Lampstand Magazine “Death the Last Enemy” Vol 23 (2017) response

Once again the Lampstand Magazine has produced an unfortunate article which doesn’t fairly reflect the facts on the ground in an article called “Death the Last Enemy (Part 2)” in Volume 23.  The article notably fails (as did the last one) to deal with any of the arguments/rationale advanced by those who accept EC.

“We noted that in the OT the Hebrew word for death (muwth) occurs around 800 times and always refers to the ordinary idea of death — the cessation of mortal existence — and this was the result of the sentence passed upon Adam in consequence of his sin”[1]

An uninformed reader would readily get the impression EC brethren and sisters believe otherwise. However this is exactly what EC would explain. The sentence on Ada, was death, the cessation of mortal existence. Just as Solomon told the mortal Shimei, “dying thou shalt die” if he transgressed Solomon’s law (1 Kings 2:37), so too with Adam. Adam WAS NOT promised mortality if he sinned. He was not promised death either but CERTAIN DEATH. Plenty of Christadelphian commentators have made the same point and (correctly) expounded the expression dying thou shalt die in contrast to the Lampstand articles (eg LG Sargent, Roberts – initially at least, Whittaker, D Levin, Thirtle).

The evidence of Gen 2:7 and particularly 1 Cor 15:44-51 says Adam was mortal in the garden, though his fate was linked to his obedience, not his bodily constitution. Again Adam being mortal is not exactly new in our community. So when Adam was warned that disobedience would lead to certain death what did God mean?

To allude to Moses – Adam and Eve had set before them “life and death, blessings and curses” (Deut 30:19). In Gen2:8 the tree of life is introduced before the tree of knowledge. Following the Fall – where they saw they couldn’t be saved by works and they were sinful – God introduces the promise of Christ (Gen 3:15) and excludes them from the tree of life. Rather than destroy the tree of life, God protects the way to it (Gen 3:23-24). Furthermore, the chapter ends with this vision of the tree of life – eternal life – still there but access denied.

What consequence did Adam suffer on the day he ate the fruit which resulted in certain death? Exclusion from the tree of life is the only thing recorded in Genesis 3.  That is worth repeating. Scripture mentions some specific consequences of their sin, but nothing about a change to mortality, no new genetic rearrangement. Instead of all the things some may wish to read, the clear testimony is Adam was barred from the tree of life which would have brought immortality, and instead doomed to certain death (ie he suffered mortality because of sin).

Is this some crazy new idea? No. Bro Thomas makes a similar deduction in Catechesis (written some 16 years after Elpis Israel in 1866). Bro Thomas states that Adam’s relationship to mortality or immortality was:

“That of a candidate for the one or the other. If obedient to the law, he would obtain the right to eat of the tree of life and live for ever (Gen. 3:22; Rev. 22:14); if disobedient, he would incur the penalty of the law, which consigned him to the dust from which he was taken (Gen. 2:17; 3:19).”[2]

So Bro Thomas surmises Adam was offered life or death depending on obedience and was a probationer in that he could have gone either way.

Consequently, when sin entered the world through Adam, death came by sin as the appropriate response to sin. The path was set. Rather than the opportunity to receive immortality then and there, Adam would now indeed die. Like us though his ultimate fate depends on whether he accepted the covering provided by God and endeavoured to be a servant of righteousness rather than a servant of sin.

Dying in Adam or living in Christ?

As The Lampstand article continues, the misrepresentation of the EC position builds and, more importantly, also misrepresents Scripture. The article says:

“The Apostle Paul’s expression “as in Adam all die” refers to all humanity and is not limited, as EC insists, to those who are responsible to judgment and die eternally. Christadelphians believe that Adam was the progenitor of the entire human race and we are all physically “in Adam” from birth till death. While we conditionally become “in Christ” at baptism, ultimately the only way “out of Adam” is when “this mortality puts on immortality” and physically we become part of a new spiritual race “in Christ”. [1]

Firstly it is plain that EC doesn’t limit in Adam to those responsible personally to judgment. Plainly Paul includes those without knowledge of the law as falling into the class “in Adam” in Rom 5:14 &19 and this has been commented on by EC types previously.  It is very disappointing to see the the Lampstand editorial team miss the mark and misrepresent the EC position.

