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The Table Video

John W. Cooper

Have Christians Lost Their Souls? The Bible and Human Nature

Professor of Philosophical Theology, Calvin Theological Seminary
November 29, 2012

Dr. John W. Cooper of Calvin Theological Seminary speaks on the topic of “Have Christians Lost Their Souls? The Bible and Human Nature.”


So have Christians lost their souls? Well, I don’t mean by that question, have Christians lost their salvation? When my wife saw this, that’s what she thought I was asking. And that’s not the point here, the point is to ask this question, whether or not the traditional Christian belief that we are or have souls which are distinct from our bodies such that although they are totally integrated with our bodies during life, that when we die they go to be with the Lord and our bodies don’t until the day of the resurrection when they’re reunited.

This I take to be the teaching of scripture. It’s the teaching of the Ecumenical Christian Church. And it may come as a surprise to some of you who are not aware of the academic debate, but for the last 30 years, this has been highly debated by Christians including evangelical Christians. So there’s a couple of titles here, ‘Whatever Happened To The Soul’ or ‘In Search of the Soul.’ Those titles are authored by evangelical Christians.

And they really do think that we don’t have souls. Souls are just brain functions. Souls are just the capacities that we have as highly developed animals to love Jesus and love one another and think deep thoughts. But they’re not things, they’re not separable from the body. Of course, the Christian tradition, this is B, has always held the view that I just articulated. And I mean the broad Christian tradition, since the church fathers. Justin Martyr, on.

Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and virtually all the protestants with some minority exceptions, have believed that when we die, we go to be with the Lord. Some have thought that this wasn’t conscious, but nevertheless the soul is with the Lord and the body is buried, deteriorates until the final resurrection.

The Catholics can add purgatory, there are lots of variations but this fundamental belief. What Tom Wright, Professor Wright calls a two-stage view of life after after has been virtually universal teaching of the Christian church all along. But it has come progressively under attach for really going on three or 400 years. It hasn’t started recently. Thomas Hobbes in England who was roughly a contemporary of Descartes.

Not only was a materialist with respect to the soul, but he wrote Biblical commentaries. Oh yeah. Lots of Biblical commentaries. So Thomas Hobbes is the father both of monistic Biblical acts of Jesus and the monistic, physicalistic, materialistic philosophy. Lived about the same time as Descartes. Maybe a little older than Descartes. What are the reasons for modern anti-dualism? These are reasons held by non-Christians but these are reasons also that some Christians find persuasive.

Well, philosophy is one of them as I’ve just mentioned. They developed critiques of dualist anthropology whether it was PlayDoh or Thomas Acquinis or Descartes, especially arguments for the immortality of the soul. Proofs just didn’t work they thought and so as they dumped dualism they developed monastic philosophical alternatives.

That’s been around for a very long time. Then in the 19th century, science starts to develop. One thing about science is evolution. If humans have evolved from primates or lower forms of life, then our consciousness has evolved. And our consciousness does not require spirit or anything extra biological. And we’re just complicated biological machines.

Were more complicated biologically and therefore were more complicated psychologically. Also the development of neuroscience. Now recently this occurs, but the discipline of psychiatry began already in the 19th century and they were noticing in the 1840s and the 50s that people with brain damage or brain diseases had their psychic functions or their intellectual capacities interrupted.

And so, this idea developed for a very long time. It’s not a recent origin. But that was another reason or more recently computer modeling of mind. I mean if you can get a computer to look like a human and to sing Jesus loves me and then when you ask it but do you really mean that? And it says yes. Well, maybe it’s got a soul after all. Well philosophy and science are not necessarily problems for questions. Christians understand that there are non-christian points of view, non-theistic points of view from which philosophy and science might get done. But beginning in the 19th century, biblical scholarship and theology began to undercut the traditional view of human nature that we are body and soul.

The biblical theologians started looking at words like Nephesh and Ruach Hebrew terms. and[foreign language]Greek terms for soul and spirit and they said we wanna know what, if you read those words in the original language in their original cultural context, they don’t mean anything like a separable soul. Of course, Justin Martyr took it that way and Agustin took it that way but there were just Platonist.

John Calvin takes it that ways as in the Institute’s and then the Greek philosophers are any good, except Plato. He at least was tracking on the right idea about the body and the soul. And so, there you go. See the Bible doesn’t teach dualism, the Bible really teaches monism if look at it closely. Well then the question arises. Yeah but why has the Christian Church ever since the Church Fathers, taking it this way.

I mean they’re close to the Bible, temporally and culturally why wouldn’t they be the most reliable readers of the Bible. Oh well they were Greek philosophers. They when they saw the word soul in the Bible, they didn’t read it the Hebrew way, they read it the Greek way. And so, what happens was that when they developed their theology, their doctrine of humanity and Christ’s natures and that sort of thing, then they’re actually reading Greek dualism into the Bible and then they think they’re getting it out of the Bible as Christian doctrine. But that they just fed bad stuff into it in the first place, and so, harvested bad stuff. And so, there you have it. That so the Christian Bible scholars and theologians have done a terrific amount to undermine classical Christian doctrine of humanity.

Well, the final belong comes from ethicists or Christian practitioners who claim that if you have a body soul distinction, you’re going to distort the Christian life. You’re going to spiritualize Christian life, you’ll think that loving Jesus is just for like praying and feeling close to him and it won’t have anything to do with life in the world, it won’t have any much to do with the body, the body is really a bad thing. So you get spiritual-physical dualisms, you get sacred-secular dualisms. In fact, I’ve seen the secularization of Western civilization blamed on Thomas Aquinas’ dualism. If Thomas Aquinas wasn’t a dualist, we wouldn’t have had that nasty renaissance and the enlightenment. So it’s all Thomas Aquinas’ fault. I’m not making it up.

Well, and then you get other kind of dualisms. Like the dualism between reason and the emotions. That’s a bad one. Left-brain and right-brain. Or you get dualism between people. You see if souls are distinct from bodies, then maybe certain kinds of people have bigger better souls than others like men have bigger better ones than women do. Or maybe Western Europeans have bigger better ones than folks who are indigenous to North America or Africa or something like this. No, I mean I’ve got books on my shelf which blame sexism and racism and classism on the body-soul distinction.

