Is the Body All?
In the language of absolute materialism the body is the whole man. It may need breath or "spirit” (in the Thomasite sense) to make it capable of fulfilling its functions, but in materialistic language, thought, reason, mind, are properties pertaining to "brain in human form." Dr. Thomas gravely adduces Rom. viii. 6, where he translates the "thinking of the flesh," as an irrefragable proof that the "flesh is the thinking substance," i. e., the brain; which, in another place, he adds, the apostle "terms the fleshy tablet of the heart."(!)* I only quote this now as evidencing how thoroughly with them the body is all.† The man, they say, was such before the breath of life was breathed into him. "Dust thou art" expresses what be is in his whole being. Says Mr. Constable, "God formed man of the dust of the ground. Here we have the figure as it lay lifeless and thoughtless; and yet this figure was man. We cannot dispute this, for God tells us so Himself. It was man, before he could think; or feel, or Breathe."‡ To this being of course the inspiration of the breath of life gives life.
"Soul" with Mr. Constable, as with most of similar views, is "life"; with Dr. Thomas and his party it is sometimes that, sometimes the breathing frame; ie., of course the body. Spirit is either the breath of life itself, or a principle contained in it, a kind of vitalizing energy. The man himself is the body - the dust that lies in the grave. Spirit and soul "may again be disassociated from man; man may return to his old condition ere he had them at all, and the dead body they have left is then the man, the person, the self"§ "Where," is Mr. Blain's emphatic challenge, "where does the book of nature or the book of God tell what soul or man is made of, except in the earth-wide and heaven-broad declaration, ‘Dust thou art'?"#
*"Elpis Israel ," p. 80.
†Roberts objects that it is not defined whether a living body is meant or not. "If so," he says, "we admit the charge of holding that the living body is the whole man, and are wondering what objection Mr. Grant himself can have to this view; for, even with his immortal Soul theory, he cannot avoid regarding the living body as the whole man, since the living body contains (!) that which his theory teaches him to regard as the principal part of man."So that, if the house contains the man, the man and the house are all one with Mr. Roberts! Even this is not quite the full statement, as witness Mr. Constable's language further on. But Mr. R. may put in " living" if he please: a living body is still not the spirit nor the soul.
‡Hades, p. 2. §Ib., p. 5.
#Death not Life, 12th ed., p. 42.
Confidence so assured ought to be well founded. The answer is easy, that they are only quoting one side of Scripture, with their eyes shut to all that is inconsistent with their theory. Mr. Constable, for instance, thus represents and characterizes "the current opinion of Christendom." "Man is with them a soul, which may or may not inhabit the body, but which, whether inhabiting the body or not inhabiting it, is the true and proper man. This opinion we believe to be the very foundation stone of an amazing amount of false doctrine. This false philosophy regarding human nature has tainted the theology of centuries."*
*Hades, p. 4.
Now, how is it possible that Mr. Constable has never seen that this "current opinion of Christendom," which he is opposing, is the statement of Scripture, no less than is his own? that, if there are on the one side passages such as those he quotes, which seem to make the body all, there are many on the other side that would equally seem to make the body nothing? Thus we read: "The life that I now live in the flesh" (Gal ii. 20); "If I live in the flesh "(Phil. i. 22); "Whilst we are at home in the body" (2 Cor. v. 6); "Willing rather to be absent from the body" (ver. 8); "Whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell" (xii. 3); "As being yourselves also in the body" (Heb. xiii. 3); "In my flesh shall I see God" (Job xix. 26); "Knowing that I must put off this my tabernacle" (2 Pet. i. 14).
