"THE EPISTLE OF JAMES" Chapter One OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THE CHAPTER 1) To appreciate the value of enduring trials 2) To understand how sin develops, from temptation to death (separation from God) 3) To note the importance of being doers of the Word, and practitioners of religion that is pure and undefiled before God SUMMARY Following a simple and humble salutation (1), James begins his epistle with a call to view trials as occasions to rejoice, understanding they can produce patience which leads to maturity (2-5). If wisdom is needed, he counsels his readers to ask God with faith and no doubting (5-8). In the meantime, the poor are encouraged to rejoice in their exaltation, while the rich are to be thankful for their humiliation (9-11). Motivation to endure temptation is given, along with an explanation as to the true source of temptations and the development of sin which leads to spiritual death (12-15). Let no one be deceived, God is not the source of temptation, but the Father of every good and perfect gift which comes down from above, who has brought us forth that we might be the firstfruits of His creation (16-18). With admonitions to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath, James then expounds upon a major theme of this epistle: to be doers of the word and not hearers only. Illustrating the folly of being a hearer only, he contrasts the difference between religion that is useless and that which is pure and undefiled before God (19-27). OUTLINE SALUTATION (1) I. TRUE RELIGION ENDURES TRIALS AND TEMPTATIONS (2-18) A. WITH JOY AND PATIENCE (2-4) 1. Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience 2. Letting patience produce its perfect work a. That you may be perfect and complete b. That you may lack nothing B. WITH WISDOM FROM GOD (5-8) 1. If you lack wisdom, ask God a. Who gives to all liberally and without reproach b. It will be given to you 2. But ask in faith, with no doubting; for he who doubts... a. Is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind b. Should not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord c. Is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways C. WITH A PROPER PERSPECTIVE (9-11) 1. If a lowly brother, glory in your exaltation 2. If rich, glory in your humiliation a. For as the flower of the field you will pass away, as the grass withers with the burning heat of the rising sun b. So the rich man will fade away in his pursuits D. WITH AN UNDERSTANDING OF TEMPTATION (12-15) 1. The man who endures temptation will be blessed a. For he will receive the crown of life when he is proven b. Which the Lord has promised to those who love Him 2. Temptations do not come from God a. God cannot be tempted by evil b. He does not tempt anyone 3. The source of temptations a. One is tempted when drawn away by his own desires and is enticed b. When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin c. Sin, when full-grown, brings forth death E. WITH AN AWARENESS OF THE FATHER'S GOODNESS (16-18) 1. Do not be deceived, beloved brethren 2. Every good and perfect gift is from above a. Coming down from the Father of lights b. With whom there is no variation or shadow of turning 3. Of His own will He brought us forth a. By the word of truth b. That we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures II. TRUE RELIGION CONSISTS OF DOING, NOT JUST HEARING (19-27) A. ONE SHOULD BE SWIFT TO HEAR (19-20) 1. Let every one be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath 2. For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God B. ONE SHOULD NOT BE HEARERS ONLY, BUT DOERS (21-27) 1. What to lay aside, and what to receive a. Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness b. Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls 2. Be doers of the word, and not hearers only a. Otherwise you deceive yourselves b. You are like a man who after looking in mirror soon forgets what he looked like 3. One who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it... a. Is not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work b. Will be blessed in what he does 4. Your religion is useless... a. If you think you're religious, but do not bridle your tongue b. You deceive only your heart 5. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this... a. To visit orphans and widows in their trouble b. To keep oneself unspotted from the world REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - True religion endures trials and temptations (1-18) - True religion consists of doing, not just hearing (19-27) 2) How should Christians view trials in their life? Why? (2-3) - An occasion in which to rejoice - Knowing that testing one's faith produces patience 3) What is the value of developing patience? (4) - It helps to make one perfect and complete, lacking nothing 4) If we lack wisdom, what should we do? Why? How? (5-6) - Ask of God - He gives to all liberally and without reproach - In faith, with no doubting 5) What is one who doubts like? What can he expect? Why? (6-8) - Like the wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind - To receive nothing from the Lord - He is double-minded, and unstable in all his ways 6) In what should the lowly brother glory? The rich man? (9-10) - His exaltation - His humiliation 7) What is the rich man like in his pursuits? (10-11) - A flower of the field that soon withers with the heat of the rising sun 8) When is the man who endures temptation blessed? How will he be blessed? (12) - When he is proved - By receiving the crown of life the Lord has promised to those who love Him 9) What should no one say when they are tempted? Why? (13) - "I am tempted by God" - God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone 10) Then how is one tempted? (14) - When drawn away by his own desires and enticed 11) When is sin born? What does sin produce when full-grown? (15) - When desire has conceived and given birth - Death 12) What is the source of every good gift and every perfect gift? (17) - From above, coming down from the Father of lights 13) How has God brought us forth (given us birth)? Why did He do this? (18) - Of His own will, by the word of truth - That we might a kind of firstfruits of His creatures 14) What does James desire of his "beloved brethren"? (19) - To be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath 15) Why should one be "slow to wrath"? (20) - The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God 16) What needs to be laid aside? (21) - All filthiness and overflow of wickedness 17) What needs to be received with meekness? Why? (21) - The implanted word - It is able to save your souls 18) To avoid deceiving ourselves, what must we be? (22) - Doers of the word, and not hearers only 19) What is one like who hears the word but does not do it? (23-24) - One who looks at himself in a mirror, only to go away and soon forget what he looked like 20) Who will be truly blessed in what they do? (25) - He who looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues in it - He who is not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work 21) Whose religion is useless? (26) - The one who thinks he is religious, but does not bridle his tongue and deceives his own heart 22) What is pure and undefiled religion before God? (27) - To visit orphans and widows in their trouble - To keep oneself unspotted from the world