So we gotta get rid of it. I mean it’s not philosophical, it’s not scientific, it’s not biblical, it’s not theological and it undercuts the Christian life. What more do you want as a reason for getting rid of the body-soul distinction? And people get quite animated about this. This is a kind of a dual phobia almost. Like dualism, yak! Well, what’s the alternative?

Well, just something we call monism. Monism you know, duo means two, monism means one. There are different philosophical ways of working this out, different monistic philosophies, but it basically means this that humans are unities. So personality and organism and all the rest of it is just these are different aspects of the one unbreakable unity and if you break it apart, nothing can exist the parts can’t survive, the dissolution of the whole.

So when the organism goes down, consciousness goes down, personality goes down, memory goes down and that’s it. There are philosophically, we don’t have to get into the philosophy tonight because I’m really talking about the Bible in biblical anthropology. Two popular versions of monism these days. One of those like physicalism or materialism. Humans are just physical or material objects but we’re more complexly wired than other organism which are also purely by physical objects.

And so, somehow it’s the complex wiring of the neuro system that produces consciousness, self-consciousness, intelligence, emotion even spirituality So soul personhood is generated from biology which is purely physical. That’s one view. Another viewed isn’t necessarily physicalistic. It may not commit itself about what the basic stuff is. Maybe there’s just primordial energy or something like this which gets organized in different ways.

But in any case a human being is fundamentally one thing, complexly organized energy such that it’s both physical and biological and mental and spiritual, but these are all just different dimensions of the same complex functional whole. Well, on either one of those views humans are unbreakable unities. And if that means when the organism goes down, the whole thing does. So the point is that the soul is not separable. There couldn’t be the existence of the person without the body.

Well if that’s the case, if monism is true what happens when we die. If secular naturalists take this view, while fine. We just die. Bertrand Russell held that view, Sartre held that view, lots of people hold that view, you’re not afraid of death you’re afraid of a painful death but when when there’s nothing there afterwards so you just like falling asleep and never waking up again. So it’s not that bad. But Christians can’t do that. Christians got to come up with some kind of a view of the afterlife. Although, it’s interesting because some Christian theologians if you read what they say about the life to come you wonder whether it would be individual person.

So I’m talking about Punim Beragon you know people like this Polkinghorne worries about, I mean he wants them but he worries about lots of other people who wonder whether the kind of afterlife view that the big theologians are giving us really amounts to persons who we are continuous with other people. Well, the alternative views are immediate resurrection. John Hick holds this view, for one that at the instant you die, another you boots up it’s some other place. God’s got multiple places in the universe, maybe the kingdom is fully come some other place.

And so, the moment either your earthly self shuts down. Your resurrection body comes into existence. And so there literally isn’t any time at which your disembodied. So you’re a body soul unity in this earth and instantaneously a body soul unity in the new earth and you might wonder whether it’s the same being or not the same person, but that’s another issue. The other view and this may be more common, it’s just non existence until resurrection. I mean when you die, you cease to exist, like a dog or a tulip.

You just don’t exist. But God remembers you. He remembers everything about you and when Christ comes again, he will raise your body or raise up body and it will be identical, that is to say exactly similar with the body that you had on earth only fixed up. I mean I’ll be better looking and won’t have a little potbelly and stuff and maybe my hair will be back and stuff like this, but otherwise get rid of my New Jersey accent, but otherwise I’ll be okay. Recognizable. It’ll be me fixed up.

But meanwhile you don’t exist. Those are the two main alternative views. Why is this debate important? Now I’ll make the point because some Christians say look, what difference does it make? You believe in Jesus, you’re gonna get everlasting life. Who cares which theory is right. I mean we’re always fighting about stuff. It’s not the Republicans and the Democrats. It’s Christians about dying and being with Jesus. Let’s not do it. Well I do think it’s a significant issue in the first part. It’s an existential issue.

My mom died 12 years ago. I believe that my mom is with the Lord. My mom used to ask me stuff because she know I wrote the book, but she wanted to know all about it. My mom’s a genius now. I hope she forgot the book because she can bust me, because she’s there she knows what it’s like. You see if this is right, then none of our friends our loved ones. None of the saints for the last 2,000 year for ever since God’s been saving people, they’re not with the Lord. There’s no heavenly choir with God now praising the throne. So God gets robbed of his glory. You’re not, I mean maybe it’s not scary.

You know if you just sort of ceased to exist one second, seems like the next second you boot up again might be 5,000 years or whatever. It’s not to worry, but no no that’s not the point. See that’s a very individualistic subjective thing. You’re not part of a community. You don’t exist. And it raises questions. I mean Paul says, you know even death can’t separate us from the love of the Lord. In the Gospel of John guess what, you get eternal life as soon as the Holy Spirit regenerates your heart.

And what this has gotten, how can something that’s eternal or every last thing have gaps in it. I don’t wanna get to the critique already, but I mean this raises serious existential issues. This is not simply some theory that were arguing about. I was a monist for a while and what got me out of it was not either reading the Bible again primarily or thinking through philosophy. What got me out of it was I was a young elder in a Christian Reformed Church while I was in graduate school and I was monist and I had a visit a man who was dying in the hospital. And he thought he was gonna go to be with Jesus. I didn’t believe it.

So I had this moral problem. I wasn’t and I decided the right thing to do was not to tell him the truth and get him upset just before he died. This is an existential issue, but it’s more than that. It does call into question the credibility of historical christian doctrine. I mean right you guys live in California I don’t need tell you that you know there’s post-modernism and relativism and all the rest that it’s kind of, we haven’t got it in Michigan believe it or not. And people believe what they want.

Nobody thinks there’s you know, you can serve no the way things really are. And so, everybody’s always got questions. Is that really what the Bible says? I mean you’re really gonna believe in a Trinity? You really to do this? Well, if you think about what the christian church is believe. I mean the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. And if you come from a credo tradition, Presbyterian, Westminster or the Lutheran or you know Reformed. I do the Heidelberg catechism of the bulgy confession.

