Communion Presbyterian Church ARP
What's the Reason for the Soul?
I really like the part of the Nicene Creed which says,
We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
This indicates that the council of Nicea which first framed this creed in 325AD was completely aware of both visible and invisible realities.
So, when I read scientific literature attempting to explain our universe, and when I further read that scientists also believe in invisible realities that are yet to be discovered – I get a little interested.
So here is some cutting edge, scientific speculation, made easy…
We know that the universe is comprised of matter and forces. But as scientists study the universe, they have realized that our universe should really have more mass than we can detect – so they theorize that invisible matter, “dark matter,” exists, in order to make sense of everything.
This theory is a detail of “supersymetry,” which posits that for every particle of matter there must be an equal “sustaining force.” This also, and equally means that every “sustaining force field” has a twin, made of matter. The “force realities” are invisible to us because we can only build detectors, like the Large Hadron Collider, to detect physical matter. The theory of invisible forces is required to understand particle physics with its accompanying mathematical computations.
Now the hope of those who have built the Large Hadron Collider is to smash particles together, and then look for what they can’t see or measure! (6 billion $ to look for the invisible!!) Although we can’t detect these forces with our present day measuring devices, we can measure their effect on the material that we can measure – and hopefully this observation will help us to fine tune this theory of supersymetry, until we build The Exceedingly Huge Hadron Collider!
Why do I bring this all up? Because I believe in “spiritual supersymetry!” When scientific speculation makes accommodations for realities which cannot be seen nor measured – then I have the right to speak of the human soul as being a reality that cannot be seen nor measured – IF All kinds of scientific experimentation allows for, and even anticipates such realities, why do the materialist get all in a tizzy when I mention the soul?
But I’m just starting! I believe the soul has downward causation! That means just as the Large Hadron Collider hopes to measure the impact of the unseen by what is seen and measurable, in the same way, the human soul, which cannot be seen, DOES HAVE AN IMPACT upon that which can be seen and measured. It’s conceivable!
Now, part of my seminary training was done at Talbot Seminary, which is the school of Theology at BIOLA U. While there, I took a few courses from the philosophy department – and they are enamored with the soul!
Why are Christian philosophers interested in trying to prove the existence of the human soul? Because it is a non-physical reality which is evidence of a non-physical God. If you acknowledge the existence of the soul, you open the door to all kinds of spiritual implications which Christian theology speaks to all the live-long day!
Now, culturally speaking, the soul is a reality. It’s part of our cultural language! I’ve seen advertisements stating that if you drink soup, it will “stir your soul.” (soul food). People speak of finding their “soul mate!” And a friend of mine told me that Marvin Gaye had more soul than John Denver – interesting!
But there is also a group known as materialists who claim that this whole notion of body and soul is a religious myth. The materialists get exercised about the notion of the soul because it can’t be stuck in a test tube! Scientifically speaking, all we are is matter and energy – chemicals and biological processes. Where is the soul in this system? Is it in the neurons? Is it located in the double helix? Where is this soul asks the materialists?
The materialist, is simply attempting to understand things empirically. Anything related to personality, or mood, or disposition, or emotion toward art, beauty, family, and any response to my sense of humor is simply a matter of chemical and electrical activity. The Materialist mantra is: All phenomena of living systems can be reduced to physical and chemical terms.
So the materialist would quote the Shema in the following way, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One, You shall love the Lord your God with all your aortic ventricles, all your synaptic firing, all your neurophysiology, and your fast twitch muscle fiber – and you shall love your neighbor as your own phenomena.
Philosophers on the other hand have been more hospitable to the duality of our nature than the materialists – From the days of ancient Greece, philosophers have made a distinction between the physical functions of the body, and the ability of humans to philosophize in a way that is more than physiological (sounds like job security to me!)