"THE EPISTLE OF JAMES" Introduction AUTHOR: James, who identifies himself as "a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (1:1). There are four men who bear this name in the New Testament: James, son of Zebedee and brother of John - A fisherman called by Christ (Mt 4:17-22) who later became an apostle (Mt 10:2). Together with John, they were nicknamed "Sons of Thunder" because of their impulsiveness (cf. Mk 3:17 with Lk 9:51-56). He was killed by Herod in 44 A.D. (Ac 12:1-2). James, son of Alphaeus - Another one of the apostles (Mt 10:3; Ac 1:12), about whom very little is known. He may be "James the younger," whose mother, Mary, was among the women at Jesus' crucifixion and tomb (Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; 16:1; Lk 24:10). In Jn 19: 25, this Mary is called the wife of Cleophas, perhaps to be identified with Alphaeus. James, father of Judas the apostle - Even more obscure, one of the few references to him is Lk 6:16. James, the brother of our Lord - A half-brother of our Lord (Mt 13:55), who did not believe in his brother at first (Jn 7:5). He became a disciple following the resurrection (1Co 15:7; Ac 1:14) and gained prominence in the church at Jerusalem (Ga 2:9). As evidence of his prominence, Peter sent him a special message following his own release from prison (Ac 12:17). James also played an important role in the conference at Jerusalem (Ac 15:13-33), and Paul brought him greetings upon arriving at Jerusalem (Ac 21:18-19). "James, the Lord's brother" (Ga 1:19) is most likely the author of this epistle. Tradition describes James as a man of prayer, which may explain the emphasis on prayer in his letter. It was said that he prayed so much, his knees were as hard as those on a camel. He was martyred in 62 A.D., either by being cast down from the temple, or beaten to death with clubs. It is reported that as he died, he prayed as did Jesus, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." RECIPIENTS: The epistle is addressed to "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" (1:1). This naturally leads one to think of Jews (Ac 26:6-7) living outside the land of Palestine. Since the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, many Jews were scattered throughout different nations (Ac 2:5-11). While Jews, the epistle makes it clear that they were also brethren in the Lord, i.e., they were Jewish Christians. Nineteen times James calls them "brethren" and at least one time he definitely means those who were brethren "in the Lord" (2:1). It appears many of these Jewish Christians were poor and oppressed. Being Jews, they would often be rejected by the Gentiles. As Jewish Christians, they would also be rejected by many of their own countrymen. The letter indicates that most were poor, and some were being oppressed by the rich (2:6-7). Because it was not addressed to a single church or individual, it has been categorized a "General" or "Catholic" (universal) epistle along with 1 and 2 Peter, 1 John, and Jude. TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING: With no mention of the Jerusalem conference recorded in Acts 15 (A.D. 49), and the use of the word "synagogue" (assembly, 2:2), A.D. 48-50 is the date commonly given for this epistle. This would make it the first book of the New Testament written. If James, the Lord's brother, is the author, then he probably wrote it in Jerusalem. PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE: The epistle deals with a variety of themes, with an emphasis upon practical aspects of the Christian life. Some of the subjects include handling trials and temptations, practicing pure religion, understanding the relation between faith and works, the proper use of the tongue and display of true wisdom, being a friend of God rather than a friend of the world, and the value of humility, patience and prayer. While these may appear unrelated, they are crucial to the growth and development of the Christian. For this reason, I suggest that James' purpose was: TO INSTRUCT CHRISTIANS CONCERNING TRUE AND PRACTICAL RELIGION In this epistle is a call to be doers of the Word, manifesting a living faith through one's works. In 108 verses, there are 54 imperatives (commands), prompting some to call James "the Amos of the New Testament." KEY VERSE: James 1:22 "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." BRIEF OUTLINE: SALUTATION (1:1) I. TRUE RELIGION ENDURES TRIALS AND TEMPTATIONS (1:2-18) A. WITH JOY AND PATIENCE (1:2-4) B. WITH WISDOM FROM GOD (1:5-8) C. WITH A PROPER PERSPECTIVE (1:9-11) D. WITH AN UNDERSTANDING OF TEMPTATION (1:12-15) E. WITH AN AWARENESS OF THE FATHER'S GOODNESS (1:16-18) II. TRUE RELIGION CONSISTS OF DOING, NOT JUST HEARING (1:19-2:26) A. ONE SHOULD BE SWIFT TO HEAR (1:19-20) B. ONE SHOULD NOT BE HEARERS ONLY, BUT DOERS (1:21-27) C. ONE SHOULD NOT SHOW PERSONAL FAVORITISM (2:1-13) D. ONE SHOULD SHOW THEIR FAITH BY THEIR WORKS (2:14-26) III. TRUE RELIGION DISPLAYS WISDOM, NOT JUST SPEAKING (3:1-18) A. THE DANGER OF THE TONGUE (3:1-12) B. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HEAVENLY AND EARTHLY WISDOM (3:13-18) IV. TRUE RELIGION BEFRIENDS GOD THROUGH HUMILITY (4:1-17) A. HOW TO BE AN ENEMY OF GOD (4:1-6) B. HOW TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD (4:7-17) V. TRUE RELIGION BLESSED THROUGH PATIENCE, PRAYER AND LOVE (5:1-20) A. THE CURSE OF RICH OPPRESSORS (5:1-6) B. THE BLESSING OF PATIENCE (5:7-12) C. THE BLESSING OF PRAYER (5:13-18) D. THE BLESSING OF LOVE FOR THE ERRING (5:19-20) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE INTRODUCTION 1) What four men bore the name of James in the New Testament? - James, the brother of John - James, the son of Alphaeus - James, the father of Judas - James, the brother of our Lord 2) Which one is most likely the author of the epistle? - James, the Lord's brother 3) To whom was this epistle addressed? (1:1) - The twelve tribes which are scattered abroad 4) From the epistle itself, who were the original recipients? (cf. 2:1) - Jewish Christians 5) What is this epistle commonly called, along with 1 & 2 Peter, 1 John, and Jude? Why? - A "general" or "catholic" epistle - Because it is not addressed to a particular church or individual, but to Christians in general 6) When was this epistle likely written? From where? - A.D. 48-50 - Jerusalem 7) As suggested in the introduction, what is the purpose of this epistle? - To instruct Christians concerning true and practical religion 8) What might serve as the "key verse" of this epistle? - James 1:22 9) According to the outline above, what are the main points in this epistle? - True religion endures trials and temptations (1:1-18) - True religion consists of doing, not just hearing (1:19-2:26) - True religion displays wisdom, not just speaking (3:1-18) - True religion befriends God through humility (4:1-17) - True religion blessed through patience, prayer and love (5:1-20)
Ben Carson and Islam
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
|"Ben Carson at CPAC 2015" by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons-Wikimedia 2015|
One of the current presidential candidates, Ben Carson, was recently asked whether he believes Islam is consistent with the U.S. Constitution: “No, I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation” (Sanders, 2015). As one would expect in the current PC climate of the nation, considerable negative reactions were generated. It seems surreal that so many Americans could be so adamantly ignorant of both history and the teachings of the Quran as they naively defend, support, and even encourage the spread of Islam in America via the construction of mosques and introducing public school students to its tenets.
