portion of that issue), I too enjoy reading your "Readers' Reflections" section. To the elder in Oklahoma, I would also suggest adding Rebekah (Rivkah) to the prophetess list. She is recognized as such within Jewish thought (Midrash), and a strong case is presented in the Torah. God revealed His plan to her while her sons were still in her womb (Genesis 25:22-23). Also because of her prophetic perception when she knew Esau "in his heart" intended to kill his brother Jacob. When she warns Jacob, she uses the interjection "surely," which indicates this is not hearsay ... she knows! It was revealed to her by the only One who knows what is truly in a person's heart (Genesis 27:41-42).

From an Author in Georgia:

Al, I have a few thoughts regarding your study on "The Divine Shellfish Sanction." As with all rules and "law," there is generally an underlying principle that wise people should not ignore. The fish and sea creatures listed, including our shrimp, oysters, and catfish, are "bottom feeders." They clean the water and soil of impurities by consuming them. If we then consume these sea creatures, we also consume their impurities. Now, with our modern technology, however, many of the potentially harmful properties of eating "unclean" animals, such as pork, have been all but eliminated for the consumer, assuming, of course, that the procedures are followed. If not, severe sickness can result. I don't have a problem eating any of these things occasionally, but one would be wise to consider what they are eating besides just the "meat." The contamination of our water and soil has only gotten exponentially greater, which makes our "edibles" even more likely to contain harmful ingredients. One would be foolish to ignore the science. As regards the phrase, "Thus, He declared all foods clean," I wrote about this in my book ("Honoring God With Your Body: What the Bible Teaches Us About Wellness"). I believe that phrase was a scribal addition to the text by some unknown teacher who wished to clarify his own understanding on the matter. Although I think people should avoid looking at these dietary requirements as "law," nevertheless they should also consider that there were indeed health issues at play in the divine instructions. One's personal responsibility regarding one's health is a common refrain throughout biblical history.

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