Relationship of Sin and Death

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Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby Kurieuo » Tue Aug 16, 2016 6:46 pm

The relationship in Scripture of sin to death in Judeo-Christian beliefs is a very close one.
In the day Adam and Eve ate the fruit, the said penalty of such was that they would surely die. (Gen 2:17)
The Tree of Life was hidden lest they also partake of that and live forever. (Gen 3:22)

To those who have understanding, the Eucharist, is partaking of Christ that we can have eternal life (John 6:50-51). Christ who was nailed to a tree (1 Peter 2:24 KJV), that cross, and who is the fruit we must eat. (Matthew 26:26) Blessed are they who partake from the tree of life, for they are part of God's kingdom which lasts forever. (Rev 2:7; Rev 22:14)

So then, where we along with the rest of sinful humanity lost access to eternal life, in Christ hung on the cross we can regain such and enter into eternal life with God once again. The paradise that once was can be restored, only this time it is incorruptible, eternal and lasting rather than corruptible and removable.

What then of death? How are we to see such. It is the end to the temporary world, the one we physically live within that will fade away. The Apostle Paul says that death is the last enemy to be abolished, (1 Cor 15:26) the last foe Jesus will conquer and do away with. Equally sin will be no more, for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Now, with that Christian theology laid down, we come to Genesis 1. Young Earth Creationists (YECs), and the likes of Augustine who propose the problem of evil and death in world is due to the sin of Adam and Eve, are at real loggerheads with Old Earth Creationist (OEC) interpretations that say death existed pre-Fall. For, YECs and Augustine reasoned that the consequences of sin, death, was not in the world until Adam and Eve sinned.

As I have mapped out above above, the association of sin with death is very Scriptural, and has very strong theological backing. Sadly, when it comes to interpreting Genesis 1 I believe these ideas are read back into how many interpret Genesis 1. Any clean exegesis (interpreting a particular passage), especially in strict accordance to a literal historical-grammatical interpretation (right Jac?), should keep out existing and known ideas as much as possible whether they're scientific, theological or otherwise. To do otherwise, is to allow our subjectivity to creep in, positions that we accept and gravitate towards, and indeed such can cloud our interpretations --- I've seen it even colour translations from the original Hebrew or Greek into English.

Nonetheless, given the association of sin and death is thick, YECs appear to have a powerful theological argument for rejecting Old Earth Creation (OEC) interpretations of the Genesis 1-2 chapters, OEC interpretations that say death was in the world prior to sin. And how OECs, such as Day-Age adherents, generally respond is through arguing that death is actually intended as a good part of God's creation.

Pain and suffering, death can be seen as bad, but such also brings much good. If we didn't feel pain, then we wouldn't know if our hand is being burnt, or whether a knife is poking into us and the like. Death also brings about an appreciation of life's value, without death... why, we may not fully appreciate and respect the value of life. Death can release us from pain and suffering, for example, if someone is torturing us and wishes to do us much harm. There are many responses from different OEC quarters, here is one at BioLogos.

Now such explanations I think offer a much more balanced view of "death" as something not inherently bad or evil. After all, God never calls our world perfect, but "good" and "very good" meaning there is still room for "most good" (i.e., perfection). The world God created for us here is but temporary, and was never intended to be eternal, but rather forms part of God's fuller plan of redemption since God already knew humanity would sin and so destined some to be saved from before creation in Christ. (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-6) And, furthermore, "death" as a penalty for sin, is arguably only seen within the context of humanity. That sin corrupts the rest of creation must be argued.

Nonetheless, the sticking point for many YECs still is that Scripture views Sin and its corresponding partner, Death, as enemies. So thick is the theology that sin brings death and destruction, but righteous, Christ's righteousness, gives us everlasting life... is it any wonder when YECs accuse OECs saying, "one cannot accept an old Earth interpretation and million years of death and destruction, and affirm the Gospel of Christ." If one rejects that death is due to sin, such a person might be implicitly rejecting the corresponding idea that it is Christ who saves us from an everlasting death redeeming us from our sin into everlasting life.

As a rejoinder, as mentioned above, OECs generally believe humanity's sin did bring death but such is restricted to humanity and excludes animals and the rest of creation. Humanity, OECs argue, would not have experienced death and been preserved from the natural aging effects had they not sinned. YECs generally argue that Scripture also supports death coming into the world, not just coming to humanity (e.g., read AiG's arguments). OECs respond with their own interpretations back, but really here things remain in the stand off, horns interlocked, and people of either side either continue bickering or walk away in disagreement.

