October 2017 Bible Questions & Answers

Topics:  the souls of animals, the Christian and self-defense, the definition of adultery, “visiting the sins of the fathers unto the third and fourth generation”

Do animals have souls?

Solomon said that both man and beasts experience life and death (Eccl. 3:19).  In that way they are the same.

Yet when one looks at the totality of what the Bible teaches about the soul and its immortal nature, only human beings are mentioned as having immortal souls (cf. Acts 2:27).  There is no mention of animals having immortal souls that would go on into the afterlife after their deaths.

We therefore do not know with certainty either way whether God gave animals immortal souls.  This also would apply to answering a similar question concerning whether animals will be in heaven.  The Bible simply does not say.

Regardless of whether animals will be in heaven, we can be confident that their presence or absence will not in any way have an impact upon the eternal joy and peace awaiting us there.

In light of the shooting at the church of Christ in Tennessee last Sunday, I have a question.  Do Christians have the scriptural right to use violence to defend themselves from those who would wish them harm?

To me, the question essentially boils down to this:  Would I be sinning if I, solely out of self-defense of myself and my loved ones rather than out of hate, harmed or took the life of someone who was seeking to do the same to me?

The Scriptures do not seem to condemn such an action for several reasons.

Both Testaments command, “Do not kill” (Ex. 20:13; Rom. 13:9; Jas. 2:11).  Yet, a closer examination of both the meaning of the word and the overall context of the Bible would show that “Do not kill” actually means “Do not murder,” i.e., do not take a life outside of the parameters God set in place for doing so.  What parameters would those be?

The same God who told Israel to not kill (Ex. 20:13) also told them to take the lives of others both in capital punishment (cf. Ex. 21:23) and in war (1 Sam. 15:3).  Interestingly, God also said that there would be no “bloodguilt” upon the man who kills a thief who broke into his home in the dead of night, a clear case of self-defense (Ex. 22:2).  Human beings who are governing authorities such as police officers and soldiers are said to not use the sword in vain as they punish the evildoer (Rom. 13:4).

Out of self-defense, Paul called upon soldiers to potentially be ready to take the lives of those who were seeking to take his (Acts 23:12-31).  Paul would not place a stumbling block in the paths of others by calling upon them to do something which is inherently sinful (Rom. 2:17-24; 1 Cor. 9:27).   Thus, violence done not out of malice but out of a desire to defend one’s life is not inherently sinful.

In like manner, Jesus called upon his disciples on one occasion to arm themselves with swords (Luke 22:35-38).  Like Paul, Jesus would never put a stumbling block in His disciples’ paths by asking or giving them the potential to sin.  Swords are used to harm people.  Certainly He would not ask them to use these instruments of violence to harm people out of hate or greed.  For what other purpose then could they be used?  Self-defense.  Thus, violence done out of self-defense rather than out of malice and hate does not seem to be condemned as sinful in the Bible.

Am I committing adultery if I break ANY marriage vow to my spouse, or is adultery only talking about cheating sexually on my spouse?

The word “adultery” in the New Testament comes from a Greek word which literally means, “to have unlawful intercourse with another’s wife, to commit adultery with” (Thayer).

Throughout the Bible, the term adultery is used only as a sexual term (cf. Lev. 20:10-11; Jer. 29:23; John 8:1-4; Heb. 13:4).

Thus, while adultery would be the breaking of one’s marriage vows in a sexual sense by being physically intimate with someone other than your spouse, it would not be correctly defined as the breaking of any and all marriage vows.

What does “visiting the sins of the fathers unto the third and fourth generations” mean?

The most well-known passage in which this phrase is found is Exodus 20:4-5:  “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”

This is talking about the potential long-term effects and consequences of sin upon others.  If one generation falls into a sinful way of life, oftentimes the following two or three generations will follow suit due to being influenced by the preceding generations.  The Old Testament showed this to be the case with Israel’s idolatry.

If parents live in an unrepentant sinful way, they will likely influence their children to live the same way, who in turn will likely influence their children in the same way, and so on.  This is why it is so important to both teach and exemplify a godly, penitent life to those around you, especially to your children and grandchildren.