The christian church as as sort of tried to nail these things down and they’ve got an awful lot of staying power. But one after the other, gets kind of yanked up and thrown into the shredder and everything’s up for grabs. And here’s another doctrine. You know, for 2,000 years people have been believing the wrong stuff. Finally we got some neuroscientists and some Christian Bible scholars at Christian colleges that we’re gonna finally wise this up. And that undermines the faith of people. Not just you know doctrine, but there’s a third thing here and that it also has to do about Christian scholarship what is Christian scholarship. We talk you talked about at Biola, we talked about it at Calvin.

We want to study all the academic subjects and all the practical things in life from a biblical perspective. Now what does that mean? For some people, it means well to really trying to understand what Scripture teaches. We don’t always agree on that and we don’t always agree that the tradition had it exactly right. But that’s why we’re always in, the Reformed Church always reforming. That’s what my tradition says.

That doesn’t mean always changing but it’s going back to Scripture trying to understand scripture better, but then when you understand what Scripture teaches, now what does that mean for biology, for ethics, for art ,for business. That’s what we wanna do. But Christian scholarship for some other people means well let’s see, what are they saying at UCLA right now. That’s mainline, that’s high class stuff. So okay this is what they’re saying in this discipline at UCLA or you know Caltech or Berkeley or University of Michigan or wherever it is. Okay, we’re gonna accept this paradigm.

Whether it’s from science kind of a naturalistic approach in science or otherwise a kind of a postmodern approach to the humanities, and we’re gonna take that as kind of the norm and then Christian scholarship turns out to be something like rereading the Bible in such a way that it’s consistent with these mainline disciplines. And I don’t think that’s what it is at all. But that’s the third issue that we have going here. What do we mean by the relationship between the Bible and learning. Faith seeking understanding. Christian perspective.

My thesis is quite simple. The biblical view is what I’m gonna call dualistic holism, that the soul and the body are completely integrated during this life that’s the way God created them and that’s the way they’re gonna be everlastingly. We don’t go to heaven as souls and stay there forever and ever but we believe in the resurrection of the body. That’s what the Creed says because that’s what scripture says. That is the Christian view. And so, integrality unity is the main emphasis on of Scripture, but there is also clear reason. And a fair amount of it.

For supposing that in spite of the fact that God created us as integral unities, somehow we do come apart. And just how the philosophers and the neuro scientists and the theologians cut the pie, that’s another question but that we somehow come apart because of sin. This is not a good thing. Maybe if we hadn’t sinned, we would never have realized. We would have made a body soul distinction, but we would have never have talked about separability. There’s nothing new about what I’m claiming. What I’m claiming is but I think most of you were learned in Sunday school and in what the great christian tradition has believed since the beginning because it seems to me clear that that’s what Scripture teaches, but I do want to make this point here. And I’ll make it again later. The Bible presents a generic worldview.

And it does so in terms of cultures that are sometimes a little foreign to us to. And you have to then understand that the Bible doesn’t teach philosophical concepts, the Bible doesn’t teach scientific concepts not in the early chapters of Genesis about creation but also not about the body and soul. On the other hand, the Bible gives us a narrative. A true narrative. So stuff happened. And if stuff happened certain things aren’t necessarily the case. And that’s where the Christian intellectuals have to go. And so there by the the biblical material itself is a worldview, but it’s definitely clear enough so that it will function as a kind of a normative pattern for philosophy, neuroscience and the other disciplines at least in general.

I’m going to spend most of the time on Scripture. If I run out of time I’m going to stop certainly by eight o’clock. And I may not even go very far into Roman numeral five, the implications for academic theories of body and soul, philosophy and science. Some of your philosophers and science, some of you aren’t. And so, I’m not going to necessarily get into detail. If you want to ask questions that’s fine, but what’s important is what does the scripture teach on this particular issue that the philosophers and scientists who want to be in the Augustinian tradition of faith seeking understanding, what do they need to take away from this. That’s the question.

So I mean it’s do Roman numeral two is the biblical emphasis on psychosomatic unity or holism. And then Roman numeral three, is the biblical implication of dichotomy and dualism pertaining to death and resurrection. And for me the emphasis is on holism. When I throat my first book, I talked about holistic dualism and that may be okay as a philosophical term, but I don’t think it’s the best biblical term. Because Scripture emphasizes unity and separation is accidental in the philosophical sense, a consequence of sin which was not metaphysically necessary. So the dualism is an unhappy accident that Christ comes to fix.

The emphasis is on holism, the integrity of body and soul together. The unity. Okay, first point this is the great dynamic of scripture, creation, body-soul unity. The fall body-soul unity, Redemption body-soul unity, glorification body-soul unity. Psychosomatic both and the dichotomy is a result of sin. So that’s with respect to Scripture as a whole. I think we have to get a bead on what Scripture as a whole teaches and in terms of that whole and look at how the parts contribute to it.

That’s an issue of biblical hermeneutics and methodology here but I’m just gonna say that that’s how I approach Scripture. So it’s not just the hodgepodge. Well, this guy says that and this guy said, the other guy says another view and they’re they’re not the same view. So scripture doesn’t have any definite point. No no no no no no no no no! There’s lots of different things that scripture says that aren’t exactly the same. And what scripture teaches as a whole what the Holy Spirit is that we put the whole thing together and it all contributes to a coherent whole. Methodologically that’s historic Christianity.

Higher criticism you can’t do it anymore and that’s a crucial watershed. In the Old Testament we start with creation in the image of God, the image of God is bodily. Okay, it’s not the the image of God is bodily. In Genesis one, there to be fruitful and multiply. There have to dominion over the earth. So I mean, I’m not gonna spend a lot of time on this but I could do big exegesis of all these where I’m gonna have to go over them quickly. Genesis one, the image of God is bodily. Genesis two, we are souls. God takes the dust of the ground or the earth and he breathes into it the breath of life and then the man becomes a Nephesh guy A living soul, the King James says. So we are souls. It’s not just what we have them, we are souls and in the Old Testament the soul is spirit and earth together.

That’s so I was very holistic. Genesis two. In the day you should eat of it you shall surely die, spiritual death and physical death, Genesis three. It’s all there. Second point about the Old Testament is that Hebrew terminologies suggests psychosomatic unity. Well Bible scholars have done a lot of looking at at Old Testament terminology, a really good example is the heart. Out of the heart are the issues of life.

