WHAT IS LIFE?
Toward Understanding the Metaphysical Reality of the Human Spirit
One of the pillars of the theory of evolution, with time plus chance undergirding it, is that life came from non-life. This fundamental tenet of evolution (along with all the others at the macro level) is not science, it is philosophical speculation. For something to qualify as “science” it has to be (1) demonstrable (2) observable and (3) repeatable. Life from non-life is none of these, therefore it isn’t science, and it should be relegated to the philosophy or religion department. By the way, I’m not claiming that creation in six days is science either. I believe it. But I believe it “by faith” (Heb. 11:3), and not because it’s scientifically demonstrable, observable, and repeatable.
Even more fundamental and frustrating to scientists is the issue of life itself. What is life? Conscientious scientists and physicians will admit, “We don’t know.” Isn’t that astounding! It’s beyond them.
How do physicians determine whether or not an elderly person under their care is still “alive”? The criteria are a beating heart and brain wave activity. Incidentally, each of these can be detected in a fetus 40 days after conception. But a beating heart and brain waves do not comprise life, they are merely the signs of the presence of life. Consider the question from this angle, “If all the particles or elements of the human body were appropriately organized, what else would be needed to impart life?” Again, we haven’t a clue—scientifically.
However, biblically, we have an answer; even if it will fail to satisfy the scientific community. Life is God’s breath in us. Genesis 2:7: “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath (or spirit) of life, and the man became a living creature” (literally soul). Human life is derivative. We derive our existence from God. Additionally, our lives are contingent. Paul told the men of Athens, “In him (i.e. God) we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), so that our lives are inextricably tied to God’s. If God should at any time cease to exist so would we.
Taking a step back, one might ask, “Where did God’s life come from?” The answer is, From Himself. God’s existence is a self-existence. John wrote of the Word, “In him was life” (Jn. 1:4). Jesus said of Himself that He is life (Jn. 14:6). On another occasion Jesus stated, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (Jn. 5:26). God has life in Himself, but all other life is derived from and contingent upon His life—even if I can’t verify all this in a laboratory.
Scientists are incapable of giving a precise, physical definition to life, because it’s a metaphysical reality—literally “beyond the physical or material.” For even if I granted the evolutionary presupposition that matter is eternal (which I reject), this still doesn’t explain where life came from, or how life “evolved” from no life.
In talking about the connection between faith and works, James uses an analogy: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (Jam. 2:26). Because we think in naturalistic categories, we tend to think of the spirit being added to the body, but we should reverse these two. As C.S. Lewis said, “You don’t have a soul (or we could say spirit). You are a soul. You have a body.”
The spirit which God imparts and removes as easily as He gave it is what constitutes life. King Belshazzar should have trembled, when Daniel said, “the God who holds your breath (or spirit) in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified” (Dan. 5:23; NKJV). Our lives are in God’s hands, and when the time of our departure comes our spirits go to God. This is why Jesus’ final words from the cross were, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Lk. 23:46). Our life comes from God and it then returns to God.
There’s another dimension to our spirits that I want to look at, namely are they alive or dead spiritually? To state it another way, Are our spirits spiritual? Or, Are our spirits alive? To look at it from yet another vantage point, There is life, and there is life. I’m not trying to play word games; I have in mind Jesus’ exhortation to be born again (Jn. 3:3, 5). He said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (vs. 6). The implication is clear: Until the Holy Spirit breathes life into our spirits they don’t experience spiritual life, so they hardly qualify as spirits. Prior to regeneration we’re all spiritual zombies (Eph. 2:1-5). So we can be alive physically, but dead spiritually in our trespasses. When one is born again, he transitions from one level of life to another. This is why Christians will speak of knowing Jesus Christ, and say that they had never experienced real life before. The truth is…they didn’t, since He is life.
Pastor Wayne Christensen, www.foxlakechurch.org, Dec. 27, 2015