Life is a biological concept regarding the characteristic, state, or mode that separates living organisms from dead matter. The word may itself refer to a living being or the ongoing processes of which living things are a part of. It may also refer to the period during which something is functional (as between birth and death), the condition of an entity that has been born but has yet to die or that which makes a living thing alive.
- 1 Biblical Life
- 2 Soul as Non-Physical
- 3 Soul as Separate from "Spirit"
- 4 Compared to Afterlife
- 5 Tree of Life
- 6 Kingdoms of Life
- 7 Created Kinds of life
- 8 Processes
- 9 Philosophies
- 10 Origin of Life
- 11 References
The Scripture classifies life into three primary categories, delineated below in Hebrew. The secular community only recognizes the first of these three (chay), dismissing the other two.
Described as general biological life, in the verse "bring forth the living creatures that hath life" this word "chay" appears alongside "nephesh" (Genesis 1:20). The secular community has defined "life" as the equivalent of chay life and recognizes no other distinction of life. However, the chay life is so basic it relates only to plants. The cessation of chay processes, such as those experienced by plant life, is not what Scripture calls Death. For example, grass withers and flowers fade (Isaiah 40:7-8) such that separate terms are reserved for things that have basic chay life. The secular community defines "death" as any loss of life, including simple chay life. The Bible however, delineates between chay life and that which is imbued by God to living creatures. Biblical death does not apply to chay life.
Described as "living creatures" (Genesis 1:20), these are the organisms that began to appear on "Day Five through Day Six" of creation week. This of course includes mankind. This word is used to describe the "spirit" of life in an organism that directly exhibits the characteristics of life, namely that they move upon the earth. This word is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe souls of both animals and people, also used in superfifical terms, such as to bless someone's soul, or when Saul's soul was troubled.
The New Testament equivalent of this word is "psyche", translated as "soul". Some scholars suggest that the definition of nephesh and soul should be combined in every context where they appear together.
This is also generally described as a creature's "personality", which could be loosely identified as a mind, will and emotions, which are exhibited by many living creatures. It is not however, inclusive of a conscience or capacity to reason. For example, animals do not understand the passing of time, regard the past or future in conscious terms (what was the dog doing last Thursday afternoon?). Animals have an instinctive sense of seasons (e.g. harvest, spring, migration habits, etc) but these are not associated with time itself. God claims to have placed eternity in the human heart (Eccl 3:11) so that human understand their place in "a present age" of time. In addition, animals cannot communicate in abstract symbolic speech, produce art or engage in scientific study, etc.
When the non-physical term "flesh" is used in Scripture, it is generally referring to the soul, and separates the soul from the spirit. When a human feels the temptation of "flesh" it is always in reference to satisfying some element of the soul (mind, will or emotion) and is always in conflict with "reason". That is, a person may reasonably know exactly what to do, but will actually do otherwise. "Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak." - (Mark 14:38)
The nephesh life is associated with Biblical Death. Only a creature with nephesh can die, in Scriptural terms.
The Fall of Man introduced death into the world (1 Corinthians 15:21) and death is the last enemy that shall be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26) (Romans 6:9) (Revelation 21:4).
Described as "the breath of life" (Genesis 6:17) is a special designation for the "nephesh" animals that God would destroy in the Flood, but also those that he would preserve in the Ark. The "breath of life" is associated with blood. Only the land-dwelling animals with blood, requiring oxygen to survive, would be preserved in the Ark.
It is highly critical for the believer to understand the relationship between sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)(Romans 5:12). The Bible claims that Life preceded Sin, and Sin preceded Death. Jesus Christ would pay for the sin of mankind with his own life, through physical death (Hebrews 9:22). If Sin and Death are not connected (e.g. death was on the earth per evolutionary claims) then sin and death have no relationship and the Crucifixion has no meaning.
Some would argue that Adam did not die "physically" but only "spiritually". Does this mean that Jesus only "died spiritually"? Of course not. Clearly the penalty for sin is death and the payment for sin is blood (Hebrews 9:22). Yet God had already provided for Adam in the form of substitutionary death as payment for sin. How do we know this? Animal sacrifices were to foreshadow the Crucifixion. Jesus is called the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev 13:8). This clearly tells us that God had a substitutionary system already in place as part of the creation's core architecture. Adam did not die that day because God provided a substitutionary death in his place. He slew animals and "covered them with coats of skins" (Genesis 3:21). Beginning in Genesis 4, we witness Cain and Abel coming to God with ritual sacrifices, so clearly God had shown humanity how to perform this ritual in a manner that would please God. Abel's offering was acceptable (Heb 11:4) because it was a blood sacrifice, while Cain's did not include blood, and so could not pay for sin.