Yet, the Quran is forthright and unmistakable in its declarations concerning the violent nature of Islam as well as the inferior status of women—two things the left absolutely detest. The reader is urged to secure a reputable English translation of the Quran, and read the verses identified in the following articles on the A.P. Web site:
“Does ISIS Represent True Islam? http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=8&article=5116&topic=47“Violence and the Quran” http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=8&article=1491&topic=47“Husband and Wife in the Quran” http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=8&article=4993&topic=47“Polygamy and the Quran” http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=8&article=4029&topic=47
What’s more, the Founders of the United States of America were very plain about their recognition of the threat that Islam poses to freedom and the principles on which they established the Republic. Please read the following historical documentation:
“Islam and Early America” http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=1485&topic=33“Were the Founding Fathers ‘Tolerant’ of Islam? [Part I]”http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=4622&topic=33“Were the Founding Fathers ‘Tolerant’ of Islam? [Part II]”http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1117&article=2138“Founding Father Elias Boudinot on Islam”http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=4586&topic=44“John Quincy Adams on Islam” http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=1142&topic=44“The Treaty of Tripoli and America’s Founders”http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=4520&topic=44“What Good Things Can You Say About Islam?”http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=5143&topic=44
Sanders, Sam (2015), “Ben Carson Wouldn’t Vote For A Muslim President; He’s Not Alone,” NPR, September 21, http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/09/21/442308328/republican-rhetoric-highlights-americas-negative-relationship-with-muslims.
Academia’s Asinine Assault on the Bible
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The professor, age 50, wearing casual slacks and a sport coat over a sweater, arrived at the lecture auditorium to teach his afternoon class, as some 350 students streamed in for Religion 202—one of the most popular classes on the campus of the large state university. Exuding an energetic, intellectually sophisticated manner, and projecting an endearing personality, the professor proceeded to propound a “problem” pertaining to the Bible. Pacing back and forth across the stage, he launched a ruthless but passionately eloquent tirade against the Bible’s alleged “anomalies,” “contradictions,” and “discrepancies.” It went something like this:
Entire stories have been added that were not in the original gospels. The woman taken in adultery is nothing other than a bit of tradition added by the Catholics 300 years after the New Testament was written. In contrast with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in the book of John Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem, he did not tell any parables, he never cast out a demon, and there’s no last supper. The crucifixion stories differ with each other. In Mark, Jesus was terrified on the cross, while in John, he was perfectly composed. Key dates are different. The resurrection stories are different. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, you find no trace of Jesus being divine, while in John you do. It’s time for you to think for yourself. You need reasons. That applies to religion. That applies to politics. Just because your parents believe something—isn’t good enough.
So it goes, week after week, a relentless, rapid-fire barrage of bombastic barbs intended to overwhelm, intimidate, and bully their young, uninformed, ill-equipped victims. This scenario has been repeated thousands of times over the past half century in universities all across America. The result has been catastrophic. One heartbroken mother’s recent remarks are typical: “My 22-year-old son just graduated from ________ University where he lost his faith in God and His Word. My husband and I did the best we knew how to raise him to love the church and God’s Word. But he has allowed the world to sway his beliefs.” Like toxic waste, sinister propaganda has been dumped on the youth of the nation by biased, dishonest professors who have no interest in allowing the so-called “academic freedom” they tout in the form of equal time for reputable rebuttal. As a result of their decades’ long labor, a liberal, anti-Christian academic atmosphere now thoroughly permeates the university system of America.
Never mind the fact that these guys have nothing new to say that has not already been said by skeptics over the centuries. Their claims are merely a repackaged version quickly seized upon by a complicit liberal media that eagerly creates instant credibility by thrusting the new “prophet” before a larger audience—as if what he is saying is fresh and newly discovered. The fact of the matter is that all their points have been made and answered long ago. For those who have taken the time to examine the evidence, it is readily apparent that their accusations are slanted, overstated, exaggerated, and transparently biased.
Observe that the above professorial tirade issues two charges: (1) the text of the Bible is tenuous and uncertain, and (2) the gospel records contradict each other. The latter claim has been soundly refuted in detail by biblical scholars over the centuries. The Apologetics Press Web site is loaded with articles and books that defeat accusations of alleged discrepancy (see, for example, Eric Lyons’ Anvil Rings 1 & 2). Regarding the former claim, Textual Criticism is a longstanding discipline that long ago yielded abundant evidence for the trustworthiness of the text of the New Testament. Over the last two centuries, the manuscript evidence has been thoroughly examined, resulting in complete exoneration for the integrity, genuineness, and accuracy of the Bible. Prejudiced professors refrain from divulging to their students that the vast majority of textual variants involve minor matters that do not affect salvation nor alter any basic teaching of the New Testament. Even those variants that might be deemed doctrinally significant pertain to matters that are treated elsewhere in the Bible where the question of genuineness is unobscured. No feature of Christian doctrine is at stake. When all of the textual evidence is considered, the vast majority of discordant readings have been resolved (e.g., Metzger, 1978, p. 185). One is brought to the firm conviction that we have in our possession the Bible as God intended.
