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Should CMI ‘stick to the science’?

Published: 6 July 2019 (GMT+10)

Occasionally we get messages reflecting a misconception that CMI only deals with the scientific side of the creation debate, and expressing dismay at a particular theological stance expressed in one of our articles. Kareen G., Australia, writes regarding the article Do I need to be an apologist? in Creation 41(2):

I just read this article and was confused at the first paragraph of Lita Cosner's introduction. She says the following statements claiming we have an eternal soul, and a conscious punishment of hell. I feel this is very misleading, since the bible clearly tells us that only God is immortal. I don't like the immortal soul doctrine, and it is not true, so the article disturbs me. I felt I should mention this.

Lita Cosner, CMI-US, responds:

Apparently God likes the immortal soul doctrine, because He put it in Scripture. The Bible clearly affirms that there is a non-material part of a person that survives physical death. Jesus told the thief who believed, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” So after the thief’s legs were broken and he expired, that very day he was with Jesus in Paradise! Paul said that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). But if there is not a soul that survives death, what could Paul possibly be communicating? Revelation depicts a time before the resurrection of the dead where the saints under the altar are asking God how long until their persecutors are judged. They are depicted as present, conscious beings, even though they are dead. Jesus tells us not to fear those who can kill the body, but to fear God, who can destroy both body and soul in Hell. The implication that killing the body does not kill the soul.

This is important, because without a soul that survives death, there is no continuity between the individual who dies and the individual who is raised. For example, let’s say Steve is a Christian who dies, but without a soul, he ceases to exist at death. We’ll call him Steve 1. When God raises Steve, God re-creates not just his body but his soul. We’ll call this individual Steve 2. Steve 2 has all Steve 1’s memories, and indeed thinks he is the same individual as Steve 1. But he is not Steve 1, because there is no continuity via the immortal soul. And somehow, being promised that an individual just like you will be raised does not have the same hopeful ring to it.

But maybe there is an immortal soul that survives death, but maybe God doesn’t punish sinners forever in Hell. Maybe at some point these souls are annihilated. The Bible simply doesn’t support this option. Jesus says, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). The most natural way to interpret this is that the punishment goes on for as long as the eternal life of the righteous goes on. It’s difficult to see how eternal life can be forever, but eternal punishment is not (the same word is used in the Greek for ‘eternal’).

For these reasons (and more could be said), both the eternal soul and everlasting conscious punishment are both in CMI’s Statement of Faith. As such, every staff member of CMI, and CMI as a ministry, affirms these as true.

Rachel C., US, writes:

I have donated several times to Creation Ministries because I believe that reaching college age young people is vastly important. Now I am starting to see videos teaching theological things which I do not believe (God as Trinity rather than Father and literal Son prior to His incarnation, the Law including the Sabbath "nailed to the cross" [Ed: the only place on CMI’s website that this has been said is in the article What about those who have never heard?], Hell as a place of eternal conscious torment, etc. etc.). I thought you stuck to creation science, leaving theological debates to others. I will continue to buy videos that support creation science, but I cannot in good conscience support those who teach things I believe are contrary to the Word of God.

Lita responds:

Thank you for writing in. CMI has never claimed to stick to creation science and leave theological debates to others. Our Statement of Faith makes explicit reference to the Trinity, and Hell as a place of literal eternal conscious judgment. If you have a problem with the statement that our sin debt is canceled and nailed to the cross, take it up with the Apostle Paul, whom I was quoting (Colossians 2:14).

The reason that CMI cannot and has never promised to leave theology out of it is that creation itself is theological! People who stick to scientific arguments for design are not biblical creationists—they belong to the Intelligent Design Movement. But the moment we claim to know who the Designer is, we’re making a theological claim.

It isn’t an extra add-on that God is a Trinity; rather, that fact has huge implications for Christ’s role in Creation. We can’t separate truth into neat theological boxes so that creation isn’t ’contaminated’ by the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of how we are saved (and what happens if we fail to believe in Christ), and so on.

You might be confused about which theological ideas CMI has a stance on because there are some things we don’t take a stance on, like the Sabbath, modes of baptism, particular stances about eschatology, and so on. These are things that involve interpretations of Scripture, while creation is about the authority of Scripture itself. We talk about the difference in the article End-times and early-times. As a rule of thumb, CMI defends doctrines which are part of our statement of faith, but because we want to include as many Bible-believing Christians as possible, we do not take a stand on denominational issues which Christians can differ on while maintaining a high view of Scripture.