This was an act of mercy for Adam, but of prophetic fulfillment for God. If Jesus is truly slain from the foundation of the world, then God cannot slay Adam without dooming him to hell with no recourse. To slay Adam means that the Redeemer cannot come forth from humanity, so that Adam's sin will never be redeemed, and Adam will be forever separated from God's fellowship. This series of events speaks volumes to God's mercy and long-term provision for mankind.
Each believer should regard God's acts as both in-the-moment to address a real-time situation, and in God's eternal perspective and how the acts will ripple-forward in history to support immutable outcomes.
Described as the "living soul" (Genesis 2:7). God gave Adam a rational soul that is set apart from the animals. Mankind would have a conscience to make quantitative and qualitative decisions in ethics, logic and reason. Mankind would be aware of the passing of time, the concepts of hope and despair, grace, mercy, faith, justice, culture, the laws of logic and mathematics and the many other aspects of humanity that set mankind apart from animals. Moreover, the neshamah is an eternal life that transcends the nephesh death of the human body. The Scripture says that all humans who have experienced the death of the nephesh body will also experience resurrection (John 5:29), where one group is resurrected to eternal life and one resurrected to eternal damnation. This is one of the reasons secularists deny that any sort of special "life" is given to mankind. To recognize this would also require the acknowledgement of an accountability to God's judgment in the afterlife.
Soul as Non-Physical
The secular world has a very difficult time describing the non-physical aspects of life while only using physical terms. The most prolific writers and speakers have attempted to reduce the "soul" to the physical, that everything is the product of genetic material. Some have even attempted to describe "thought" and "idea" as being the results of "molecular collision" and do not recognize the soul as being separate from the physical body.
Per chemical law however, we can know that physics, chemistry and biochemistry follow rigourous, immutable laws and behaviors. Chemicals do not naturally nor regularly deviate from known chemical laws. The soul however, can deviate from known behaviors. We are all aware of cases where a person had known, reasonable options and yet deliberately deviated from those options. A police officer might choose to place himself in harm's way, jeopardizing his own survival for the sake of another. Likewise a soldier will get on a boat or aircraft and deliberately move into harm's way. Or perhaps a politician knows and keeps the election law, except in a particular case that makes it expedient or even advantageous to win an election. Note that winning-an-election is entirely outside the realm of the physical, as there are no "politics" genes or molecules that dictate election law. "Survival" therefore cannot include the aspects of getting elected, or getting a promotion, or winning a lottery, as the vast majority of humans survive just fine without such achievements, and humanity arrived here without them as well.
Chemical and physical laws provide no opportunity to deviate in such ways. How then can anyone claim that human (and animal) capacity to deviate from rules is entirely physical? The physical laws and chemical rules would not allow it.
Soul as Separate from "Spirit"
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." - Heb 4:12
From this simple context, we see that the soul and spirit are separate. Also that the soul and the flesh are at war with the spirit, otherwise the Word of God would not require separating them. God claims to desire to reason with mankind (Isa 1:18) especially in context of forgiving sins and cleansing unrighteousness. The spirit (pneuma) is the center of reason while the soul and flesh combine to distract and cloud the reasoning capacity, leaving the pneuma in darkness (spiritual darkness).
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom 10:17). God uses his word to generate faith in the believer, so we can see that God wants a reasoning faith, not a blind faith. It takes the quickening of God's word to clear the path in the human soul so that reasonable faith is generated, nurtured and eventually grows to strength.
"Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." Ecc 12:6-7
As the ruwach is the basic personality (soul) but not the reasoning capacity, this verse seems to suggest that the neshamah/pneuma (spirit) may continue into the afterlife without the soul. However, the writer is describing something more indirect than attempting to delimit soul from spirit. "The silver cord be loosed" is a description of how the non-physical soul is bound to the physical body. This "silver cord" is sometimes reported by people with near-death experiences, that they witness this silvery cord holding them to the physical plane. Such that when a person dies, the silver cord is loosed and the body is returned to dust.