The world’s foremost textual critics have confirmed this conclusion. Sir Frederic Kenyon, longtime director and principal librarian at the British Museum, whose scholarship and expertise to make pronouncements on textual criticism was second to none, stated: “Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established” (Kenyon, 1940, p. 288). The late F.F. Bruce, longtime Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism at the University of Manchester, England, remarked: “The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice” (1960, pp. 19-20). J.W. McGarvey, declared by the London Times to be “the ripest Bible scholar on earth” (Brigance, 1870, p. 4), conjoined: “All the authority and value possessed by these books when they were first written belong to them still” (1956, p. 17). And the eminent textual critics Westcott and Hort put the entire matter into perspective when they said:
Since textual criticism has various readings for its subject, and the discrimination of genuine readings from corruptions for its aim, discussions on textual criticism almost inevitably obscure the simple fact that variations are but secondary incidents of a fundamentally single and identical text. In the New Testament in particular it is difficult to escape an exaggerated impression as to the proportion which the words subject to variation bear to the whole text, and also, in most cases, as to their intrinsic importance. It is not superfluous therefore to state explicitly that the great bulk of the words of the New Testament stand out above all discriminative processes of criticism, because they are free from variation, and need only to be transcribed (1964, p. 564, emp. added).
Noting that the experience of two centuries of investigation and discussion had been achieved, these scholars concluded: “[T]he words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole of the New Testament” (p. 565, emp. added).
Think of it. Men who literally spent their lives poring over ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, devoting their lives to meticulous, tedious analysis of the evidence, conversant with the original languages, without peer in their expertise and qualifications, have concluded that the Bible has been transmitted accurately. Then a prejudiced professor of religion has the unmitigated gall to brush aside the facts and pummel students with a slanted, half-baked viewpoint that flies in the face of two centuries of scholarly investigation? It is nothing short of inexcusable and intellectually dishonest. It’s time for parents to rise up and make universities accountable, or else cease sacrificing their children on the altar of pseudo-education. [NOTE: Those who are fearful that the integrity of the text of the Bible is compromised by the reality of textual variants need to be reminded that the world’s foremost textual critics have demonstrated that currently circulating copies of the New Testament do not differ substantially from the original (see Miller, 2005a, “Is Mark...,” 25:89-95; Miller, 2010).]
Brigance, L.L. (1870), “J.W. McGarvey,” in A Treatise on the Eldership by J.W. McGarvey (Murfreesboro, TN: DeHoff Publications, 1962 reprint).
Bruce, F.F. (1960), The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Kenyon, Sir Frederic (1940), The Bible and Archaeology (New York, NY: Harper).
McGarvey, J.W. (1956 reprint), Evidences of Christianity (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Metzger, Bruce M. (1978 reprint), The Text of the New Testament (New York, NY: Oxford University Press), second edition.
Westcott, B.A. and F.J.A. Hort (1964 reprint), The New Testament in the Original Greek (New York, NY: MacMillan).
A Christian Response to Descartes’ Radical Doubt
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
Modern philosophy is said to begin with René Descartes (1596-1650; Copleston, 1994, 4:1). Many think that “René Descartes is perhaps the single most important thinker of the European Enlightenment” (Hooker, 2009; cf. Copleston, 4:174ff.). Descartes is thought to be “the father of the subjective and idealistic (as was Bacon of the objective and realistic) tradition in modern philosophy,” who “began the great game of epistemology, which in [sic] Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant waxed into a Three Hundred Years’ War that at once stimulated and devastated modern philosophy” (Durant, 1926, pp. 116,117, parenthetical item in orig.; cf. p. 268). First, I will summarize the historical/philosophical context of Descartes’ work, which will provide two things: (1) An overview of his motivations, and (2) an explanation of why the Christian apologist should be prepared to counter certain of Descartes’ arguments. Second, I will examine the nature of Descartes’ doubt, which is central to his philosophy. Finally, I will offer a critique from the Christian perspective.
Burnham and Fieser observed: “Descartes’ philosophy developed in the context of the key features of Renaissance and early modern philosophy. Like the humanists, he rejected religious authority in the quest for scientific and philosophical knowledge” (see Kenny, 1968, p. 4; cf. Maritain, 1944, p. 55). Descartes was a devout Catholic, but was influenced by the Reformation’s challenge to Church authority and scholastic Aristotelianism (philosophy in the tradition of Aristotle’s thought; “René...,” 2008). Specifically, he was influenced by the scientific ideas of Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei (see Durant, 1926, p. 117). In 1633, the Catholic church condemned Galileo’s Dialogue because of its heliocentricity, and Descartes thought that his forthcoming work, Le Monde, would offend the church as well, so he postponed its publication (Galilei, 2001; “René...”; Fowler, 1996; Rodis-Lewis, 1992, p. 39; cf. Kenny, pp. 7-8). In fact, Descartes’ first major writing was published anonymously (see Cottingham, 1986, p.13).
In developing his rationalistic philosophy, Descartes positioned himself against scholasticism and Aristotelianism, as he explains in a letter to Voetius:
[T]he philosophy against which you rail with such violence...aims at the knowledge of the truths which are acquired by means of the natural light, and which promise the benefit of the human race; by contrast the dominant philosophy, which is taught in the schools and universities, is merely a muddled collection of opinions which are mostly open to doubts, as is proved by the debates that they occasion day after day, and which are entirely without practical benefit, as centuries of experience have proved only too well (quoted in Cottingham, p. 15; cf. Copleston, p. 174).
Descartes hoped that philosophy could be as certain as mathematics, the principles of which he saw as being exceptionally sound (1952a, 31:ix; 1952b, 31:14,31; cf. Loeb, 1992, p. 219; Rodis-Lewis, 1992, pp. 26ff.; Ree, 1975, pp. 28-34), and that his writings could replace traditional texts based on Aristotle (Ross, n.d.; cf. Cottingham, 16). “[H]e wanted to define an area in which everything could be completely explained by a reductionist, mechanistic physical science” (Ree, p. 91). “[T]he brand of knowledge Descartes seeks requires, at least, unshakably certain conviction,” and such knowledge he considered to be unavailable from authority or sense-perception (Newman, 2005). “Arithmetic, Geometry, and the other sciences of the same class, which regard merely the simplest and most general objects...contain somewhat that is certain and indubitable” (Descartes, 1952b, 31:77). Descartes challenged scholasticism generally because he thought that it had been convoluted by “jargon-manipulation and the juggling of authorities” as “the paramount road to academic advancement” (Cottingham, p. 5). [NOTE: The purpose of this article is not to assess scholasticism or Aristotelianism.]
