Does the soul exist? If it even does, what is it exactly? Is it part of our bodies? Somehow separate from them? When we die, does our soul die with our bodies or does it continue on? Can we know anything about the soul?
In this paper I wrote for my Unschooled Master of Theology Program (uThM), I wrestled with these and other questions about the existence of the soul and came to some interesting conclusions.
So, dust off all those old presuppositions and blind beliefs you’ve been carrying around with you, and let’s dig into the question:
Do you have a soul?
The Professor’s Take on the Existence of the Soul
In the open course PHIL 176 – Death by Yale professor Shelly Kagan, I was introduced to the world and discussion of death. What it means to die. What death is like. Is there a soul and does the soul exist after death?
Through the course lectures, the professor switched sides multiple times, taking up both pro and con positions to prove the point he was trying to make. Yet, he still unilaterally declared himself to be a physicalist – that the physical world is the only one that actually exists.
Hence, he often commented during his arguments that he believed there was no soul, that it did not exist.
He went on to argue not only did it not exist, and those who argued for the existence of the human soul were deluded or blinded by belief, and that those who did not believe in souls had no obligation to disprove the existence of the soul, but, rather, could simply abandon all belief in the soul and call it a day.
He claimed the human body was just “a fancy machine that could do neat tricks,” that when we died, all of us ceased to exist.
There was no afterlife, no immortality, no resurrection, and, thus, no judgment. When we died, that was simply, for the dead anyway, the end.
Why I Argue for the Existence of the Soul
But, I would argue the counter claim. I would contend there is a reason to believe in the existence of the human soul. There is authoritative testimony that lends credibility and this argument, unlike philosophy, which has no real claim to agency or legitimate dominion.
In addition, I also argue subjectively for the belief in the existence of the soul, based solely on the above stated sovereignty, having witnessed first-hand, in my own life, the transformative power of that testimony.
Despite there being no physical, measurable evidence for or against the existence of the soul, it is my claim that we can rest assured, with high confidence, on this testimony given as my example: the Bible.
What the Bible Claims About the Soul
The bible is considered holy or sacred the world over and throughout most of recent history (at least the last 3000 years).
In many instances, it is viewed as divinely inspired, if not inerrant by the devout.
I would argue, though, most miss the fundamental power underlining the biblical text, that brought it into fruition, and has sustained it all these years.
For me, the bible is a supernatural witness. It is a divinely inspired text, inerrant in its original autographs, and was engineered from its inception to withstand the tampering of man.
Of course, at the beginning of the lecture series, the Professor immediately limits the discussion to physicalist and metaphysicalist arguments, painting any theological appeals as “out of bounds.” This is typically done by non-believers since they don’t know the things of God and it is the only way for them to get a sure footing for their evolutionary thinking.
As it states, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Yet, to each one who receives the spirit of God, to him is revealed truth that is beyond human wisdom. To the lost, it remains an anathema, while, to the believer, it is a grand, mystical undertaking – a journey into the inner realms.
Because of my unique experience with the Word of God specifically, I recognize its inherent authority, sovereignty, and legitimacy when making predictions and know with some certainty the veracity of its claims.
The bible has changed my life in a fundamental and lasting way, much of which, at the time, against my own will.
Since that moment in the hospital room, when I turned the pages over and read the truth, I could no longer accept the lies I had once accepted.
Hard as I might, I could not and still cannot help but believe in the truth of the bible.
So, what does the bible say about the existence of the soul exactly?
Actually, a great deal.
First, it does not acknowledge the argument of non-existence. In the bible, the existence of the soul is common knowledge – simply fact.
Secondly, the bible treats the soul as if it is, in some ways, a counter balance to the body. In Matthew 10:28, we are cautioned, “…fear not the one who kills the body, but is unable to kill the soul. Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both the body and the soul in hell fire.”
So, the body and the soul are, indeed, separate. And, the body is subject to what the bible implies to be “the first death.”
This occurs when the body ceases its operations to sustain life (caused by the cessation of blood circulation – Leviticus 17:11). It could be argued rather successfully, that one could lose the body and yet still exist (or, exist again) at the resurrection. But, it would not be possible to lose the soul and yet still exist. Strangely, though, the bible tells us, “the blood is the soul” (Deuteronomy 12:23).
So, existence is dependent upon the possession of the soul, the soul is the blood and the blood is required for the life of the body.
Once the body ceases operation, the soul of the lost individual will most likely go to a place underground known as gloom, the infernal region, hades, or the bottomless pit (the abyss). The saved appear to possibly go elsewhere, to another place as the guest of Abraham.
Once God’s plan is complete, the first resurrection will occur (Revelation 20:4-6) and those who are called will reign with Christ for 1000 years.
The second resurrection does not occur until after the 1000 years has ended and Christ returns to the earth (Revelation 20:11-15). At the Great White Throne, anyone not written in the Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:14; 21:8). This is where we can see the destruction of the soul (Matthew 10:28), though it does appear as if it remains in a constant state of being destroyed for all eternity – both destroyed and yet still eternal and immortal.
But, what is the soul exactly?
As previously mentioned, the bible does not definitively define the soul, as it simply assumes our complete understanding of it.
The ψυχής (G5590) “soul” is separate from the πνεύμα (G4151) “spirit,” as well as the σώμα (G4983) “body,” and the καρδίας (G2588) “heart,” and διανοίας (G1271) “thought or mind,” and ισχύος (G2479) “strength, vitality.”
These appear to be all aspects of the ψυχήν ζώσαν (G5590/G2198) “living soul,” while the soul itself remains central and essential.
The bible makes some other, quite remarkable, claims about the soul. It says Jesus has a soul (Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34), as does God the Father (Psalm 11:5; Matthew 12:18).