Well they mean not the heart and some romantic poetic sense. Like they you know Kant’s transcendental ego or something like this. No no they mean the thing that beats in your chest. They don’t know that it pumps blood, but the heart for the Old Testament. Hebrews is almost like the brain for us. It thinks, it wills, it loves God, it hates the neighbor in your heart. So I mean it’s a very good example of how these terms are both psycho and somatic.

A lot of Old Testament terms. Third thing the whole Old Testament emphasizes a full life with God in the world. God creates humans for a living in a world. He doesn’t create him to die. There’s very little about that in the Old Testament. You know Enoch was not and Elijah gets taken and Moses dies in a mysterious way, but if you read about death in the old Testament It’s not a good thing.

Paul says is far better, but they don’t have that the Old Testament. Life[foreign language]and that means food and drink and family and relationships and reputation and safety and all. Shalom is flourishing of this life and that’s the emphasis in the Old Testament. Not this is just a preparation for something much better when we get out of here. So that also emphasizes the bloodiness, this worldliness of Old Testament anthropology.

This has continued in the New Testament. It keeps the same view of human nature, but now in the New Testament remember that the word becomes flesh. God becomes flesh. God doesn’t sit in heaven and save us and Jesus isn’t a ghost who just walks around looking like a human. He becomes human flesh what an affirmation. The second person to Trinity bonds with humanity and humanity is flesh. What an affirmation of flesh.

Well Jesus ministers to body, look at Jesus ministry. He doesn’t just run around forgiving sins and telling people you know, giving people the Lord’s Prayer and stuff like this. Yes he does that but he feeds them and he heals the blind and in the lame walk and the dead are raised. And he forgives sins. And gets people to repent. All of it. This ministry is holistic. It involves all of human life. Everything that God created Jesus is interested in. The New Testament continues the same holistic terminology, the points been made and then think about Paul, he talks about the flesh against the spirit but he’s not against the body. The flesh is what he means by the old nature and the Spirit is the new nature.

The unregenerate self in your new and your regenerate self. That’s the with that because Paul says, present your bodies living sacrifices, don’t you know your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. So Paul is very much interested in bodily existence. You know sexuality and although he talks to all those things in his letters. And finally, resurrection and glorification of the body for life in the new heaven and the new earth. It’s really interesting house at least sometimes popular Christians have missed this. I used to teach philosophy at Calvin College and you know we’d start with the trial and death of Socrates. And we wanted to go to the Elysian Fields and this sort of stuff.

And then I asked students well how many of you guys think that when you die you’re gonna go to be with Jesus in heaven and stay there forever and ever and ever and ever and ever. And ah man, and these are Christian reform kids most of them. About half the class would get their hands up there. I’m going. Don’t you guys say to Creed on Sunday? I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

We don’t go to heaven, we’re not Souls. That’s true, but it’s temporary. Just until the Lord returns. It’s all glorification bodily, first Corinthians 15 and the body that Adam had a mortal body. Something that was able to die, but Christ when he was resurrected is not able to die. That’s done, it’s done. And now we are renewed in the image of Christ who is the image of God and we get that resurrection body stuff and now it’s glorious and everything. So there’s this transition in first Corinthians 15, but boy what Paul says about the body, same words he used about God. Excuse me.

So the Bible is pretty emphatic about the body and about the integrity of the body. When Paul says you know sanctify your own body and mind and spirit or love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and soul, these are not intended to to be separate isolated parts but there are different dimensions of human beings. And even if they could come apart, I mean the point is during this life they need to have integrity, they need to support one another.

They need to work with one another. They need to be on the same wavelength spiritually. You know you know love the devil with this part and love God with that part of you. You need to be whole. So holism. But the Bible does clearly imply a dichotomy and therefore a dualism. Death and resurrection on this and not philosophy now.

When I talk about the soul or a body, when I talk about a person in a body, we can have philosophical debates about exactly how to define them, but I’m using these terms in the ordinary sense. A person is somebody who’s got a self-identity and can think and feel and relate to other people and love the Lord, be responsible that’s what I mean by a person. And a body is this thing. And when it stops working it goes to the funeral home. I mean we have a rough and ready definition here. We all know what we’re talking about, right?

Okay, in the Old Testament there is a kind of a dim view of the afterlife. But some people will tell you there’s no existence in the Old Testament after death. All this talked about chill and sheer mythology, that’s really not true at all. It’s very hard to believe and I’m not just asserting that, if you would read the NT rights book on the resurrection of the Son of God, he surveys the afterlife beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, all these people.

And they had different views but almost everybody did believe that ghosts, you know truncated persons continue to exist in the afterlife. And even have to be careful because when scholars look at the Old Testament, they have a particular idea about its dating. And they don’t really think that Israel was in Egypt but that the Pentateuch was written maybe after the Exile. And so they’re taking these ideas they got from Persia and reading them back in there, but you know guess what why do you think the Egyptians mummified people.

Because they went to an intermediate state and when the sun-god rock comes back there’s going to be a resurrection and they’re going those bodies are coming back to life again. So I mean the whole idea of an intermediate state resurrection, was not even maybe first in Israel. Read the Egyptian Book of the Dead. That has secular anthropology. I’m not just special pleading traditional Bible stuff. And the Eucharist and the Hittites and the Phoenicians and all I mean the Greeks Homer, very old Homer was about the time of King David or Solomon way back almost a 1000 years yeah.

Well, I mean he’s a little mythology but you’re a Greek. In fact, you know what the Jewish scholars who translated the Old Testament into Greek . So we get to sub to urgent, chose the Greek word Hades for the Hebrew word She’ol. The book of the the place of the dead in the Old Testament is She’ol or Abaddon. And it is the underworld. It’s dank and dark.

And you know, existence isn’t really that much there. Read Job or read Ecclesiastes. Death is not good Hezekiah bargains. If I go down into She’ol, I won’t even know you anymore God.

I can’t praise you, I don’t remember your mighty works that only happens on earth. Reed Hezekiah is bargaining with the Lord that he should live for 15 more years. But there’s existence. They really do think that human beings existed in a diminished way. And maybe it’s the unbelievers who didn’t come back.

