Hellenism and Christianity, Part 5: Unconditional Immortality

Joel W Hemphill in his book Glory to God in the Highest provides a description of Socrates that is eye popping. While reading Joel’s description, remember that Socrates is the forerunner and teacher of Plato and then Plato of Aristotle. “Not only were Socrates’ fellow Athenians disturbed by his personal appearance, lack of hygiene, and that he could drink large amounts of alcohol with becoming dizzy, and walk through snow and ice barefoot with no effect, but the fact that Socrates acknowledged being guided by an inner “daimon” (demon) was unsettling to his fellow citizens. Socrates spoke often of this strange personal phenomenon, this demon or internal voice that prohibited his doing certain things, some trivial and some important, unrelated to matters of right and wrong, “not to be confused with the popular notions of a conscience” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Socrates claimed that this “daimon” had been with him since his youth and its presence in him is mentioned repeatedly in historical accounts. Regarding this, the Encyclopedia Americana says under the topic “Demonology:” “In classical times there was also a concept of a personal daimon – Socrates, for example, spoke of daimon.” The early church father, Tertullian (160-230 A.D.), mentions Socrates’ demon several times in his writings. For example: “the philosophers acknowledged there are demons; Socrates himself waited on a demon’s will. Why not? For it is said that an evil spirit attached itself to him even from his childhood, no doubt turning his mind from what was good.”

“Another troubling characteristic of Socrates that one encounters in the study of his life is his absolutely gross moral behavior! However, some modern philosophers (even Christians) try to justify this by saying he should not be judged by the standards of Christianity or the twenty-first century. While this argument may have some small merit, what we see of Socrates in this area is reprehensible under any standards of human decency. Socrates was a pervert and likely a pedophile!” Hemphill continues in his book to document the insanity of this “great” Greek Philosopher, but the information thus far is sufficient to prove the point regarding the common misunderstanding about unconditional immortality. Socrates was absolutely convinced that after his death he would live on. He obviously believed that his lifestyle of gross immorality was inconsequential to this end.

By the time of the first century, the influence of Greek philosophy dispersed throughout the Roman Empire. Greece was the epicenter of Hellenism which is why God inspired Paul to write as he did in 1 and 2 Corinthians. Next to Athens, Corinth was the philosophical hub of Greece and known for its moral corruption. It was the center of worship offered to the goddess Aphrodite. The expression of worship in Corinth was nothing less than religiously motivated sexual immorality and prostitution. There was actually a word coined in Greek which translated was “to behave like a Corinthian,” which meant immorality and drunken debauchery.

In the Epistles, human wisdom and philosophy were confronted and shattered when compared to God’s wisdom. Chapter 6 of 1 Corinthians challenges the egregious Corinthian belief, founded upon Socrates’ dogma and communicated by Plato, of unconditional immortality. In the first article on the subject of Hellenism and Christianity, I wrote the following: In 399 BC, Socrates stood before a jury of 500 of his fellow Athenians accused of refusing to concede the gods recognized by the state and of corrupting the youth. He was sentenced to death by drinking the deadly poison, hemlock. A number of friends gathered in his cell and, according to Plato, he encouraged them not to be overwhelmed by his demise for the soul is immortal. Socrates made a distinction between things that are intangible, invisible, immortal, and which are material, visible, and perishable. The body is the second type, while the soul is the first kind. Therefore, the soul is considered immortal and survives the death of the body. Considering his grossly, depraved lifestyle, immortality was not dependent on decent, ethical behavior. His twisted reasoning was embraced by the Corinthians and influenced the church; therefore, the Epistle confronts this error.

1 Corinthians 6 begins by reproving the saints for going to the world for judgments that should be settled within the family of God. When the Kingdom comes, we will judge the world and angels. Should we not be able now to handle our problems without going to the unrighteous to judge for us? Next, he identifies the unrighteous and states plainly they will not inherit the Kingdom (which contradicts Socrates’ nonsensical view that one can habitually sin as he did, yet still inherit eternal life).

1 Corinthians 6:9 and 10. Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

Deception was afoot and still is today. Some maintain the belief that the spirit and/or soul are separate from the body and are not ill-effected by the sins of the body. Many non-Christian religions believe in the immortality of the soul, and some Christian dominations teach the immortality of the spirit. The Scriptures never talk about the immortality of the spirit or soul, rather the immortality of the person. By the grace of God, we were once like the unrighteous, but now we are washed, sanctified, and justified.