Now I ask Mr. Constable, is not here the very language he objects to, the foundation stone (as being Scripture) not of error but of truth? I accept his view that such expressions are indeed the fundamental opposite of his opinions. On the materialistic supposition the language used in these passages never could have arisen. It is not a question of the interpretation of any special text, but of the use of words which contradict at the outset the whole materialistic philosophy. Men have sought to evade it by interpreting phrase "in the body" to mean "in this body," as if it were in contrast with the glorious body of the resurrection. But the fact that they have to change the expression, in order make it suit them, is a clear evidence that it does not suit them as it is. For in the resurrection man will still be "in the body," though it be raised glorious as it will: and in point of fact, it is to the resurrection body that in the passage just quoted Job refers: "In my flesh shall I see God." They may perhaps quote against this, that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God;" but it will not avail them; for the Lord's own expression as to His own body in resurrection is, that He had "flesh and bones,"* though not "flesh and blood," and it is the combination of the two of which the text cited speaks.† And the Lord was raised from the dead, the "first fruits" and pattern of our resurrection from the beginning, not raised and changed afterwards, even as they that sleep in Him are "raised‡ in glory." There is no escape from the plain speaking of the passage in Job, that to that which is "raised in glory" he refers. And this alone is positive proof that "in the flesh" or "in the body" does not, as a phrase, speak of a present corruptible body in contrast with an incorruptible one.
*Luke xxiv. 39.
†1 Cor. xv. 50.
‡1 Cor. xv. 43.
And there are other texts which would still stand in the way of their establishment of this position, if the passage in Job were gone. For when the apostle says of his vision of the third heaven, that he could not tell whether he was "in the body or out of the body," no words are needed to assure us that here there was no question of the resurrection body. For it was not when he was up in the third heaven, that he did not know if he were "out of the body;" had it been so, there might have been some kind of doubt as to whether he might not have fancied, in the entrancement of the vision, that the resurrection had already come. But his words are precise and prohibit absolutely such a supposition. He could not, at the time he wrote, question whether he had been clothed with the resurrection body, and again lost it on his return to earth. Yet here "in the body" and "out of the body" are just as much in contrast as "at home in the body" and "absent from the body" in 2 Cor. v. 6-8. And as "out of the body" cannot in this case mean "in the resurrection state," so "in the body" cannot mean, as they would make it, "in this corruptible state."*
*To all this Mr. Roberts demurs upon the warrant, as he represents it, of Rom. vii. 1, 2 Cor. 1. 8, and a list of passages of the class already adduced by Messrs. Constable and Blain. He takes "my flesh" in the first passage to mean "my body," and argues thereupon that Paul calls his "flesh" himself, and moreover attributes sin to it, and not to his soul! He does not see that in ver. 25 the apostle opposes the mind" to the" flesh," and identifies himself with the former in opposition to the latter. If, as with Mr. Roberts, the" mind " is only the working of the flesh, no such distinction is possible. The apostle's words are thus conclusively against him.
Hopeless indeed would be man's condition if the flesh and the body were but one, and "they that are in the body could not please God" (see Rom. viii. 8); and strange enough what the apostle affirms of Christians, that they are "not in the flesh." The whole use of the language here is foreign to materialistic speech. As to the Scripture doctrine of the flesh we shall have to speak of it hereafter.
As to 2 Cor. i. 8, we may easily admit that Paul identifies himself with the body there, without in the least invalidating the testimony of the texts which use an opposite style. Nor does Paul " look here to resurrection for hope," but to the God of resurrection, and gets present deliverance. On the other hand, the belief in the immortality of the mind does not in the least set aside the hope of resurrection. As we may by and by see, it secures it.
As to Mr. R.'s list of texts, no Christian has any difficulty with them At all. But think of quoting "my DECEASE" (2 Pet. i. 15), literally, my exodus" or "departure," to support a materialistic purpose! Think of supposing "I was unknown by face," or "whatever a man soweth, that shall he reap," or "avenged the blood of His SERVANTS," with all the emphasis that italics and small capitals can give, will connect immortal soulists by their bare citation!
He then comes to the passages which he has to meet. In Gal. ii. 20, he takes the apostle as expressing present existence in contrast with the life that "is to come." But that is not the question. Why such an expression as "in the flesh" at all, if he were nought but flesh?
"Absence from the body," again, cannot be resurrection by any possibility whatever. So as to Job, how else could Job see God, in Mr. R.'s way of thinking, except indeed, as he says in another case, he dreamed of Him? And that will scarce do here.
