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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?

I've been reading about Nancey Murphy. Here's some of what Wikipedia has on her ....

Nancey Murphy is a Christian theologian and philosopher .... currently Professor of Christian Philosophy at the Fuller Theological Seminary .... Her first book, Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning, won a prize from the American Academy of Religion. The Templeton Foundation awarded it the 1999 Prize for Outstanding Books in Theology .... More recently, Dr. Murphy has written a book entitled Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? .... Murphy serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences and an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. She also serves as an editorial advisor for Theology and Science, Theology Today, and Christianity Today.

I haven't read her book, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?, but I found a 2005 interview with her in which she answers a couple of questions on that subject .....


As you’ve pointed out, science has made it extremely hard to posit something like the soul that exists independent of the body, or a mind that exists independent of physical processes in the brain. Some would say the dualistic view was never a biblical view to begin with, though it has long been part of Christian tradition. Do you agree?

I follow New Testament scholar James Dunn in holding that the biblical authors were not interested in cataloguing the metaphysical parts of a human being -- body, soul, spirit, mind. Their interest was in relationships. The words that later Christians have translated with Greek philosophical terms and then understood as referring to parts of the self originally were used to designate aspects of human life. For example, spirit refers not to an immaterial something but to our capacity to be in relationship with God, to be moved by God’s Spirit.

It is widely agreed that the Hebrew Bible presents a holistic account of human nature, somewhat akin to contemporary physicalism. The New Testament authors certainly knew various theories of human nature, including dualism, but it was not their purpose to teach about this issue.

Soul language is often invoked when people contemplate the status of a human embryo or fetus, or speak about someone with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a way of saying: there is something here that goes beyond physical reality and deserves respect. Do you think human dignity can be preserved without invoking soul language or something similar?

Much of Christian thinking about the preservation of human life takes a strange detour. We know that Jesus taught us to value all people. His ethic is unusual in the specific focus that he puts on two groups: our enemies and those we consider to be "least of these" (Matt. 25:46). So regarding the most vulnerable of people, we know as Christians that we need to protect them -- and then we invoke the concept of the soul to explain why. But why not just say "because Jesus commands it"?

There may have been a reason in the past to invoke the concept of soul for this purpose. In a culture that was not Christian but did accept dualism, soul language could be used apologetically to argue for protection of the vulnerable. The attempt to use it now for ethical arguments in the public arena simply adds another obstacle, since most secular folk do not believe we have souls (and some don’t even know what the word is supposed to mean).


You can read a review of Murphy's book, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?, here, where the reviewer sees her argument as mainly against dualism.


Blogger victor said...

Crystal, my spiritual cell of this day likes this post and would like to comment on "IT" so please don't blame me if you don't agree with "IT" all. :)

Anyway! "IT" reminded me that when my cat "Tiger" was just a baby and we rented a room to a college male student and his cat, which Paul Martin one of our passed Prime Minister and others have records of this event. It would take too long to discuss "IT" here without going on and on.

I hear ya! Will you please thank your cell for me Victor. :)

As I was saying and to make a long story short. This guy who told me that he worshiped The Devil and we politely argued when he told me that cats had a soul and a spirit and to make another very, very long story short, I was not strong enough to change his mind but still I tried and tried but his cat would not let us sleep and after this student would use my computer without permission my wife and I had no choice but to evict him.

It took God and His Angels while praying and going to church to even hold my cat "Tiger" for more than a second. Those few days after our tenant left was like hell whenever I tried to hold Tiger cause "IT" was as if he was sitting in Holy Water for him.

I hear ya! Are you sure that "IT" was not vice versa sinner vic? :)

God only knows but hey go figure! Tiger is meowing at our window now to come in so I'll close this and let him in cause I don't want any of his spiritual cells to be UPSET with me if you know what I mean!:)

God Bless,


8:30 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Say hi to Tiger for me.

11:23 AM  

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