The second part of the paragraph is unscriptural theorising, of the type EC is sometimes accused of. Are we all “physically in Adam from birth to death”?  This is not the witness of Scripture.  Paul is emphatic as he develops his argument into Rom 6 that we were the servants of sin but are now servants of God. We used to serve sin, now we serve righteousness. This is all past tense. To speak of us as remaining in Adam in any sense is foreign to Paul, so ought be foreign to us.

It is certainly true that we fail to live according to our new allegiance to righteousness as Paul bemoans in Rom 7. Mentally he (and hopefully we) wanted to serve righteousness but the proness to sin inevitably led to failure. Does this mean he was still in Adam and prospectively in Christ? No, this failure to live perfectly does not exclude us from being in Christ. On the contrary Paul says “there is therefore NOW no condemnation to those for those who are in Christ Jesus” Rom 8:1. On that alone the position in the Lampstand article falls, but Paul goes on” “you however are not in the flesh but in the spirit” Rom 7:9

The article refers to 1 Cor 15 where Paul says in v22 “For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive”. There is no doubt the full consequences/blessings of being in Christ are delayed, however the status of being in Christ (rather than in Adam) is not delayed. In the same way John can say confidently “we are God’s children NOW” although better things are to come (1 John 3:2). Similarly Paul says although previously we “were by nature children of wrath…even though we were dead in transgressions [God has] made us alive together with Christ.” Eph 2:3-5. Our status is singular – we are in Christ, even if our service is imperfect and our gracious reward pending (and subject to ongoing discipleship).

Paul uses sin in Rom 5:12 in a narrow way

The article goes on in the section entitled “Death Reigns Irrespective of a Knowledge of God’s Laws” to misrepresent the approach of ECs to scripture. It essentially modifies Paul’s argument as well.  The article asserts:

“EC proponents also teach that prior to Adam’s sin, evolved humans existed, lived and died as the ‘beasts that perish’ and as God’s law was unknown to them, sin as a concept did not exist and therefore death as a punishment for sin simply could not apply.”

This is a simplification of the EC view which implies EC brethren are unaware of Romans 5. Ironically the criticism includes the reference to Psa 49:20 which does say “man that is in honour and understandth not, is like the beasts that perish”. The article’s basic logic in this section is to assert:

  1. Sin is coming short of God’s glory per Rom 3:23 and all unrighteousness 1 John 5:17.
  2. Therefore humans all sin regardless of law/knowledge
  3. Therefore if Adam introduced sin, there cannot have been previous/concurrent humans for they would have sinned per the definition in point 1.

The argument is focused on trying to disprove EC. No-one is disputing the existence of 1 John 5:17 and Rom 3:23, suggesting people are ignoring them is simplistic and unhelpful. In its endeavours to disprove EC the article goes further and neglects the context of Paul’s argument in Rom 5.

By The Lampstand’s definition of sin Paul himself is wrong. Adam consciously broke God’s law. However, before Adam sinned, Eve was deceived (1 Tim 2:14) and therefore unquestionably fell short of God’s glory. Yet Paul says Adam was the first to sin (Rom 5:12). The broad definition of sin insisted on by the article doesn’t fit the context. An insistence on one global definition of sin universally applied results in contradictions within scripture. Paul cannot be using the broad definition, else Eve would have introduced sin. Adam was the first sinner, in the sense that he knowingly broke God’s law, he was deliberate and the first accountable sinner.

Paul notes that while there was sin in the world from Adam to Moses (clearly a broad use of the word sin) people were not personally accountable, “sin was not imputed when there is no law” (Rom 5:13). On what basis can Paul then say “by the offense of one judgement came upon all men to condemnation” Rom 5:18? They are treated as legally condemned, as if they were sinners, despite sin not being imputed due to their ignorance. How is this so? Paul reconciles the apparent anomaly by simple fact of Adam being a representative man, like Christ who Adam is being contrasted with. As Paul goes on to say “by one man’s disobedience many were made [or ‘accounted as’] sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” Rom 5:19.   The article by contrast argues the judgment of death is applied “and rightly so, because even in ignorance, they were still sinning or falling short of God’s glory”. Paul says they were accounted as sinners but sin was NOT imputed to them, the basis of judgment is being accounted sinners based on Adam (their representative). The article contradicts Paul again by saying the basis of judgement is that the ignorant were sinners.