Think about these thoughts: You are able to imagine being in different place (right now), you are able to question motives, you stand up for your rights, you stand up for the rights of others, you avoid embarrassing situations, You think about how much more embarrassed you could have been had something else happened! You deal with a guilty conscience, You daydream about new realities, You relive past experiences, You try to convince your emotions to think more logically, and you really care about what other people think – all of these mental states, says the philosopher, are evidence of a mind that is distinct from brain activity. It is a higher function of internal access beyond chemical reactions. This IS the philosophers case!
Christians believe in the soul because the Bible references the soul, and intuitively we are self aware, especially of a category called “our spiritual condition.” We are aware of God’s presence and activity in the universe. This awareness is known in our conscience, in our morality, in our guilt and pleasures, in our covenantal relationships, in our spiritual disciplines, in our desire for both justice and mercy, and in our nature hikes. These are all cognitive states that we claim are rooted in our soul and are a manifestation of the image of God. We bear this image, with it’s accompanying thoughts and desires, and this image makes us different, and even more valuable than rocks, birds, and Large Hadron Colliders.
The notion of the soul is what brings dignity to life and why we cherish life as a gift, It is a reflection of the author of life – no one else can create this kind of life and dignity. Those who have convictions about the soul constantly defend life and ethical living as God defines it. And we always oppose the person who discounts those convictions because they tend to invent alternative values which elevates their authority to determine who has the right to live or not.
The Christian concept of the soul is not only a conviction about human dignity, the soul is also the spiritual expression of our being which connects us to God and to each other. Related to this is the work of The Holy Spirit who brings to the Christian “new life.” In fact Christian salvation is described as a revival of a dead soul which is made alive by and for Christ. Those who have had a “conversion experience” have an awareness of the Holy Spirit in their life, and internally relate to Jesus’ teaching about being “Born again, born from above.” Christians literally have a new source of life dwelling within them – it’s an invisible, supersymetrical, spiritual presence and a NEW reality.
Although invisible, the soul has the ability to impact thoughts and actions. This invisible force changes people at the core of their being so that they begin to believe without seeing. This invisible influence is so unique that I would expect those skeptical of such experiences to be just that. It’s like trying to explain a specific “taste” to someone. I can tell you that something is sweet, spicy, sour, tangy, or bitter; but until you personally experience it in your mouth – you’re just not going to know exactly what I’m talking about - phenomenalogically!
So where do souls come from? The soul train delivers them!
I REALLY enjoy talking about this topic but I’m going to spare you. My main point is to affirm that the Bible teaches that our created status is both ‘body and soul’ by God’s design. With both body and soul we are to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. This soulishness we have (or are) is the primary stamp of God’s image upon us and makes us entirely unique from all other life created. According to God’s creation of Adam of Eve, humankind was completely righteous, holy, intelligent, and had dominion to rule over the creation. HOWEVER, In Adam and Eve’s sin, humankind lost this original condition in both body and soul and we do not possess fully, anymore the image of God – so that from Adam & Eve we inherit a fallen nature, we inherit the guilt of their original sin, we have no ability to live completely righteous, holy, intelligent, and disciplined lives – we demonstrate the evidence of the original sin in our actual sins every day.
The hope is that the original soul first created in Adam and Eve, the one that completely lived for God and loved him in all purity, would become our possession again, so that with both soul and body, we will glorify God and enjoy Him for all eternity.
The salvation of our souls is a reference to our total being – both body and soul together. You can’t have a soul without a body and bodies which require saving, have souls. The word ‘spirit’ is often used interchangeably with the word ‘soul’ to emphasize the reality of our spiritual nature connected to our physical nature.
But the point of salvation is that with our TOTAL being revived, we will properly love God and our neighbor, and the evidence of a revived spiritual condition would be the accompanied by observable fruit – new appetites (I’m talking spiritually here…), new convictions, new passions, new disciplines, new associations that reflect the character of God dwelling in us. These are the fruit associated with salvation because at the core of our REVIVED being, regeneration has taken place by the work of the Holy Spirit. This change is best seen in the rejection of our affiliation with the parents who gave us our body and soul ---- and I do mean Adam and Eve, ? we now long to be associated with a new family ----- the family established by Jesus Christ, who grants us a new conscience and conviction for life – all as a result of a revived soul!
