Teaching the Truth of Conditional Immortality
As people who believe in Conditional Immortality, how do we go about teaching this truth to Hindus?
We do not need to start by teaching against reincarnation. A Hindu who comes to Christ in faith for salvation naturally realises that the whole Christian teaching is different to Hindu teaching. There are no longer 300 million gods. Christians do not say, ” There is only one god, but he has many names”; nor do they say, ” All gods are one”. The peculiarity of Christianity is the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.
It is no longer salvation by works, but salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. So the Hindu convert is simply taught afresh all Christian doctrine.
This being so, the teaching from the beginning in Advent Christian Churches is that immortal life is a gift of God through Jesus Christ.
The Hindu believes in a kind of natural immortality, hence a soul which can be reborn millions of times. But the Bible teaches, as Dr. David A. Dean points out in his book, “Resurrection- His and Ours”, that conditions must be met before the sinner can receive everlasting personal existence. These conditions are two: God must give it and man must receive it. But God will not grant immortality to everyone, only to those who during their life repent and believe in Jesus Christ. No-one will receive immortality who does not believe.
In India, when Christians come from other denominations teaching our doctrines will be a different matter from teaching to Hindus. For example in the School of Evangelism, Marion Damon did not start out with a series of lessons in theology. But as she started teaching from Genesis, she came to Genesis 2:7 ( translating from the Tamil) ” The Lord God made man from the dust of the earth and blew the breath of life into his nostrils, and man became a living soul”. She had only to point out the significance of these words to the students when they themselves exclaimed, “Then we don’t have immortal souls!” Man was not given an immortal soul, but became a living soul himself. Then, of course, in Gen 3 we see the sinning man and woman driven from Eden, lest they eat of the tree of life and live forever (Gen 3:22).
In India, Marion Damon wrote a Tamil book, “After Death, What?“, based on Dr. Dean’s book ( mentioned above), which we used to teach students in both the School of Evangelism and the Lay-Workers’ classes. It was this book, also, that I gave to a man who had finished his theological training in another college, and wanted to join us. After reading it, his puzzled comment was, “Why, then. do Christians teach people go to heaven or hell when they die?” It seemed so clear to him that it was not what the Bible taught. AS Marion’s book pointed out, this belief came not from the Bible, but from Platonic or Greek teaching that men possess immortal souls.
So whether people came from Hindu background or from other Christian denominations, if they wanted to learned what it was we taught, we referred them through our teaching and also through the above book, to Biblical doctrine.
Continued in Part 3