Theological Issues of Physicalism

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Transcript Theological Issues of Physicalism

Nonreductive Physicalism:
Theological Concerns
James A. Van Slyke
Theological Issues
• Primary Thesis (Murphy)
– The Bible does not hold a specific view on human
nature, but a plurality of views
– A particular view is often read into scriptural passages
– Developing a definition of theological anthropology
takes into account several voices
Plan of Action
• History of Definitions
• Understanding Biblical References
• Theological Issues
– Resurrection
History of Anthropological
• Difficulties in finding a consistent definition
– H. Wheeler Robinson (1911)
• Hebraic – Animated body, Unity, not incarnate soul
• New Testament – Modified dualism, personality survives
bodily death
– C.A. Beckwith (1910)
• Body is opposed to soul, as flesh is opposed to spirit
– E. Schaeder (1910)
• New bodies are given to risen souls
– G. Runze
• At death the soul rests in God until it receives a new
glorified body
History of Anthropological Terms
• Dictionary of the Bible (1902)
– J. Laidlaw
• Soul = life embodied in living creatures
– E. R. Bernard
• “clothing of soul with a body which has to be
History of Anthropological Terms
• Post-World War I
– Rudolf Bultmann
• Paul’s use of body charaterizes the person as a whole
• “Man does not have a soma [body], he is a soma [soma].”
– John A. T. Robinson
• Moves from a dualist notion (similar to Wheeler Robinson)
to a wholistic conception
– Oscar Cullman
• “The Jewish and Christian interpretation of creation
excludes the whole Greek dualism of body and soul.”
Biblical Sources
• Old Testament
– Word for soul – nephes
• soul, living being, life, self, person, desire,
appetite, emotion, and passion
• Typically refers to whole person, not
separable part
– Genesis 2:7
• God breathes into Adam and he becomes a living
soul (being)
• Same word is used to describe living animals
Biblical Sources
• Basar –
– outside of the person rather than internal
(Isaiah 10:18)
– Often translated as flesh, but also an
expression of the spiritual
Biblical Terms: OT
• Leb
Heart, mind, conscience
Totality of human existence
Center of human affect
• Ruah – breath
– Wind, seat of cognition, disposition, spirit
Biblical Sources
• New Testament
– Psyche
• Typically translated for “soul”
• Also means breath of life, earthly life, emotions,
feelings, center of life, inner life, living creature
• Nephes is typically translated as psyche
– Soma – body
– Sarx – flesh
– Pneuma – spirit
Understanding Paul’s
Anthropological Terms
• James Dunn – The Theology of Paul
– Two Main terms
• Body (Soma) – human body, body of sin, body of
death, Christ’s body of flesh, resurrected body,
sacramental bread, the church
• Flesh (Sarx) – opposed to the Spirit of God,
antithesis to Christian living, soil which produces
• Paul’s usage has a spectrum of meanings
• Embodiment of the person
– Relational term
– Embodied in a particular environment
– More than physical body; I in relationship
• “Bodily presence as weak” (2 Cor 10.10)
• “Christ might be magnified in my body”
(Phil 1.20)
• Spectrum of meanings
Neutral physical definition
Hebraic thought of weakness
Antithesis to Spirit
Hostility to God
No longer acting “according to the flesh” (2 Cor.
• “Flesh” does not seem to encompass all its
• The sinning “ I” cannot be separated from
• Sarx is vulnerable to sin
• Bultmann – defined flesh as “the self-reliant
attitude of the man who put shis trust in his
own strength and in that which is controllable
by him”
• Paul himself struggled in trying to understand
the relationship between humanity and sin
Relating the Terms
• Aspective or Partitive account?
– Partitive account
• More Greek influence
• Person made up of different parts
• “The school has a gym”
– Aspective account
• More Hebraic
• Terms are aspects of the whole
• “I am Scottish”
• How can resurrection be understood in
light of nonreductive physicalism?
• Use Paul’s account
– 1 Corinthians 15
• Peter Lampe
• Resurrection of the soma, not “ascension
of the spirit” or “immortality of the soul”
• Eschatological reality
– Outside present reality at end of time
– Our hope beyond death
– Something “unnatural” – not within the
scope of our present existence
• Different Bodies – 1 Cor 15 esp. 44ff
– Soma psyche (Soulish Body)
• Present body not suited for eternal life
– Soma pneumatikon (Spiritual Body)
• Different kind of existence
• Spiritual indicates that God must create this body
– One body is for this age, one body is for the
age to come
• “What you sow does not come to life
unless it dies” (15:36)
– This existence comes to an end
– Death comes first than life
– Soul is not immortal
• Continuity between seed and plant
– Seed must die
– New life is an act of creation by God
The Embodied
• Nonreductive physicalism
– Soul is embodied the physicality of the human
• Not an immaterial property
– Soul is an aspect of the person rather than a
separable part
• Develops through the emergence of personal relatedness
with others and God
Critical Issues
• Intermediate State
– State between death and the next life
– Is death a separation or do our souls leave
our bodies?
• Identity
– How does our identity remain the same?
– What is identity?