If you read Psalm 49 for example or Psalm 73, the wicked flourish but don’t worry about them because they’re going down to She’ol and they’re eventually gonna waste away. But the Lord will take me to himself. And I will dwell with the Lord forever. See even in the Psalms Psalm 23. What do you think that this is just sheer metaphor.

I mean it dwell within a house of the Lord forever. Do you think David didn’t really mean that? Says I’m gonna die like a dog, but God will remember me. So I’ll read Psalm 23. I mean this is incredible. I don’t believe it so anyway. More evidence that they believed in the reality of the afterlife, was forbidden necromancy.

You can’t have seances. John Edwards that stuff is out. Soul got into trouble, right? The prophet Samuel dies and that was Saul only conduit to God and so after Samuel is dead he’s got to go to a Canaanite woman, who’s a witch. She does seances to bring Samuel back. And surprise surprise the Lord let him come back. And they have this conversation and Samuel says I got news for you Saul. By this time tomorrow you and your sons will be down here with me.

That’s narrative see that’s not poetry that’s in this first Samuel. So the point is, was it diminished? Yes it was not party time after you died in the Old Testament. But they surely did believe that something survived physical death ergo there’s some kind of the division.

Now maybe the Nephesh continues to exist. Psalm 139, even if I make my bed and She’ol behold thou art there. I’m sorry I was raised on the King James. I don’t know what you guys read but King James comes out when I preach.

But there are there are these hopes in the Psalms as I said, future resurrection on the day of the Lord, the Psalm, several of them that will not let thy Holy One see corruption. Peter quotes that on Pentecost about God’s raising Jesus. So in the Psalms pious Jews did hear these affirmations of eternal life, that no details at all but they weren’t simply gonna go to She’ol and kind of gradually fade away like the shades in Hades. Not the Lord’s people. Maybe the other ones may this kind of annihilation isn’t for the other people but not for the Lord’s people.

And so, there are these resurrection texts. I mean Isaiah 26 on the day of the Lord, when the Lord comes to vindicate Jerusalem that dwellers in Sheol will rise, their bodies will rise reason Isaiah 26:19. And then read Isaiah 65 about the New Jerusalem. See the New Jerusalem people living in the New Jerusalem is already in the Old Testament. It’s not in first in the New Testament. The book of Revelation.

That’s part of the Old Testament covenant promises of God. The redemption is there. The whole business the new heaven and the new earth. Isaiah 65 and then in Daniel. The Dead will be raised some to judgment. This is a kind of a judgment text as well, as a raising text. So there’s not a lot as explicit resurrection in the Old Testament. Ezekiel 37, you know the valley of dry bones some people think that that’s kind of an allegory of the resuscitation of Israel as a nation.

It could just as well be read as a prophecy of the resident of the bodily resurrection. In any case it makes quite clear that the Jews, the Israelites understood how to think about a resurrection even if it is a metaphor. They knew exactly. So it’s not a foreign concept.

Okay, the new testament. So the point about the old testament is they go to She’ol, but it’s not the end. They’re going to dwell with the Lord forever and maybe that involves resurrection at the end of the Old Testament. So two stages as NT says. Also in already in the Old Testament, but the New Testament, now it’s very interesting to get into a background because second temple Judaism had a whole bunch of different views.

I mean the Sadducee’s were basically materialists and annihilationist and then you had Alexandria and Jews like like Philo, who really did there were Platonist, explicit Platonist, they used in read Plato. And then there were other kinds of views as well. Some of them thought there was an instantaneous resurrection but there were people who did believe in an intermediate state in a final resurrection and among them were the Pharisees.

And that’s quite well known and quite well documented from a variety of sources. And then that’s really relevant because if you go I’m in a New Testament be second point here Paul in Acts 23 says, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee I stand on trial because of my belief in the resurrection. And then Luke goes on to explain that the Pharisees, not only believe in a resurrection but they believe in spirits. And we’re not talking about like you know ghosts or just that sort of stuff, we’re talking about the spirits of the Dead.

Hebrews 12 in the New Jerusalem waiting to come down as a bride are the spirits of the righteous dead. [foreign language] So and that I take it as a key to Paul. I mean of New Testament scholars debate Paul like crazy. He is monist, no he’s a dualist, no, he’s an instant resurrectionist. Well, I mean I don’t and I know they have a higher critical view of Acts 23 and I don’t. I take acts 23 to be free historical.

And there it is Paul was trained by Gamaliel. Gamaliel grandfather was Hillel the father of one of the two great schools of the Pharisees and we know they were dualists cause we got Hilliel writings So I mean, we know what Paul’s talking about here. So then don’t try to go to you know first Corinthians 15 or something tell me Paul isn’t a dualist. I mean this is really bad scholarship. This is not special pleading by some traditionalist. Acts 23.

So Paul in Philippians one, says you know maybe I’m gonna be martyred but it’d be better if I stayed in sonics in the flesh then go to be with the Lord but if I go to be with the Lord and don’t stay and Sadhaka it’s not cross in the flesh. So there you’re either in the flasher you with the Lord and that’s your option.

And for him he’s not talking about resurrection, he’s talking about the immediate presence of the Lord. And so if his Sadhaka is here then he either is eternally a disembodied soul or a person or otherwise it’s temporary. We think it’s temporary because first Corinthians 15 and say Thessalonians 4 and 5 and chapters like that. But it’s the same in 2nd Corinthians 5. But here he does talk about the Sacs, he talks about soul man the body.

If to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. So there it is. He’s not talking about a gap. He’s not talking about some other resurrection body, he’s talking about to be absent from the body just one of them is to be present with the Lord. And in 2nd Corinthians 12, Paul even says you know I had one of these out-of-body experience, I don’t really know if it was that her body or not, maybe it was an out-of-body experience may be it wasn’t an out-of-body experience, but I mean don’t tell me Paul is such a monus that he can’t even imagine himself apart from a body. That’s absurd!

And by the way Paul doesn’t talk about soul and body. He talks about ergo, I would be absent from the body present with the Lord. So if you go by the ergo or body person that’s Paul’s language. So I mean people will Paul doesn’t talk and body. Well, daah! I mean he talks about ergo and body. Roughly synonyms.