The article accuses EC of believing “In other words, death is only a punishment if one’s sins are brought to account. But this is not taught in the Scriptures”. This is oversimplification. Paul’s argument demonstrates why all either sin with knowledge of the law and deserve death (Rom 5:12) or are ignorant but accounted as sinners based on Adam their representative (Rom 5:18-19). The ignorant are not personally accountable (no imputing of sin – Rom 5:13) but them suffering the same end as the wicked is not unjust.

Adam comprehensively demonstrated that all men will inevitably break God’s law no matter how all good their circumstances if they have exposure to His word. Hence whether or not sin can be imputed to an individual is irrelevant. In direct contrast God graciously judges the faithful worthy of life because they are accounted righteous in Christ. Note that the demonstration of God’s righteousness and grace in the obedience of Christ reaches forwards and backwards in time and is unrelated to bloodlines.

Does EC teach death always = eternal death?

The May June 2017 Lampstand article “Death the Last Enemy” continues its attempted repudiation of EC with more poor reasoning and neglect of relevant scriptural passages. The article states

“the biblical concept of “death” that came by sin is in no wise distinct from the end result of mortality and is not a judicial sentence of “eternal death” at the judgment seat of Christ as defined by proponents of EC.”

This is gross simplification – ECs recognise death is used in a variety of ways in the New Testament. The false claim is repeated, stating:

the “EC view [is] that thanatos refers to eternal death at the judgment seat of Christ“.

However the Lampstand article comprehensively fails to tackle Scriptural reality. Instead it tries to equate death with mortality (a number of times).

In contrast Jesus says

  • He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life John 5:24
  • if anyone keeps my word he will never see death John 8:25
  • whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die…” John 11:25-26.

Clearly Jesus means more by death than mortality or the normal cessation life in these examples, even though he elsewhere uses the word to mean just dying.

Paul similarly uses death in ways which demonstrate the shallowness of the Lampstand argument. In Rom 7:9 he says “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Later in Rom 8:6 he says “to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace“.  Whilst a different Greek word (Nekros), he gives the same idea in Eph 2:1-5 writing that his readers were “dead in trespasses and sins…by nature children of wrath” but now [though still flesh and blood] God has “quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ”.  Paul uses the same idea as a contrast in 1 Cor 15:22 and again in Col 2:13 (where he uses Nekros again).

James says that lust when it conceives brings forth death James 1:15 – but no-one changes to mortal or instantly dies each time they sin.  James’ meaning is obvious again in James 5:20 which says if you save a sinner from their ways you “save a soul from death“.  This clearly fits in an ultimate judgement sense but no other.

John continues the line of understanding “death” in a manner consistent with EC, but outside the attempted confines of the article, writing in 1John 3:14 “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren [and sisters]. He that loveth not his brother [and sister] abideth in death.”  He does this repeatedly, see 1 John 5:16-17.

These passages comprehensively do not fit in the Lampstand’s narrow definition of death. They do absolutely square with the EC view that death is used in a variety of ways INCLUDING as referring to eternal death/judgment.

Death is used of the cessation of life. As the above passages show, death is ALSO used as shorthand for the spiritual state/fate of an individual. Ie will they receive death as the wages for sin or will they receive the gift of life (despite being mortal and possibly falling asleep in the Lord).

The article ignores scripture relevant to the issues under discussion, understandably as the passages above support the EC approach of reading death contextually with a broader meaning than the Lampstand allows. Unfortunately, this is the quality of argument put forward by those who publicly attack EC brethren and sisters.

A poor attempt at argument

When you reverse the logic of an argument sometimes it is exposed. We have demonstrated from Scripture that the attempted narrow definition of death in the May June 2017 Lampstand article “Death the Last Enemy” was contrary to the words of Jesus, Paul, John and James. Rather than more references, we will test some of the logic used in the Lampstand article section entitled “The New Testament Use of Death and Mortality”.

They take five passages and insert the word “eternal” in front of death, so demonstrating the word death cannot be understood as eternal death in each and every use. No-one believes such a thing anyway, so the effort is rather wasted. However there is still some value in the section as it demonstrates the shallow logic and limited critical thinking applied in the analysis.

Remember the Lampstand article is very keen to equate death with mortality. What if we applied the same logic and substituted death with mortal in the test case passages? Of course this is silly – but this approach appeared in one of our magazines sadly….