Let’s turn to 1 Peter 1.3-9 – This was written to stir your soul!
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
-- Notice who is being blessed here –God! Evidence of a soul recognizing their source of being!
-- Notice how God is addressed: as our Father rather than Adam – new convictions! New inheritance
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
-- Notice the source for the “born again” process = God’s mercy! It is not the product of our spirituality or intellect, it is an action of God!
-- He is the one who “CAUSED” the born againing.
-- Notice the enduring nature of the revived soul – an eternal living hope connected to resurrection of Christ which becomes for us a guarantee of our resurrected body and soul for eternity!
4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
-- As a new family member, we have a new inheritance. Just imagine the inheritance that Adam earned for us! Debts and debtors. But Jesus has purchased our debts and given us his inheritance.
-- Notice the description of this inheritance. All concepts consistent with our revived nature: Imperishable, Undefiled, and Unfading. As revived people, those words connect with our spiritual perspectives. These are not scientific words. These are realities for people redeemed by the savior!
5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
-- More language regarding the locus for our revival – It’s all God’s power and God’s timing!
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
-- Great words of comfort. To know that though we may suffer various trails and grief – we would have the perspective that what is happening on the physical realm, or what is happening to my physical body, is not the true value of my life. What is most precious about my life is that it is connected to Jesus Christ! My body and soul is his possession, and all that I value, beyond all the gold in the world, is sharing in the moment when I will be able to see him with my body and soul!
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
-- Spiritual supersymetry!! I in fact, do not see Jesus; but I do in fact believe that there is an outcome of my faith – Jesus will save my soul. This soul being all of who I am – body and soul. But my body does not appreciate this right now as much as my soul does. Just think about the day, that our bodies will equally match the “inexpressible joy” that we have in our souls when we see Jesus!!
So, what is the reason for the soul? It’s the part of our being that comprehends the realities of God and best of all, His salvation. It’s the part of our being that expresses the hope, faith, and love we have for God and others – It’s the part of our being that longs to manifest who God has declared us to be by how we believe and act!
The soul is the part of our being that longs for meaningful relationships. Sure, bodies can have relationship, but the most meaningful are the ones that focus on eternal longings. These longings that we express as fallen humans indicate the need of a total transformation of our entire being and world -- complete conformity to a perfect kingdom. Those longings, by God’s grace, lead to a reformation which begins first in the soul and extend to out to our families, churches, and community.
I will further assert that societies have a collective soul, a collective conscience. When Jesus calls the church to be salt and light to the world, it is for the purpose of having a collective impact on society. Societies are always on a trail leading toward a counterfeit utopia that mislabels what we should be longing for. They have no idea they are destroying their own soul, that they are numbing their conscience, that they are suppressing the truth – Only the voice of the Gospel can revive societies! Not self help, or government, or mysticism. Without the reviving work of the Gospel societies will fail because they only try to meet the needs of bodies and not souls. This is history!
They discount the reality of the soul, and for good reason. If you don’t have a soul, you can’t sin! If you don’t have a soul, you don’t need to concern yourself with God! If you don’t have a soul, you can be the captain of your own …. Biology!
But soulishness is God’s mark upon our every thought, word, and deed. It is the deposit of our destiny, and to simply deny the soul’s existence on the charge of, “I can’t see it!” is merely a rejection of the obvious – we can all turn a blind eye to dignity, beauty, purity, and mystery too – but we all know these are the most important aspects of life!
As the church we must defend and embrace the value of the soul, especially the revival that Christ brings to it, and may the fruit of regeneration that the church bears be made evident in our lives.