Banach summarizes Descartes’ starting position: “In order to show that science rested on firm foundations and that these foundations lay in the mind and not the senses, Descartes began by bringing into doubt all the beliefs that come to us from the senses.... The obvious implication is that, since we do know that external objects exist, this knowledge cannot come to us through the senses, but through the mind” (n.d., parenthetical item in orig.). Maritain observed: “Descartes, on the contrary, who with the rest of the moderns makes science consist in invention rather than in judgment, has a hankering for a Science which with one and the same movement proves by discovering, and discovers by proving, established in complete certitude from its inception, rejecting of itself as an attempt against its being, every purely probable element” (1944, p. 55).
His method of acquiring this scientific conviction begins with doubt, which for Descartes took root in his general objection to his instructor’s methods (2007, p. 17). “[W]hen I considered the number of conflicting opinions touching a single matter that may be upheld by learned men, while there can be but one true, I reckoned as well-nigh false all that was only probable” (2007, p. 15). His doubt leads Descartes to the “insistence that philosophy should begin with the self and travel outward” (Durant, 1926, 336).
Whatever Descartes’ specific theological positions, his philosophical starting-point is dangerous to faith. Descartes’ project began by trusting in reason to the exclusion of revelation (both natural and special). This procedure is in contrast with Paul’s prescription: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). It falls to the Christian apologist to reason properly about what God has revealed (see Warren, 1982), and to defend the faith against the attacks of doubt. God expects us to use our senses as we come to a knowledge of Him (1 John 1:1-3), so we must critically analyze any approach to knowledge that attempts an overthrow of empiricism. As Wilson noted, Descartes had “a general metaphysical vision of reality, and commitments to a special conception of what the world is like and how it works” (1978, p. 221). We must ask whether that metaphysical vision is consistent with Christianity.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that Descartes became a rationalist. Generally speaking, a rationalist “accepts the supremacy of reason, and aims at establishing a system of philosophy and ethics independent of arbitrary assumptions and authority” (“FAQs,” n.d.). Descartes summarized his rationalist perspective: “[I]t is now manifest to me that bodies themselves are not properly perceived by the senses nor by the faculty of imagination, but by the intellect alone” (2007, p. 88). Descartes sought “an absolute foundation for knowledge by proposing to doubt all things and accept as knowledge (or at least as a foundation for knowledge) only what could not be doubted” (Cannon, 2001, parenthetical item in orig.). For Descartes, this narrowed the field of possible knowledge, leaving only that of which “the light of reason” or “the light of nature” provide assurance (see Markie, 1992, p. 147; cf. Maritain, 1944, pp. 50, 115):
I thought that a procedure exactly the opposite was called for, and that I ought to reject as absolutely false all opinions in regard to which I could suppose the least ground for doubt, in order to ascertain whether after that there remained aught in my belief that was wholly indubitable. Accordingly, seeing that our senses sometimes deceive us, I was willing to suppose that there existed nothing really such as they presented to us; and because some men err in reasoning, and fall into paralogisms (pieces of false reasoning)...I, convinced that I was open to error as any other, rejected as false all the reasonings I had hitherto taken for demonstrations (2007, p. 31, parenthetical item added).
Descartes had been troubled by the recognition that his senses deceived him on occasion. For example, “I considered that the very same thoughts (presentations) which we experience when awake may also be experienced when we are asleep, while there is at that time not one of them true” (2007, p. 31, parenthetical item in orig.; cf. pp. 76-77; cf. Wilson, 1978, pp. 17ff.). Furthermore, “Descartes cannot yet be certain if there are any bodies in existence. Since one cannot ‘sense’ unless there is body present (otherwise it is a dream or a hallucination or a mirage or an illusion)” (Mahon, n.d., parenthetical item in orig.). In examining why his senses deceived him, Descartes proposed the possibility of a deceptive demon. “[S]ome malignant demon, who is at once exceedingly potent and deceitful, has employed all his artifice to deceive me; I will suppose that the sky, the air, the earth, colors, figures, sounds, and all external things, are nothing better than the illusions of dreams, by which this being has laid snares for my credulity” (2007, pp. 78-79).
Descartes had disregarded empirical knowledge entirely (see 2007, p. 79), and settled on the one reality that, he believed, satisfied his radical criterion for truth:
But immediately upon this I observed that, whilst I thus wished to think that all was false, it was absolutely necessary that I, who thus thought, should be somewhat; and as I observed that this truth, I think, therefore I am (COGITO ERGO SUM), was so certain and of such evidence that no ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the skeptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that I might, without scruple, accept it as the first principle of the philosophy of which I was in search (p. 31, parenthetical item and emp. in orig.).
Descartes focused on the one thing he believed is certain: that he is a “thinking thing” (2007, p. 84). He explained his rationale further in his Principles: “[W]hile rejecting in this way all those things which we can somehow doubt, and even imagining them to be false, we can indeed easily suppose that there is no God, no heaven, no material bodies; and even that we ourselves have no hands, or feet, in short, no body; yet we do not on that account suppose that we, who are thinking such things, are nothing” (p. 5). Cottingham observed: “The most striking feature about the accounts Descartes himself gives of the Cogito argument is that the certainty involved stems from the fact that the mediator has pushed his doubt to the limit.... [T]he very fact that I am around to entertain the doubt shows that I must exist” (p. 38).