How decisive these passages really are against him Mr. R. shows by styling them "the inevitable ‘FICTIONS' of mortal speech." But why inevitable? Could not materialism indeed dispense with them? And why "fictions," after all they convey his meaning?
Roberts suggests that "without the body" means that the things were seen as in a dream." But how is even a dream "without the body," as he phrases it? The apostle puts it still more forcibly, "out of the body." Nor has he any doubt of being actually caught away to Paradise, a place that for Mr. Roberts has no present existence; it is the renewed earth, in his belief. Did Mr. Roberts ever (with his theory of thinking flesh, moreover) even dream without the body, and then awake, and be ignorant ever after, whether or not he had been carried bodily to a place which he knew had no existence?
The terms then abide in all their simplicity, full of the meaning which from their simplicity they possess. Nay, if the comments of Annihilationists were just, their force would be little affected. For, be it in contrast with a resurrection body or not (as certainly in these last places it is not), still the man himself is looked at as "IN the body;" not the soul is in it, or the spirit is in it merely, but the MAN. That which lies in the body (and that is the force of the expression in 2 Cor. v. 6)* is the man. So much so that the body is looked at as the "tabernacle" (2 Pet. i. 14), which the man "puts off."
*The word used means "to live at or in a place" (Liddell and Scott). Mr. Roberts' comment is: "All that constitutes our individuality" [what is this according to him'?] "dwells in the body of our humiliation; but the destiny of the saint is to have this corruptible clothed upon with a subduing energy, that will change it from flesh and blood nature into spirit nature." In no place is it said that we are clothed with an "energy"; but Mr. R. wanted something to clothe, and he could hardly clothe one body with another body.
We have not yet inquired who or what the inhabitant of the body is. Be it spirit or soul, or both together, the phraseology of Scripture in these texts asserts that the body has such an inhabitant. And this language it is that Mr. Constable accuses (under another name, no doubt) as being "the very foundation stone" of the doctrine he opposes. Scripture, then, he is witness to himself, lays thus the foundation of the immortality of the soul. Paul sees visions, and has so little thought that the body is all, that he does not know whether he was in it or not, at the time he saw them. Plainly, therefore, he supposes he might be a conscious, intelligent witness of unutterable things while "out of the body."
We are prepared, then, to answer Mr. Blain's confident inquiry, if at least we may take for granted that that which Paul thought might be "out of the body" is not "dust." If it be, it is at any rate dust which is not the body, and which can exist consciously in separation from it.
The question is thus a long way toward settlement. If it be still asked, What about the texts which, on their side, Annihilationists lay stress upon? Is not "dust thou art" Scripture? And is it not equally written that "the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground"? and that "devout men carried Stephen" - not his body merely - "to his burial"?
I answer, it is just as plain that in these texts man is identified with his body, as he is in the former ones with his spirit or his soul. It would be wrong to argue exclusively from either class of passages: as wrong to say man is all soul, upon the authority of one, as to say he is all body, upon the authority of the other. This last is the vitiating error of Mr. Constable's whole argument. Neither body, nor soul, nor spirit is the man exclusively, but "spirit and soul and body" (1 Thess. v. 28) make up the man; insomuch that he may be, and is, identified with either, according to the line of thought which is in the mind of the speaker; his identification with the body, which man sees and touches, being in general the language of sense, while faith identifies him with the unseen "spirit."* Our poor Annihilationists see and confess what sense recognizes, and are blind to the other. It is a sad evidence of their condition.
*Mr. Roberts' attempts to answer this are strange enough, and need a very long examination. He asserts that faith is nothing but "belief of promise," and has to do only with the future! So that one could not "by faith understand that the worlds were made," or "believe that God is"!
That he will have it that the spirit is recognized by sense, as much as the body, because "spirit" is sometimes used for "anger" in Scripture, and it does not require faith to note that a man is angry! As the spirit with Mr. R. is electricity, it is rather a wonder he did not propose to insulate a person, and demonstrate his "spirit" still more satisfactorily.
Then he thinks that "faith cometh by [the sense of] hearing" helps his case; but how, he does not make clear, as it is no question of how it comes at all. Mr. R. surely must allow that the human spirit (in our view of it at least) is a thing unseen, and faith is the "evidence of things unseen." This is the ground of the statement he objects to.