NOW, in this opening post I just wanted to set the scene. I want to further present a rather different response, one I think is kind of novel. The position I'll present is both YEC and OEC neutral, and I think even a more preferable understanding that gets away from ridiculous ideas such as animals being vegetarians and the like pre-Fall all-the-while fully embracing the strong theological undercurrent that death in the world is indeed a consequent of sin and the last enemy to be conquered.
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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby RickD » Tue Aug 16, 2016 7:04 pm

This sounds interesting. Looking forward to your thoughts.
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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby crochet1949 » Thu Aug 18, 2016 3:14 pm

That Does sound interesting.

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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby Kurieuo » Thu Aug 18, 2016 5:20 pm

The next post is coming, but will take some time to coherently gather my thoughts. Hopefully I won't leave you all hanging too long. ;)

I will add, that Jac said here:

    We have not, of course, touched on myriads of related problems, the most serious of which being whether or not there was death before the Fall (which, I contend, is the real issue that YECs get all worked up about--the "long days" are only problematic because they allow/imply death before Adam's sin). BUT, as far as it goes, I think K's interpretation is defensible and worthy of serious consideration. It some ways, I think it might well be superior to the YEC model--particularly given the issues of Egyptian cosmology and the recognition of the general importance of the six-one pattern in Moses' culture before he wrote his text.

In other words, this (death pre-Fall) is one of the main issues, if not the main issue, on the YEC/OEC playing field.
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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby DBowling » Fri Aug 19, 2016 9:49 am

I am eagerly awaiting Kurieuo's thoughts on this topic.
Until then let me throw out some of my recent thoughts on the relationship between sin and death.

One of the key points for me is understanding the kind of death that entered the world when Adam and Eve sinned.

Genesis 2:17 indicates that the consequences of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would occur within a short time of the disobedient behavior. However Adam lived to a ripe old age of over 900 years. This indicates that the death that occurred as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve was not physical death. This is the first indication that the death brought on by the Fall was spiritual death (separation from God) not physical death.

Romans 5:12 also supports the premise that the death brought on by sin refers to spiritual death (separation from God) not spiritual death. Romans 5:12 tells us that the recepients of the death that entered the world through sin were humanity ("death spread to all men") What kind of death would be unique to humanity? Spiritual death.

We get more support for this premise when we look at verses that indicate that humanity was physically mortal before the Fall.
In Genesis 2:9 we see that God placed the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden prior to the sin of Adam and Eve. And in Genesis 2:16 we see that Adam was told that he could eat from the Tree of Life. The fact that Adam was told that he could eat from the Tree of Life before sin entered the world is an indicator that God was addressing Adam's physical mortality problem before the Fall.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul reinforces this principle when he contrasts Adam's earthy perishable body with the spiritual heavenly resurrection body of Jesus. Adam was 'formed from the dust of the ground' and had an earthy perishable body before the Fall, so Paul reinforces the principle that Adam had a perishable mortal body prior to sin entering the world.

So putting this all together I think there strong Scriptural evidence from multiple passages that mankind was physically mortal prior to the Fall, and the death that entered the world through sin was 'spiritual' death (separation from God) not physical death.

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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby crochet1949 » Fri Aug 19, 2016 3:11 pm

God created the perfect environment for Adam and Eve. And the ability to have children. Adam lived hundreds of years and would have lived Longer -- as in Eternal Life?! That would have been an interesting world. But Because of the sin of disobeying God -- he was doomed to die physically at some point. And physical death would separate them from God Forever.

So -- Jesus Christ dying and rising again bodily / His doing that for Everyone -- rising from the dead -- makes it possible for Everyone to eventually be with God for Eternity. He being the Light needed for all eternity. He was the original light that created our world for us.

So -- life Without God's presence means Darkness -- total darkness. Eternal existence outside of God's natural light. Suffering eternally in utter darkness. And hearing the torment of others but not being to see anyone. Satan's great deception. That everyone ending up in hell will be partying with all their friends -- away from all of God's 'requirements'. And once they discover Satan's lies are for Real -- it will be eternally too late to do anything about it.

The eternal life will be a continuation of The Garden of Eden but with no serpent to mess it up. (Just a thought)

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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby abelcainsbrother » Fri Aug 19, 2016 4:16 pm

Thanks Kurieuo,interesting discussion and I'm interested in your response.I agree the sin and death thing is a real sticking point between YEC's and OEC's.We know from the evidence there was death,the problem is OEC's put it before Adam and Eve while YEC's put it after Adam and Eve sinned.We also know that certain dinosaurs ate other dinosaurs,so no vegetarian exclusivity with dinosaurs and this would apply to other creatures and animals also.Also Something that needs to be considered is when Adam sinned death spread to man,but not animals,etc because it seems to only apply to man.
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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby DBowling » Fri Aug 19, 2016 7:41 pm

My last post looked at the relationship between sin and 'spiritual' death.