I hope this clarifies things.

Lita Cosner

Helpful Resources

From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
US $12.00

Readers’ comments

Graham P.
Good job Lita, well written explanation. There's Genesis too: "And God said, 'now, lest man put out his hand and eat the fruit, and live forever... and so God banished man from the garden....'". Clearly our Lord intended Adam and Eve to live forever, that's why He put the tree of life in the garden for them to eat its fruit......
Leopold H.
The Bible was written without punctuation, so it could read "I tell you today, you will be in paradise", or "I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise". Which it is depends on how it lines up with the rest of the Bible, and the rest of the Bible doesn't teach in the immortality of the soul but rather that one is asleep after death until the resurrection. For then what purpose would there be for Jesus' second coming (where in Thessalonians it says the dead in Christ shall rise first) if the dead in Christ are already in heaven? And also, Jesus wasn't in paradise that day, so the thief couldn't have been in paradise with Jesus that day.
Lita Cosner
The Bible was written with very little punctuation, but the context favors taking semeron with what follows, not as modifying lego. The thief's request has a temporal modifier: "when you come into your kingdom". And so does Jesus' response, "Today you will be with me in Paradise."
James N.
Very well spoken. Few words, great biblical content.
Mike H.
I think a big point on this is understanding a commonly accepted difference between eternal & immortal. Only God is eternal - no beginning & no end. We are immortal - we have a definte beginnng but will live forever. Hopefully, CSI does not believe that we have eternal souls, as that is not directly supported in Scripture.
Lita Cosner
CMI does not believe in the pre-existence of the human soul. But I have not heard your distinction between eternal and immortal before so I hesitate to embrace it before doing a little more reading.
Philippus S.
CMI is not here to proof God excist with Science, but to show us How God is the God of science as well!
Terry D P.
Creation Science/Knowledge is inextricably linked to God the Creator of the universe: ‘Thou art worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power, because thou didst create all things; by thy will they were created, and have their being!'—Rev 4:11. So it makes good sense to learn all the theology we can from the Bible (i.e. knowledge of God), because God tells us what he has done in the past and will do in the (not too distant) future, when he replaces to current heavens and earth with new heavens and earth.
Eric P.
No offence intended, but Lita Costner’s answer to the feedback that rejects the idea of an immortal soul is rather trite. Her argument that we need an immortal soul for continuity of identity begs the question of what constitutes identity, something with which philosophers and theologians have wrestled for centuries. While the correspondent does not put his/her case particularly strongly, many Christians do reject the idea and for some very good reasons:
1. For every verse that seems to suggest an immortal soul, there are many others that contradict that.
2. Thus, in Genesis 3: 22 God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ Did God only want to stop the human body from living forever?
3. The idea of an immortal soul is absent from the Old Testament even though a number of verses do suggest resurrection.
4. Instead, the idea can be traced directly to pagan philosophy i.e. Platonism.
5. In this respect, the idea turns resurrection into reincarnation.
6. The idea renders resurrection null – why be reunited with a body after having spent the interval in ‘paradise’, in the direct presence of God himself?
7. It also means death is a good thing: it frees us from the body and gives us direct access to God himself (again, a pagan Greek idea) and resurrection becomes a bad thing, separating us from God.
A satisfying answer does need to address these sorts of issues.
Lita Cosner
To be clear, there was not a trace of Platonism in my response. I referred to four very pertinent texts, none of which you have addressed in the slightest, dismissing them as 'trite'.
1. This is absolutely and categorically false.
2. God wanted to keep humans from a state of living forever in a sinful state.
3. This is false. While the idea is veiled, there are a number of verses in the OT that speak about Sheol and the afterlife.
4. Funny, I gave four verses that are unconnected to Platonism and you ignored them.
5. Your idea of resurrection has the problem of continuity that I referenced in the article via Steve 1 and Steve 2.
6. What does Paul mean in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 if he is not saying that when we die, we are away from the body, but with the Lord and awaiting the 'further clothing' of the resurrection body?
7. The Bible is clear that death is an enemy. Yet it is the means by which we are freed from the sinful flesh, God uses death to complete the work of sanctification. Moreover, when we are raised with a glorious body like Christ's, we will enjoy a yet better state because we will enjoy direct access to God (as we will in Paradise prior to the Resurrection), but in physical bodies like we are meant to have.
Dean R.
Science without God is dead, magic or super nature in contrast to divine nature cursed by God because of sin. The nature that we see and know at present is also in need of redemption or renewal by God becuase of the curse.It shall truly reflect a glorious wisdom that has not been seen or heard before at Gods appointed time. Jn 8:58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”Man shall not live by bread alone...etc. God and nature are inseperable just as the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. And Satan is doing all he can to cloud & muddy the waters in this regard.
Martin C.
I totally agree with Creation Ministries covering creation and other Biblical truths. I also agree that you don't need to cover 'the Sabbath, modes of baptism, particular stances about eschatology, and so on' . Certainly, my main interest on this website is the scientific evidences supporting Genesis 1-11 etc., but I also appreciate the other matters you cover. May God continue to bless you as individuals and as a ministry.
Ian B.
I was reading Job chapter 38 this am - interesting that when Father God challenged Job, He first established His creation credentials. It is obvious that once He establishes that He indeed created the Heavens and the Earth, His authority naturally flows from that. When you have set all the Creation up for man, you must surely feel that you have a right to expect certain things of the creatures you have created. Sure shows me that you guys are on the right track when you major on creation. Love your stuff guys.
Philip S.
Great stuff, thanks Lita - as an ex 'Jehovah's Witness' I know well those sort of denials common of most cults - denying Jesus's eternal, Divine, nature, let alone ours! And they they commonly confuse our human 'Soul' where matter seemingly interfaces with 'Spirit', the only 'eternal' bit - hence Hebrews 4:12: only The 'Word of God' can divide the two. Animals have souls, but not spirits, which 'goes back to the God that gave it' - Amen!
Mitch C.
We can safely differ on the mode and meaning of baptism, the timing and/or continuance of Sabbath observance, and certain details of end-times prophecy. However, it is important to be clear and biblical when it comes to the essential nature of God (Trinity vs. Arianism vs. Modalism) and to the essential nature of salvation (did Christ redeem us from eternal hell, or merely from being annihilated?)

