Brother Roberts in the first lecture in “Christendom Astray” spoke of the Bible as the only source to find the Truth. He encouraged his readers to “search the scriptures” carefully for therein is the clear testimony of God which reveals that Christendom is astray from the doctrines and practices established by the apostles. In this, his first lecture on a fundamental doctrine, he very capably shows the utter error of the belief
in the Church teaching of an “immortal soul”. The following synopsis of the lecture provides material that some may wish to note in their Bible so that they may be “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh regarding our Hope.”

Lecture 2

Brother Roberts wrote: “In nothing will Christendom appear in the eyes of the Bible student further astray than in the ordinary theological view as to the nature of man” (p 34). An appeal to nature as God’s other witness will confirm this to be the point. The believer in the immortality of the soul cannot comprehend or appreciate the truth concerning the work and teaching of Christ.

The “Common View” of the Nature of Man

  • What is the universal teaching? Man is a “spiritual” being, immaterial and immortal, living in a material body composed of organs necessary for the manifestation of his invisible and indestructible inner “self”. Mental qualities are all attributes of this inner self or spiritual “essence”. This essence is supposed to have come from God as being part of the Deity, or divine spark from Him.
  • Death is therefore…“regarded simply as a demolition of the material organism, which liberates the deathless, intangible man from the bondage of this “mortal coil”, which having “shuffled off”, he wings his way to spiritual regions, for eternal happiness or misery, according to “deeds done in the body”.

The “Truth” of the Nature of Man

  • Man is destitute of immortality in every sense. He lives for his allotted time and then ceases to exist, giving the life back to God who gave it, and returning to the dust from whence he came. Brother Roberts uses two forms of evidence to prove that man is mortal:

1  The testimony of existing natural facts

2  The declaration of the inspired Word of God.

1 Existing Natural Facts

 Various natural facts have been advanced to support the theory of an immortal soul. It is claimed that matter cannot think, and that as man thinks he must have an immaterial essence in him to perform the thinking that is indestructible and therefore immortal. It is claimed that the mind is capable of reason, of dreaming, and of travelling while the body remains in one place; that there is the sense of feeling of an amputated limb, and that the body reproduces all of its cells every seven years and yet the mind does not change. All these facts are put forward as proof of an immortal soul. Brother Roberts deals with each of these in turn with summary precision and accuracy and proves them false.

2 What the Scriptures Say

 What really interests us as Bible students is the witness of Scripture against this false theory.

  • Not once are the terms “immortal soul”, “neverdying soul” or “immortality of the soul” found in Scripture.
  • Where “soul” is used in Scripture it simply denotes a living, breathing creature, without any reference to its constitution or its duration of existence.
  • As applied to Adam the Hebrew word “nephesh” is translated “soul” (Gen 2:7) and to beasts, birds, reptiles and fish it is rendered “creature” and “things” (Gen 1:20–21).
  • It is equally applied to humans (Gen 12:5) as to animals (Num 31:28).
  • It is used to describe that which is capable of hunger (Prov 19:15), of going into the grave (Job 33:22,28) and of coming out of it (Psa 30:3).
  • The word “nephesh” occurs about 700 times in the Old Testament and the Greek word “psuche” about 180 times in the New Testament.
  • The Hebrew and the Greek words are variously rendered “soul” (530 times), “life” or “living” (190 times), “person” (34 times), “beasts and creeping things” (28 times), also “a man”, “a person”, “self”, “they”, “we”, “him”, “anyone”, “breath”, “heart”, “mind”, “appetite” and “the body” etc.
  • The following lists of quotes are used to prove that the soul is in fact dying (Psa 22:29; Psa 89:48; Psa 78:50); and Ezekiel declares: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek 18:4).
  • Much is stated in Christendom regarding the worth of one human soul. The following Scriptures explain that the soul or life of man is nothing from the divine viewpoint (James 4:14; Psa 144:3-4; Psa 103:14-16). Particularly note Isaiah 40:15-17 and Daniel 4:35.

One passage used in support of the immortality of the soul is that found in Mark 8:36-37, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” This passage is simply concerned with the absurdity of a man giving life itself in exchange for something that without life it would be impossible to enjoy or benefit from. If we are to replace “soul” with “immortal soul” in this verse we must also apply it to the preceding verse which would then read: “For whosoever will save his immortal soul shall lose it; but whosoever shall LOSE HIS IMMORTAL SOUL for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (The RV has substituted “life” for “soul” in verse 37 as well).

  • These verses must express an awful paradox to the orthodox upholders of immortal-soulism, but in the view of true scriptural understanding show to us the vanity of protecting our mortal interests at the expense of the eternal promise given by God.
  • The root of the matter is found in Genesis 2:7. Man was created and given life through the breath of God into his nostrils. No difference is ever noted between man and his body. It was the body that became a living soul and if this passage was used to prove the immortality of anything it should be of the body, not some ethereal soul.
  • The idea taught here is simple and rational; that the previously inert and inanimate being became a living being when vitalised, but not necessarily immortal. It is called a “living soul”, not an “ever-living” or “never-dying” soul.
  • Whatever Adam’s state was at this point of time, as a result of sin he was told that he would henceforth die (Gen 3:17-19). Nowhere is it stated that his body only would die and some other part live for ever.
  • Abraham understood this when he confessed before God that he was “but dust and ashes” (Gen 18:27).
  • Paul also believed this to be the case with himself: “I know that in me dwelleth no good thing” (Rom 7:18).
  • James reiterated the same principle: “as the flower of the grass he shall pass away” (James 1:10).
  • Solomon himself stated in Ecclesiastes 3:18-20, a passage which refutes this false doctrine in simple and plain language: “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no pre-eminance above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”
  • This doctrine of the immortality of the soul will be “the mighty delusion which overspreads all people like a veil, the great obstruction to the progress of true Christianity… Words truly fail to describe the mischief the doctrine has done. It has rendered the Bible unintelligible, and promoted unbelief … Fling it to the moles and to the bats, and humbly accept the evidence of fact, and the testimony of God’s infallible Word.”