Family Notes 27/07/2016



Ron Highfield — Sometimes the soul needs to listen to the body. Nine days ago I underwent surgery for an inguinal hernia and . . . I’ve been exhausted the whole nine days. What surprised me is how much my physical trauma manifested itself in my psychological moods and thoughts. I kept thinking I would use the physical recovery time to read and . . . write a little But instead I felt two disturbing moods come over me.

I felt no energy for work and . . . [I felt] a burden of guilt for not accomplishing anything really worthwhile. My book project languishes, and I don’t feel like writing an essay for my blog. But as I am pulling out of my funk, I’ve started thinking about the ethical and theological implications of these experiences.

God created us body and soul, physical and mental. And sometimes we downplay the intimate unity of body and soul. From an ethical point of view the soul/mind is supposed to rule the body. The body sends demands to the soul/mind, and the mind is supposed to judge the merit of those requests, measure them against other demands and the moral law.

The body does good work for us, but it needs the eyes of the mind to enlighten its myopic vision of the good. But . . . sometimes the body is smarter than the mind. The mind can be driven by wishes and theories to ignore the facts. The body stays stubbornly in the realm of fact.

I find it very interesting that the body can communicate with the soul/mind in a way that the mind can translate into thought and proposed action. In my case, my body was not urging me toward immoral actions so that my mind/soul had to be on its guard to redirect its urgings. My body was telling me to rest and let it heal. It communicated that message in clumsy ways as the body always does. It simply communicated a feeling of sleepiness, tiredness, pain, disinterestedness, and lack of creative energy.

My mind at first was confused at this. “No, we have work to do! Books to read! Essays to write!” I was treating my body’s messages as if they were telling me to do something immoral, to be lazy, to shirk my duties. It took my mind nine days to accept the truth that my body knew from the start. After a physical trauma, my work, my duty, is to give my body time and leisure to regain its strength. I just have to believe that it will happen and I will know the joy of productive work again. Sometimes the soul needs to listen to the body! (Dr. Highfield is a long-time gracEmail subscriber and Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.)



Moses Lard (1818-1880) was an influential 19th-century leader within the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, which is my own faith heritage. In 1879, the year before his death, Lard published a 50-page book titled “Do the Holy Scriptures Teach the Endlessness of Future Punishment?” in which he wrote these words:

Belief in endless future punishment is destined to wane. With it, moreover, is doomed the present tyrannous orthodox sentiment which denies to dissent freedom of speech. Men dare not now utter aloud their conviction on the subject. But the day is at hand when they will be free. Manly independence will, at last, assert itself; and intolerance will grow gentle. Mark the course of coming events, and remember this foretelling.

Exactly one hundred years later, in 1979, with no knowledge of Lard’s “foretelling,” I was hired by Australian Robert Brinsmead to thoroughly research the origin and evolution of the doctrine of final punishment through the Bible, intertestamental literature, and church history. The research project resulted in my writing The Fire That Consumes, first published in 1982.

Now, as Moses Lard exhorted, we “mark the course of coming events,” and “remember this foretelling.” Included among the “course of coming events” are the following:

— The first edition of The Fire That Consumes carried a foreword by F. F. Bruce and was an alternate selection of the Evangelical Book Club.

— The year 2011 saw the publication of the revised and enlarged third edition by Cascade Books, a division of Wipf and Stock, with foreword by Richard Bauckham of Cambridge University.

— It has since been featured in The New York Times and National Geographic.

— The “people-story” behind the book inspired the movie Hell and Mr. Fudge, now available on DVD and on television pay-per-view.

— Dr. Jimmy Allen, long-time teacher at Harding College and University, once famous for his “fire and brimstone” crusades on hell, discovered and read Lard’s book, changed his mind about unending conscious torment, and stated in his autobiography that he regretted ever having preached the sermon, although he acknowledged that it had scared many children. He also made a point of saying that my book did not influence his decision. God be praised nonetheless, who uses whomsoever he pleases.



Our Father in heaven: as in heaven your name is hallowed, your kingdom acknowledged, and your desires fulfilled, so may it be upon the earth.

In mercy exercise your power over all earthly rulers–prime ministers, princes, potentates and presidents–so that your people in all the world can live honest and godly lives in quietness and peace.

Be present always in those who go out for the sake of the Name. Open doors for the good news that they carry, open mouths of the messengers, open hearts of those who hear.

Show kindness to all who suffer, especially for righeousness’ sake, and bring them safely through this fallen world. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. come quickly.

You are sovereign, Lord,and you are in control. All praise belongs to you. These things we pray in the name of Jesus, our Savior, Lord, and great high priest. Amen.