But some thoughts by NT Wright that I have come across within the last couple of years have significantly impacted my view of the role of the Fall on 'physical' death.

First, I think it is important to note that Scripture never claims that Creation was 'perfect' prior to the Fall. God calls his creation 'good' and 'very good' prior to the Fall but it is never referred to as perfect. In fact prior to the Fall, God describes a particular situation that Adam was facing as 'not good' (Genesis 2:18).
And as I noted in my previous post, the presence of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden demonstrates that Human mortality was an an issue that God was dealing with prior to the Fall.
So I think you can Scripturally support the premise that physical death was a 'natural' part of Creation prior to the Fall, but it was also something that God was already taking action against (at least for his image bearers) prior to the Fall.

I think we can gain some insight by examining the passage in Scripture that describes the elimination of physical death, Revelation 21-22. In Revelation 21-22 we see that the context for the elimination of physical death is the New Heaven/New Earth when heaven and earth come together and God dwells with his image bearers. So the context for the perfecting of all of creation is the coming together of heaven and earth, and it is this coming together of heaven and earth which eliminates physical death.

So how do we get from the good but not perfect pre-Fall Creation to the perfect coming together of heaven and earth that we see in Rev 21-22?

In Genesis 2 God initiating the process of moving his good but not yet perfect Creation towards the perfect New Heaven/New Earth. He creates a localized version of the New Heaven/New Earth (the Garden of Eden) and places it in Mesopotamia. Then he places two humans in this perfect environment which includes the Tree of Life to address mankind's inherent mortality.

Unfortunately instead of obeying God, Adam and Eve sinned against God and introduced 'spiritual' death to all humanity. The sin of Adam and Eve also delayed the coming together of heaven and earth (which would eliminate physical death) while God executed his plan for the redemption of his image bearers.

In Romans 8:22 Paul tells us that 'the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time'. Ever since 'in the beginning', creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth waiting to be liberated from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:21) that will occur when heaven and earth come together and physical death is eliminated (Rev 21-22).
But before Creation can be liberated from bondage to decay, God must first complete the redemption of his image bearers, and for the children of God can to be revealed (Romans 8:19).

So the effect of the Fall on Creation is that it delayed the perfection of God's creation and the elimination of physical death that we see in Rev 21-22.

Again, this not something that I came up with. NT Wright's works introduced me to the concept, and It provides a context that brings together Genesis 1-3, Romans 8:19-22, and Rev 21-22.

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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby Kurieuo » Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:09 pm

Thanks DBowling, you highlight some important points. In relation to:

DB wrote:One of the key points for me is understanding the kind of death that entered the world when Adam and Eve sinned.


I don't necessarily think it is either/or spiritual or physical death, but rather the important issue is having a root understanding of what "death" is. Once we have a correct ontology of death, then from there, the kinds of death naturally flow.

Now, I think it obvious that the correct order of ontology, for us, is the material being built upon the immaterial -- or more correctly, the immaterial being the source of the material. The physical world therefore is often representative of spiritual matters, can provide insights into the real immaterial order of things.

Ultimately, God is the immaterial source of all things that exist, such is our understanding as Christians. God is the source of life, but to be the source of death -- death needs to be something. Evidently, death seems to be the negating of something, rather than actually something tangible. There is a reason why "sin" leads to "death", which is a necessary outcome of sin if it cuts us off from the source of life (God), but I'm here extending my thoughts perhaps too soon.

In any case, I'd shy away a little, or more-so be cautious with NT Wright as you've elaborated, to not just jump the gun. The one thing I don't want to say, is to simply state that there are different "kinds" of death. For such, could be to allow us to rig the deck if you will with an, "Oh, God just means spiritual death". Yet, what is "death" per se, death in and of itself, that can bring forth this kind of death (spiritual) or that kind of death (physical).

So for me, the more interesting question to answer I think is on a most essential level, "what is death"? And, I think the answer to that question seems quite obvious -- that "death" isn't necessarily something with an essence, but rather a negating of something that exists, life. Death doesn't have an existence of its own, but destroys that which exists.

