The Glorious Church


On October 14, 2010, at our recent conference in Carlisle, papers were presented in favor of the immortality of the soul and the mortality of man. Formal responses were presented to both papers. After all papers had been read, we then opened things up for questions and discussion. You may read the paper favoring the position that man does not have immortal soul and the response by clicking the files below. Please post your thoughts on this discussion board. You can listen to audio recordings of these papers being read and the discussion that followed by going to the Audio Library on


Man Does Not Have an Immortal Soul by David Huston.pdf


Response to Man Does Not Have an Immortal Soul by Tom Ryerson.pdf


Please limit your comments on this discussion board to the topics presented in these papers. We have set up other discussion boards for the other topics presented at the conference.

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Oh, certainly.  I am, by no means, trying to insinuate that our immaterial attributes are meaningless.  I am only trying to separate the basis of our existence from those attributes for clarity of thought.  Because we have been created with a mind, we think. Thought will occur, but we don't exist merely because of our thoughts.  Rather, our thoughts exist because we do. 

One of the fundamental differences between us and our Creator is that we are indeed creatures.  God is the only self-existent one.  I believe this is best expressed in John 5:26 where Jesus describes one attribute of God's divine being, self-existence: "For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself" (NKJV).  And I believe this relates to how God is described as the only immortal: "Who only hath immortality" (1 Tim. 6:16).  The only Being for which this can be fully and necessarily said is God.  All others are created.  Only God is uncreated.  All others are temporal.  Only God is eternal.  Now, God can grant an aspect of immortality to others at His choosing.  But even then, I still believe there must be some unique distinction between "eternal life" and the eternal nature of God. 

By existence, I am not referring to the attributes that our existence naturally manifests, such as thought, activity, emotions.  Instead, I am referring to the substance that comprises our existence.  Truly, we have no human expression for this substance/essence.  Our bodies, we understand, is made up from particles we call atoms, but we have no such model for our spirits.  What exactly is a thought made of?  This relates to my earlier post.

Our attributes *are* necessarily tied to our existence.  Our attributes *are* predicated upon our existence.  Thus,  because of who He is, the Logos is inseparably tied to God as part of His Nature, but at the same time is identifiably separate from God in a some different way.  I confess that I am not sure we have human words to explain the fullness of that reality adequately.  If we take John's expression In John 1 too literally, such as believing God's idea itself suddenly came to life, then we fall prey to heresy.  I think it is easier to understand John to be utilizing a style of poetic expression via personification to express the reality of God's original design/plan/idea as having come to perfect fruition in the Incarnation. 

But back to ourselves ... at what point can we cut a piece off and then say, I've lost a part of my existence?  The torso?  The heart?  The brain?  The last atom?  If we cannot be sure, then there remains something about us that is intangible.  And that is what I am getting at.  :)

Michael, you wrote, "Because we have been created with a mind, we think. Thought will occur, but we don't exist merely because of our thoughts." Question: Would you say that we exist because we have the capacity for thought? Is the capacity for thought the baseline of existence? Or does existence precede even that?  

Although Descartes used the ability to think as justification for his personal existence, I think the reverse is actually the truth.  We think because we exist as beings created with the capacity to do so.

The keyboard on which I type surely exists, but it's an inanimate object.  Viruses on the surface of my keyboard exist, but they do not think.  Numbers and letters exist, but they are immaterial concepts.  There are many things in existence that have no thoughts of their own.  Therefore, I must conclude that existence precedes thought, and thought is only capable by those creatures to whom it has been provided.

Now, on the other hand, I could be totally mad, and I'm imagining everything, such as Hinduism teaches.  My keyboard, this Ning site, my wife and kids--are they all only emanations of my imagination?  For that matter, do I even exist?  Hmm...  :-)

Is the capacity to think then the meaning of human existence? It can't be, since there are people who exist but have no capacity to think. So existence must be defined in some other way. Here is another question: when did Adam's existence begin? Was it when he was formed from the clay? When God breathed into him and he began to live? Sometime prior to these events? I writing in kind of a stream of consciousness here, so I doing a little thinking out loud.    

Bro. Dave, you mentioned, "there are people who exist but have no capacity to think." Are you referring to persons who do not have the capacity for rational thought, such as persons mentally incapacitated?  If so, I can agree with that.  But to say that some people do not think, referring to mental activity, may be an overstatement for all living persons have some form of thought, no matter how insignificant it may be--even those who are in deep comas.

