Episode 033: In Search of the Soul, Part 5

Philosophy of mind podcast religion Theology / Biblical Studies

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At last, the series ends. Here is part five of the series on the mind/body problem. This episode steps completely away from analytical philosophy and is an overview of some of the biblical material that bears on the subject. Although it’s a comparatively long episode (just under fifty minutes), it’s still a very sketchy overview. The subject is a large one, and at best I can get the ball rolling and encourage you to look further. Enjoy. 🙂

UPDATE: Here the whole series, now that it is complete:

Part 1 

Part 2 

Part 3 

Part 4 

Part 5 

Revisited 

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{ 26 comments… add one }
  • John February 9, 2010, 6:58 pm

    A genuinely free soul would be neither male or female in its essential feeling-disposition.

    And because it would be established in the asana or disposition of being in feeling relationship to all beings it would also be characterized by freely given love, blessing and compassion towards all beings–even the very worst of human beings.

    It would certainly have no sympathy for Berattas and the “culture” of death that they intrinsically represent.

  • Kenny February 10, 2010, 5:34 am

    I liked this podcast (and the last one too). Even though I am a dualist, I agreed with much of what was said. I don’t think that the Bible clearly teaches dualism or things that obviously entail dualism. I think you are right that Scripture emphasizes the goodness of the material world and that our ultimate hope is the resurrection of the body and the renewal of this world, not eternal existence as a disembodied soul. I also think you are right that it is not Biblical teaching that it is our having a soul that sets us apart from animals (and from a philosophical perspective, it is hard to endorse standard arguments for dualism without holding that animals also have souls).

  • Richard Dawkins February 10, 2010, 6:20 pm

    Human don’t have a soul and nothing exists beyond the material world.

  • Glenn February 10, 2010, 8:23 pm

    And the congregation said “amen.”

  • James Rea February 10, 2010, 9:49 pm

    Kenny, Ecclesiastes 3 says: Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath (life/spirit/soul) ; man has no advantage over the animal (in the natural, except, of course, man can believe in Jesus and so be resurrected)

  • James Rea February 10, 2010, 10:06 pm

    oops, sorry Kenny, just re-read your post and you clearly support what the verse above states. I really should listen to the podcast first before posting! I suspect Glenn used it too.

  • Glenn February 10, 2010, 10:10 pm

    Not this time, James. I tried (not always successfully) to stay away from verses to do with life after death and stay with verses that spoke only about human nature.

  • James Rea February 10, 2010, 10:10 pm

    Glenn, have you come across this guy’s nice and simple explanation from Gen 1 & 2 as to our human condition? It’s at http://www.jba.gr/Articles/nkjv_jbamay96.htm

  • Glenn February 10, 2010, 10:18 pm

    “The Journal of Biblical Accuracy”? LOL! What a name for one man’s website.

    No, I haven’t read his work. I’ll take a look.

  • Glenn February 11, 2010, 1:16 am

    Most important of all, of course, is the fact that I have new opening and closing music in this episode!

  • mike February 11, 2010, 3:36 am

    Noe that you brought it up…

    I have been wanting to tell you how much I enjoy your guitar playing.

    When did you start playing?

    I started in the mid 90’s so shredding was not required during the grunge movement nor was any sort of technical skill. 🙂

    You sound like you can shred with the best of them.

    Also, is that a drum machine or a kit?

    More on topic…really really nice series.

  • Nathan February 11, 2010, 6:28 pm

    Glenn was your “amen” directed at post #3?

  • Glenn February 11, 2010, 9:15 pm

    Well it wasn’t my amen. It was the congregation of the disciples of Dawkins. 🙂

  • James Rea February 11, 2010, 11:42 pm

    Personally, I think you could make more use of Southern Baptist-style organ bashing during the podcast, just to emphasise points and generally whip us up into a frenzy.

  • George February 23, 2010, 12:27 pm

    I love Soul 5.

    One thing came up in KJNT / 1cor5. Paul is instructing the church to deliver a bad boy to Satan for the destruction of the flesh in the hope of the spirit being saved.

    I don’t know all the ways the flesh is defined, so I allow for the possibility that the flesh does not always represent the body or as Soul5 would indicate, the living creature entotal as soul. You do present the spirit, however, as belonging to God and simply ours as a loan. The passage in 1Cor5 suggests there exists a jeopardy for the spirit.

    Is it God’s spirit in danger or the essence of who the bad boy was/is? What am I missing?

    Great Work! PayPAL shortly.
    Thanks
    George Hine, USA

  • Nathan March 11, 2010, 3:02 am

    Finally got time to listen to this, and I am half way through (25th minute). You are discussing the use of ‘soul’ by John in Revelation and it struck me (since I’ve also just finished listening to the previous episode) that if as a dualist I believed the soul was immaterial, then what exactly did John see? What’s more, how could this have a forehead to be marked? or have a voice to cry out? Surely the text *only* allows for soul to refer to objects that are at least material in nature…

  • Glenn March 11, 2010, 9:14 am

    Nathan, that’s an interesting point! John can only really have meant that he saw people, otherwise what would there be to see?

    Still, the idea of a ghostly apparition would have been a familiar one to him – but then, this would not have been called a psuche.

  • Jared September 4, 2010, 12:46 pm

    Sorry, I know this is an old post, but I’ve been meaning to comment ever since I went through the series and haven’t gotten around to it until now.