I'm sure you can see how such can readily feed into what you presented of NT Wright says, but the idea of "spiritual death" and why select it over physical, ought to be supported I feel in more foundational ways. In this vein, I feel it is important to recognise that, for us, it is the spiritual order that exists first, that the natural physical order is built around and indeed exemplifies.
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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby DBowling » Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:40 pm

Kurieuo wrote:Thanks DBowling, you highlight some important points. In relation to:

DB wrote:One of the key points for me is understanding the kind of death that entered the world when Adam and Eve sinned.


In any case, I'd shy away a little, or at least be cautious, with NT Wright as you've elaborated. The one thing I don't want to say, is to simply state that there are different "kinds" of death.

Just to clarify, I was not quoting Wright. I was taking Wright's views on the relationship between Gen 1-3, Romans 8, and Rev 21-22 and then internalizing and then rephrasing them. So I would not necessarily attribute my differentiation between 'spiritual' and 'physical' death to Wright.

However, I think that Scripture does draw a clear distinction between spiritual and physical death (John 11:25-26). And I think that the failure to distinguish between spiritual and physical death does lead to misunderstandings about the Scriptural relationship of sin and death, and the Fall and death.

So for me, the more interesting question to answer I think is on a most essential level, "what is death"? And, I think the answer to that question seems quite obvious -- that "death" isn't necessarily something with an essence, but rather a negating of something that exists, life. Death doesn't have an existence of its own, but destroys that which exists.

I personally lean towards the concept of death as 'separation' as opposed to 'negation', but I can understand the negation principle as well. I'll be very interested to see where you go with this.

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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby Jac3510 » Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:07 am

Just to register my opinion on the spiritual v physical death, in my view John 11:25-26 is poor evidence to support the differentiation. The force of the argument is based on Jesus saying that the one who lives and believes would "never" die and the logical distinction required by the first part saying that the one who does die would live again. So the fact that the text doesn't explicitly draw the distinction should immediately warn us against drawing a conclusion the text itself doesn't draw. You would think if the distinction was real, it would be named explicitly somewhere. I don't see that. I see references to the second death, and I see a distinction between killing the soul and killing the body, but I don't see how those are anything like enough to maintain DB's point.

Anyway, there's a more substantive problem with this verse though. The text doesn't actually say that the believer will "never" die. There is a Greek word for "never." It is oudepote. You can see it in verses like Matt 7:23 and 9:33. John uses it at 7:46 if you want to see it in his literature. Anyway, that's not the word used in John 11:26. The Greek text says, "πᾶς ὁ ζῶν καὶ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα" The underlined phrase is eis ton aiona--more woodenly translated "unto forever" or "unto the ages." This is an eschatological phrase with clear reference to the second death. "The one who lives and believes in Christ will not die in the age to come" is the way I would put it. So taken together, it should read like this:

    Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and the one who lives and believes in Me will not die in the age to come. Do you believe this?”
It's obvious to me that such a translation makes the distinction between physical and spiritual death entirely superfluous.

Just my $.02. Looking forward to K's thoughts.
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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby DBowling » Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:49 am

Jac3510 wrote:Just to register my opinion on the spiritual v physical death, in my view John 11:25-26 is poor evidence to support the differentiation.

If you don't believe that John 11:25-26 does the job, here's a few more...

Ephesians 2:1-5
And you [a]were dead [b]in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the [c]course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, [d]indulging the desires of the flesh and of the [e]mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead [f]in our transgressions, made us alive together [g]with Christ (by grace you have been saved)

Matthew 8:21-22
Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”

Luke 15:31-32
And he said to him, ‘Son, you [m]have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”

Colossians 2:13-14
When you were dead [k]in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

1 Timothy 5:5-6
Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day. 6 But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.

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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby Jac3510 » Sat Aug 20, 2016 10:06 am

None of those make the distinction you say exists, DB. There's too much debate around what Matt means to base a doctrine or theological distinction on (in that it can only be used as evidence for your position if your position is assumed). Luke is clearly a figure of speech. Eph, Col, and Tim are better, but they are better understood referring to another, explicitly established, NT doctrine. Romans 6 makes clear that Christ's resurrection makes it possible to no longer "live in sin" but instead we may "live a new life" which is "alive to God." In this sense, everyone--even believers--who "live in sin" are "dead" or, in keeping with Paul's thought, "living in death." You can, I take it, see the irony of such a statement and the implicit rebuke. But the point is that none of this speaks to a thing called "spiritual death" as if it were a real condition like physical death is. It's rather simply a way of speaking of a person's fellowship (or lackthereof) with God through Christ. Not surprising, then, that the three passages you cite here are all in Paul, and that Paul explains his theology more extensively in Romans. And, in fact, if you do a detailed study of death in Romans, you'll see that even here Paul has physical death in mind, anyway, not spiritual death (as if that phrase had any meaning).

