This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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The immortality of the soul

Another oversimplification is present in contemporary Christian thought regarding the immortality of the soul. Aside from the fact that Scripture constantly disparages the soul, the Christian tradition itself does not actually teach that the soul is immortal in the way that God is immortal, and this is necessarily so considering that the soul is mutable, thus, Augustine says that the soul is immortal ‘in a certain way of its own,’ which is to say it has a relative immortality.

Or, putting it another way, Tatian says that the soul ‘is not in itself immortal…Yet it is possible for it not to die.’ His teaching is worth citing at length, because it delineates the tripartite anthropology very clearly:

The soul is not in itself immortal, O Greeks, but mortal. Yet it is possible for it not to die. If, indeed, it knows not the truth, it dies, and is dissolved with the body, but rises again at last at the end of the world with the body, receiving death by punishment in immortality. But, again, if it acquires the knowledge of God, it dies not, although for a time it be dissolved. In itself it is darkness, and there is nothing luminous in it. And this is the meaning of the saying, The darkness comprehends not the light.’ (John 1:5) For the soul does not preserve the spirit, but is preserved by it, and the light comprehends the darkness. The Logos, in truth, is the light of God, but the ignorant soul is darkness. On this account, if it continues solitary, it tends downward towards matter, and dies with the flesh; but, if it enters into union with the Divine Spirit, it is no longer helpless, but ascends to the regions whither the Spirit guides it: for the dwelling-place of the spirit is above, but the origin of the soul is from beneath. Now, in the beginning the spirit was a constant companion of the soul, but the spirit forsook it because it was not willing to follow.[1]

Thus, as we have explained elsewhere, it is an oversimplification to call the soul ‘immortal’ in itself, as if the intervention of a third element were not always necessary for it to have eternal life. This ‘relative immortality’ is something that will be addressed when discussing the posthumous states in general, but for now we will say that both paradise and perdition are not Absolute states because they are not the Absolute, and for this reason they are not ‘the end of the journey.’ This belongs only to God ‘who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light.’[2]

[1] Address to the Greeks, 13.

[2] 1 Timothy 6:16.

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