6:11. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

The Greek word translated “sanctified” is also translated “hallowed” in the Lord’s Prayer recorded in Matthew 6, meaning to be set apart as holy, to consecrate. As God’s name is hallowed, so are we the saints (holy ones). We were not washed, sanctified, and justified, so that we can continue to live sinfully. No, rather, we were made holy and set apart for our Lord and God.

6:12. All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.

The phrase “all things are lawful for me” seemed to be a common colloquialism in Corinth, but Paul gives the right perspective by adding “but not all things are profitable.” When he says all things are lawful for me, obviously the above-mentioned sins and others like them are excluded. We are privileged to do many things, like eat, drink, sleep, etc., but we are not to allow eating, drinking, or sleeping to become our master. Paul gives an example with food.

6:13. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for
the body.

God designed food for our stomach and our stomach to digest and dispense nourishment throughout the body to maintain life. When the Kingdom comes, we will have incorruptible bodies that are not sustained by food and the stomach. We will still eat food, but not for nourishment. Stated very clearly “the body is not for immorality” as they apparently believed as students of Greek philosophy. As the stomach is for food and food for the stomach regarding physical life, so our body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body pertaining to spiritual life. What a great comparison!

6:14-15. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!

In chapter twelve of Corinthians, the word “members” occurs 12 times referring to the body of Christ. Each saint is an equal member of the body of Christ. Note the similarity of the three words used in this context – “fornicator,” Greek pornos; “immorality,” porneia; and “prostitute,” porne. Prostitute can be viewed at least 3 different ways: 1. a person who engages in sexual activity for payment; 2. a temple prostitute (a common practice in Corinth to worship pagan gods); and 3. as the figure of speech synecdoche, a part of something used to refer to the whole. In the context of this chapter, “prostitute” would be representative of all the sins previously listed. As those who were washed, sanctified, and justified, we become a member of the body of Christ. We are designed to be connected to him not to behave as a prostitute or practice any of these other hideous sins.

6:16-17. Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

To believe we are connected with the Lord and expect eternal life while continuing immoral acts with our bodies is a grave deception. The contrast and at the same time the similarity of a person joined to a prostitute as one body and the saints joined to the body of Christ by the one spirit are both shocking
and illuminating.

6:18-20. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

For you have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body.

Again, the Scriptures never speak of the body, soul, or spirit as independent entities part of which inherit eternal life. Such reasoning comes from philosophy and not the Scriptures. Corinthians addresses the ill-conceived root of unconditional Immortality.

The commonly accepted dogma of “once-saved always-saved” or “eternal security” has its roots in Hellenism and not the Scriptures due to the same reasoning as Socrates with a little twist. With the Roman Catholics, if you receive your last rites before death, you will circumvent hell and go to heaven or purgatory for a while. Many Protestant denominations are convinced in a onetime act assuring salvation such as water baptism, baptism of spirit, confession of the lordship of Jesus, and so on. The Scripture embraced to support this reasoning is Ephesians 2:8 and 9 – “for by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” However, within the same Epistle, we are warned that behavior and faith are not incongruent.

Ephesians 5:3-6. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper
among saints;

and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.

For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons
of disobedience.

Jesus often and emphatically made clear what was required
for salvation.

Matthew 7:21-27. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ ‘And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’

The church Epistles emphasize that we are saved by grace but also that faith is required to receive this grace and faith has corresponding works. We are not expected to live a perfect life but indeed a godly life that is outlined in the New Testament. The only way to conclude that salvation is attained by a one-time act is to ignore the many clear verses in the NT like the following.

Hebrews 3:6 and 14. But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house – whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance until the end,

Hebrews 10:26-31. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

But a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF FIRE, WHICH WILL CONSUME ADVERSARIES.

He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:

Of how much sorer punishment, suppose you, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden underfoot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite to the Spirit of grace? For we know him that has said, Vengeance belongs to me, I will recompense, said the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The early church fathers did not believe in eternal security; if anything, they swung the other way. However, this dogma eventually creeped into the church. John Calvin (1509-1564), a French theologian and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation, quoted Plato often in his writings. He believed in and taught once-saved always-saved.

One thought on “Hellenism and Christianity, Part 5: Unconditional Immortality

  • July 25, 2020 at 7:51 am
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    Thank you for this excellent, balanced presentation of the truth that we are saved by grace but expected not to yield to sin but instead yield to the spirit and live holy lives. As stated in the article, we will not do it perfectly, but we are to strive to be holy as God is holy. God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and he is the righteous judge Who we can trust. He is not against us, but for us. He will help us.

    Reply

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