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If Resurrection of the Body, Why Immortality of the Soul

If Resurrection of the Body, Why Immortality of the Soul

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Published by sergiolong
Do we go to heaven immediately upon death? Does the Bible teach the immortality of the soul? These and other questions are discussed here.
Do we go to heaven immediately upon death? Does the Bible teach the immortality of the soul? These and other questions are discussed here.

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Published by: sergiolong on Apr 05, 2011
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04/05/2011

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AUSTIN GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THEOLOGYIF RESURRECTION OF THE BODY,WHY IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL?INTRODUCTION TO THEOLOGYMICHAEL WEED, Ph.D.BYSERGIO N. LONGORIAAUSTIN, TEXASAPRIL 23, 2010
 
1IF RESURRECTION OF THE BODY, WHY IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL?The very title of this essay presupposes that the concept of the immortality of the soul issomehow opposite to the concept of the resurrection of the body. For many in the church,however, the immortality of the soul is precisely tied or bound up in the concept of theresurrection of the body. That being the case, it is possible that many church people would findthe question in the title of this paper puzzling, strange, or perhaps even as theological double-talk.Of course the soul is immortal some would say, and there is also a resurrection of thebody—there is both! To get a feel for what church members may actually think on the subject, Iasked some people in the church to answer a few questions regarding their understanding of theimmortality of the soul. Without hesitation, every single one of them answered that theybelieved in the immortality of the soul. In their view the soul either goes to heaven after death or to hell depending upon the person’s acceptance of the message of the gospel. Some did notknow where the soul was before the person is born, others thought that God created the soulwhen a person is conceived or born. At least in one case, the connection was made between aperson being “saved” and the soul gaining immortality as a consequence. It would appear thenthat the soul is not thought to be inherently immortal for some church people, but only becomesso after one accepts the message of salvation.
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This of course creates a problem. If only the souls of the righteous are immortal, whatdo we make of passages that suggest that the wicked will also be raised to stand judgment? Dothe wicked also have an immortal soul? If not, does that amount to annihilation? This is beyondthe scope of this paper, but it does pose an interesting question for further investigation withinthe traditional understanding of soul.
 
2Of great curiosity was also the question posed as to whether they believed that there wassuch a thing as “soul” and what it was. Again without hesitation everyone made the positiveaffirmation that the soul does indeed exist. But the answer to what the soul is evoked manydifferent responses. Some thought that the soul was “life” but without anymore qualifiers it isdifficult to know what it was meant. Among the responses received were that the soul is thepersonality of the person, the mind, an incorporeal entity that is us, the heart, the breath, the spirit,the life, the breath that God breathes on a person at birth, that which connects a person to God,the true self, etc. It is impossible to qualify each term in this essay, but suffice it to say that it isquite diverse. These answers, together with those above regarding the immortality of the soul,seem to point in the direction of an understanding where the soul is an entity separable from thebody at death which is capable of an independent life in heaven.It is my purpose in this paper to examine some of the ideas that gave rise to the traditionalconcept of the soul, which is exemplified by the answers given above, and how this may beinterpreted as providing personal continuity in formulating a concept of the immortality of thesoul from a Christian point of view. I also want to show how this idea is either opposed or somehow complements the New Testament teaching of the resurrection of the body. It is mycontention that the traditional concept of soul is unnecessary in light of the Christian hope of theresurrection. And that the resurrection of the body alone is the correct interpretation of theChristian hope of immortality. I will try to establish as best as possible what is understood to bethe soul in the conception of the ancient Greeks, the Hebrews and later the early Christians. Thetask is a formidable one and it is not intended to be exhaustive. But it will be enough to give usan idea of the wide meaning and concept of the word, and how this can be spoken of intelligentlyin the dialog concerning the immortality of the soul or the resurrection of the body.

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