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Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Theology Q&A

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Dr. J. Rodman Williams answers theological questions, exclusively on

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5. Man

Category Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 QA Index



Do we, as Christians, believe in the preexistence of the soul?

The Bible does not teach the preexistence of the soul or any other aspect of human nature. Once the soul is created, however, it will never die.

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  From a biblical standpoint is there anything wrong with being cremated versus a plot burial? Thank you for your guidance.

There is nothing wrong with cremation since the body at death will not be the body of the coming resurrection-"it [the body] is sown a material body, it is raised a spiritual body." (See Renewal Theology, 3: pages 402-404.) So whether the burial is cremation (or other disposal) is of no ultimate consequence.

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  What is the difference between your soul and your spirit? And when a Christian or a sinner dies, where exactly is the soul?

Spirit is the deepest aspect of human nature. The spirit like God is eternal, thus never dies. According to Ecclesiastes 12:5, "At death the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." When Jesus died on the cross He said, "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit" (Luke 23:46). Also Hebrews 12:23 reads: "The spirits of righteous men made perfect" are "enrolled in heaven."

Soul-in its various dimensions of mind, feeling, and will-is very closely related to the spirit of a human being. Thus at death the soul may be said to continue. Accordingly, the soul is not somewhere else than the spirit. There is no "soul sleep" after death, as some have claimed, for either the righteous or unrighteous.

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  Why does God give us free will to choose, but then punishes us if we choose against His will? How can we love someone who created us against our will, allowed sin to occur, and then threatens us into loving Him or burn in flames?

Freedom to choose is a special mark of human nature. If it is to be genuine freedom, there must also be the possibility of wrong choice. Punishment inevitably follows from such a choice, not as an arbitrary act of God, but as resulting from the way things are in a moral universe.

On the second question, I do not believe it is correct to say that God created us against our will-our will was involved in His creative act. God allowed sin to occur as a result of the very freedom He gave us. Never does He threaten us into loving Him, but shows His great love for us in sending His only Son. As a result "we love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19 KJV). "Burning in flames" is not a threat to force "us into loving Him"; love cannot stem from a threat or be coerced. It is when we know that Christ suffered the pains of hell ("burning") in God's great love that we freely and gladly love in return. (See Renewal Theology, 1: "Man Made to be Free," page 215.)

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  Why did Eve tell a lie?

When the serpent confronted Eve in the garden, why did she say that God said, "You must not touch it, or you will die" (Genesis 3:3) speaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For God only said in Genesis 2:17, "You must not eat of the tree…." Why did Eve tell a lie?

Eve's words were the result of Satan's deception. The serpent (Satan's disguise) had just said to Eve, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?'" (Genesis 2:13). These were very crafty words in that Satan was perverting God's earlier word that referred to only one tree-"From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat." Satan's question, subtly shifting from the one tree that God had forbidden to any tree implied that if God were truly good and just He would not have prohibited Adam and Eve from enjoying the good fruit from all the trees in the garden. What a malicious God, Satan is insinuating, that would place you in this beautiful garden but not allow you to enjoy its many fruits!

Eve momentarily resisted the serpent by defending God, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat," but then Eve added, "But the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You must not eat from it or touch it lest you die.'" Although Eve first of all defended God, as deception grew she viewed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as being in the middle of the garden-which it was not. Earlier in Genesis the Scripture speaks of "the tree of life being in the midst of the garden" (2:9). Thus in Eve's mind, as Satan's deception worked its way, what was forbidden became central and more and more alluring. Then she, totally deceived, not only saw the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as being in the midst of the garden but also wrongly said that they were not allowed even "to touch it."

From there on Satan had the upper hand, bluntly contradicting God's words, saying, "You shall not die" (Genesis 3:4) without so much as a counter word from Eve. (See Renewal Theology, 1: page 227, for more details.)

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  Would you please explain the difference between soul and spirit? When the Old/or New Testament uses the word "heart" does this refer to our spirit or soul?

"Spirit" is the deepest dimension of human nature. It is breathed into man by the breath of God (Genesis 2:7) and is immortal. The soul results from the spirit functioning through the body. It is man's conscious life in terms of mind, feeling, and will.

"Heart" is not a separate part but represents the inmost thoughts and feelings of a person. It relates to both soul and spirit.

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  Please tell me your view of God's perspective of what women should experience in childbirth. Do you believe that born again Christian women who believe they have a covenant with God will experience pain in childbirth?

Hear the words of Genesis 3:16a: "To the woman [Eve] He [God] said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth. In pain you shall bring forth children." Listen also to Eve's words in Genesis 4:1-"Eve gave birth to Cain, and she said, 'I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.'" Her pain in giving birth to Cain is not so much as mentioned in her joyous cry at the privilege of bringing forth a child with the Lord's attending help. Pain could not erase her sense of victory.

Yes, you may experience some pain in childbearing, but you can also rejoice in the Lord's real presence!

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   What is man's relationship to the animal world?

The opening chapter in Genesis describes God's creation of the universe. The description climaxes in verse 26 with man being seen as that creature who is between God and the world. He is "man the amphibian"-existing between two realms.

Although the animal world is a creation of God and thus represents a totally new step ahead, it does not have the unique stature of man. When God turned to make man, He took still another step-a huge one: He made man in His image and likeness. This by no means denies man's relationship to the animal world (any more than the creation of animal life denies prior vegetable life), but it does give man a unique status. He is a fresh creation and therefore not simply a higher or more complex entity than what preceded him.

This means that there is a qualitative difference between man and the highest subhuman creature. There is no gradual evolution of animal into man by a series of steps over a lengthy period of time. Hence, there is no "missing link" to be found, since God simply moved past the animal kingdom and established a new order in creation.

A further word might be said about what preceded man. On the same sixth day "God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds" (Genesis 1:25). There is no new creation here (as with the first creation of life in the sea and sky [verse 21]), but a continuation of animal life on a still higher level: this is a making, not a creation. Yet the beasts of the earth (along with other land animals) are distinctive enough from the preceding animal life to occupy a separate day of creation, namely, the sixth and last. Indeed this is the same day when man was to be created. How much of the sixth day (or age) God devoted to the "beasts of the earth" and whether He "made" these in one, two, or ten thousand steps is not told us. He made them "according to their kinds," and this can also allow development within their kind. Thus, for example, there could be the development of the anthropoid ape to higher levels within its "kind," but there is a qualitative gap between the most highly developed ape and the appearance of man in creation. This by no means rules out a close biological relation to what God has just finished making, for man is the climax and fulfillment of God's preceding work. But at a certain moment on the same "sixth day," God reached beyond all that had preceded and created a new being-man. There is continuity with the past but an even greater discontinuity: man is a new creation.

(See Renewal Theology, 1: pages 199-200.)

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  I hear we are made in the image of God. Is God black or white?

God is a spirit. He is beyond color. To be made in the image of God refers to man's distinctiveness. No animals are said in the Bible to be made in God's image. The human spirit images God in its transcendent character.

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