The Mind-Body Problem: Summarizing the Tough Issues

Posted By on February 21, 2010

Well, I’m less than a week away from our regional ETS meeting in Tacoma. The topic, of course, crafted by yours truly, is the mind-body problem. It’s been a while since I posted about the positions people take on the question of whether humans truly have an immaterial component that survives the body upon death. Here is the previous post, which offered three articles for reading.  Here is the post before that, where I included summary positions of “where the soul comes from” via some systematic theology textbooks. I’ll try to summarize the salient data from Scripture we brought to those articles and theological definitions, and then summarize my thoughts on them, with a goal toward creating for myself a short list of issues I’d like to see addressed at the upcoming meeting.


1. We saw that terms like ruach, nephesh, leb/lebab are not divisible into parts, a conclusion that was quite evident from an examination of these OT terms. Part 4 of our biblical anthropology series summarized the overlapping of ruach and nephesh, and Part 6 brought leb/lebab into that discussion.

2. We saw that the fusion of body and the immaterial/inner aspect of humanity was so tight as to have both “parts” refer to the entire person. In earlier posts, this was seen when terms like nephesh were used of the body, living or dead, while elsewhere (mostly) referring to the inner person. Indeed, nephesh was seen to be a broad term for the entire human being and human life.

3. However, despite the above, the terms ruach and leb were less seldom (if ever) used to refer to the totality of the human person. Those terms spoke exclusively of the inner person / inner life.

4. There were two passages that seemed (with some clarity) to suggest that the immaterial part of humanity had an independent existence after death and an identification with what had been the total person.

A. Eccl 3:19-21 – “19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?”

This passage merely brings up the question of the soul; it does not put forth the proposition that there is a soul that lives beyond the body’s life. There is an air of uncertainty or even skepticism in the passage about the soul’s afterlife.

B. Eccl. 12:7 – “. . . the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”

This text is incomplete, though it may be consistent with the more clear New Testament notion of a disembodied soulish existence beyond the body where the soul is effectively identified with the (formerly united / total) person. However, it could be construed as saying that “life” (the “life principle”; that which animated the body) returns to the Maker. In other words, it may be more abstract than NT statements.

5. I then introduced 1 Samuel 28:8-20 to the discussion (esp. v. 13) where the deceased, disembodied Samuel is still Samuel– and called “elohim” (which is, properly understood, a “place of residence term” that labels “normal inhabitants” of the spirit world, as opposed to embodied humans (or other critters) in the terrestrial world.  This passage, in my view, is a strong piece of evidence to affirm that there is a non-embodied existence of the same, formerly embodied, person taught in the OT.

7. We then moved to the New Testament, where there were several passages that seemed (in my mind) to clearly teach that there is a non-embodied existence of the same, formerly embodied, person.

The Articles and the Mind-Body Positions

The article on neuroscience and theology laid out the importance of the topic (and the science) well. Here are some excerpts with sporadic comments of mine indented:

“To rephrase the question, how can a system of neurons and networks provide for features like the freedom to reason and to decide? If our reasoning is simply a product of a deterministic neuronal state how does it conform to the rules of logic and consistency? If our decision-making is simply the product of our neuronal state how can we be held morally responsible for what we do? What motivates human beings? How do we develop consciousness, and with consciousness a sense of our own selves? All these features are traditionally regarded as issues arising out of our minds. There are other aspects of the mind, including our capacity to wonder at all that we see and understand. We are also passionate human beings affected strongly by our emotions. What role do they play? Where do they come from and where do they fit into our mental expressions?”

MSH: This is important for our biblica-theological discussion in that our study of the Scripture text used the terms nephesh, ruach, and leb/lebab for all these activities:  volition, decision-making, emotions, inner life, enthusiasm, humility, knowledge, skill. If it is the BRAIN  that controls these things, that would seem to suggest that there isn’t a separate, immaterial “thing” in us (and that can leave the body) that is responsible for them. These findings are an argument for physicalism, but that brings two questions: (a) what kind of physicalism? and (b) is that all they argue for –  is it really a 1:1 equation?