It claims the soul can be lost (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36), yet this is somehow distinct from the going down of the soul into the grave (Palm 30:3).
The bible clearly illustrates the goal of the believer: it is our complete sanctification, that our “whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at his coming” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Now, the soul is apparently, in some way, connected or entangled with the spirit, for we are told they can be divided, just as the joint from the marrow and the thoughts from intents (Hebrew 4:12).
And, lastly, I trust in the bible because of its testimony of itself. For it promises, “the word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25).
Since I first read, and a renewed spirit and a new heart was given, I have believed in his Word. (Ezekiel 36:26).
The truth has simply been undeniable.
What Questions Still Remain?
But, there are still questions to be answered about the soul. What is its essence, exactly, and what is its origin and makeup? God knows (Jeremiah 1:5).
What exactly happens to the soul at death? Is it separated from the body? From the mind? From the spirit? After the death of the body, do the spirit and the soul of the believer somehow remain intertwined?
Where do the dead go after they have died? And, the dead in Christ? Why is there a place of torment before the Judgment? And, can a soul ever, truly not exist?
How can we ever really even know there is such a thing as a soul in the first place?
The Conclusions of the Soul
We know, at least for the genuine believer, the biblical text is a cryptic message of supernatural and mystical origin. It is written for our benefit and serves also as a witness against the lost.
The bible tells us that there is such a thing as the soul. It is the fundamental component required for our existence, for our personal identity.
And, despite the world’s ardent cries against the supernatural foundation of reality, it is clearly evident to those who believe.
There remain mysteries yet still to be revealed. One day we will know as we are known, but, until then, what a grand adventure it is to uncover the truth and secrets of our God.
Until my next paper….
(P.S. If you liked this paper from my Unschooled Master of Theology Program (uThM), then you’re going to ABSOLUTELY LOVE my novel Our Daughter, where our characters must deal with the stark realities of death and loss intimately. Check it out below.)
Please consider supporting my work, my unschooled studies, and my hermitic lifestyle by purchasing one or more of my books. I’m not supported by academia or have a lucrative corporate job – I’m just a mystical modern-day hermit trying to live out the life I believe God has called me to. So, any support you choose to provide is GREATLY appreciated.
Excerpt from Our Daughter:
“Okay, mom,” Randy said.
“You behave yourself and be nice. You’re lucky to have company while you wait for the doctors.”
The woman turned and started back the way she came.
“The nurse said it would be twenty or thirty more minutes, so we’ll eat quick and be back up here before they take you in, okay?”
“Sorry for him,” the woman said to Katie as she walked by.
As the woman left, Katie noticed the boy moving around again on the bed. Before she realized what was happening, the tiny lump disappeared and she could hear the faint sound of bare hands and feet on the tile floor.
He was low crawling under the beds toward her.
A moment later, Randy popped his head out from under the nearest hospital bed, craning his neck around to look up at her.
“Hello, there,” Katie said.
Randy disappeared back under the bed, the bed sheet draping down almost to the floor. Katie could still see three little fingers pressed to the tile.
“What are you here for?” Katie asked, readjusting her seat in the chair, trying to get the ache in her chest to lessen.
For whatever reason, the wheelchair was really uncomfortable.
“Why are – ”
Randy’s voice trailed off for a moment as he looked around.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m getting my leg fixed,” Katie said. “See?”
Randy poked his head back out from under the bed and looked at the leg she was pointing to.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“The doctor said it’s broken,” Katie said. “Shattered.”
“Can you feel it?” Randy asked, able to stay out from his hiding place.
“I can feel it, but it’s not too bad,” Katie said, then tapped the IV in her arm. “This thing is giving me medicine of some kind for the pain. At least that’s what the nurses said.”
“Why are you – ”
Randy stopped mid-sentence.
He scooted out from under the bed entirely and slowly crept over to her on all fours.
“What are you, some kind of spider?” Katie asked, giggling a little.
“What are you?” Randy echoed.
He was now only about a foot away from her chair and sat there, his legs folded up under him, gawking up at her.
“What are you staring at me for?”
“I’ve never – ”
Randy put out a hesitant hand and ever so gently touched her arm.
“Are you some kind of ghost?”
He looked around again.
“Are you – ”
He leaned in, talking in a whisper.
“Are you dead?”
A nurse came around the corner and stopped abruptly, spotting the empty bed in the far corner where Randy should have been.
“Randy Andrews,” the nurse said, her hands now on her hips. “You get right back into the bed and you stop playing around, please. They are ready for you in surgery.”
Katie watched as Randy scrambled on all fours under the beds and back up onto his, pulling the sheet back over top of himself again.
She started to ask him about his question, but couldn’t get the words out before his parents appeared at the door.
Katie sat there quietly, watching Randy stare back at her from under his sheet. She glanced over at his parents and the nurse, noticed Randy’s dad had no hair on the top of his head.
Are you dead?
What kind of question was that?
The snap of the wheel locks being disengaged on Randy’s hospital bed jarred Katie out of the confusion she was in.
The doctor she’d first seen was now at the door, waiting for Randy.
He was his surgeon.
They wheeled Randy out of the room, his parents following right behind, disappearing to the left, heading for his operating room.
The pre-op room was empty again.
Are you dead?
What kind of crazy question was that?
The nurse came back through the double doors.
“It won’t be long now,” she said.
Katie tried not to think about the dull ache growing just behind her sternum.
The nurse disappeared around the corner as Katie watched the double doors to the operating rooms slowly shut.
Buy my book Our Daughter and begin the adventure of a lifetime, as you uncover the mysteries behind Katie Cadora’s new life after the horrible accident that stole her mother away from her. Will she find sure footing again? Will the pain ever stop? Will she discover the secrets her new foster family are keeping from her? Is the boy’s question right? Is Katie Cadora actually dead?
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