The True and the False Immortality

Sec. II.

It Is contrary to experience as well as to Scripture, to say that
man is immortal; for man, in fact, dies. He is spoken of as the
frail and perishable S5n3K; he resembles, in respect of mutability,
a fading flower and a fleeing shadow (Job xiv. 2, and passim).
The son of Adam is not immortal—Ovk addvaro< ; (Ecclus. xvii. *
30). Moreover, it is just as little scriptural to say that the soul
is immortal, and that the spirit is immortal: for Scripture does
not hesitate to say of the soul, that it dies; and of the spirit,
although it does not indeed say that it dies, yet it says nowhere
that it is immortal. Man was created by God in the position
of posse non mori, that he might thence attain to the position
of non posse mori, or of everlasting life (eV dcf>dapaia, Wisd.
ii. 23): he was, according to the design, and so far certainly by
nature, immortal.2 But after he had fallen from this his desti-
nation, immortality (adavaaia or d<f>dapaia) only exists for him

upwards. An inexpressible loftiness sate upon his countenance, his eyes lightened, and his face was overflowed with a bright gleam. Full of amazement, and with the cry of astonishment, we stood around his bed. None of us, although some had already stood by many hundred deathbeds, had ever seen such an one: it was a lightning flash of eternity, granted bodily for a few moments, according to God's gracious pleasure, to mortal sinful eyes.

1 As, from this paragraph forward, spirit and soul come into consideration almost entirely in respect of the similarity of their future destiny, founded in their indissolubility and unity of nature, therefore henceforth "soul" will be used more frequently than elsewhere, in such a way as that the spirit is included in the idea—in like manner as God, in respect of His Joxa, is named, inclusively of His essence, K»DtP, »ipttri;, or even plainly the Doxa.

8 Hahn, Theologie der N. T. i. 389. I so far also agree with Hermann Schultz, Die Voraussetzungen der christl. Lehrevonder Unsterblichkeit,1861, that the personal continuance of being, and especially the everlasting life of man, has no physical necessity actually founded in creation. But the moral conditioning is not such as that therefrom would follow a conclusive annihilation of evil, to which the chain of this theologian's argument amounts. Scripture teaches an eternal personal continuance of being of all personal nature.

as a future spiritual gift to those who are reunited with God the Immortal (1 Tim. vi. 16), and a grace that recompenses faithfulness towards Him (Wisd. iii. 4, Rom. ii. 7, and elsewhere). It is this which the oldest teachers of the church opposed to philosophical heathenism. "The soul," cries Tatian, "is not in itself immortal, O ye Greeks." And Justin Martyr says, "It participates in life, so far as God wills it to live." "For God alone," says Athanasius, "has immortality, and is Himself immortality."1

Where Scripture speaks of death as of a Kplfia common to men (Ecclus. xli. 4), it is everywhere the whole man who suffers it. Death is a breaking up of the divinely ordained substance of a living being.2 In this disruption—the issue of the Turba, which has laid hold of body, soul, and spirit, each according to its manner (Div. III. Sec. II.)—body, soul, and spirit also share, each in its own way. Body and spirit fall away from one another; and the spirit, to which the soul has retreated, finds itself, so far as it is disembodied, in the condition of death. Even of the spirits of the just made perfect this is the case, although it is said only per zeugma? Scripture calls the deceased altogether, not merely their bodies, veKpol; and teaches that the dead, not merely that their bodies, rise again, for the resurrection is a restoration of the personal condition that is dissolved by death.

Death is consequently the final destiny of the whole man. How then is it possible, apart from redemption, to speak of the immortality of man, or even only of the immortality of his soul? If we understand, by immortality of the soul, its indissolubility as the result of its simple nature, the expression does not affirm what we have in view. For that that which is not compounded cannot be dissolved, is self-evident; but is everything which cannot perish in the way of dissolution, therefore of necessity eternal?

1 See the passages in v. Harless, Das Buch von der iigyptvschen Mystcrien (1858), pp. 14, 111.

2 Avai; or A/kaw/?, as Zacharias, bishop of Mitylene, loves to say in his Dialogue of the Beginning of the World and of Humanity.