I, for one, am thankful that CMI upholds the basic Christian doctrines expressed in the great ecumenical creeds (such as the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed) as well in as the confessional standards of the Protestant Reformation. This is simply "Christianity 101", plainly taught by the Bible.
Nathaniel W.
I honestly do not see how someone can consistently affirm the creation account in Genesis and not affirm the Trinity described in the New Testament, among other issues. It's good to read these responses. I know I don't completely agree theologically with all of the author's at CMI aside things that are a sign of orthodoxy, Jesus' deity, the Trinity, etc. But I still support CMI either way. You don't need to fully agree with someone on what are lesser issues to support them, although I still am surprised that many people who support CMI do not hold to essential Christian doctrines like the eternal soul, the Trinity, and hell.
Jason D.
Ravi Zacharias shared a quote from CS Lewis that goes something like this: We are not a body which has a soul; rather we are a soul that has a body. The soul and the body begins at conception. The soul is immortal and unchangeable from that point onward but the body will waste away, die, and decompose. The body will be remade/reborn at the resurrection of the body in the same image it was while we were alive here on earth. If we are believers in Christ, our immortal souls will be eternally reunited with our bodies in heaven. The same resurrection will occur for nonbelievers, however their eternal abode will be in hell. We see and experience things I’m God’s construct for creation of time. For God, however, in eternity, there is no time; God was, is, and always will truly be immortal for eternity past, present, and future. That’s why, when Moses asked God for His name, God said, “I Am.” The word AM indicates eternity.
Lita Cosner
I would slightly disagree with Lewis (if he is being quoted correctly). We are not simply souls that have bodies, we are uniquely creatures that are both physical and spiritual. Our spirit survives the death of the body, but even those who are in Paradise in the presence of Christ long to be clothed with their resurrection body.