Anyway, point is, I don't think "spiritual death" is a biblical concept. Certainly not an essential one. If it were, you would see biblical authors talk about it explicitly and expand on it. As it is, they are completely silent on the subject, and you simply appeal to it as an explanatory tool for understanding passages. And that's your mistake. It doesn't exist, and in making such appeals, you are begging the question, because you have to presume it in order to see it in those passages. And in all cases, the passages are better understood in their own contexts by referring to other ideas entirely.
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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby DBowling » Sat Aug 20, 2016 10:27 am

Jac3510 wrote:Anyway, point is, I don't think "spiritual death" is a biblical concept. Certainly not an essential one. If it were, you would see biblical authors talk about it explicitly and expand on it. As it is, they are completely silent on the subject,

Scripture is most definitely not silent on the subject, as my list of references above demonstrates... and my list was far from exhaustive.

You may find ways to explain them away ("that's your mistake" :P )
But your ability to rationalize responses to what Scripture says in multiple places about a particular topic does not mean Scripture is silent on that topic.

I'll be interested to see where K comes down on this.

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Re: Relationship of Sin and Death

Postby Jac3510 » Sat Aug 20, 2016 10:56 am

Of course the difference in the two of us is that I offered an explanation of the passage whereas you offer mere assertions. But while we wait for K, a bit more evidence that the entire idea of "spiritual death" is self-contradictory drivel. So "spiritual death" is contrasted to "physical death." We all know what "physical death" is--the loss of life. To be a bit more explicit, we might say from one perspective that physical death is the cessation of the organsim's operation as a unified whole. From another perspective, we might say that physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. Both are just two sides of the same coin. In any case, our bodies die when they no longer have (the principle of) life in them.

So let's turn to spiritual death. What are the only truly spiritual entities we know? Angels/demons. There is some sense, of course, in which humans are "spiritual," but we obviously aren't spirits in the same sense they are and so aren't spiritual in the sense they are. (More on how we are spiritual in a moment.) So here's the question: what would it mean for an angels or demon to be "dead"? They obviously can't suffer physical death. They aren't physical! So any death they would suffer would be "spiritual death." So do we say that their soul is separated from their bodies? Is that spiritual death? No, that's silly. Do we say that they cease operating as an organic whole? Obviously not. They aren't organisms. In fact, this is why spirits are normally said to be immortal. Angels or demons cannot die. The whole idea of "spiritual death" would mean that demons are dead. Now, really? Demons are dead. That is your idea?

It's ridiculous on its face. They aren't dead. They are anything but. They are very much alive. As such, they are very active and dangerous. You say, "But there's a sense in which they are dead! They are separated from God!!!" But in the first place, at best, you are confusing the results of death with the ontology of death. If they are separated from God, it would be because the are dead. That would not constitute their death. But, of course, they aren't dead at all. It's just a self-contradictory notion. But that raises the question of what it would even mean for them to be separated from God. In what sense? Nothing is separated from God. If something is separated from God then it just does not exist. So you just mean "not in proper fellowship with God." And that's fine, but that's hardly "death." In fact, that's a situation that describes every single Christian at multiple times every single day (when we sin). So now we're right back to Paul's idea in Romans 6, which you accused of "explaining away" the text.

And all this brings me back to the last idea. What is this idea of "spiritual" anyway? In Paul's thought, it is contrasted against the fleshly, and for him, he isn't talking about the physical body. "Spiritual" people are those who walk according to the Holy Spirit. "Fleshly" people are those who walk according to sin. That means that what is "spiritual" is essentially alive. That makes, again, the idea of "spiritual death" a contradiction in terms. A person who walks according to the flesh is dead--not spiritually but really. There are not two kinds of death. There is one. The only question is the extent to which we suffer that death. And at this point, I'll stop, because I'm either treading on ideas the K is going to be making or else I'm going to take this in a very different direction than he wants to, and no reason to derail the thread before it gets going.

My basic point in all this: spiritual death does not exist, on my view. It's a self-contradiction to speak of such things. People who suppose it just haven't thought deeply enough about the subject and they have invented it to explain away the obvious meaning of certain passages of Scripture. It, then, is just an explanatory tool for getting around tough texts. It isn't anything the Scriptures actually talk about directly or explicitly, nor is it required by what Scripture does say. We, then, should not talk about it or assume it, either.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue

And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.


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