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb 9:27)
The above verse dovetails with Ecclesiastes, in that when the body dies, the spirit/soul is in God's hands, who will judge and dispatch the soul to its appropriate place. Where else would the soul be delivered but back into God's hands for final dispatch? In the aforementioned passage in Luke, the beggar Lazarus dies and is "carried by angels" to his resting place. The Rich Man on the other hand, is simply "aware" of his new surroundings, but only after he is buried. When Lazarus the friend of Christ died, Christ had been notified of Lazarus' condition but Christ did not go (even though he was only half-a-day's walk away). Rather he waited for a specific period of time and said to his disciples:
"...Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep." (John 11:11)
To Christ, Lazarus was not irreversibly dead. May we presume that the "silver cord" had not yet been loosed? Even though Christ had raised him from the dead, Lazaraus would have eventually died "again". Does this mean that Lazarus "died twice" even though Scripture plainly says that humans only die once? (Heb 9:27). Since Lazarus eventually died later, we can only call this a "resuscitation" and not a "resurrection". Lazarus did not acquire the "resurrection body" exhibited by Christ. When Christ was told of a little girl who had died, he went to the house and was laughed at when he gave the following assessment:
"And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit (pneuma) came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat." (Luke 8:52-55)
In both these cases, the human subject was clearly beyond the ability of human medicine to recover life. But they were not beyond the ability of Christ to restore life by way of "clinical resuscitation" (neither Lazarus nor the girl exhibited the same power as the resurrected Christ). There seems to be a correlation between the time that Lazarus spent in the grave and the how long the "silver cord" will maintain the spirit's connection to the body.
"And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet." (2Ki 13:21)
In this time-frame, people buried dead bodies as quickly as possible, so we may presume that the subject had not been dead for many days, or rather had not breached the "expiration time" of the silver cord. What does this say of Christ in the tomb? Being in the heart of the earth three full days and three full nights certainly did not exceed the four days that Lazarus was in the grave before being resuscitated by Christ.
Compared to Afterlife
If "Sin" is resident in the genes, then "Sin" will stay in the genes when we die. Thus we are free from sin at the moment of death. The Bible says this is not the case, that the curse of sin follows a human into the afterlife.
In Luke 16:19 and following, Christ tells an account of Lazarus and the Rich Man, offering insight into the mind of someone in Hell. Clearly the Rich Man remembers his time on earth, his brothers, and he recalled Lazarus. His plea to Abraham is to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers, so clearly the Rich Man has a sense of past-and-future, so his Neshamah/Pneuma is still with him. His genes however, are rotting in a grave somewhere. That he is in torment, means that his sinful state followed him into the afterlife. That he has the capacity to feel, tells us that his nephesh/psyche is still intact as well. The soul and spirit have left the body, but sin has followed them.
The Scripture claims that at the time of the Crucifixion, Jesus descended into hell and preached to spirits(pneuma) (1 Peter 3:18-19). We may deduce that this was a simple evangelistic mission to those in Abraham's Bosom, who had awaited the Messiah since their various deaths prior to his Crucifixion. This also underscores and institutes the point made in 1 Cor 1:18-21, that God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to save mankind. Jesus preached to spirits(pneuma) so we know the pneuma is intact and functional in the afterlife, though it is separated from the physical body.
The conversion experienced by a new believer in Jesus Christ reconciles the believer back to God. When that person dies, their soul and spirit will be with God forever (2 Cor 5:8) and will be joined again as spirit, soul and body in the future resurrection of all believers (1 Cor 15:51-54).
Tree of Life
After Adam sinned, God cursed mankind and the creation, then expressed concern about humanity having access to the Tree of Life.
"And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever...So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." (Gen 3:22,24)
The Tree of Life appears in Revelation
"And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (Rev 22:1,2)
Clearly the Tree of Life has the power to extend human life indefinitely. When we examine the current conclusions of geneticists such as John Sanford and the implications of Genetic Entropy, we may reasonably conclude:
- Aging is directly related to the decay of genetic integrity at the individual level
- Genetic integrity is directly related to the integrity of the information stored in the genetic molecules
- The integrity of the genetic molecules is directly related to the integrity of the information they store (this is a circular condition that secular geneticists have not resolved)
- The Tree of Life restores the information content of the human genome, abating the aging effect and eliminating human mortality that normally results from genetic decay
Kingdoms of Life
- Main Article: Kingdoms of Life
There is difference on the continents regarding how many kingdoms of life there should be. The United States textbooks highlight six groups of life; Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, Archaea and Bacteria. The rest of the world, Europe and South America, support five kingdoms or groups of life; Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, and Prokaryota or Monera.
Created Kinds of life
- Main Article: Created kinds
Created kinds are organisms that are defined by creation biology as sharing a common ancestry. The phrase refers to the Genesis account of the creation week during which God created many kinds of plants and animals. They are also referred to as "original kinds," "Genesis kinds," and more formally by creation scientists as baramin. The term barmin was coined in 1941 by Frank Marsh from the Hebrew words bara (create) and min (kind). The study of baramin (known as Baraminology) is a rapidly growing field of creation science involved with the identification of the created kinds.
There is no universally accepted biological definition of life, but it is generally defined in terms of the following biological processes.
