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 Sanders'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 Sanders, 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.
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.