Next, Descartes needed to develop a “permanent system of knowledge” from his theory of doubt (see Cottingham, p. 42). Wilson explained: “The upshot of the argument of the Meditations is that an external physical world can be proved to exist, thus in a sense affirming what everyone ‘knew’ all along; but the proof turns out to be arduous and to require immaterialist premises: people are wrong in thinking the direct evidence of the senses is sufficient” (p. 45). In this process of rebuilding the knowledge he previously deconstructed via radical doubt, Descartes reintroduced God. This move was essential to Descartes’ conviction that material objects exist:
Is there not a God...who causes these thoughts to arise in my mind? But why suppose such a being, for it may be I myself am capable of producing them? ... And in truth, as I have no ground for believing that Deity is deceitful, and as, indeed, I have not even considered the reasons by which the existence of a Deity of any kind is established, the ground of doubt that rests only on this supposition is very slight, and, so to speak, metaphysical (2007, pp. 81,90).
Descartes insisted that of all his perceptions of external objects, including his own body, the notion of God “has certainly in it more objective reality than those ideas by which finite substances are represented,” and that the effects of his perceptions must have correlative causes (2007, pp. 92-93). “And how could the cause communicate to it this reality unless it possessed it in itself? And hence it follows...that the more perfect, in other words, that which contains in itself more reality, cannot be the effect of the less perfect” (p. 93). Since Descartes clearly had an idea of God in his consciousness, and since he believed himself incapable of originating this idea independent of some exterior force on his intellect, then he concluded that that Being caused the idea (see pp. 94-97).
I should not, however, have the idea of an infinite substance, seeing I am a finite being, unless it were given me by some substance in reality infinite.... The idea, I say, of a being supremely perfect, and infinite, is in the highest degree true; for although, perhaps, we may imagine that such a being does not exist, we cannot, nevertheless, suppose that his idea represents nothing real, as I have already said of the idea of cold. It is likewise clear and distinct in the highest degree, since whatever the mind clearly and distinctly conceives as real or true, and as implying any perfection, is contained entire in this idea (pp. 96,97).
Hence Descartes did away with the demon, concluding that it is impossible for God, being perfect, to deceive him (p. 103). “[H]e is no deceiver...” (p. 115).
Having reached a conviction that God is real, Descartes proceeded to claim partial knowledge of material objects by virtue of God’s grace:
I cannot deny that we may have produced many other objects, or at least that he is able to produce them, so that I may occupy a place in the relation of a part to the great whole of his creatures.... And although there are perhaps innumerable objects in the world of which I have no idea in my understanding, it cannot, on that account be said that I am deprived of those ideas as of something that is due to my nature, but simply that I do not possess them, because, in truth, there is no ground to prove that Deity ought to have endowed me with a larger faculty of cognition than he has actually bestowed upon me (p. 105; cf. pp.112-113).
On Descartes’ account, humans can be certain that they possess knowledge only because God exists and can be trusted not to deceive.
Consider three problems with Descartes’ approach to knowledge: First, “Insistence upon a standard of absolute certainty eliminates the middle ground of reasonable evidence. It suggests that if you don’t have complete certainty you have no evidence at all” (Cannon, 2001). Anthony Kenny summarizes this objection: “Few would quarrel with the starting point: it is true that we grow up uncritically accepting many beliefs which may be false. But is it necessary, in order to rectify this, that we should on some occasion call in question all our beliefs? Can we not correct them piecemeal?” (p. 18). If, for example, when I strike my fist against a wall, I have an insufficient level of certainty that the wall is real, then what level of certainty is needed? Human beings necessarily operate on a level of faith in their senses, but that faith is biblical (as we will see), and certainly sufficient for human existence.
Kant points out that the Cogito falls short of proving Descartes’ point, because it also is an empirical notion: “The ‘I think’ is...an empirical proposition, and contains the expression, ‘I exist.’ But I cannot say ‘Everything, which thinks, exists;’ for in this case the property of thought would constitute all beings possessing it, necessary beings. Hence my existence cannot be considered as an inference from the proposition ‘I think,’ as Descartes maintained” (2003, p. 225). Also, Kenny raises the question of identity: “Is not Descartes rash in christening the substance in which the doubts of the Meditations inhere ‘ego’? To be sure, he explains that he is not yet committing himself to any doctrine about the nature of the ego.... But what ‘I’ refers to must at least be distinct from what ‘you’ refers to; otherwise the argument might as well run ‘cogitatur, ergo es’ (“thought exists, therefore, you are”) as ‘cogito ergo sum’ (“I think, therefore I am)” (1968, p. 62, parenthetical items added).
Second, “Insistence upon absolute clarity and distinctness to the skeptical reflecting mind eliminates consideration of any respect in which reality transcends full and determinate representation” (Cannon). Indeed, the very fact that Descartes knew that his senses occasionally “deceived” him, demonstrates that his senses usually (typically) provided him with accurate perceptions. The Bible teaches that we generally can place confidence in our senses, even to the degree of sinning, recognizing the need for salvation, and accessing remission of sins (e.g., Genesis 13:15; Matthew 5:13; Acts 13:44; John 20:24-30; etc.). Descartes’ argument is intelligible only if the illusive nature of dreams, for example, does not inhibit our general understanding of reality. Kant, therefore, emphasizes the need for “sensuous phenomena” in the “empirical world” while recognizing its limitations—even if they are God-given (2003, pp. 42,43,316; 1952, 42:337). In the Fourth Meditation, Descartes would seem to agree: “I have no reason...to think that it was obligatory on [God] to give to each of his works all the perfections he is able to bestow upon some” (2007, p. 105).
In this context, it is remarkable that Descartes moves swiftly from doubting his senses, to relying on them (and problematically placing the seat of empirical knowledge in the pineal gland; see Lockhorst, 2008; cf. Kenny, pp. 225-226):
And as I observed that in the words “I think, therefore I am,” there is nothing at all which gives me assurance of their truth beyond this, that I see very clearly that in order to think it is necessary to exist, I concluded that I might take, as a general rule, the principle, that all things which we very clearly and distinctly conceive are true, only observing, however, that there is some difficulty in rightly determining the objects which we distinctly conceive (2007, p. 32).
