Table of Contents
The Mysterious Matter of Mind
the search for origins and the search for destinies are both
admittedly outside the province of scientific inquiry, it seems
we are left with only metaphysical speculation. But such speculation
has not led to any profound certainty hitherto. It is clear that
it lacks the kind of raw data with which science proceeds toward
understanding. Where, then, is this data to be found?
The usual reply is: Ask those who
have experienced the "blowing out of the candle" and
returned. But this source of information is unsatisfactory because
it varies so widely from person to person and there is no absolute
assurance that the candle was really blown out in the first place.
We seem to be left with no alternative but to turn to biblical
Revelation, a remarkable account which has carried untold millions
who were guided by it through the most severe testings imaginable
with an absolute assurance of survival in peace and joy on the
other side of the grave.
Where Revelation Seems
speculation is the search for understanding by the use of reason
alone without the help of revelation, whereas theology is the
application of philosophy to religious experience by the use
of reason but with the help of revelation. If this added
source of data is allowed, we may perhaps usefully take a second
look at what biblical theology has been saying for centuries
on the mind/brain or soul/body relationship. And let us do so
with special attention to its statements on what happens when
the mind has been deprived by death of the body upon which it
has depended for expression.
Man: A Dichotomy of Mind and Body
First, it can
be stated without equivocation that biblical theology has always
viewed man as a hyphenate creature, a spirit/body dichotomy.
This is the clear position taken in the Old and New Testaments.
To this extent there is no quarrel between theology and the findings
of recent research. Moreover, the Bible has always viewed death
as being quite simply the separation of these two constituents.
When the spirit or soul * leaves the body, the body is dead.
Furthermore, both Testaments agree
in seeing the union of the two as essential to the real existence
of the whole person as such. Hence the tremendous emphasis upon
the resurrection of the body throughout the Bible. If Revelation
was correct in this emphasis upon the union of the two constituents,
perhaps it is also correct in what it reveals about the destiny
of the individual after death.
It must be borne in mind that it
was the Greek philosophers, not the Christian theologians, who
viewed the body as a prison of the soul. Since Eccles uses the
words mind and soul interchangeably (as the theologians
have used the words soul and spirit interchangeably),
all are addressing themselves to the same issue.
* Soul and spirit are equated
in French by the use of a single word, ame, a word also
meaning person. And mind and spirit are
likewise equated in the word esprit. So also in German
the single word seele can mean either mind or soul.
Mind and Body: Each
Suited to the Other
have been particularly concerned to underscore that the body
is the instrument whereby the soul or mind fulfills itself and
achieves self-expression. In exchange, the soul or mind gives
to the body the potential for purposeful activity. The epileptic
automaton's capabilities exist only because the mind has already
programmed the brain purposefully. Though the clinically dead
may be kept alive for some time by heroic measures, it is clear
that the body is essentially purposeless in its activity in the
absence of mindedness.
Mind or soul provides the brain
with a significant, meaningful, and ordered economy. Brain makes
the soul effective in return. The soul finds fulfilling
expression via the body through interaction with the brain. The
soul therefore animates the body. By separating the two, both
suffer "death." Insofar as the person as a whole
is concerned, the Bible clearly indicates a form of severance
that is not to be undone until the body is resurrected and united
with the soul. The problem is that physical resurrection has
tended to be played down, buried as it were beneath the overemphasis
upon the survival of the spirit. But in the light of present
knowledge we cannot reasonably reconstitute the whole man without
resurrecting his body, since bodily existence seems essential
to that wholeness. It is therefore not surprising that in the
absence of a firm hope of bodily resurrection the experience
of death is faced with such abhorrence, since it is the dissolution
of a partnership of mind and brain essential to personal survival.
My body is my soul's proper home. My soul is my body's proper
master. They belong together.
Throughout the Christian era, theologians
have held that the soul is a creation. It seems difficult to
account for it in any other way as far as present evidence goes.*
But there also seems to be a certain "niceness of fit"
between soul and body. There is interaction, not just parallel
and independent development. Abraham
* Popper's view is that mind (which is equivalent
to soul in this context) simply appeared. But this really tells
us nothing. It has no explanatory value whatever, and although
it may be an escape from creationism such a statement in itself
has no more scientific validity than the plain statement that
the soul is created. Both are expressions of a faith.
a Dutch theologian, held that "God creates the soul
in the embryo which had a predisposition towards the soul predestined
for it." (101)
The throwing of the dice to determine the genetic endowment is
not therefore altogether left to chance.
Since the child receives his genes
from his parents, he has a head start toward the kind of personality
he can develop. If he is musically equipped he is likely to become
musically inclined, provided that circumstances allow the means
as he grows up. He does not start therefore as a tabula rasa
but with a certain framework within which the soul will give
itself expression. Kuyper was very specific. The soul is indeed
created ex nihilo by God, but not in an arbitrary form.