  • “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to [eternal] death/[mortality]” (Matt 20:18). Wow – Mortality doesn’t work either!
  • “And he [Peter] said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to [eternal] death/[mortality].” (Luke 22 : 3 3) . How did Peter not know he was mortal?
  • “This spake he, signifying by what [eternal] death/[mortality] he [Peter] should glorify God.” (John 21:19). Nope, doesn’t work.
  • “And Pilate marvelled if he were already [eternally] dead/[mortal]” (Mark 15:44).
  • “But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was [eternally] dead/[mortal], whom Paul affirmed to be alive.” (Acts 25:19).
  • “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in [eternal] deaths [mortality] oft.” (2 Cor 11:23)

What a surprise but “eternal death” is randomly inserted into passages it doesn’t work. Happily no-one believes death always = eternal death, sadly some people misrepresent that ECs do. Unsurprisingly when mortality is randomly substituted for death it doesn’t work either. Why anyone thought this abysmal logic was a good addition to the article is curious. For a community of Bible students it is rather sad to see such poor reasoning.

The Lampstand asserts death = mortality.  Is this true?

The article in The Lampstand Magazine asserts mortality and death are the same thing because of 1 Cor 15:54. Although this doesn’t fit with scripture, or the logic test in the article (refer previous posts), let’s explore this claim…The Lampstand article says:

“Note that 1 Corinthians 15:54 clearly informs us that the terms “mortal” (thnetos) and “corruptible” (phthartos) are interchangeable with “death” (thanatos). The swallowing up of death is contextually defined as the change from being mortal and corruptible to being immortal and imperishable. There was no conceptual difference between death and mortality in Paul’s exposition. He uses them as related terms. From a concordance perspective, the words “death”, “corruptible” and “mortal” are all different Greek words, but this does not mean they are referring to different unrelated concepts any more than the hope for those in Christ to be “made alive” (v22) or “quickened” (Gk zoopoieo), is unrelated to the hope of incorruption (aphtharsia) and immortality (athanasia). In each case, different, but interchangeable Greek words are used to refer to the same concept.”

The same argument was put last year by Bro Phil Perry in version 1.9 of his optimistically titled document “Theistic Evolution Refuted” (page 10).

The fundamental flaw in the position here is recognising that Paul is using something like Hebrew parallelism and thinking this means the parallel expressions are equivalent/interchangeable. However, this is neglecting the reality that “the repetition at work, at least in some “parallel” or congruent constructions, indicates that sameness is every bit as important as difference[3]  Ie parallelism is not just equivalence, it can incorporate contrast or the development of an idea eg “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” in Prov 6:20 doesn’t mean a father = a mother. Such examples can be multiplied.

1 Cor 15:53-54 doesn’t arise in a vacuum. An issue Paul is addressing is the resurrection and the fate of those who were asleep (not dead?) in Christ 1 Cor 15:18. What was the fate of these individuals when the Lord returns. Paul uses different words and related ideas to show that all share the same salvation.

1 Cor 15:53-56 describes two groups of faithful ones, all of whom are changed. There are those who are described as corruptible, having died prior to the return of Christ. The corruptible ones are made incorruptible. Those left alive are mortal – subject to death in v51 are changed into immortality. The ideas are related as the article notes, but not identical. Deciding to make words equivalent in contrast to the choices of inspiration is dangerous ground. Death in the context of 1Cor 15 is not mortality. This is quite clear in 1Cor 15:22 where those who are in Adam die and in Christ will be made alive – mortality doesn’t fit as a synonymous term as those in Christ are clearly mortal (at least the ones still reading the letter are!). This use in 1 Cor 15 is the same meaning of death Paul uses in Eph 2 and clearly in Romans 6:23, where death as the wages of sin in contrasted to the gift of eternal life in Christ.

________________________________________________________

[1] Larsen, James. Jamieson, Matt. (2017) The Lampstand Magazine, “Death the Last Enemy” Vol 23. No. 3 page 145

[2] Thomas, J. (1866). Catechesis (pp. 11–12). Logos Publications

[3] LeMon, J. M., & Strawn, B. A. (2008). Parallelism. In T. Longman III & P. Enns (Eds.), Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (p. 510). Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press

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3 thoughts on “Lampstand Magazine “Death the Last Enemy” Vol 23 (2017) response

  1. Pingback: Lampstand July 2017 insert – Death and Sin | Christadelphians Origins Discussion

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