Friday, July 21, 2017

Soul Sleep: An Unbiblical Doctrine [Pt. 5]

[Continued from Pts. 1, 2, 3, & 4.]

by Hiram R. Diaz III

§ 2. Literal Sleep [Continued]

D. Lack of EDC in Parabolic Representations of Literal Sleep

i. The Parable of the Seed Growing

Literal sleep, we should note, also appears in parables. For instance, in the Parable of the Seed Growing, Christ references literal sleep as daily activity in the life of man. Mark 4:26-29 reads:
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
Though not explicitly spelled out in the parable, literal sleep as a lack of EDC is implied by the sower’s uninterrupted patterns of sleeping and rising night and day. The sower does not anxiously lose sleep over the progress of the seed. As Peter Rhea Jones notes:
The parable of the earth bearing fruit on its own contains a dramatic tension then between the sleeping man and the sprouting seed. The parable teaches that the kingdom has a power of its own, that it is God-given. No one need worry. It is a stiff rebuke to feverish trust in human hustle.[1]
In dealing with the Corinthian factions, the apostle Paul similarly notes that he
…planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.[2]
Paul, like the sower in the Parable of the Seed Growing, has only the power and calling to preach the Word of God. There is nothing Paul can do to cause growth in believers — only God can do that. The apostle’s analogy is not identical to what we find in the Lord’s Parable of the Seed Growing, but it does seem to follow the parable closely. Evidence of this close relationship, in fact, can be seen in the next chapter where Paul writes:
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.[3]
Paul the sower expresses not laziness in examining his faithfulness to Christ as a minister of the Word, but trust in God to cause the seed of the Word preached to grow to full fruition, i.e. the end of the age. In the parable, there is an implied distinction between the sleepless toil mentioned above and the normal sleeping-rising schedule of the preacher, like Paul, who trusts God’s Word to accomplish that for which God has sent it.[4]

ii. The Parable of the Weeds

The Lord Jesus’ Parable of the Weeds in Matthew 13:24-29, unlike the Parable of the Seed Growing, places emphasis on the sleeper’s lack of externally directed consciousness. There the Son of God declares:
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.[5]
The enemy is being depicted as stealthily sowing weeds while the servants of the master of the house are sleeping. This explains their surprise later, when they exclaim:
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’[6]
While these servants slept, they lacked EDC and, therefore, were unaware of the weeds wound up in their master’s field.

iii. The Parables of the Master of the House, the Wicked Servant, 
& the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins

In this parable, the Lord Jesus uses sleep as a means of communicating the lack of awareness exhibited by truly regenerate believers as well as unbelievers. Some have understood the imagery of “falling asleep” in the parable to signify dying,[7] however, there is no evidence from the parable itself to support such an interpretation. Immediately prior to giving this parable, Christ notes that although “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only,”[8] it is nevertheless the case that “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”[9] And so he differentiates between two classes of living persons at the time of his return in vv.40-41, viz. (i.)those who are taken and (ii.)those who are left, commanding his listeners to “stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”[10]

He then gives a mini-parable which emphasizes the need for men to remain vigilant until he returns, stating —
But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.[11]
He ends by asking his listeners:
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?”[12]
The distinction between the wise and the foolish, following the earlier differentiation between those who are taken and those who are left, is carried over into the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. The command here for his listeners to “stay awake” is a call to remain diligent as a Christian and not grow slothful. This is made clear in the next mini-parable of the wicked servant in vv. 45-51.

Following this, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins includes sleep as part of the daily activities of the virgins, akin to the sleep reference in the parable of the seed growing. The Lord God has already stated that his return will occur when people, like the people of Noah’s day, are “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.”[13] These quotidian tasks are given a fuller/more concrete expression in the parables we have already discussed, but prior to this the Lord Jesus states that when he returns there will be men in the field who are prepared for his return, as well as those who are not, and similarly notes that there will be women who are grinding at the mill who are ready for his return, and those who are not.[14] Sleep, then, is not a euphemism for death in this parable but a very tangible picture of a quotidian activity which will be interrupted by the return of Christ. The virgins, nevertheless, are portrayed as lacking EDC during their slumber.