“The second issue arising out of neuroscience is, what is human? In particular what is the soul? The soul has been traditionally regarded as the essence of a human being, and it has often been given non-material status. How do we understand persons now? In particular there has been a lot of recent work the development of our sense of self- identity, our inner world expressed not just in isolation but also in relationships and in community. Is the soul a ghost in the brain machine?”

MSH: Really goes to the above comments (nephesh and ruach are also used quite often for self-awareness, as a synonym for “ourselves” and the inner life).

“As Christians, we regard the Bible as authoritative. But how do we understand the Bible in the light of the findings of neuroscience? Are we bound to the Bible’s metaphysics? And once we have interpreted the Bible, how do its insights impact on our view of humans? How do the “two books,” the book of Scripture and the book of nature, dialogue with each other?”

MSH: “book of nature” indeed — see my gripe below about what the scientific discussions on this subject aren’t addressing.

“Specific neurological functions are understood to occur at specific locations. This is confirmed by studying patients who have specific neurological deficits who are found, initially at autopsy and now with brain scanning, to have defects in defined regions in the brain. . . . As a result we have maps of the brain showing where different functions are located. We have the coordination area in the cerebellum, vision in the occipital cortex, sensation in the parietal cortex, movement in the motor area and so on. The centres involved in addiction are located in the sub-thalamic region, the nucleus accumbens and the central tegmental nucleus. . . . Consciousness emerges from an intact functioning brain.”

MSH: It goes without saying that consciousness emerges from the brain, and that this favors physicalism — but my questions above are still on the table. And I have other questions. I’m not terribly satisfied with the science at this point, as I don’t see it interacting with the genuine, serious research that is out there on NDEs (near-death experiences). I’m not talking about tunnels of light and seeing dead loved ones or images of the afterlife that could have been wired INTO the brain. I’m talking about instances where, say a patient dies on the operating table and then they claim to leave their body and wander around the hospital, over-hearing conversations, seeing things that their physical eyes could not have seen (since their eyes were closed and, well, they were dead!). There are some stunning cases like this. My dad actually had one, too. He died on the operating table after being shot six times when I was in third grade.  He only told me about it after I was in college. It got me interested in the subject.  If consciousness is only the brain, how can these sorts of things be explained? They seem to *require* disembodied existence of the real person. And then there are the brain dead people who aren’t really dead (see here as well – she even had the beginnings of rigor mortis).  Stuff like this tells me we scientists are not as knowledgeable about the brain and consciousness connection as they at times try to suggest — and so conclusions are not “givens” at this point.

“The most obvious point is that the mind and the body are inextricably intertwined. Most people, even with different mind-brain models, agree to holism. At one end of the spectrum there are some neuroscientists who advocate reductionism. They contend that mind-properties are ultimately brain properties and will be reduced to neuronal function. They call for the abandonment of concepts like the soul and the abandonment of dualism. There are an influential body of Christian thinkers, both scientists and theologians who embrace holism and reject dualism. Others feel called to defend what they see as the traditional view. The debate continues. This has led to a plethora of positions on mind-brain relations. I have tabulated some of these positions in an appendix.”

“Christians are divided on this subject. Both appeal to Scripture and state that the other side is interpreting the issue through their hermeneutic grid. Most commentators from both schools argue against a Platonic/Cartesian soul, that is a mind or soul which is completely distinct in substance from the physical. Most embrace a form of body-soul holism. The difference is in accepting or rejecting an ongoing disembodied existence beyond death.”

MSH: Most agree on holism . . . well, I’d like to see a real survey on that. I think what he really means here is what he says later on. Most would agree that, “Mind activity, while dependent on brain activity, cannot be reduced to brain activity.” There are serious researchers who do not believe that the mind and consciousness can be reduced to only brain activity. Examples: Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences; The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul.

The following is drawn from this article’s appendix. Here are the more interesting views for my money:

Dualism: soul can exist separately from the body, but not vice versa. Mind and soul are not synonymous. This is the position of one of our ETS regional speakers, John Cooper.

Emergent Dualism: Matter generates a field of consciousness which is the disembodied self; that self lives on after death prior to the resurrection (in other words, the matter of the brain gives rise to the disembodied self, and so they are intimately connected, but not each other).

Physicalism: the mind = the brain; there is no soul.

