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Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6



Further Reading


The Mysterious Matter of Mind


Beyond Philosophy

      Since 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.

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Where Revelation Seems Necessary

     Now metaphysical 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.

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Mind and Body: Each Suited to the Other

     European theologians 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.

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Kuyper (1837—1920), 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

     Theologians 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.

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Death: The Rending Apart of Mind and Body

     Revelation makes 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 15:35—44). 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 3:20—21) 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

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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 accompany it.
     Writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Professor Roger W. Sperry, a psychologist at the California Institute of Technology, observed:

     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 goods.

     It may have, indeed.

102. Sperry, Roger W., "Mind, Brain, and Humanist Values," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September, 1966, pp.2-3.


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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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