David S.
I pray that CMI keeps theological truth as it’s PRIMARY mandate, and scientific inquiries as a support to that cause. What other purpose should a Christian ministry have but to proclaim the word of God? No work of the Lord is complete without a clear presentation of His revelation to mankind, which is decidedly theological. Keep up the good work!
Linda E.
Great job, Lita (as usual). I was stunned to read that someone thought the Bible clearly teaches that only God is immortal. Wonder if they've read the Bible. The Bible's teaching about hell is truly clear.
Leslie C.
Good response Lita. Pray that our dear brothers and sisters do not divide over non-essentials. Plain non-complex scripture interpreted in right context should rule the day for all Bible believing Christians. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13) Blessings in Christ to all at CMI and its many supporters.
John R M.
Sounds good to me.
Jason B.
The thief on the cross couldn't be with Jesus in Heaven "that very day" since Jesus stayed in the tomb until Sunday morning. Jesus stayed in the tomb over the Sabbath. Yes, our souls outlive our Earthly body but they "sleep" (as per scripture) waiting for Jesus second coming (the dead in Christ shall rise first) ... how could anyone "in Christ" rise to meet him in the air if they are all already in Heaven?
Lita Cosner
Jesus' body remained in the tomb. Of course, as the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus is omnipresent in His divine nature. Given that Jesus told the thief, "Today you will be with me in Paradise", we know that regardless of where Jesus' human spirit was (there are some disputes about what exactly He was doing), we know that He was perfectly capable of fulfilling His promise because the thief would be in the immediate presence of the Triune God, which of course includes the Second Person.
Robert D.
The phrase “Truly I say to you today” in Luke 23:43 was a common Hebrew idiom used for solemn emphasis. Deut 30:18 is a good example: “I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.” Also Acts 20:26, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all.” Jesus was telling the thief that he would *eventually* be with Him in Paradise. A more accurate translation would put the comma after “today,” not before.

Paul did not say “to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord.” He said “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” He did not say how long it would be between those events. He simply gave a location preference.

Jesus speaks of “eternal punishment” in Matt 25:46 without giving details. Paul explains it, however, in 2 Thess 1:9 when he says that “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” There will never be restoration or recovery from this destruction.

Here, “eternal” describes a momentary process with an everlasting result. “Eternal salvation” is not an unending process but a result that lasts forever (Heb. 5:9). The same is true of “eternal judgment” (Heb. 6:2), “eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12) and “eternal sin” (Mk. 3:29). In the same way, “eternal punishment” is not “eternally punishing,” and “eternal destruction” is not “eternally destroying.”

Those who have been saved will receive eternal life at their resurrection on the last day. As it says in John 6:40, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” The rest of humanity will not receive immortality but will suffer eternal destruction.
Lita Cosner
This is a good example of how someone with a preconceived view can interpret any verse in isolation to support that view. Respectfully, it would take a very long time to unravel everything wrong with each of these interpretations, and other pressing matters prevent me from fully going into it. Suffice it to say that all major evangelical commentaries disagree.
Dear Lita,
Firstly the work that CMI and the other Creation Ministries perform is of incalculable value to our evolutionised western world. You strongly teach against the majority view, held even in the Christian world that the universe is extremely old. However, when you make theological statements that represent the long held majority view of this same Christian majority, you might expect that those who hold a minority view which disagrees with that interpretation, might be moved to comment. This is not to say that CMI should not make comments or statements on any matters, scriptural or otherwise outside of its main area of calling. This is too a big a subject to discuss in a “comments” section, so I will simply look at one of the verses you quoted and see if there is an alternative interpretation. For example: The thief on the cross. (Luke 23:43) In the Greek, there is no punctuation, so the “comma” attached to the word “today”, was added by the translators. So did Jesus go to paradise immediately after he died, followed soon after by the thief, when he died? The answer is no. Because three days later, after his resurrection, in John 20:17, Jesus told Mary Magdalene not to touch (hold) him for he had not yet ascended to the Father….. Yet on the evening of that very same day, he presented himself to the disciples and said in Luke 24:36-41,”…handle me, and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.....” So what Jesus was saying to the thief was that “today” he was being guaranteed future salvation, not that he was going to paradise with Jesus that day. What about the souls under the altar? I liken this to the symbolism used in Gen. 4:10, where God says to Cain "The voice of your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground."
Lita Cosner
People with minority views should not be surprised when CMI expresses a view that is clearly stated in our Statement of Faith and is commonly held by evangelical Protestant Christians.
Steve B.
How is it that people miss the Trinity. The Trinity created and the Trinity is involved in salvation, this is stated plan and simple for all to see in the scriptures. It really bewilders me that some people refuse to see this very important part of our God. From the beginning of time to the beginning of our new life the Trinity is there, just for us.
Tommy S.
" “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” So after the thief’s legs were broken and he expired, that very day he was with Jesus in Paradise!"