Perhaps this occurs because Descartes did not wish to be separated from the reality he knew prior to settling on the Cogito: “Proposing to rebuild one’s knowledge from the ground up because a number of things that once seemed true have become doubtful or false, as Descartes does, is a lot like being in a boat out on the ocean and proposing to abandon ship in order to rebuild the boat from the keel up just because it has developed a few leaks” (Cannon).
Third, Descartes did not provide a convincing reason for his rejection of the possibility that a demon was placing false ideas in his consciousness. Because all of Descartes’ evidence was rational, and none of it was empirical, his basis for thinking that God exists was a “clear and distinct” idea of a Person, “infinite, eternal, immutable, independent, all-knowing, all-powerful” (2007, pp. 96,97). Why could that idea not have been placed in Descartes’ mind by a god who is actually deceitful? Descartes finished where he started, but not prior to attempting an overthrow of empiricism. His pre-existing belief in God rescued Descartes from his own personal skepticism; but what of those readers who find his argument for the existence of God unconvincing? The truth is that God appeals to us by presenting us with biblical and extra-biblical evidence that agrees with our observation and rationality, all of which ultimately are derived from Him (Jeremiah 51:15).
Descartes’ radical doubt, which would entail dispensing with all epistemological knowledge, also would place an insurmountable roadblock to biblical faith. However, his doubt has been shown to be invalid. It is telling that rationalists still maintain a certain scientific epistemology (“FAQs,” n.d.). Perhaps we can hypothesize, with Maritain, that pride ultimately led Descartes to his radical doubt (pp. 33-62):
The pride of human knowledge appears thus as the very substance, solid and resistant, of rationalist hopes. Pride, a dense pride without frivolity or distraction, as stable as virtue, as vast a geometric extension, bitter and restless as the ocean, takes possession of Descartes to such an extent that it would seem the universal form of his interior workings and the principle of all his suffering (p. 56).
This is a stark contrast to Christ’s portrait of those who are pleasing to Him: “Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:15).
In light of Descartes’ major contributions to modern science and mathematics, it is remarkable that his doubt also led him to a radical distinction between mind and body, which we will not detail or critique here (it has been done elsewhere: see Hatfield, 1992, pp. 335-370; Kenny, 1968, pp. 216-226; Wilson, 1978, pp. 50-99). Ree summarized the necessity for this dualism: “[H]is dualism of mental and physical properties implied that since human beings had minds, they were more than mere parts of an all-engulfing physical universe” (p. 100). The connection between Descartes’ epistemology and his physiology, in light of the biblical doctrine of mind and body, would be the next logical step in this inquiry. [NOTE: Special thanks to Michael R. Young, Ph.D., for help with research.]
Banach, David (n.d.), “Important Arguments from Descartes’ Meditations,” Anselm University, [On-line], URL: http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/dbanach/dcarg.htm.
Burnham, Douglas and James Fieser (2006), “René Descartes,” University of Tennessee at Martin, [On-line], URL: http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/d/descarte.htm.
Cannon, Dale (2001), “Descartes,” Western Oregon University, [On-line], URL:http://www.wou.edu/las/humanities/cannon/descartes.htm.
Copleston, Frederick (1994), A History of Philosophy (New York: Doubleday).
Cottingham, John (1986), Descartes (Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell).
Descartes, René (1952a reprint), Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, trans. Elizabeth S. Haldane and G.R.T. Ross, ed. Robert M. Hutchins (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago).
Descartes, René (1952b reprint), Meditations on First Philosophy, trans. Elizabeth S. Haldane and G.R.T. Ross, ed. Robert M. Hutchins (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago).
Descartes, René (1983 reprint), Principles of Philosophy, trans. Valentine Rodger Miller and Reese P. Miller (Boston, MA: D. Reidel).
Descartes, René (2007 reprint), Discourse on Method/Meditations on First Philosophy (Illinois: Barnes & Noble).
Durant, Will (1926), The Story of Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster).
“FAQs” (n.d.), Rationalist Society of Australia, [On-line], URL:http://www.rationalist.com.au/faqs.htm.
Fowler, Michael (1996), “Life of Galileo,” University of Virginia, [On-line], URL:http://galileo.phys.virginia.edu/classes/109N/lectures/gal_life.htm.
Galilei, Galileo (2001 reprint), Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (New York: Modern Library).
Hatfield, Gary (1992), “Descartes’ Physiology and Its Relation to His Psychology,” The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, ed. John Cottingham (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University).
Hooker, Richard (2009), “The European Enlightenment: René Descartes,” Washington State University, [On-line], URL: http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/ENLIGHT/DESCARTE.HTM.
Kant, Immanuel (1952 reprint), Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Thomas Kingsmill Abbott, ed. Robert M. Hutchins (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 1952).
Kant, Immanuel (2003 reprint), Critique of Pure Reason (Mineola, NY: Dover).
Kenny, Anthony (1968), Descartes: A Study of His Philosophy (New York: Random House).
Lockhorst, Gert-Jan (2008), “Descartes and the Pineal Gland,” Stanford University, [On-line],URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pineal-gland/#2.
Loeb, Louis E. (1992), “The Cartesian Circle,” The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, ed. John Cottingham (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press).
Mahon, James (n.d.), “Meditation II,” Washington and Lee University, [On-line], URL:http://home.wlu.edu/~mahonj/Descartes.M1.Mind.htm.
Maritain, Jaques (1944), The Dream of Descartes, trans. Mabelle L. Andison (New York: Philosophical Library).
Markie, Peter (1992), “The Cogito and Its Importance,” The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, ed. John Cottingham (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University).
Newman, Lex (2005), “Descartes’ Epistemology,” Stanford University, [On-line], URL:http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descartes-epistemology/.
Ree, Jonathan (1975), Descartes (New York: Pica).
“René Descartes (1596-1650)” (2008), The European Graduate School, [On-line], URL:http://www.egs.edu/resources/descartes.html.
Rodis-Lewis, Genevieve (1992), “Descartes’ Life and the Development of His Philosophy,” The Cambridge Companion to Descartes, ed. John Cottingham (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University).
