Bav wrote:I'll assume you mean the belief in "soul sleep"...heh. While it's debatable, if one believes as it seems you do, that the person is a soul and not body *and* soul, then it seems almost trivial IMHO.
Trivial, no. Secondary doctrine, absolutely. I do not believe in soul sleep. I believe that people get temporary bodies in paradise (or hell) while awaiting the resurrection.
Are you asking me (I'm confused by the wording) what my position is on the soul and the body of a created human? Sorry for being so dense. Sometimes I can grasp things and other times I have difficulty.
I can see how my wording was . . . um . . . obfuscatory.
What I was asking for was your position on how the "soul" (however you define it) relates to the body. You rightly reject substance dualism, but I doubt you are a physicalist (as in monism, see my comments to K below). So when you use the word "soul," what do you mean by it, and how does it interact with our physical bodies? I'm looking for your philosophical position here, not your theological position. I'm well aware of the doctrine of soul sleep and the general framework to which it holds. I just want to know how it actually works for you.
Now, K . . .
K wrote:This is like saying that any major Christian doctrine settled upon does not belong to classical Christianity because Greek's were big on thinking. Even if embedded in Greek thinking, this says nothing about the truth of such a concept. However, I think the concept of substance dualism can be found all the way back in Genesis and throughout the OT. Just like the concept of the Trinity is found in Scripture. In fact, substance dualism is I think more-so clear.
I'll comment your substance dualism shortly, but here I want to comment on your main criticism. Naturally, just because the Greeks had an idea, that doesn't mean it was wrong. To the contrary, I hold to very much of the same philosophy as Aristotle, being a Thomist myself. The point which I was making, however, is that the idea of substance dualism, especially in the Cartesian sense of the term, goes back to Plato. It doesn't originate in Scripture. That may Christians hold to it is due to popular culture and our broadly Greek perspective, I believe. But just because most Christians think that way doesn't make it the case.
So, technically, the origin of an idea doesn't deny its validity (to assert such would be to commit a genetic fallacy), the fact that this idea that we are souls who are driving around these things called bodies came from pagan Greek philosophy rather than from Scripture is a valid point to make. It is, I'm sure you agree, worth noting the origins of ideas, not to prove their rightness or wrongness, but to prove that they aren't a necessary part of a system.
Let me start up by saying that theologically and philosophically, I have researched the mind/body problem much and so have settled much my positions on these issues.
I'm sure. I've always appreciated your philosophical backgrounds in the discussions. I always thought it made things more productive!
When you read OT Scripture "soul" nearly always appears to be represented as a physical body+spirit (where spirit often Scripturally represents one's vitality and essense). Substance-wise, the OT appears to make no distinction between soul and spirit. In Ecclesiastes 12:7 we read when we die, "the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." I can not see how this is not supportive of substance dualism.
I follow you perfectly well until the last sentence. I can't see how it IS supportive of substance dualism. The fact that the OT speaks of the human being as ONE substance would strongly mitigate against the OT promoting substance dualism. To the contrary, this fact--the OT's apparent ignorance of substance dualism--is the major premise of soul sleep. It is telling that when people argue against that doctrine, they spend most of their time in the NT. If the OT held to substance dualism, you would expect opponents of soul sleep to be referring to the repeated dualist passages in the OT. But, there are none, and that, I think, because the Bible does not teach substance dualism.
Today "soul" has many varying meanings. You have Descartes' Cartesian dualism which reduces the soul to the mind or our consciousness, then you have Thomists (like myself) who insist upon a more intimate relationship between the soul and body. In Genesis, we see a living soul consists of both body and "breath" (spirit). God breathed life into man and he became a "living soul" (Gen 2:7). The terminology of "living soul" suggests to me that there can be such a thing as a soul which is not living. This supports my Thomistic beliefs where I see a soul needs a body to interface with the world. Without a body, a soul would essentially exist in limbo, or sustained by God (as the author of Ecclesiastes appears to believe).
I'll pick up your comment on Thomism in the next section. All I'll say here is that it seems to me you have made an incredible, unwarranted leap from "living soul" to substance dualism. I don't, for instance, consider myself a trichotomist, but such a doctrine could well reject substance dualism and still explain the difference in a "living soul" and a "dead soul." Still further, the words "living" and "dead" in this context have deep theological meanings. Your leap, then, comes in the fact that you assume a certain meaning for each of these terms that isn't proven and doesn't at all appear to me to be necessary.
To elaborate further, I believe our soul possesses certain functional capacities (e.g., taste, touch, morality, sight, etc), and that our body is built upon these capacities allowing them to be expressed. Herein is the more intimate relationship of soul+body found in Thomistic form of substance dualism. This is going further into my beliefs, but one capacity I believe our soul has is a spiritual capacity (e.g., our "eyes" to God or the spiritual world), yet this requires the spiritual bodily component in order to be expressed and function. I often refer to this "spiritual bodily form" as our spirit. Our spirit is what I believe died in us when we sinned against God, severing our relationship with Him. Now we have to be spiritually "born again" (John 3:3-8) in order to receive our spiritual body back which allows us to perceive and even experience God again.
