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The Table Video

J.P. Moreland

Science, Consciousness, and the Soul - J.P. Moreland

Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
May 1, 2013

J.P. Moreland (Biola University) discusses consciousness and the existence of the soul in light of contemporary neuroscience and Christian theology.


For 2000 years, the church has understood the Bible to teach that there’s a soul. This is what Jesus appears to have taught, it’s what Paul appears to have taught, and the idea was that there is a soul that when we die, it leaves the body, it enters an intermediate state between death and the final resurrection, where we will get a body again and forever be rembodied. Now this teaching implies that there is more to us than our brains and our bodies, that we are in fact souls that have bodies.

I have been interested in this question for some time, and in some of my previous writings, I was concerned to evaluate some of the philosophical and theological issues that surround whether or not there’s a soul, as well as some of the ethical implications, for abortion and things of that sort, from believing in a soul.

Currently, I’ve become interested in the implications of contemporary neuroscience for whether or not there is a soul. Now, some people claim that the findings of neuroscience in the last 10, 15, 20 years have made it less and less plausible to believe that we are anything more than our brains, and the idea here is that consciousness is generated by the brain, and that consciousness actually resides in the brain.

Whereas, a classic Christian understanding would be that consciousness resides in the soul, but it is in very deep integration and causal connection with the brain. So if the brain shuts down, consciousness shuts down, and so on. These questions are at the very root of Christianity’s interfacing with culture. And so, it’s important for more and more Christian thinkers to weigh in on this and to try to understand how to integrate contemporary findings of science with classic Christian theology and octor. [Dramatic orchestral music]