It is created in this man, at this time in world
history, in this country, in this particular family
or race, and therefore with the potential characteristics and,
to some extent, limitations which such specific matching implies.
The Subject Half and the Object Half
speak of the dual nature of man as being comprised of an object
half and a subject half. The object half is termed
in the New Testament the soma, the subject half the pneuma.
Together they constitute "soul" or selfhood, the individual,
the person. Karl Barth held that soul and body are distinguished
from each other as subject and object, the subject having the
unique capability of being able to know both itself and its objective
body. Materialism with its denial of the soul makes man subjectless
and therefore only a half-entity, while spiritualism with its
denial of the body makes him objectless and therefore only a
half-entity. Either view effectively annihilates man as man.
Any system of psychology which
tries to make either of these half-entities swallow up the other,
is no longer dealing with man as such. Behaviourism is not therefore
a psychology of man but only of man's object half. Man has
a computer, not is a computer, as Penfield concludes;
and to treat him as a computer is like saying that a love letter
should be the sole object of one's affection not the sender.
101. Kuyper, Abraham, quoted in G. C. Berkouwer,
Man: The Image of God, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1963, p.290.
Death: The Rending
Apart of Mind and Body
it very clear that when the soul or spirit leaves the body, the
body is dead (James 2:26) and that if the spirit is somehow returned
to the body, the whole person comes back to life (Luke 8:55).
This duality is repeated in hundreds of places in the Bible (cf.
for example, Matthew 26:41; Romans 8:10; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 6:20;
7:34; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 5:17). Indeed the formation
of Adam as the first human being is expressly stated as
the result of the animation of a body by a spirit, constituting
it as a living soul (Genesis 2:7).
As to the state of the soul on the other
side of the grave, we seem to find ourselves dependent entirely
on revelation. Revelation provides us with the only consistent
picture we have. Without it we really know nothing except by
extrapolation beyond the experimental evidence. The New Testament
assures us of the resurrection of the body and Paul elaborates
on the nature of this body (1 Corinthians 15:3544). And
we have the most complete picture of the potential of this resurrection
body by observing what is said of Jesus Christ after His resurrection,
knowing from Paul (Philippians 3:2021) that this is the
kind of body we also may have, depending upon our relationship
to Him during our life in this world.
Here we see a body that can pass
freely through material barriers, locked doors, and so forth,
yet can be handled and examined for purposes of identification.
It will be a body capable of communication with the physical
world speaking, being seen, heard, and felt; and it will
be fully recognizable. It will be a body capable of sharing a
meal, eating food, and then vanishing at will only to reappear
in some other location.
It will be a body that can act
upon the physical world, moving objects, making accurate predictions,
going for walks, and (it would seem) even building and lighting
a fire in preparation for a meal. Such potential seems to make
possible virtually all that our bodies can do and much more besides
in terms of movement within and through the material world. One
could scarcely dream of greater freedom from the limitations
of our present existence without apparently sacrificing any of
its advantages. Such a body will surely open up
vast new areas of human
activity everywhere in the universe.
It is, in fact, the Christian hope. And
it is not a kind of pious hope but highly specific. It will in
some way be our body animated by our spirit and
therefore truly and identifiably ourselves.
Such a hope was once shared by people
in every walk of life and it made life bearable in otherwise
unbearable circumstances. Today it is a hope that struggles to
stay alive against an enormous negative pressure brought into
existence very largely by the scientific community. Even humanists
themselves are beginning to wonder whether we may not have been
misled by an unwarranted commitment to a mechanistic view of
life and a materialistic philosophy which seems unavoidably to
Writing in the Bulletin of Atomic
Scientists, Professor Roger W. Sperry, a psychologist at
the California Institute of Technology, observed: (102)
Before science, man used
to think himself a free agent possessing free will. Science gives
us, instead, causal determinism wherein every act is seen to
follow inevitably from preceding patterns of brain excitation.
Where we used to see purpose and meaning in human behaviour,
science now shows us a complex bio-physical machine composed
entirely of material elements, all of which obey inexorably the
universal laws of physics and chemistry. . . .
I find that my own conceptual working
model of the brain leads to inferences that are in direct disagreement
with many of the foregoing; especially I must take issue with
that whole general materialistic-reductionist conception of human
nature and mind that seems to emerge from the currently prevailing
objective analytic approach in the brain-behaviour sciences.
When we are led to favour the implications
of modern materialism in opposition to older, more idealistic
values in these and related matters, I suspect that science may
have sold society and itself a somewhat questionable bill of
It may have,
102. Sperry, Roger W., "Mind, Brain,
and Humanist Values," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
September, 1966, pp.2-3.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved
Previous Chapter Next Chapter