As part of my Unschooled Master of Theology Program I finished reading J. P. Moreland’s Body & Soul.
I was unable to find a copy the normal way online, but LOGOS actually sent me a $20 coupon last month and this was the book I immediately thought of getting. Needless to say, I’m a bit of a Moreland fanatic. He’s a philosophy professor at Biola (not a big fan of the school…ridiculously expensive) and approaches the subject from a Christian perspective.
So, let’s jump into this book and find out what substance dualism actually is….
What is Man?
The predominate view today, even in biblical circles, is that the human being is one entity, without a soul, and is a vital whole of mass and biology. His activities are inseparable from his physical form and cannot be distinguished between parts as those parts do not independently exist.
Of course, this view is, in its essence impossible when measured against the teaching of Jesus. He definitively distinguished between the different parts of the human being – the body can die on earth but the soul cannot, while both body and soul can be killed in the Lake of Fire (Matt 10:28). Likewise, in his “parable” of the Rich Man and Lazarus, we see assumptions clearly made about the disposition of the dead – Lazarus going to mark time at Abraham’s side until the end, and the Rich Man doing likewise in torment in Hades.
Among contemporary Christian intellectuals, though, such ideas are loathed as dualist nonsense, part of a bygone age of simpletons and dullards. Gone are the ideas that founded the modern world, with the concept of the soul as the immortal aspect of man tethered to the physical body that is mortal.
As Moreland points out, the monism of today, despite its popularity, cannot be sustained under careful or even cursory exegesis. The Bible clearly teaches some form of anthropological dualism. For myself, I am convinced this boycott is out of 1. Fear of ultimate judgment 2. A mechanism by which they can continue and propogate their lie of secularism and physicalism.
I do disagree with one point Moreland makes, the idea that the mind is synonymous with the soul or that the soul is synonymous with the spirit. I would, instead, argue for a trichotomic view of biblical anthropology. That the “living being” is the sum total of the union of body, soul, and spirit. It is the body that provides mechanization within the physical world, the soul that represents the individual “I,” and the spirit which tethers the two sides together and brings the spark of animation to the physical body.
Separate from what the monist view popularized today of the mind and brain being identical, the trichotomic view suggests most aligns with the biblical text. Yet, despite this, as Moreland points out, it has never gained a foothold in any scientific research of the mind, and has increasingly disappeared from the philosophical sphere.
The concept that our mentality originates not from the brain but from some ethereal substance tethered to the body is difficult to prove within a scientific framework. This is because there is no means by which we can even measure the soulness of a soul or the spiritness of the spirit. We can certainly measure the bodiness of the body. It’s weight. It’s appearance. It’s structure.
In fact, there is no compelling reason to think there is a soul aside from the biblical testimony itself. Without it we are perpetually clawing in the dark.
The Disembodied State
One issue I wish Moreland would have addressed in more detail is actual disembodiment at death. He argues that, at a minimum, a Christian should hold that people sustain their identities beyond death and can exist disembodied in the intermediate state. But, he never really tackles this issue much at all, and pays even less space to the concepts of the Intermediate State.
In the New Testament it is simply a given that the soul survives after the death of the body. In Ecclesiastes 12:7 it is stated the body returns to the earth and the spirit returns to God. In the Rich Man and Lazarus account, we learn that the dead are divided between Paradise and Hades to await the Judgment. Certainly, at this point, at our last breath, we will know our ultimate destination. Can anyone who is condemned to Hades ever imagine for themselves a place in the supernatural realms?
Of course, there is no actual evidence for existence beyond death, nor evidence for a place the Bible calls Hades or even Paradise. These terms are theological at best, philosophical if we entertain the ideas of Plato and his theories on the soul, which appear to have been adopted and adapted from Orphism, a kind of pre-Christian gnostic philosophy that encourages people to shed the evil parts of their nature through ritual and moral purification.
There is something quite universal about the insistence of the soul, despite any evidence to support it.
What is Reality?
Moreland makes a point describing how everything is what it is and is not something else. The thing is identical to the thing and not identical to another thing. This was expressed as the principle of nonidentity, where if one thing can be found true of X that is not true of Y then X is not identical to Y and, thus, X is not Y. But X is X and Y is Y.
