Insight on the News
Resurrection View Changed
Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars now agree in principle that ‘the idea of an immortal soul is not Biblical, but is a Hellenistic idea that crept into Christian thought by mistake,’ according to New Testament professor Gene Wehrli of Eden Seminary in Missouri. A report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that Wehrli also affirms that ‘the Christian view of the afterlife did not rest on belief in an immortal soul but in a body transformed through resurrection.’ He explained: “The Hellenistic understanding is that persons are immortal by nature—that they have a soul that is trapped in flesh and returns to God . . . The resurrection of the Bible stresses that in one sense death is death, but that God raises the person in his uniqueness back to life.” Hence, an ‘afterlife’ was said to be not something intrinsic to humans but, rather, “a free gift of God.”
It is of interest that some modern scholars are coming around to the Bible viewpoint. God’s Word clearly holds out the marvelous hope of a resurrection for those who have died. Note Jesus’ faith-strengthening promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.” He also said: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”—John 11:25; 5:28, 29.
Life and Law
“To regard the destruction of the fetus as just another surgical procedure is to disregard centuries of criminology, theology and moral philosophy.” So writes Tulane University law professor Billups Percy in a letter to The New York Times regarding a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion.
Rather than debating the pros and cons of the decisions, the professor suggests that “the Court should not have decided them at all.” Why not? “Clearly, the abortion question is a classic example of a situation where the only judicial standards available are artificial, informed by a legal formalism that is simply not up to the task,” he argues. As an example, he mentions that “the Court neatly calibrates the value of the fetus by dividing its time in the womb into roughly three equal periods. Then . . . it decrees that only during the final trimester can the mother have any restrictions placed upon her as regards the fetus.”
Indeed, any “judicial standards” imposed by humans on the sanctity of life would be “artificial” because life originates not with man but with God. “For with you [God] is the source of life,” says the psalmist in Psalm 36:9. God alone has the legal right to decree how life, including that of the unborn, is to be treated. We, his creatures, are accountable to him, our Maker.—Psalm 100:3.
A Divided Religious House
“Divergence in attitudes [among church members] from official church standards has long been assumed, but recently gathered statistics bear it out,” observed Associated Press religion writer, George W. Cornell. For example, a Lutheran study showed that while most of the clergy believe that “a child is sinful at birth,” less than two thirds of the laity agree. And, though nearly half of the laity believe that of the world’s many religions, “most lead to God,” less than 5 percent of the clergy polled agreed.
Cornell goes on to cite Baptist clergyman Dale Moody as objecting to his religion’s emphasis on “once saved, always saved,” the teaching that a person who accepts Christ cannot fall from grace and has eternal salvation assured. Commenting further on religion’s divided house, the noted Catholic scholar Michael Novak remarked: “A new generation is gathering steam in the Catholic Church, is hopping mad at the Catholic establishment, and is going to make waves that will affect all Americans.”
How different the Bible’s unifying exhortation to Christians at 1 Corinthians 1:10, “that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.”