As to Adam's existence, that's a interesting one to ponder, because I think we would have to quantify what "kind" of existence we are attempting to define.  Once God had fashioned a body from the dust, that body existed just as any other inanimate object.  Afterward, when God breathed into that body the breath of life,  Adam became a "living soul."  At that point, Adam became something more than a mere physical body. 

Unfortunately, if we say that the ability to breathe is the determining factor whether or not someone is alive/exists, then we put ourselves into a very difficult dilemma.  The unborn are recognized as existing, yet none breathe through their lungs until they are born.  If breathing is the foundation of human existence, then is all abortion justifiable, including partial-birth?

All in all, I am not sure our finite minds will ever be able to fathom the true measure of human existence.

Could it be that the term 'existence' is inadequate on its own? Perhaps it must be modified. For example, when Adam was being formed, he did not yet fully exist, at least not as a human being. A child in the womb exists, but he does not yet have full human existence. Perhaps when we speak if existence, we must clarify whether a living being fully exists, which is to say, has all the features that God intends for that particular species, albeit in an imperfect state, or whether it partially exists, which is to say, is in a process that will ultimate bring it to full existence. More stream of consciousness!

BTW, I love this kind of serious discussion. I sure wish others would join in.

If we say that there is such a state of partial existence, then I think we might end up mired in a vast array of dilemmas.  For example, if we accept the notion that breath is required to make someone's existence fully justified, then what happens when someone undergoes "liquid breathing" by which their oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange is conducted through a liquid medium rather than air.  Technically speaking, they are no longer breathing in the manner designed by God, so do they lose a part of their existence until such a time when their breathing is restored?

If we attempt to target a specific point in time at which we call a baby fully human, then we have no good defense against others who desire to make that point different.  If we say full existence begins at the moment of first breath, then we might begin to see babies born but kept breathless and then terminated.  Worse, we might horridly see society beginning to follow other madmen who wish to extend the point of legal abortion to the age of two years.  They say that true rational thought isn't fully realized until that age, thereby redefining human-ness (full existence?) as being capable of rational thought.  This is a slippery slope from which there is no escape.

Therefore, I believe we must understand that human existence extends beyond the mere aspect of breathing.  Whatever God breathed into Adam seems to have been far more than a mere puff of air.

But just because a person is in the process of coming into existence, this does not justify terminating whatever level of existence has been attained. In fact, this may actually establish a stronger argument against abortion, if we say that the very fact that the baby is "coming into existence" requires us to allow that process to continue. For example, at what point as God formed Adam could it be said that Adam now existed? Doesn't the concept of creation virtually demand a process?

I think Adam has to be viewed as a unique case.  As we generally understand it, only he was literally formed from the dust of the ground.  Eve, the next human, was formed from the body of Adam.  All since have been formed from the biological union of the male and female.  While it is certainly true that we can say Adam did not exist as a full human until a specific point in his creation (and perhaps Eve as well), does that require us to view all of human embryonic growth under that same perspective?  I don't think so.

We may be speaking past each other now.  Perhaps you may need to elaborate, so that I might understand your perspective better.

As I understand it, if a "human" is still in the process of coming into existence, then it does not yet exist.  (Either A or ~A.  Either I exist or I do not exist.  There is no middle ground.)  If it does not yet exit, then it cannot be fully human.  If it's not fully human, then how does it warrant any protections?  Bear in mind, this is the general argument used by some to justify pre-birth abortion and by others who want to justify post-birth abortion.

My point is, who decided that we are only required to protect things once they have attained their full state of existence? I suppose we could say that the very instant conception takes place, a person exixts. But does this person truly exist as a human being? Isn't it only a single cell? Can a single cell that as yet possesses none of the attributes of humanity be said to be "in existence as a human being." I would not deny it is humanity, but only in an initial form. My point is not to deny its exisitence, but to say that human existence is a formative process. From that perspective, it seems to me that the way we become existent is not much different from the way Adam became existent. In fact, Psalms 139:13 uses the same term (formed, Hebrew yetzer) to describe what God does to us in the womb as was used in Genesis 2:7 to describe what God did to Adam. The Bible says that God "made" man. When does anything that is made actually begin to exist? A clay pot, for example. Does it exist during the formation process or only once the process has been completed?     

Some may argue that its existence began when the potter began to think about how they will form the clay pot even before any formation took place. Jesus was the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. Just a thought... God's existence as the man Christ Jesus may have initially started before even His manifestation.

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