Forgive me, but I think you've misunderstood your Thomism a bit. Thomists are NOT substance dualists. Here
is a great little paper (only two pages) that details the differences in the Thomist and Cartesian approaches to the mind/body problem.
In short, Cartesians consider human beings as composed of two separate substances
, one being an immaterial mind (soul) and the other being a material body. The question, which I think is damning, for any Cartesian must be, how, by definition, can an immaterial substance interact with a material substance? Descartes' answer, that it did so in the penal gland in the center of the brain only moves the problem back one step, because it doesn't answer the question. There seems to be no way for an immaterial agent to be a material cause, for it was a material cause, it would render the agent material!
Thomism has no such problem. It does not define a human being as being composed of two separate substances, but rather as being composed of one
substance which, like all real things, is composed of both form and matter (I'm assuming that, being the Thomist you are, you are familiar with the terms). Form is, of course, immaterial, whereas matter is material. It is this fact that is so foundational that to take this away is to destroy the very foundation of Thomism as a system at all. But this fact also is the foundation of Thomist epistemology, which allows for real objectivity (contra Descartes), for it allows a way for external reality to actually get inside
the mind, rather than only having a representation
of reality in the mind. In any case, since all things have form and matter, all things have an immaterial and material aspect to them. Just so with humans. We have a form (our souls) and matter (our bodies). It is extremely important that one notice that the soul is form, and as form is not substance, we can in no way so that the soul is a substance separate from the body. Likewise, the body is matter, and as matter is not substance with form, so the body without the soul is not substance. Thus, we are not substance's that are informed by a soul, but rather, the human being, in Thomism, is a single substance composed of soul and body,
But here, we don't have the Cartesian's problem, because we aren't trying to ask how an immaterial substance interacts with a physical substance. That isn't an issue because Thomism doesn't postulate separate substances for the soul and body. We speak of an immaterial aspect
and a material aspect
of the single substance, and there seems to be nothing philosophically difficult about that at all. We can, from there, start talking about the "functions" of the soul (i.e., hearing, seeing, etc.). In doing so, we would be trying to answer the question, "Where is sense found: in the body or in the soul?" It sounds like you would argue the latter, but I don't know for sure. In any case, that's another debate, though obviously related. I'll let you respond to the above rather than bringing up too many points.
In any case, substance dualism, the idea that we are comprised of separate material/immaterial substances, is very much embedded I think in any form of Christianity. I also think it is very intuitively apparent that mental properties are quite distinct from physical properties. The only other alternative to Dualism, is Monism which either attempts to reduce everything to the physical/material, or vice-versa. So I wonder whether you believe Monism is better supported in traditional/classical Christianity?
I hope I've shown above that substance dualism isn't at all necessary or even suggested by Christianity. We are NOT composed of two separate substances. We are ONE substance with a material and immaterial aspect. Secondly, there is a third alternative to dualism and monism, which would be, to use Millard Erickson's term from his popular Christian Theology
, "Conditional Unity." It is a hybrid of the two--basically a restatement of the classical Thomism. Here, a human cannot be a person
without being both material and immaterial. Now, in classical Thomism, there was a debate about whether or not we could speak of the soul's of people in heaven as actual people. Aquinas grants the major premise in the argument, namely, that souls without bodies are not people, but he excepts in this case by saying it is okay to address such souls by their names (when praying to the saints) to indicate one's belief in the Resurrection (source
, see objection five and response).
Here, I have to part ways with the great doctor. I would simply say, as I did to Bav above, that the "souls" in heaven are still persons for the simple reason that they receive temporary bodies. Thomas, perhaps, rejected that claim because it seems ad hoc
. Forms can well exist apart from their materials (though not as a separate substance, for they still must be in another, in this case, the mind). But I think the nature of the objection requires it, for the only exist apart from their original material when they have another material to inform. In the case of epistemology, I see a tree, which is a real thing composed of the form 'tree' and the matter informed by it. What I actually see is the matter, and it is the matter that impresses the form on my mind. Thus, the form itself--and not a mere copy of it--is passed into my mind as an impressed species. All fine and good, but what that shows is that forms must have something to impress upon if they are to remain in existence. If the soul, as the form of man, has no material to inform, then it must cease to exist. The obvious way for that to happen, which is confirmed repeatedly by Scripture, is to say that people in heaven have bodies. These bodies must be temporary, though, not because they themselves are not sufficient (whether they are or are not, we are not told), but because we are told elsewhere in Scripture that at the Second Advent we will receive glorified bodies.
All this, then, is the position of Conditional Unity. I am a person on the condition that I have both an immaterial aspect (commonly called the soul) united with a material aspect (commonly called the body). Once either of these is removed, I am no longer a person. Just as a corpse is not a person, so a "disembodied spirit" (to speak loosely) is not a person.