Non-reductive physicalism: Accepts emergent properties of mind/soul, but these are aspects of brain function.

This last one is the position of Nancey Murphy, another of our ETS regional speakers. My previous post had one of her articles. I’ll let what she says there make more sense of the above one-line definition.


“My claim, in short, is this: all of the human capacities once attributed to the immaterial mind or soul are now yielding to the insights of neurobiology.”

“No such accumulation of data can ever amount to a proof that there is no non-material mind or soul in addition to the body. But if we recognize that the concept of the soul was originally introduced into Western thought as an explanation for capacities that appeared not to be explainable in biological terms, then we can certainly say that for scientific purposes the hypothesis has been shown to be unnecessary.”

MSH: This is an important thought — she’s saying that the pre-scientific person postulated the familiar “soul” ideas to explain mental capacities that he/she lacked the science to decipher. I think this is worth considering, since the Bible elsewhere has pre-scientific content. But this one subject is a bit different in that, regardless of the scientific soundness of the articulation, the Bible is not just assuming a pre-scientific idea on the way to making a point, where the point itself doesn’t depend on the pre-scientific argumentation (there are other ways to get there). Rather, in this case, the idea of a disembodied real existence is being affirmed as a point of belief.

“It would be easy at this point to fall into the reductionist’s error of claiming that ‘morality’ or ‘religious experience’ is nothing but a brain process. . . . The version of physicalism I espouse argues that, just as life appears as a result of complex organization, so too sentience and consciousness appear as nonreducible products of biological organization.”

MSH: The analogy here would be just as it is hard to understand how quanta, atoms, molecules, etc. combine together to produce organisms that are beyond science in their complexity, so it is that sentience and consciousness emerge from those organisms on the other side in equally incomprehensible ways. For Murphy, there is no soul independent of the body, but sentience/consciousness, while derived from brain function, transcends the brain.

Implications and Questions

1. Do we really need (or have) an intermediate existence theologically?

Both Murphy and Gijsbers, the author of the first article, suggest that part of the problem for physicalism is the notion that TIME elapses between death and the resurrection, so that there needs to be some sort of intermediate existence of the person (the “soul”) prior to the resurrection. Both argue that may be a misunderstanding of the biblical teaching.  Here’s how each puts it:

Gijsbers: “There are a number of ways of understanding the time between death and the resurrection of the body. It could be that humans move out of the realm of our time into the timeless realm of eternity. It could be that, just as time seems to stand still when we sleep, so time for us stands still from the time we die to the time we are raised. It could be that we are “in the mind of God” between death and resurrection.”

Murphy: “If there is no soul, and the nervous system is the seat of consciousness, then how can there be a wakeful state between death and resurrection? One approach open to those who want to maintain this doctrine is to question the meaningfulness of a timeline in discussing eschatological issues. That is, we presume that God is, in some sense, “outside” of time. If those who have died are “with God” we cannot meaningfully relate their experience to our creaturely history.”

2. Just what is the glorified resurrection body — and what is the “natural body”?

Gijsbers also has this fascinating paragraph:

“When Paul discusses the resurrection of humans in 1 Cor 15, he makes a distinction between our current life in soma psychicon = Natural body, and the risen life when we will be in soma pneumatikon = Spiritual body. Some see this simply as a body empowered by the spirit rather than by the flesh, but others see this as an ontological change from mortality to immortality. It is fascinating that the natural body is described as the psychic body [MSH: as opposed to the body of flesh!] in contrast to the spiritual body. But what is meant by a spiritual body? How does a spiritual body differ from a natural body, and in what way is this a change of some sort? Does the acceptance of a resurrected immortal spiritual body deny physicalism?”

MSH: if the natural body, the one that will die, is a psychic body for Paul, does that favor physicalism?  If that body is changed in the resurrection into a spiritual body that is immortal, does that suggest that there was an immaterial, disembodied person who receives a different body, in effect denying physicalism?