Ross, George Macdonald (n.d.), “Descartes Texts,” University of Leeds, [On-line], URL:http://www.philosophy.leeds.ac.uk/GMR/hmp/texts/modern/descartes/dcintro.html.
Warren, Thomas B. (1982), Logic and the Bible (Ramer, TN: National Christian Press).
Wilson, Margaret Dauler (1978), Descartes (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul).
“Our God is a Consuming Fire”
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In an effort to bolster the idea that the punishment of the wicked in the afterlife will be annihilation, proponents of annihilationism frequently have focused on the biblical terms “consume” and “consuming.” Since the Bible does indeed say that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29), and since the words “consume” and “consuming” can, and sometimes do, refer to the annihilation of physical matter, then many annihilationists have asserted that God will annihilate the souls of wicked humans. Homer Hailey, in his posthumously published book, God’s Judgements and Punishments, has an entire chapter titled “Our God—A Consuming Fire.” In that chapter, he deals almost entirely with the Old Testament usage of the terms “consume” and “consuming.” Concerning these terms, he remarked:
The word needing a clear definition is “consume” or “consuming.” The English word is translated from so many Hebrew words, and the Hebrew words are translated by so many English words, that it is difficult to find a precise definition for “consume.” It is best therefore to learn its meaning from usage and examples (2003, p. 136).
Hailey then proceeded to the burning bush passage, in which Moses approached the bush that “burned with fire” but “was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). Hailey concluded: “In this instance, ‘consumed’ meant ‘burned up’ ” (p. 136). He then cited an example of a burnt offering being “consumed” on the altar (Leviticus 9:23-24) as evidence to suggest that “consumed” means to burn up.
After listing these non-human subjects of consumption, Hailey listed several Old Testament examples in which sinful humans are said to have been “consumed”: “Let sinners be consumed out of the earth. And let the wicked be no more” (Psalm 104:35); “But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of Jehovah shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; in smoke shall they consume away” (Psalm 37: 20). Hailey also listed the rebellion of Korah, where God told Moses and Aaron to get away from the rebels “that I may consume them in a moment” (Numbers 16:21). And later in the same context, God sent a plague among the people in which God made the same comment about consuming them as He did concerning the rebels in verse 21.
When it came time to summarize his chapter, Hailey placed two columns at the top of the final page, one titled “What is Said,” and the other titled “What is Not Said.” In the “What is Said” column, he listed Hebrews 12:29, Numbers 16 and Deuteronomy 4:24. Then he listed the “means of consuming,” and recorded the Earth swallowing the rebels with Korah, the plague, and fire arriving from heaven. In the “What is Not Said” column, the entire text under the column is one line that reads: “That they all burn forever” (p. 139). He obviously was attempting to lead the reader to conclude that consume and consuming must mean annihilation.
Is it correct to understand that the biblical use of the words “consume” and “consuming” mustentail that the souls of the wicked will be annihilated? Simply put, no. First, in order to conclude that the words imply annihilation, Hailey provided examples like the burning bush and the burning of an offering that do refer to the item being consumed—burned up completely. Conspicuously missing, however, are those examples in which the item that is consumed is not burned up completely. The Hebrew words translated “to consume” can mean any number of things, including: “to eat, devour, slay, to be wasted, to be destroyed, to feed, exterminate, to cause to cease, be accomplished, and exhaust, among others” (see “Akal,” 1999; “Kalah,” 1999). Are there examples in which the terms “consume” and “consuming” do not insinuate total incineration? Certainly. For instance, in Jeremiah 14, the Lord commented that He by no means would accept the idolatrous Israelites, and then stated: “But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence” (14:12). Would their being consumed necessitate that their bodies would be completely burned into nonexistence? The text answered that question when it stated that the bodies of those consumed would “be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; they will have no one to bury them” (14:12). The consuming taking place in Jeremiah obviously did not entail a complete burning up, but instead a punishment of physical death in which the bodies of those who were consumed would still remain for some time to decay in the open streets.
Again, in Genesis 31:15, Rachel and Leah, in their discussion of their father’s behavior, commented: “Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money.” Did they mean to say that their money had been burned and annihilated into nonexistence? No. Rather, it had been spent or wasted, and thus no longer was of use to them.
Genesis 31:40 serves as a final example of the various ways the word “consumed” can be used. In this text, Jacob describes the hardships he endured during his tenure with Laban.
In that discussion, Jacob stated: “There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes.” Was Jacob completely burned up or annihilated during the day? Not in any sense. Interestingly, the same Hebrew word is used in Genesis 31:40 that is used in Deuteronomy 4:24—which was cited by Hailey, and from which his Hebrews 12:29 quote is taken. It is evident, then, that the words “consume” and “consuming” do not necessarily connote complete annihilation, but can, and often do, make reference to a state of waste and ruin, or, as in Jacob’s case, pain, suffering and hardship.
It also is interesting to note that, among the examples given by Hailey that supposedly imply the annihilation of those things (or people) which were consumed, are the individuals who were consumed in the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16. Yet in the New Testament, Jude offered divinely inspired commentary on certain sinful individuals, stating: “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (vs. 11). Jude further commented that these sinners were “raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (vs. 13). Therefore, these sinners had “perished in the rebellion of Korah,” and yet their souls were not completely consumed or annihilated, but had a reservation in a place where there was “blackness of darkness forever.” From the New Testament commentary offered by Jude, it is evident that those consumed in the rebellion of Korah did not go out of existence altogether, but that their physical lives were ended and their souls awaited a punishment in darkness forever.
Once again, an appeal to incomplete word studies in an attempt to force the idea of annihilationism on the biblical text is speculative and unfounded, to say the least. The overwhelming evidence of Scripture explicitly states and implicitly teaches that the souls of the wicked will be punished in the fires of hell forever—without respite.
“Akal: 398” (1999), Logos Library System: Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Logos Research Systems: Bellingham, WA).
Hailey, Homer (2003), God’s Judgements & Punishments (Las Vegas, NV: Nevada Publications).
“Kalahl: 3615” (1999), Logos Library System: Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Logos Research Systems: Bellingham, WA).