In the last post I introduced the basic positions on the mind-body debate. Here are three good articles on the issue that I’d also recommend reading:
- The Dialogue Between Neuroscience and Theology, by Dr. Alan J. Gijspers (physician)
- Scientific Perspectives on Christian Anthropology, by Dr. Nancey Murphy (Dr. Murphy teaches at Fuller Seminary and is perhaps the leading evangelical proponent of the non-reductive physicalism view; she is one of the guest speakers at the upcoming regional ETS meeting (Pacific Northwest) that I’ve organized)
- Neuroscience, Theology, and Unintended Consequences, by Dr. David Siemens (philosopher; this article is a critique of non-reductive physicalism with a particular concern with the doctrine of the incarnation)
Again, the point is that we’ve now been through all the biblical data — so which of these scientific/philosophical view(s) is/are possibly reconcilable with that data, and which seems most coherent in that regard?
In arguing that there is a conflict depending on which view you take (immortality of the soul vs. bodily resurrection only) Dr. Nancy Murphy makes the statement that the predicament arises that:
“If souls are saved out of this world, then nothing here matters ultimately. If
instead it is our bodily selves that are saved and transformed, then
bodies and all that go with them matterfamilies, history, and all of nature.”
Although I’m sure some Christians have taken the view that “soul” is greater than “matter” as an excuse to ignore the goings-on of society and the world in general, it is fool-hardy to assume that there can’t be a third option: that we can give attention to the spiritual aspect of man while still caring for the physical. And this is no breaking news, as in my experience this is how most Christians I know attempt to live…and that at the urging of Jesus Christ himself. I believe Jesus put the priority of the Spiritual first then the physical in many of his sermons and actions which leads me to believe it is the Father’s message to us that we aren’t just physical. Certain spiritual duties would make no sense otherwise (fasting, prayer, etc). If all is physical what room is there for faith in the unseen God and His Kingdom? I’d be, ike Paul says, of all men most pitiable. A bodily resurrection without a spiritual link wouldn’t even make sense. Physical components that rot don’t re-asssemble themselves into better versions of their former selves that can never again rot; that requires outside manipulation by an agency so great it cannot be simply physical. The whole thing falls apart and we’re left with just a religion of good works from a good teacher. Even if you are able to tag and categorize every single aspect of what makes us human, it doesn’t answer why as humans we alone should retain the ability to have an intimate relationship and be able to yield to an Unseen Being who is able to affect us in miraculous ways. No matter how much science replaces the need for a soul; dualism will never be out of the picture because the spirit is just as Jesus explained: unseen, untraceable and able to affect the physical (like the wind so is he born of the spirit).
Wow, frankly Dr. Murphy offends me. Her line: “What would
Christians have been doing these past 2000 years if there were no
such things as souls to save?”
She insists that by allowing for the soul worldview we have missed the real meaning of Jesus’ ministry here on earth. As if I can’t hold two thoughts in my head at the same time. I think this shows poor judgment and such sweeping idiocy as to make her other-wise eloquent paper worthless. Look, it should be painfully obvious that Jesus’ ministry was of both a physical restorative and spiritually redemptive nature. Where in the world does she see conflict there? At the end of it all, Jesus takes the physical world he set his ground rules for, ends death, then submits even himself to the Father so that all can be completed and then…?? And then a new heaven, new earth where the spirit and the physical live as one in perfection forevermore. No need to abandon the spiritual to focus on the physical because of all the scientific data that she somehow thinks will be accepted without any challenge as if the pure fact it exists somehow requires an end to all arguments and/or interpretations.
I have came to term with science not wanting anything to with the metaphysical and philosophy following suite but now some would have theology join the ranks and it is very dangerous in my opinion. Since Einsteins STR in my understanding it has given physicists a chance to ditch Newtons absolute time hypothesis and describe everything in terms of the physical but this is faulty assumption, and going along with this philosophy and the spirit which leads it is nothing but a subtle attack on God. In my view this will lead to the dehumanizing of God’s imagers and the promotion of animals till we are inseparable entities with no God given rights or Job.
So i disagree with this most strongly, and agree with Jonnathan Molina that there is no need to separate both physical and spiritual in light of the scientific theories. Not to say ignore science but science is in flux and trying to fit it into Biblical doctrine as fact especially when dealing with the metaphysical is a non starter for me. Too Heavenly minded and no Earthly good is a poor argument to take up.
Here’s something else to throw into the physicalism pot. If we have no true spirit apart from our physical body, why did Jesus not say “Father into your hands I commit my body?” when he died on the cross? I mean, sure, he had to quote the psalm to fulfill prophecy, right (so surely that settles that *ahem*) My point is, that was a pretty critical point in his life and he clearly hung his hope on the fact that his spirit could be returned to his dead body in some way. And everyone always says how coherent Jesus was, how he kept it together during his death throes and was able to recall scripture…so he must have known the impact his words would have for all time.