3.  What about the last article, which argued that Murphy’s non-reductive physicalism cannot be reconciled with the hypostatic union of Jesus — the doctrine that Jesus had two natures, divine and human, perfectly fused together in his incarnate fleshly body.  The author (Siemens) writes:

Thus one may expect [MSH: in the traditional Nicean understanding] that two immaterial substances could be conjoined to produce a spirit-soul or divinehuman combination and that this combination could be united to a body to produce a human being. I cannot explain a mechanism whereby divine and human substances [MSH: remember, the “soul” is produced by matter in physicalism] can be joined. But then I cannot explain how soul and body are united, but I experience a seamless integration. Toe, touch and taste, heart, humor and humerus, medulla, memory and merriment, are inexorably united in me. It is still me though I am no longer a towhead child or an adolescent student. Beyond what I remember, I am told that there is a continual turnover of atoms in every part of my body, yet it is continuously me. . . . we can believe that two immaterial substances may be integrated, even though a miracle is obviously required. However, we cannot imagine how the mere function of complexly organized matter and a purely
immaterial substance can amalgamate. . . . if the human soul is only a function of the physical body, we cannot join it to the nonphysical divine substance. We cannot view the hypostatic union as sequential processing. This means that the Incarnation is evidently impossible given nonreductive physicalism.”

MSH: Good question; I’m planning on asking Nancey Murphy this one.

4. Traducianism or Creationism?

It’s pretty clear that traducianism makes the most sense in a non-reductive physicalist view. However, traducianism doesn’t require non-reductive physicalism.

Personally, the problem with creationism even apart from this debate is that, if each soul inherits Adam’s guilt, and if God creates each soul and inserts it into the body (since the soul isn’t produced by human procreation), then God is creating the sinful soul — so why would be need Adamic guilt for that?  It means that sinfulness of soul *isn’t* inherited (since the soul isn’t produced by human procreation), but is produced by God.

I don’t have that problem since, as readers know, I do not believe humanity inherited guilt from Adam (I don’t think that’s the point of Romans 5:12). We had lengthy discussions on that here at NB. All humans sin and are in need of Christ on other grounds (what Romans 5:12 is really saying; not going to digress here).  That also means I don’t have that problem for traducianism either, though for different reasons.

  1. For newcomers, please read the all the posts on the biblical data, collected here.

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14 Responses to “The Mind-Body Problem: Summarizing the Tough Issues”

  1. stringbox says:

    One of the things that still intrigues me more than some of the other details regarding the soul is memory. In the situation with Samuel, he seems to be well aware of what Saul is talking about. That, in some sense, is harder for me to try and parse than whether or not neurons play a big role in consciousness. Even thinking of the body as a machine a soul can control is one thing, but where is the memory stored? Stored after the soul has left the body, I mean. There’s no questions modern computers give us a great analog in pondering these things so that’s where I go to often in terms of the parts of the brain. Isn’t it interesting though to try and understand that this world will pass away and does that mean all that we’ve learned (math, music, names, places, etc) goes away except for the more general everlasting treasures like patience, joy, et al.? That gets into whether or not physics will actually change in the new creation as some suggest, or whether or not we will just be privy to additional knowledge above and beyond what we can do in our current state… I guess I should acknowledge the point though that wanting to hold on to knowledge could also be construed as storing up the wrong kind of treasure. Please understand, if God’s plan is for us to give up this physical universe we know entirely, so be it, I’m more just thinking on how the continuity between being in the body and out of the body works.
    One last point… in computer terms, the parallels are intriguingly significant regarding memory. I don’t believe we’re just part of some huge computer program (Matrix, if you will) but the idea that being out of the body is almost like “not being logged in” to your computer kinda makes a bit of sense.That’s not to say that we just become smoke creatures in death either, but it kinda goes back to current science with the LHC and their hopes of finding the Higgs bozon and trying to understand why things have mass…which in an odd way all relates back to the soul and body thing, i.e. demons wanting to possess or have a body to control. I’ll stop before I do a Norway spiral out of control.

    • MSH says:

      Funny (Norway spiral). I’ll try and ask about the memory issue at the conference. I suspect that this whole issue is related to “quantum reality” and that both the non-reductive physicalists and dualists are partially right.