Okay, well when does the resurrection happen? What if some of these folks think it happens instantaneously. It really does look like, there’s a gap the future final resurrection Jesus himself he dies, he’s raised on the third day. Now there’s a gap there and there’s a gap for us. And there’s a gap in the New Testament in John. That’s when Lazarus died and the sisters are weeping and that Jesus says I am the resurrection in the life. You got eternal life but Mary says, but he’s gonna rise again on the last day. Well yeah. So John thinks it’s the last day, Paul thinks it’s at the return of Christ. The trumpet shall sound first Corinthians 15, the Lord will return and he will you know bring back. So the resurrection and in 1st Thessalonians. This is the end, this is not instantaneous.

So I don’t find the instantaneous view to be consistent with Scripture. And then my last point here is that there is existence between death and resurrection. So if we put resurrection at the end then that’s consistent with folks who think that there’s no existence between the two except, that they have a really hard time dealing with to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. And Paul says that repeatedly.

And what about Jesus he says that to the thief on the cross, today you will be with me in paradise. Today you will be with me in paradise. Now what was the deal. Jesus dies and he says father into your hands I commend my spirit. And so, Jesus spirit goes to his father. It doesn’t go to hell. I mean Jesus and that’s where this thief on the cross goes. And it was such gospel to him because if you understand his cosmology, then you know they had the sort of penthouse was up on top with the patriarchs. And then there was the next level sort of like Mormons you know, you got different views or different levels and then then you had the really you know, the pretty good Jews and then the third level was Jews who were not so good at all, but might possibly feel sorry and might possibly still be subject to the grace of God.

And then the fourth level was getting ready for Gehenna; the fire. And this Jewish boy on the cross thought that he was going to the third level. This is almost certainly true. You know, when we get Tyrese and Lazarus and Luke as well. This is what he’s got in mind, what he was taught in synagogues. And he says, Jesus remember me when you come in your kingdom So he knows that he Jesus is the Messiah.

If Jesus isn’t a messiah he’s going right straight to hell because this is blasphemy. He should be crying out Yahveh, the God of… But that’s his eternal destiny that Jesus is the Messiah and he recognizes this. When you come in your kingdom please Jesus remember me. Get me out of that and then Jesus turns him around and says hey man today, what a deal you realize that? That guy’s got a good Friday sermon on that. It gets tears to my eyes. Jesus is dying and he’s so gracious that the first guy who benefits from his death on a cross is this thief. That’s grace. Today you will be with me in paradise and I don’t think we should really dumb that down by way of saying, yeah Jesus didn’t exist between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Okay well, there’s all kinds of existence between death and resurrection. Jesus himself the patriarchs, they’re having a debate there about who’s going to be married and Jesus agrees with the Pharisees that God is the God of the living, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And they’re already dead. If the Sadducee’s thought they were they were gone by now, so Jesus thinks that the patriarchs are alive but not the final resurrection yet. Moses and Elijah where do you think they came from. If extinction was the case, where this was a rude awakening to say the least that Moses and Elijah should be resuscitated for the Mount of Transfiguration, and then extinguished again, nasty God. They’re spirits of the righteous dead in Hebrews 12.

Okay, so my conclusion is if you look at everything that scripture teaches. Use a good canonical approach to reading scripture. I don’t care who wrote what when. When you understand what the scripture teaches you, put it together the Holy Spirit intends that the church read the whole thing, put the whole thing together and draw the conclusions of the whole Word of God. The Bible is not God’s words.

It’s the Word, one word. It’s got one single complicated meaning. And when you do that you’re going to come up with the traditional view of the church and that entails some kind of body soul separation. Implications for academic theories of body and soul. I’m going to just maybe skip this, we’re going to take questions later. But well why don’t I just stop at this point. Cause it’s five after eight already, if folks are interested in this fine. But it’s not really germane to the lecture as a whole.

The lecture was really about the biblical view and now from my point of view scripture teaches a whole lot of stuff that we can’t know apart from it. We can’t know from science, we can’t know from philosophy. And so, we need scripture to kind of give us this overall framework, this overall perspective, this overall orientation in terms of which to make the decisions about okay, what are we gonna do philosophically and how are we can understand brain science. And does brain science really undercut the biblical view.

No, the answer is no. I mean is the proof it is is that some of the world’s greatest brain scientists are christian dualists. Wilber Penfield, Sir John Eccles actually won a Nobel Prize for brain science in the 1970s, he’s a dualist and the latest one that that I know unlike a little bit is Mario Beauregard, who teaches, he’s a brain scientist at McGill and the University of Montreal. And he’s world famous because he did the brain scans of the nuns while they were doing meditational prayer, they let him do it because he’s a faithful catholic and he believes it. But he’s is a dualist. In other words there are all kinds of fine neuro scientists out there, who are duelists and you wanna know what?

There are neuro scientists out there who don’t believe in matter at all. I was trying to remember that it doesn’t matter. I was at a conference with this guy three years ago and he’s very bright and he teaches at Stanford, I’ll remember his name about three hours from now. And and he’s a Buddhist, monk an American but he spent 15 years over there and he was actually mentored by the Dalai Lama.

He does neuroscience and he doesn’t believe in matter. Because everything is just consciousness. So brain science is a form of consciousness. And so your whole idea that well if you really know neuroscience well, you’re gonna obviously be a materialist. Obviously gonna deny the soul. It doesn’t wash. Just not true. So don’t fall for it. Enough already, who’s got the first question?

Man: How does the word spirit play into this dualism. We hear people sometimes talking body soul and spirit. And where does that land on the whole spectrum.

That’s a very good question. In other words there are some Christians and I think there’s a phase of Plato to where he’s a tripartite, professor Merlin thing said and that’s where maybe some Christians got it from in the early church. That’s doesn’t fit well with the biblical picture because in the Old Testament, the word Nephesh as I suggested earlier includes Ruach You need see Ruach spirit in the Old Testament is what moves.

It’s like a dynamic principle and so it can be the wind, it can be the breath in your lungs, it can be the Spirit of God, but there’s not just one thing called Ruach there’s many different kinds of Ruach. But it’s not as sort of a thing , it would be an aspect but it would be the aspect that gave you life on the one hand, but it would also be the aspect that related you to God as well. So it might not be a thing. Now in a New Testament, it’s a little bit more complicated and it’s not so clear-cut as it is in the Old Testament.