3 This distinction is to be observed. In the Old Testament it might be said the dead in Hades, but in the New Testament it cannot be said the dead in heaven, although they are included when we acknowledge a resurrection of the dead, and Christ as the judge of the living and the dead.

Even if we understand, by the immortality of the soul and the spirit, their incapability of annihilation, the expression is, to say the least, unscriptural. For death and annihilation in Scripture are not by any means coincident ideas. In general, Scripture nowhere says that anything whatever of what has been created is annihilated; and, so far as our inquiry reaches, we see no atom perish. But, from the nature of things, it by no means follows, that God's word of might cannot again transplant into nonentity that which it has called into existence. And if such a conclusion followed from the nature of the soul, still actual continuance of being and self-conscious continuance of being are far from being necessarily associated. Whence can it be concluded that human souls continue to subsist individually, since the souls of the brutes are confessedly taken back into the entire spirit of nature, of which they are individuations? That which is constituted by way of emanation may also be taken back by way of remanation (Ps. civ. 29; Job xxxiv. 14).

But in view of the personality which distinguishes the human soul from the brute soul, annihilation, or remanation of the former, is assuredly an idea of extreme improbability. For personal freedom is the inexhaustible ground of possibility of an endless development; and it is extremely improbable that this development, in its origin, or broken off from its middle, and the fulness of substance which the human soul has attained by means of free life, should be forcibly extinguished. With equal conviction, the doubt is met by another consideration. To the doubting question of Eccles. iii. 21, the Preacher's own declaration of ch. iii. 11 may be used as a reply, in case this is to be translated, " God has given eternity in the heart of men."1 In the nature, i.e. in the inborn constitution of man, there is the capability of conceiving of eternity, the struggle to apprehend

1 Just in the same way Oehler translates in his able work, Die Grundziige der alttest. Weuheit (1855). "The satisfaction," thus he explains it, "which man attains from his action and work is wasted, as has been shown chap. ii. 12, as soon as he reflects that he thereby attains no result which lasts beyond his passing existence. That man cannot help striving after that which is imperishable, is the first meaning of the words,—God has put eternity in man's heart." In post-biblical Hebraism cb\]l signifies not


only eternity backwards and forwards as incalculable duration, but also

the everlasting, the longing after eternal life. Although we may not thence conclude that man is derived from eternity, it is yet certain that he is designed for eternity. The conclusion is irrefragable, as also the Cartesian conclusion from the idea of a God to the being of a God is irrefragable. This is the, so called by the ancients, argumentum ab appetitu ceternitatis}

Pantheism, indeed, which makes a divinity of an absolute nature that individualizes itself in a blind necessity, and takes itself back out of the individualization, escapes both arguments for personal continuance of existence, by being satisfied with an impersonal expansion in that absolute nature,—an issue of life which may please an eccentric or thoughtless person, but which surely sheds no smile upon a dying man. The existence of man, if it ends in such a hopeless drowning death as this, becomes the most desperate enigma. Only in view of personal continuance of being, is it such an enigma as can hope for solution: and personal continuance of existence has as its fundamental postulate the existence of a personal God; for its final ground, the free determination of will of this God. But immortality and personal continuance of being are, in Holy Scripture, not absolutely co-extensive ideas. Only the man who is united with God the immortal, through Christ who is risen again, is immortal. For such an one temporal death has lost the nature of death; for all other men, a limit is only placed to temporal death. Personal continuance of existence, moreover, has its final reason in the counsel of redemption, whose self-realization demands the continuance of personal being of entire humanity. Without, therefore, dwelling long upon the probable reasons for that future continued existence that are based in the nature of the human soul, biblical psychology has to seek for the solution of its eschatological enigma in the revealed mystery of the counsel of redemption.

the world as that which endures incalculably (xiu», seculum). Biblical language as yet knows not the word in the latter signification; and therefore the words of the Preacher must not be understood of the impulse of man to reflect upon the univeree.

1 e.g. in Dannhauer, Collegium Psychologicum (1627), p. 128, and Christ. Aug. Crusius, Metaph. sec. 483. Comp. Oetinger in Barth's Siiddeutschen Originalien, i. 42. The sensus communis is the hidden thing of man, a sensus tacitus seternitatis; or as Solomon says, "God has placed th)]l, «"«. the hidden eternity, in the heart of man."