@Nobunaga: Science certainly is in flux, because that’s what it’s supposed to do/be (unless we talk global warming where everything is “settled”!). On the other hand, many theoretical physicists wouldn’t view a ditching of Newton’s own assurance as meaning the spiritual needs to be ditched.
@Jonnathan Molina: this point is worth making – especially since there *wasn’t* a need to quote the OT exactly in prophecy — exactitude with quotations of the OT by the NT is not always (maybe even mostly) the case.
I think you mentioned before that the NT writers using the Septuagint meant their quotes didn’t always match the OT …is this what you mean? I’d love to see a post of how this “exactitude attitude” is not mostly the norm in prophecy (you have one already dealing with prophecy here but I wandered about this statement).
Yes well, there are a few things that are beyond criticism in science from my cynical but real view including the golden tax cow “Global warming”. Perhaps i’m paranoid, but i see a trend to try explain all things ONLY in the material, i’m all for this in empirical science but not in theology, this is whats jumping out at me in this blog, the scriptural study of Biblical anthropology takes care of the issue quite easily…… i thought, but i’m no scholar.
Noticed in part 2 you referenced Wayne Grudem. A chapter 4 in Mike Bickle’s book Growing In The Prophetic is built around Grudem’s idea’s on prophecy. Bickle is the director of the IHOP ministry linked to the Bob Jones ministry.
IHOP ministries has stirred up considerable controversory over the years for questionable positions regarding scripture.
Is Grudem’s work being taken out of context in Bickle’s book? Or is Grudem in line with the Kansas City Prophets?
@carson: I don’t know; I’ve not seen Bickle’s work. I know Grudem is open on the prophetic gifts, though.
I generally hold a Trichotomist view of human nature. I realize that the concept of soul and spirit are used interchangably in the old testament and even that the idea that the term soul is not clearly demonstrated as purely non-physical. In other words, soul is used to refer to the whole being including the physical body.
In a sense there is no clear practical division between body, soul, and spirit. I don’t mean to say that there is no division, or that the division is not ‘real’, but rather its not a division that we can clearly explain or catagorize. We can catagorize it in abstract terms or conceptual terms, but they don’t always match up neatly to reality. I would suggest that in this, human beings are like the Trinity and that this is part of our imaging of the Godhead.
In the Trinity there are clear division’s conceptually, but in practice it is often difficult if not impossible to distinguish the difference between the action of the idividual persons of the Trinity. Is there any (or many) clear instances in which only one member of the Trinity is active? I would suggest no, that in most or even all cases, when one is active, all are involved. This is an expression of the unity of the Godhead. Likewise it is similarly difficult to say of the human being “this is a function of soul, and that of spirit, and this is of the body” because while the three divisions may exist, they still make up one being.
I would suggest, further, that God is concerned with the salvation of the whole being, not merely the salvation of the soul or the body or the spirit by itself. In fact such an idea really only makes sense if one takes an almost gnostic view of seperation between spiritual and physical reality. The biblical truth is that we are both spiritual and physical beings and we always will be. You may for a time be seperated from your body, your salvation is not complete in this state. I think the new testament is relatively clear that the fullness of the promise of salvation is not delivered upon until we receive bodily resurrection.
In fact, this is why I think the New Testament speaks of salvation generally in tenses, you have been saved, you are being saved, and you will be saved. I think that these three tenses of salvation are presented at various points through out the New Testament and I think that they correspond to each facet of the human being. The Spirit is saved in the moment when a person is born again (which I believe occurs at baptism, but I recognize others believe it occurs at the moment of decision etc). This is the ‘new creation’. At that point you have been saved (because you have been given a new spirit). Yet at the same time you’re soul undergoes an ongoing process of transformation in which the life of God present in your spirit flows through your being, transforming your mind, your heart etc, Thus you are being saved. Lastly, your physical body will be redeemed in the resurrection when you are raised incorruptible in glory, fully revealed at last as the sons of God. Thus you will be saved.
In reformed and evangelical circles this is often referred to as justification, sanctification, and glorification. However, I think the tendency of many is to think of just justification as ‘salvation’ and the others as merely the results of salvation. I think is it more correct to view all of them as salvation as it relates to aspects of our being.
using trinitarianism as a model or analogy to biblical anthropology is a modern approach, not one that the Israelite writer would have thought of or used.
please, please, please revive this track of conversation! I know you’re super busy now with various projects and writing, so I understand if you can’t 🙂 btw, my family and extended church family love the unseen realm.
in what respect, specifically?
This would “favor” creationism because, in that view, God creates the soul and inserts into the conceptus. That the conceptus is created in a heretofore impossible way wouldn’t overturn that idea. But that idea has other significant problems.
It also would not overturn the pre-existence view. The only view it really assaults is traducianism.
All three views have problems, and Scripture doesn’t clearly address the origin of the soul in any definitive sense.
Understood, though “pure” physicalism is theologically problematic when it comes to human beings. Hence we have in the evangelical spectrum views like “non-reductive physicalism.”
The verse you cite was one cited by Augustine for the idea that the earth somehow brought forth living things — which is a favorite reference for theistic evolution / evolutionary creationism.