- Organization -- living organisms exhibit an incredible degree of organization and complexity, even in its simplest single-cellular forms.
- Metabolism - Life has the ability to supply itself with energy by converting nonliving material into cellular components (synthesis) and decomposing organic matter (catalysis). Life also has the ability to use this energy to supply its needs and the needs of others, such as children.
- Growth - Many forms of life have the ability to grow in size. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter.
- Adaptation - Adaptation is the accommodation of a living organism to its environment. Individuals have the ability to adapt to their environment during their lifetime (as in the case of increased muscle strength or acquiring skills), and species have the ability to adapt to their environment through heredity, variation, and natural selection.
- Response to stimuli - Life can respond to stimuli in the environment, through sensing the environment, determining appropriate reaction to the environment, and taking such action. Examples include feeding, movement, and communication.
- Reproduction - Life has the ability to reproduce, either sexually or asexually.
The above characteristics are not a comprehensive definition of all life. For instance, viruses are often considered "replicators," rather than "life," because they cannot live without a living host, yet they perform all of the above functions. Similarly, a sterile mule, while alive, cannot reproduce.
- Teleology is the belief that the organization, complexity, and beauty of life were designed for a purpose, and irreducible complexity and specified complexity are two of the most striking forms of organization in life;
- Naturalism is the belief that the organization and complexity of life arose as a necessary consequence of natural law, and therefore bear no innate purpose or design;
- Vitalism is the belief that life is "more than the sum of its parts," or not completely explicable or bound by scientific law, including something non-physical such as a spirit or a soul;
- Mechanism is the belief that life is nothing more than the sum of its parts, without spirit, soul, or anything beyond the physical.
Origin of Life
The origin of life from non-life or what has been termed abiogenesis by evolutionary scientists has never been observed in any condition from any aspect of the natural world. Because strict naturalists are committed to rejecting any and all explanations for the origin of life which involve a supernatural force such as creationism or the more obscure Intelligent Designer.
Naturalists have a number of speculative explanations for an origin of life by purely naturalistic means that goes into a bit more detail. The most widespread today are:
Evolutionary biologists appeal to a rescue device in the form of a first replicating organism or an imperfect replicator. This organism is the starting-point of evolution. When cornered on the description of this organism, naturalists will be elusive. They want to maintain the freedom to describe this organism in any manner they choose. As such, the "imperfect replicator" is just a thought-experiment. It does not exist in reality, has never been observed, but it's origin and original presence are accepted on faith as being the foundation for evolutionary processes. This is the very definition of a Rescue Device. It is a contrived thought experiment to define something that does exactly what they need for it to do, in order to help them make sense of their present observations of complex genetics. In another discipline, the promotion of "dark matter" is another form of rescue device in cosmology, that this unknown matter with unknown properties is plugged-in to provide nearly magical answers.
Thus when questioned about abiogenesis, evolutionary biologist will appeal to this imperfect-replicator thought experiment and say that they know nothing about what came before it, and that what came before it is irrelevant to their evolutionary musings. They simply accept-on-faith that an imperfect replicator existed, and do not feel further investigation is necessary or warranted. Or as Dawkins often publicly disclaims, "We're working on that."
On the other hand, thought leaders like Richard Dawkins have openly said that an "intriguing theory" is the origin of life elsewhere in the universe that arrived (or was brought) to Earth. This is another rescue device that presumes the laws of physics and chemistry, while utterly precluding the ability of life to form on Earth, must have allowed life to form elsewhere, using different physical and chemical laws. In short, the extra-terrestrial physical and chemical laws are different than they are on Earth.
In the movie "Expelled: Intelligence Not Allowed", Dawkins offers this explanation:
"It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved by, probably by some Darwinian means, to a very, very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this plane. That is a possibility and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose its possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of our chemistry and molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer - and that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe, but that higher intelligence would have had to come about by some explicable or ultimately Darwinian process. It couldn't have just jumped into existence spontaneously."
Creationists believe that life originated by deliberate, intelligent design. Genesis records that Elohim spoke all life on Earth into existence. Genesis implies that creation was done through the spoken word of God. As far as humanity there is more detail in the cases of Adam and Eve.
Adam was, "created from the dust of the ground, and Jehovah Elohim breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." Many believe this, "breath of life," was indeed not only life itself but a soul as humanity was created in the image of God, which is a spirit. Eve was then created from man, from his rib which Jehovah Elohim removed from Adam after putting him into a deep sleep. These life forms were created separately, and endowed with the ability to reproduce and adapt to their environment both as individuals through the course of their lives, and as a created kind, through heredity, variation, and adaptation.
- Life by Answers.com