I was talking to some Jehovah’s Witnesses today at the university market day, where they have a stand. I have met this particular lady before, and I first went over to say hi. I told her that although I don’t agree with their theology, I applauded them giving out books that refute evolution.
However, she started talking about the immortality of the soul, and how that is a false doctrine carried over from paganism. I told her that I’d read Fr. Seraphim’s book The Soul After Death, which tells about what happens to us when we die. I explained how when you die, your soul leaves your body, and I quoted several of the experiences that Fr. Seraphim talks about, plus one that isn’t in the book. The one that is the most convincing is that of a blind woman who could see when she left her body, and accurately described what was in the room. They still didn’t believe me. They claim that your soul is you – man is a soul. They use Genesis 2:7 as proof: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” They also quote Numbers 31:28 to show that animals are souls.
The lady showed me Ezekiel 18:4 “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Does this mean that the soul will die in a spiritual sense, i.e., being cut off from God? What is the Orthodox interpretation of this?
Then she quoted Ecclesiastes 9:5 “For the living will know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and there is no longer any reward to them; for their memory is lost”. I don’t know enough about the Orthodox teaching on the state of anticipation to refute this. Do the dead in Hades know anything? Do they have full memory of their past lives?
Lastly, this lady talked about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. She quoted John 11:11 “Lazarus our friend sleepeth”. I looked up this passage in the original Greek, and it reads “Λάζαρος ὁ φίλος ἡμῶν κεκοίμηται”. While I am taking an ancient Greek class at university, I couldn’t determine what form of the verb “kekímite” was, so I couldn’t look it up in the dictionary. Does anyone here know enough Greek to recognize the verb and point me to the dictionary form? I presume (although this is just a guess) that the same word means “rest” as well as sleep. Rest has no connotations of not being conscious.
They also told me that “True Christians” would not fight in the army. They told me that in the early days of Christianity, soldiers who converted had to leave the army and find a new job, and that history attests this. I thought that there were some saints who were soldiers. Can anyone back me up on this?
Thanks for any help you might be able to give. What they’ve said has worried me a bit.
In Christ, Michael.