In this talk, I ask the question – What difference does it make if the Bible teaches we are physical creatures, rather than dual body-soul beings? How does that impact on anything else we believe as Christians?
From gender identity to mental health more generally, to salvation, the way we view human nature has a profound impact.
If you kill yourself, then the only reason you did it is that one day you made a choice to do it. Are things really that simple?
Popular Christian blogger Matt Walsh has been getting a bit of flack lately. In a blog entry that was, in my view, a pretty bad idea, he offered what he took to be a correction to the many messages of sorrow about the recent death by suicide of actor Robin Williams. People have been drawing attention to Robin’s struggles with substance abuse and, more prominently in people’s comments, with the mental illness that is depression. I think it’s right to draw attention to this, and for Robin’s sad passing to be a reminder to us all how debilitating depression can be, and to reach out and help those who battle it. Sometimes you know about it, a lot of the time you won’t. Continue reading “Mental health and choice: A plea for some people to say less”→
Might it be true that the gender of some people’s souls doesn’t match the sex of their bodies?
In the ever-driven politics of the language of gender, the word “cisgender” has been forged. Without harping on too much about it, it’s a word that, in my view, has been created in part to destabilise the notion of “normal” as far as gender goes, so that what most of us took to be normal until now can be spoken about as simply one condition among the others. To be “cisgender” is to have physical makeup – including chromosomes but especially including sex organs – so that by examining your physical structure, a person can tell whether or not your gender is male or female. Continue reading “Dualism and Gender Identity”→
I’m delighted to announce that in December 2014 the Ashgate Research Companion to Theological Anthropology will be published, featuring a chapter from me called “The Mortal God.” The chapter is about how a doctrine of the incarnation might look coupled with a materialist view of human beings. Theological anthropology is about coming up with a view of human persons from a decidedly theological point of view, although there is a natural overlap with philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, theology and biblical studies. Questions about bodies, minds, souls, spirits, life, death, eternity and more are tackled in this sizeable piece of scholarship.
Sometimes the defenders of dualism are the pot, and their materialist targets are the kettle. Think about the following ways of arguing that we have immaterial souls and see if you can find anything wrong with them: Continue reading “Consciousness Cuts Both Ways”→
Does the Bible actually teach that souls live on when the body dies? Short story: no.
In part 1 of this series I looked at what the Bible does say about the mind-body question. You should read that before you read this post. In short, in Scripture there’s a fairly clear portrait of human beings as physical and mortal, returning to the earth when we die, and depending on the resurrection of the dead for any future life beyond the grave. The familiar view of human beings as immaterial souls that inhabit physical bodies and live on when the body dies is not one supported in the Bible.
But is it really that simple? The evidence we saw last time was surprisingly clear, but still, some Christian readers of Scripture are resistant to this message. There are some passages in the Bible – although not many – that seem to some Christians to suppose that actually human beings do not die when their bodies die, but they actually live on in non-material form. Their souls don’t die. Some passages of the Bible, some people think, teach dualism because they teach that the soul outlives the body.
Specifically, I mean substance dualism, a view most clearly represented by the French philosopher René Descartes, or in classical thought by Plato. Materialism as a view of human beings is compatible with property dualism, with emergentism or with hylemorphism (in which a human being, like any other creature, is a compound of matter and form), in spite of the fact that the word dualism is used to describe each. The key is that these are views where the only substance involved is a physical substance. [↩]
Is Christian physicalism really the child of naturalism that gives essentialism the heave-ho?
I really wish that evangelical institutions would pick the right fights to get into. A couple of days ago I got an email advertisement from that great bastion of substance dualism (or more importantly, that good and faithful opponent of Christian physicalism) in the modern Evangelical world, Biola University. The advertisement reads as follows:
This episode is a very late addition to the series “In Search of the Soul,” looking at the various options that exist in philosophy of mind.
In the original five part series I was very conscious of the fact that I was leaving out the view of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, and this addendum is my penance for that fact. As promised in the episode, here are just a few suggestions for further reading, from authors who defend “hylemorphic dualism.”
David Oderberg, Real Essentialism
David Oderberg, “Hylemorphic Dualism” in Ellen Paul, Fred Miller and Jeffrey Paul (eds), Personal Identity
Edward Feser, Philosophy of Mind: A Beginner’s Guide