For example, in the Magnificat, my soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. So there they’re synonyms. And one of the texts of Enoch and second temple Judaism, it talks about Enoch seeing in heaven, the spirits of the souls of the Dead.

That’s an interesting elocution, but in any case the answer is that there is no clear systematic way to come to any definitive definition. If you read a biblical dictionary that’s any good, the semantic ranges overlap. Sometime they’re synonyms, sometimes there is Tifinagh like an Assam, you know if there are two words in parallel, they might mean to sort of contrast with one another or they might mean to sort of reinforce one another and sometimes the words are used that way.

So there’s no systematic way but then if there’s no systematic way to parse it, in Scripture, there wouldn’t be any sure foundation for a kind of a trichotomous view of anthropology. That I want to follow up.

Man: My own understanding not well informed by these kinds of things. I’ve tended to see that when God tells Adam in Genesis you know the day you eat of it, you’ll die, what happens is we talked about a spiritual death and Paul echoes that in Ephesians.

You were dead and there’s a death honest level of the spirit and that the indwelling of this Holy Spirit, reoccupy is the place that was formerly occupied by sort of a dead spirit that we carry along–


Yeah, now I would say that at all. Because then that would mean soteriologically in salvation, the Holy Spirit is constitutive part of us. I would rather think that our spirits died or they were in rebellion against God and then God’s Spirit regenerates them, fixes them and attracts them to God again.

And then there’s this really close relationship, but it doesn’t sort of breach the divine human distinction. So I mean I wouldn’t think that the Spirit of God replaces anything that was integral or essential to human nature because otherwise God’s part of us and I don’t think that’s right. We’re in the image of God.

Man: And since you’re saying that, there’s a conflict between the immaterial soul and maybe that that’s been integrated into the church, I’m wondering what your view is on demons and Satan and their immaterial effects on people and if that’s an issue that we need to be informed about.

Now that’s a very good question. You see in the biblical worldview, it’s not just God in the material universe. People try to argue this, creation is got different dimensions to it. There’s a spiritual dimension.

In fact there are seven heavens and God goes into heaven of heavens. And there’s a dwelling place there are hierarchies for the angels, in the heavenly beings and the interesting thing about humans is they’re right in the middle. Psalm 8, a little lower than the Angels but where he nevertheless in the divine image.

You see we are that creature which is both of the earth, but also of the spiritual realm. And that’s a kind of a biblical mixing of the duality sort of thing. So insofar as we do participate in the spiritual realm, we are going to be involved or may be subject to the principalities and the powers. When Paul talks about that he’s not just talking about like the law of you know gravity and that sort of stuff. He’s talking about metaphysical and spiritual principles as well as Roman Imperial principles and natural principles. He’s talking about all of them. So yes there are excuse-me, spiritual beings. What they do with humans is not clear.

It’s clear in the scripture that God sometimes sends them, but it’s also clear in Scripture that you know Satan the angel of light rebelled and was thrown on to the earth and Satan is a reality that humans and Christians have to deal with. And there I’m like CS Louis, don’t blow it off, but don’t get all hung up about it because whatever God’s doing in the spiritual realm, you know with the angels, that’s not where our action is.

There are Christians who want to you know name the angels and our job as Christians asserted to pray, you know find the names that he ain’t bad angels and pray against them and that’s pretty much it. And that’s not what the Bible is about. I mean the Bible is about evangelizing and doing social justice and all that other kind of stuff and being weary, being spiritually discerning, being equipped so that you’re spiritually strong, Ephesians 6.

So there is some spiritual warfare as a real deal. And I even think that you know possibly there are possessions, I mean the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church do have rights of exorcism. And maybe and I think it’s real once in a while.

So I don’t know if that was a really good answer to your question but take it seriously, but then don’t get all hung up on it. And pretty much do what scripture says about it, you’ll be fine. Yes.

Man: I have three part question if you’ll be so kind. Would you be as kind as to clarify what you mean by dualistic holism? Major definition, major difference between that and dualism and how does dualistic holism account for endurance of the self through time.

Oh very good. Well, dualism is just the view that humans are a soul and body, however you define them and however you relate them. Okay, so we’re fundamentally the conjunction of two things and dualistic holism is making sure that when you do dualism you emphasize as much as possible their existential and functional integrity and an integrality and interrelatedness. So psychosomatic stuff. I mean there are forms of dualism which thought you know, we could do all of our thinking and if the brain wasn’t involved, and of course that we have to get over that sort of stuff.

There was Gnostic dualism, you know, there was various kinds of dualism which were not in favor of a kind of an existential functional integration. Some versions of cartesianism and things like this. That we don’t want and when christian philosophers talk about dualism none of them is in favor of that sort of stuff, we’re all in favor of, I call it holism and Charles Tolliver calls it integrative I think.

And there’s a bunch of different terms but we all want that, the unity. So that’s the difference between dualism and holistic dualism. Unity through time, well professor Merlin’s book is really good on this the body and the soul. but there has to be a thing you know, for something to be identical, it’s got to be the same thing through time even though it undergoes change. And what I think that is is the soul, it’s an entity. It’s an instantiated essence. It’s a thing.

And I am that thing have been that thing since conception, even though I’ve grown and developed, I would be that thing even if I got totally amnesia, I would be that thing even if I were hypnotized to believe that I wasn’t that thing, I would be that thing even if everybody else in the world looked at me and said you’re not Cooper, so I mean it’s there it’s ontological, necessarily so. And if you define, if you think of the soul as the essential person whether it includes the body, however it relates to the body, whether it’s distinct from the body that’s where personal identity is located.

And so that endures forever from the moment of conception, forever. That thing is you. And so, dualism doesn’t have a problem with personal identity. But if you’re not a substance, if you’re not a thing if you don’t have this sort of ontological core, the bearer of all your properties and relationships and that sort of stuff then the changes might amount to a real change in identity. And one of the issues that for these alternative views is just that. I mean John Hick argues that if you know the new John Cooper boots up exactly the same instant that the old one shuts down, why couldn’t that be the same thing? Well, I don’t know.