Your conclusion is incorrect. For Jesus himself said after his resurrection:

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Also, the very idea of people going straight to heaven or hell after death is refuted by the fact that we have judgment day where all will stand before the Lord in judgment. What would be the purpose of judgment day if people are already being rewarded or punished? No one is punished or acquitted before standing before the judge. Being absent from the body and present with the Lord does not mean present in heaven. And it doesn't mean conscious either. For I can be present with a person in a coma for 20 years and they may not experience any passage of time at all. "Revelation depicts a time before the resurrection of the dead where the saints under the altar are asking God how long until their persecutors are judged. They are depicted as present, conscious beings, even though they are dead." With Revelation we have a lot of imagery, visions, etc. So we cannot use this to overturn clear teachings from Jesus himself who also said: And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. John 3:13 I've written an entire chapter of a book on refuting this belief and this is only a small taste of it because responses here are so limiting. I would ask that you do not respond with more words than I am allowed to use.
John 20:17 Paul said that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord"
Lita Cosner
What Jesus' human soul was doing while His body was in the tomb is something that is debated. But the Second Person of the Trinity is omnipresent. So an argument that says the thief couldn't be with Jesus in Paradise, because Jesus was somewhere else, is inherently flawed.
Kerry W.
I fully appreciate and thank God for all the Young-Earth Six-Day creation mnistries. I believe God used their scientific knowledge to keep our 4 now-adult children firmly in the faith during their school, university years and work. Despite your pro post-Biblical Creed adherence, i.e. the Trinity, I totally abandoned that theological addition 9 years ago at the age of 58 years (but I am definitely not a JW). I still support and commend your ministry (but feel that there is more to support the Sabbath in Scripture than the Trinity!) Stick to the science because as a Biblical Unitarian I am wholeheartedly 'with you' on the science.
Lita Cosner
Because our doctrine of Creation is explicitly Trinitarian, while you might agree with some of our design articles, it is impossible for us to agree about the most important aspects of the doctrine of Creation, which is the entire point of my response--we can't 'stick to the science', because our position on Creation is inherently theological!
Owen B.
Sorry but I guess I have to agree with Kareen, I have periodically been dismayed at CMI's lack of theological understanding of things in the Bible. I could easily pick apart your response to her concern. The doctrine of the immortal soul is something that has crept into the church from Plato's philosophy / theology brought in by the Greek Philosopher Athenogoras. Christians have swallowed it hook line and sinker and then found a few Bible text that can be twisted to support it. Anyway, I really appreciate your geo-science but not so much your theology. Keep up the good work in the area of your strength.
Lita Cosner
If you were able to 'easily pick apart' everything in my response, I'm surprised you didn't use this space to present an argument rather than to posture about how you're so much more informed than we are about theology.
Philip R.
I may be foolish to stick my toe into this murky water, but I've often wondered if we have trouble with some of these passages because we are not fully aware of all the possibilities. But I'll get back to that.

I do not know Greek, so I'm speaking from my ignorance here, but those suggesting that a comma is in the wrong place seem to be saying that, depending on the placement of the comma, Luke 24:43 could be read in two different ways. Fair enough. But does that means that the original readers of the text, where it had no commas, had no way of knowing which way to read it? On the contrary, I would assume that the correct understanding would be apparent to those who understood the Greek, and therefore that the translators would know where the English version should have a comma. The argument that the Greek didn't have commas and therefore it's in the wrong place in English is baseless without support from the Greek for the alternative reading.

As for the thief on the cross, perhaps when he died he was transported through time to the day of judgement, and found that Jesus was there. So from his perspective, it was the same day.

I'm not claiming that that's the case. I'm just using that to illustrate that perhaps there are possibilities that we haven't conceived of.

But whatever the case, I agree that CMI must not ignore the theology, and although I might occasionally disagree with them on some detail, I have the utmost respect for both the scientific and theological teaching that they provide.

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