The evidence to support disembodied existence is contained in 1. Biblical record 2. Near death experiences. In the book they attempt to argue for disembodied existence by stating if it is possible for disembodied existence in one possible world then it is possible that disembodied existence is possible in all possible worlds. I find this an argument from ignorance, and in no way moves the discussion forward. We claim we know that a body cannot exist disembodied, but this is simply not true. Medical science often insists a persistent vegetative state equals brain death, that the person who was there is no longer.
if disembodied existence for human persons is metaphysically possible—if there is a possible world in which a human person has disembodied existence—then a human person cannot be identical to his or her body because there is no possible world where the person’s body exists in a disembodied state. Since it is possible for a person to exist disembodied but it is not possible for a body to exist disembodied, then a person is not identical to his or her body. Why? Because something is true of the person (the possibility of disembodied existence) that is not true of his or her body.
All Christians agree that we have free will, but there are major differences among Christians about what free will is. (I am not convinced we have free will all the time and in every situation). I think free will or our autonomous thinking and functioning is in direct correlation to God’s interaction with our individual lives. The more God chooses to involve himself in the life of the individual, the less free will that individual has. If God predestines (determines) that a man will end up walking through a particular door, the man has no free will in this matter concerning walking through the door or not. He will walk through the door. He is free to exercise his free will about how he gets to the point where he walks through the door. He might take the stairs or he might choose to take the elevator. Both lead to the door. But, he does not have the free will to remain on the first floor because he must get to the second floor to walk through the door. )
That Truest Knowledge
This book was a perfect addition to my research into the fundamental reality underpinning existence, not only in this physical dimension, but also (and more importantly) in the spiritual dimension, where we will (as the Bible claims) spend eternity in the presence of God and will join the ranks of his heavenly host.
My ultimate interests lie in what is real. What is knowable about actual reality, operating under the assumption that this physical reality that we exist within currently is a fabrication.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a broad overview of the substance dualist view of human anthropology. It does a great job in the first part of the book exploring the biblical anthroplogy and tries to apply that framework to real life applications today in the second half. It is certainly worth the read.
Until my next review….
Please consider supporting my writing, 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 Sacred the Circle:
There was a knock at the door.
Campbell got up from the chair and crossed the small distance so he could open it.
A young man stood in the doorway, probably in his early twenties.
Campbell could tell he looked a little disheveled.
He had deep rings around his eyes, as if he hadn’t been sleeping much, and he kept checking the hallway in both directions, as if half expecting someone to be stalking him.
“Hey,” Campbell said.
The kid was stumbling over his own words.
Campbell leaned out into the hallway, checking to make sure there was no one else listening.
This guy wasn’t the only one who was becoming paranoid.
There were two students hanging out at the foyer, near the stairs, but the rest of the floor was clear.
“I’m sorry,” the kid said. “Must be the wrong place. I’m mistaken.”
He started to leave.
“Wait,” Campbell said, putting a hand out. “Hold on a second.”
The kid paused.
“What’s your name?”
He fidgeted with his collar.
“I know it sounds crazy, but – ”
“You’re not crazy, Lloyd,” Campbell said, grinning.
“Did you – ? ”
The kid paused, as if unsure if he should continue.
He looked back toward the stairs, then at Campbell.
“Did you know I was coming?” he finally asked. “I mean, that’s not possible, but, were you expecting me?”
Campbell chuckled to himself.
“What’s so funny?” Lloyd asked.
“Well – ”
Campbell pushed the door open all the way so Lloyd could see inside his dorm room.
The entire room was full of them, students, non-students, ranging from what looked like eighteen to even a few middle-aged men, scattered about the room, sitting wherever they could find a comfortable spot.
Lloyd’s mouth dropped open.
“I wasn’t really expecting them, either,” Campbell said. “So, I hope you don’t hold it against me when I tell you, I had no idea you’d be showing up here. Do you care to join us, anyway?”
Buy my book Sacred the Circle to find out what these men are hearing from the supernatural realm. Will they answer the questions tugging at them? What are the visions saying? Who are the Multitude? Why are all these men being brought together? By whom? And why, above all else, are they being convicted….to pray?
But, trust me when I say, you’ll be white knuckling this one with every turn of the page!