Question: I have a question concerning senility in older believers, or amnesia in any other age. I suppose the root of this question pertains to the nature of the soul, but what is the state of a believer who begins to lose his or her mind because of his or her age, that is when memories begin to fade and recollections do not exist anymore? Along the same lines, what would be the state of a person who professed true faith but, due to some accident, has lost that memory and, in essence, has become another person?
Answer: There are three ways to answer this question.
(1) I am assuming that by “state of a believer” and “state of a person who professed true faith” that you are ultimately asking whether this would affect the person’s salvation. Could a person’s personality be so changed that they might deny the truth of the gospel and of their relationship with God? It is possible, I suppose, that they could so change, but it is not possible that this would cause them to lose a salvation they already possessed. Jesus says of his sheep, believers, in John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” The phrase “no one” seems to mean no one, including the believer. I’ll refer you to several articles on this blog about the impossibility of losing one’s salvation (backsliding, fall from grace, suicide, breaking promise not to sin).
(2) It is very possible, given the nature of human beings as both spirit and body, that the body can affect the spirit and the spirit can affect the body. If someone was paralyzed we would not expect them to kneel in prayer, stand in worship, or walk door to door in evangelism. They’re not accountable for those things given their physical limitations. Why would we expect someone to exhibit strong mental and spiritual capacity if their brain is injured or diseased? If we can’t do something, we are not responsible for doing it. This is why in God’s new covenant message Jeremiah quotes the proverb, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge,’ but then reverses it. The children cannot be responsible for their parents’ actions.
(3) There will be many situations in our lives when we will be called upon to love those who cannot seem to give anything back. This might be especially true of those who suffer Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. Like the man who was paralyzed we may need to carry them to Jesus because they cannot get to him themselves. The state of their soul is that they are still precious in the eyes of the Lord. Unconditional love cannot be more effectively demonstrated than when someone cannot give us anything back. As Jesus taught, “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:13, 14)