But it looks to me like it’s two entities and what we have isn’t exactly some other thing. When you know John Cooper A, shuts down on earth, John Cooper B is booted up by God in heaven but this there’s absolutely no continuity in terms of stuff or substance or anything else between these two things. And now you also have this problem if something shuts down and ceases to exist at at some point in time, then the body is totally gone.

You know Jesus body stayed there. Lazarus body stayed there. And so okay well we don’t have a worry about the identity of the body but if that’s totally obliterated, then what what God raises on the last day, looks like a body double, it looks like your personnel would you look double. And the monist views really do have a big problem with personal continuity. And so I’m glad you raised the question. You gave me a chance to say that.

Yes ma’am. [woman speaks off microphone]

Woman: What happens to the person soul, when someone goes to hell?

Well, it’s hard to think about. The Bible doesn’t say much about that. You know is there a resurrection to judgment, yeah. The Jews thought that when the those who are damned die, then they sort of roam around their souls are anticipating the final resurrection and so they’re miserable even in the intermediate state and homeless and desolate.

The Scriptures don’t talk about this. It talks about to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord and you know frankly the Bible doesn’t tell us very much about what happens even to the Lord’s people. I mean you know that we gonna all look like we have bodies are the flowers there, you know are we gonna be hanging around and remembering old times givings together and stuff. I don’t see why not? But did but the Bible is really quite silent and even John Calvin I mean he’s you know my man, he’s got quite a few pages in the Institute’s about the resurrection.

But he’s got like a page and a half on the intermediate state. He says, yeah it’s gonna be there and he gives all the verses I gave tonight but he’s… And John Calvin was very much against speculating. You know speak where Scripture speaks, be silent where scriptures silent. I mean it’s okay to one there you know you but Bibles discussion group and it why wouldn’t it, you know I wonder what’s it’s like and that’s edifying.

And that’s that’s fun but it is speculation. I think it’s okay but we can’t ever canonize that stuff. We can’t even, this is what its gonna be like. I would never preached that from this from the pulpit because I have no text to back it up with. So I certainly don’t know what it’s like for the damned. I have trouble thinking about this. I mean you know I get just shaky. I don’t like it.

But I don’t even know very much about what it’s like for the Saints. You know singing 144,000 stuff like that, I think that’s already now as well as after the resurrection and in Revelation 20 and stuff, but so it’s good. But you know it’s interesting in Revelation because God’s people the markers.

How long O Lord, how long and they cry out like Lazarus is blood cried from the ground, they cry out to the Lord for justice. Oh I mean maybe it’s okay, but they haven’t forgotten and it’s not everything is just really cool just yet. Not until the final judgement when God sets it all straight Yes this gentleman first and then back there.

Man: When you were talking about dualism and separation is a product or even an accident because of sin, we have to think about that for a long time. It was really profound, but it kind of made me think does does that kind of lead you to believe in traditionalism and that the soul, what is kind of past or what we talked about as the soul is passed on hereditarily and not necessarily–

Yeah, that’s a very good question. I don’t have a strong view of it, but I tend to be a tradition myself. And it’s not typical Calvin’s position. Calvin’s are just pretty much Augustinians and but see that’s Agustin didn’t take the position on. And Augustine said if I had a guess, I would be a tradition.

Which is a really surprising thing given this kind of plate in this view of the soul, but so the reason I because, you know God creates everything to reproduce after its kind. And then if there’s somehow you know soul stuff in the body I mean you know spirit and body are so integrated that they’re in the reproductive tissue of your parents. And so, the reason that I have my father’s personality as well as his blue eyes and balding head and stuff like that is partly because I’ve gotten a slice of his soul. I mean it explains many things.

It’s consistent with a lot of biblical anthropology, the problems are mainly philosophical and if you read the theologians objections, no soul is simple it couldn’t you know though that sort of stuff. But I mean those are philosophical points and they’re not biblical points. If God creates everything to reproduce after its kind and humans are Nephesh, spirit and flesh then why shouldn’t humans reproduce after their kind? And that’s biblical theology not philosophy.

But I don’t take a strong view on it. But I mean it’s a very strong view. Like creationism you would think then that the child is a human being with all the capacities for personhood right there in potentia from the moment of conception, but I get that with traditionalism to.

Man: We’ve got time for just one more question and of course if you have quite further questions you can–

Yeah I’d be happy to stay around for a little while.


Man: I have a question about, I guess do we remain human beings or human as a substance in the intermediate state. Because I guess I take it to be a safe assumption and I know that’s kind of famous last words that to be embodied is essential to the natural kind being human.

That’s a very good question. But I kind of like Thomas Aquinas’ answer on that. Thomas Aquinas did not think we were fully human in the intermediate state. We were definitely persons. I mean he didn’t you that at that term but I mean we’re rational moral spiritual beings, but you know Thomas because he’s a Hailomophist and I mean I really like Thomas’s view as Professor Merlin’s view too and I really like his professor Merlin’s book on this, Thomas thinks that the soul is the form of the body.

So even when the soul leaves the body, what it’s doing is leaving the matter which it had organized into a living body. In addition to, its being a rational moral spiritual being. And so, even in the intermediate state the potency for bodily functions is still in the soul. So it’s kind of like the soul just wants a body and Thomas then also has the metaphysical basis for understanding why there’s something bodily about souls and there’s something you know even when we think about ghosts, you know one of the knocks against certain kinds of dualism is that well if it’s totally a material, then it’s not local and it’s getting there’s no[foreign language]and you how could you tell them from a part know all mixed together, and I mean I think that’s not a very good objection.

But in any case, Thomas wouldn’t have that problem at all. Because it’s still individuated. Its bodily in potentia but it’s not actually bodily which is why there’s got to be a resurrection. But it’s the form rational animal, but it’s not materialized. And so you know when if you read Thomas at the end of the Suma about the glorified body to, I mean Thomas wants the matter of this world back, this is not a new kind of matter and not a new kind of spiritual stuff that makes the glorious body, it’s the old matter but it’s sublimated.

And he goes on for pages about how it’s gonna be lighter and brighter and more you know, be able to move around and stuff. I’m not sure I’m sold on it or want to turn out that way but a very good question and the answer is no, we’re not quite fully human. Socrates thought we would be more human without the body. Thomas doesn’t, no Christian should.