E. Concluding Remarks on Literal Sleep

As the above examples demonstrate, sleep entails the presence of internally directed consciousness (IDC) and the lack of externally directed consciousness (EDC). Thus, any literal understanding of sleep necessarily implies not that the sleeper is absolutely unconscious, but only partially so. Specifically, literal sleep shows us that the sleeper is unaware of what is occurring outside of his own internally directed consciousness. Some have criticized this distinction of EDC and IDC as it pertains to the death-as-sleep euphemism, claiming that it finds its origin in uninspired and religiously compromised intertestamental writers.[15] However, the Scriptures are clear in their depiction of sleep as a state in which men lack EDC but possess IDC. Consequently, others who believe that the distinction between EDC and IDC, as it pertains to the death-as-sleep euphemism, is made upon the basis of, and solely in apologetical defense of, a form of anthropological substance dualism are mistaken, as the work of J. G. S. S. Thomson[16] and other anthropological monists demonstrates.[17] Moreover, the lack of EDC in parabolic representations of literal sleep only serves to solidify the testimony of the Scriptures as regards man’s state toward the external world during sleep, leading us to conclude that sleep is not ever portrayed as a state of absolute unconsciousness.

[Part 6]

[1] “The Seed Parables of Mark,” in Review and Expositor, Vol 75, Issue 4 (1978), 526.
[2] 1st Cor 3:6-7.
[3] 1st Cor 4:1-5.
[4] cf. Isa 55:9-11.
[5] vv.24-25.
[6] v.27.
[7] See, for example, Cunnington, Ralph. “A Re-Examination of the Intermediate State of Unbelievers,” in Evangelical Quarterly 82.3 (2010), 215–237.
[8] Matt 24:36.
[9] Matt 24:44.
[10] Matt 24:42.
[11] Matt 24:43-44.
[12] Matt 24:45.
[13] Matt 24:37. (emphasis added)
[14] Matt 24:40-41.
[15] See Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection, 147.
[16] Thomson explicitly denies that anthropological substance dualism is a biblical teaching, claiming that the anthropology taught in the Scriptures is thoroughly monistic. He writes:
The view that in sleep the mind liberates itself from the fetters of the body and thus transcends the activity of the waking consciousness which is confined to the limitations of time and space is nowhere found in the Old Testament, and this is because of the unitary view of personality. Waking or sleeping, living on earth or existing in sheol, the personality is an entity, unified and indivisible, hence the Old Testament sanity regarding sleep and dream phenomena.
(Sleep: An Aspect of Jewish Anthropology, 432.)
[17] To cite one example, Greg Bahnsen was an anthropological monist who affirmed that men were conscious in the intermediate state. He seems to believe that the dead receive a transient body for the intermediate state. In “The Mind/Body Problem In Biblical Perspective,” he writes:
In the intermediate and mysterious-to-us state God will make some provision for the person who has had his personal body put in the ground by supplying a heavenly tabernacle (replacing the earthly tent). [...]

Paul yet stresses the fact that man will not be a mental substance in the intermediate state but will have something corresponding to his earthly tabernacle, and Jesus indicates that the intermediate state but will have something corresponding to his earthly tabernacle, and Jesus indicates that the intermediate state will know bodily misery such as burning thirst (Lk. 16:24). [...]

Man is a personal body created in God's image. [...] We may not know all the answers with respect to the intermediate state, but we do know what our final hope is, what our true constitution is, and how to ring some of the logical changes on the fact of the intermediate state (e.g. one does not despair in death before Christ's return, etc. etc.).
[PA 143, Covenant Media Foundation,, Accessed June 27, 2017.]