Please allow me to offer some comments that can help you word your letter.
1. Thank him for asking you the questions. Tell him you feel that since he came to you for an answer, that you appreciate his confidence in you to give a bible answer to his question. Tell him that no question should be ignored that is asked in sincerity.
2. I would take him to the beginning. Jesus had no problem taking people who asked questions back to the beginning. Gen 1 describes the creation. v.20 gives us the water creatures and the birds. v.24 gives us mammal life and insects, reptiles and amphibians. You might ask him if the birds, fish, reptiles,amphibians, mammals, insects, are all equal? ( It just occured to me that the Hindu's respect all life because of their belief in re-incarnation. You might want to investigate that viewpoint). v.26 now introduces man but with a different introduction. This time there was an additional statement. Instead of God created we find that God said "Let us make man in our image". Surely there has to be some reason for the scriptures to make this distinction. Continuing in v.26 we find that man is to rule over the fish, birds, cattle, insects (in other words, all other living creatures). v.27 surely makes a discinction or separation of man from all other life. (Since, plants live, do they also have souls?) v.28 once again states that man is to have dominion over the earth to rule all other creatures. v.29-30 gives us the statement of God that God gave all life to man for man's use. Other passages of scripture teach us that these things are blessings from God, and we should be thankful for them. In chapter 2 of Genesis v.19, we find that all life is brought before man to be named. (Man is the only creature given a name by God). Man named every creature and he even named "woman". Of every creature, there was not a suitable helper. (We would have to assume that man was the only creature created that did not have a mate). v.20 says that there were no living creatures suitable for co-habitation with the man.
3. The quotation of Eccl 3:19-21 is taken from a context beginning with v.16. I would offer the suggestion that you quote from several different versions. NASB is very clear to me, there are some newer versions that use contemporary language, but do not violate Scripture. CEV and the New Living Translation. In v.19. NASB says of man and beast "As one dies, so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. If you take a man and put him under water he will drown. If you take any other breathing creature and put them under water (some you will have to keep there a very long time), they will drown. From amphibians, insects, reptiles, mammals you have all that process air for sustenance of life. You would need to see a biology teacher to see that every one of these creatures have lungs of some type. Even the fish have lungs, though they are constructed differently. v.20 means that every creature (man and beast) will eventually die. None can escape this fact. In speaking of the judgement, Hebrews 9:27 says that "it is appointed for man to die once and after this comes judgement". Why if equal, would not the animals be judged. v.21 could be confusing. Is the breath of man lighter than that of the beast? This could mean that the animals look to the earth as the source of life, and man looks to heaven as the source of life ( don't know for sure, but it sounds good at this time). If you want to use spirit for breath in this book, direct them to Eccl 12:7 concerning what happens to all life. "then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. All creatures have a body and a spirit, But man is the only creature that has a soul (accountable to God).
4. Ezekiel 18:4 "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die" The whole of this chapter talks about the man's judgement based upon his actions. You cannot find animals here, neither can you find women. (are they a lower class creature? No! Women fall under the generic name for mankind, so man and woman carry the same stature of being human). v.9 gives us the formula for righteousness. "if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully---he is righteous and will surely live," Can a beast do these things? If a creature cannot walk in God's laws, they are condemned to hell (providing they have a soul). Do animals have the capability to sin? I know that some of them kill. Are they murderers subject to judgement? I have seen dogs publicly commit fornication, or does God consider animal instincts a sin? I know from 2 Peter and Jude that the men who live and act like animals are condemned. Man is a higher creature and should not act like an unreasoning animal. An animal cannot reason right from wrong according to scripture. You might train an animal certain acts of behavior will result in some form of punishment, but you have not taught them sin; you have trained their behavior. It is different for man.
There are other passages of scripture that can be used. Ask your young man to study the bible and find scripture that supports his belief, If he finds it, ask him to let you know. If he does not find it in scripture, ask him about the futility of believing something unscriptural.
By Carey Scott 6-23-1998
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