    Glenn, I really enjoyed this series. It resonates with me because when I had a massive crisis of faith a few years ago, one of the things that troubled me was the obvious physicality of conscious human sentience. A number of things from ordinary experience seem to really point to the mental/emotional/volitional part of us being physical. For instance: the effects of alcohol, drugs, Alzheimer’s disease, the manipulation of the brain by a surgeon on the operating table, whatever mysterious phenomena that occurs to our “soul” when we are unconscious for six to eight hours every night, etc. (ever wonder, from a dualist perspective, what your “soul” is doing all the time you are asleep? especially during the non-dreaming periods). Also the fact that memories are obviously a feature of our physical brains (a fact I’m dealing with personally right now, due to a loved one having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease). I could go on…

    The reason this was a problem during a crisis of faith was that I at that point I thought that the Christian world view required dualism. Your series helps to resolve that tension, and fits nicely with both Christian theology AND observed reality. (I was able to recover my faith without necessarily resolving this: there were enough other things that got resolved I was able to “shelve” this worry for a while).

    However…

    The whole time I was listening, one thought has been bothering me: what does this do with your Christology? If God is a spirit, and Jesus was human (and hence, physical), how could he also be God? If humans are entirely physical, and Jesus, being human, was physical like the rest of us, does that mean he didn’t exist before being born as a human? If he did, then in what sort of state would Jesus have existed prior to occupying a body on earth? Could physicalism lead to Arianism? How would you deal with this?

    (forgive me if this was covered in the material or comments; I’ll confess to occasionally encountering distractions while listening to the podcast).

  • Eric Sawyer March 18, 2011, 3:16 pm

    Referring back to comment #3 – of course Richard knows this based on personal experience.

  • John Martindale March 9, 2012, 5:27 am

    Hey Glenn,

    I’ve enjoyed listening to your series on the soul. One verse I was hoping you would reflect upon was when Jesus said “Don’t fear man you can kill the body, but fear God who can kill both the body and the soul in hell”
    Maybe you’ve dealt with this elsewhere (If so please tell me), I am an annihilationist and I have often used this verse, talking to friends, saying “See, maybe the soul is not immortal after-all, for God can kill it”. But yeah, how do explain the seeming contrast Jesus is making here between what man can kill and what God can kill?
    I am about to look for your episode on the intermediate state, because these verses that seem to imply an intermediate state are what keep me from being able to confidently decide between a duelist and physicalist position.
    One last thing, I know my even mentioning this in intellectual circles is foolish, but yeah, what about all those many folks who claim to have after life experiences? are all of them to be discounted? Are there good physicalist explanations that go beyond, just saying these people are lying?

    Thanks Glenn, I look forward to hearing from you

  • Glenn March 9, 2012, 7:00 pm

    Hi John

    From memory I don’t think I’ve said much about Matthew 10:28 insofar as the mind/body issue is concerned here at the blog. It’s one of those passages where what the reader thinks it means will depend considerably on their presuppositions. If a reader just assumes, for example, that whenever they see the word “soul” in the Bible, they ought to read that as a reference to a platonic non-material conscious entity, then of course Matthew 10:28 will have clear dualistic implications. If you take those assumptions into the text, then naturally you’ll find them there. 🙂

    However, if the reader doesn’t make that assumption (that psuche must be read as a reference to a soul in the dualist sense), then there’s less of a drive towards that conclusion. The normal usage of that term in the New Testament (and the Greek Old Testament) would commend “life” as a standard way of understanding it. If we allow that biblical pattern of usage to inform our reading of Matthew 10:28, then Matthew has Jesus saying that we shouldn’t fear men who can simply kill us, but we should fear God who is able to do more – to take away our life. “Life” here, if this is the correct understanding of the passage, would be referred to in an eternal or “long term” sense. In other words, what men can do to use is only temporary. What God can to do us is permanent.

    I think this reading is especially likely given the way that Luke (in 12:4-5) recalls this saying of Jesus, where the point is exactly the one I made above: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”

    So that’s what I think Matthew 10:28 means.

    To be honest, I haven’t read much about Near Death Experiences. That’s next on my list. This weekend I’ll be posting an interview where somebody asked me that question too, and I made a few comments there that you might find of use. But I’ll have more to say after I’ve done a bit more reading.

  • John Martindale March 13, 2012, 7:29 am

    Your reflection on Matthew 10:28 makes sense and work, thanks. I need to give the last part of the podcast another listen, for I can’t quite remember your brief thoughts on Paul saying “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” and on Jesus saying “God is the God of the the living” while referring to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. but what I do remember is what you said was really brief and didn’t satisfy, so may I ask, have you gone more in depth elsewhere? We also have things like the Mt. of Transfiguration where Jesus being joined by others. Could it be that there is a sort of pre-ressurection, like a temporary body, until the resurrection that is to come? To hold a view like this, I think would make easy maintain your position, but also easily handle verses like “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”. But yeah, your podcast primarily dealt with the words soul and spirit and though I feel your case is strong here, I am wanting more on those cases that imply life after death (before the end of time). If Jesus knew Abraham no longer existed, why would Jesus say “God is the God of the Living” referring to him?

    Well, thanks so much for your response. I really have been enjoying your podcast, just finish listening to your podcast on Alvin Plantinga. They’re excellent

  • Glenn March 13, 2012, 7:41 am

    John, regarding the Mount of Transfiguration, some translations obscure the fact, but actually Jesus (in the words of the Gospel writer) called that a vision (“tell nobody about the vision…”).

    I think given what I have presented, anyone with a dualistic reading of other passages that I did not cover will have to acknowledge the difficulty they are in. But I have said a few things about the “God of the Living” passage here.

  • Joseph Hansen May 24, 2015, 12:44 am

    You mentioned you would make an episode on the intermediate state in which you would deal more fully with the NT texts mentioned at the end of this episode (33). I couldn’t find it in the archive. Is that still in the works?

  • Glenn May 24, 2015, 7:30 pm

    I’m not sure. But I have started a blog series that addresses some of that: http://www.rightreason.org/2014/dust-n-breath-1/

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