Of the Lord Jesus Himself; I read in the account of His burial, "there laid they Jesus," and that Joseph "took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen, and laid Him in the sepulchre" (John xix. 42; Mark xv. 46). Is this, therefore, conclusive that the Lord was "all body," as similar words about Stephen would seem to be to some, that he was? Take some of Mr. Constable's emphatic statements, which he does not hesitate to apply* to the Lord Himself. He contends that the common opinion leads to "the absurdity of supposing that death has converted one person into two. In life there was but one Abraham, in death there are two!... In life there was but one Christ; during the three days of His death there were two!... One Christ was in Joseph's tomb; another Christ was preaching to spirits in prison, or otherwise busily occupied"! Which of these Christs is the true one for him he does not leave doubtful. The "Bible persists in calling the body when dead the man. It says that Abraham and Jacob and David... are in the grave, and it never says that they are in heaven, or anywhere else but in the grave." Of necessity, then, this must be the conclusion: If spirit is but the impersonal breath of life, and soul but the life resultant, then, when these had departed, there was nothing of Christ but what was laid in the grave. It may be said, of course, that the words apply only to the humanity of the Lord, and not to His divinity. This argument for Mr. Constable will not hold. The Lord, Divine and human, was in life but one person. Death could not divide the one Person into two! The Person, Mr. Constable says, is the body that lay in the tomb: Deity, soul and spirit go for nothing. The Lord was in the grave and nowhere else! Dare Mr. Constable abide by his own conclusions?
All have not formulated the doctrine as completely. His logical consistency has carried him where, we may hope, many will hesitate to follow. But as to the consistency there can be no question. Just as simply and as surely as "David" or "Stephen" is said to denote the whole personality of David or of Stephen, so (after the same mode of interpretation) must "Christ" and "the Lord" denote the whole personality of Christ. Now, let me ask, was there a true and personal Christ who survived death, or not? If so, "the Lord," in the whole force of that expression, did not lie in Joseph's tomb; the words are only an example of the language of sense which applies to the material part we see and touch, and we are manifestly precluded from carrying them further. Now, if the Lord lay in the grave, and yet the higher part did not lie there, so (plainly) might David, or Stephen, or Moses, lie in the grave, and yet have another and higher part of them which did not lie there.
Thomasism, with its fearless self-consistency in error, and shameless denial of the glory of His Person, does not shrink from the extreme result. The One who, walking on earth, could yet say, "The Son of man who is in heaven," they are strangers to. But I would ask even them, if their horrible thoughts were true, how He who had "power to lay down his life," had (after having laid it down) "power to take it again." If the dead are nothing, and know nothing, as they teach, how could a dead body have power to take its life back? (John x. 18).* How could He say "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up? He spake of the temple of His body."† Here it is scarcely possible even to equivocate. For it was one who spake of His own body, who said He would raise it up. They cannot say it was the Father speaking of "His own body," and therefore their constant manœuvre fails them here. If Jesus, then, raised up His own body, there must have been One not buried in that tomb of Joseph, One surviving death, to raise it up. Death is not, then, extinction, for Jesus truly "died." That "the Lord lay" in Joseph's tomb is truth, but not the whole truth. Insisted on as such, it becomes fatal and soul-destroying error.
*Roberts contends that here "the word translated ‘power' carries with it not so much the idea of physical power as power in the sense of authority." It is true the word is "power delegated, authority." It adds to the thought of power, that of right. It is the word used in Matt. x. 1; Mark ii 10; iii. 15; vi. 7; Luke iv. 32; x. 19; xii. 5; John xix. 10, etc., in all which it is quite impossible to exclude the idea of competency to perform whatever there was authority for. You could not clothe a mere corpse with "authority." It would be mockery. And, therefore, the word must be "take" and not "receive."
†John ii. 19-22.
The language of Scripture, then (as Mr. Constable is witness), lays the foundation stone of the soul's immortality in its assertion that the man dwells in the body, and this is not denied by its speaking elsewhere as if the body were the man. From its own point of view, each of these things is true.
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