  2. stringbox says:

    Agreed. This “is but isn’t” phenomenon we run into all the time? Sort of the divinity of Jesus, him being the same deity/essence as the Father, yet also a distinct human. Or also in the resurrection, him being raised in a physical yet spiritual body, elements of both as you discussed once based on other writings and understandings of the times. Right down to the nature of light wave/particle duality…? Surely, striking that balance is going to come into play more and more, and there is plenty I’d love to ask you regarding these things, but can I make a minor request for now regarding this conference?… I can’t remember if you’ve mentioned this or not, but will you be wary of how attendants or folks in general are viewing this matter of the soul in terms of abortion? I myself am strongly pro-life. I wonder though how this could pan out in various theological and scientific circles. I’m trying hint my way toward utilitarian views. I know if the thought has at least occurred to me then others already think on it. People are already willing to kill the unborn on the pathetic excuse that they can’t decide whether or not they are humans yet. Imagine, and I know you’re probably way ahead of me on this, if somewhere down the line a pseudo-religious/scientific governmental panel determines there is a soul but it doesn’t really develop until a child reaches an “age of accountability”, i.e. some psychological test they could come up with to determine whether or not the child is sentient! There are already murmurs of theory regarding the value of life based on how socialized a child has become, so put a little “science” behind it and voila. I’m not trying to be sensational with this, but sincere and trying to think ahead. The Church is attacked from within, and when numerous “Christians” support characters like “err on the side of convenience” Obama it’s all the more obvious that we sheep are easily deceived. People like Spong (I think it is) come to mind, who completely dismiss what the Bible says plainly. That’s not a stab at him regarding abortion. Don’t know his views there. The mentality though is the same, a gradual, “pragmatic” new understanding of God and Jesus, ripe for Oprah, but this time it will regard the value of human life.

  3. Ken Hamrick says:

    To deny the spiritual nature of man is to deny the spiritual God who created man in His image. Of all the creatures on earth, man alone has an everlasting, spiritual existence. Physically, we are like animals; spiritually, we are like God and the angels. We alone are the junction of the physical and spiritual.

    [Please read my comment on Part 7 of your Biblical Anthropology. The following is an exerpt]. While I agree that soul and spirit are mostly synonymous, I suggest that we should not dismiss all distinctions. The soul is most closely represented by the idea of “mind,” but with the understanding that in man that mind is possessed by an integral spirit. What the mind does the spirit does in much the same way that where the balloon goes the air within the balloon also goes, etc. Animals have a rudimentary soul, in that they have what we have (in a lesser capacity), including emotions, but they lack a spirit. The distinctions are usually unimportant in biblical references, since whenever one worships God in his soul he just as truly worships God in his spirit. Only when Scripture makes a distinction is there a distinction to be made. The spirit is that immaterial part of us that is most like God. It provides the everlasting nature of human existence. The body will die; the soul will live on only because of the spirit within it. While we are in these bodies, the soul is the interface between the spirit and the body in one sense, and encompasses both spirit and body in another sense. The soul, as the mind, is composed of both material and immaterial. The mind has its spiritual aspect, but it also has its physical aspect, controlling all body processes, etc. The mind can be enraptured in spiritual worship, and it can also be depressed due to chemical imbalances. When we die, the material part of the soul/mind is left behind, and the immaterial part (with the spirit within it) goes to God.

    I think it also helps to realize that the spirit has faculties that parallel the body. A disembodied spirit may move on its own, without physical feet. (Look at the unclean spirits who left the demon-possessed man and went into the swine. They had to see the swine, as well as be able to move to where they were at.) A disembodied spirit needs no 11-cis-retinal in order to see. This also explains why we are not condemned from the moment of conception. The spirit of a child is limited in its understanding by the body. A spirit without a body may go through a wall, but a spirit within one of these corruptible bodies must use a door. Also, though a disembodied spirit can see the door, the spirit of a (living) physically blind man cannot see. The physical body limits the spirit while the spirit is within it. In the same way, the spirit of a newly conceived child must wait until the body and mind have developed to a certain point before they can reach an accountable understanding. It is absurd to suggest that a zygote understands the law written on its heart and has any conflicting thoughts regarding it. In a (physically) living human being, thoughts require synapses and brain cells, which the zygote does not yet have.

  4. stringbox says:

    Enjoyed reading your points, Ken. That topic of the disembodied spirit is the basic idea I draw the computer analogy from of “being logged in” as opposed to just an observer. Please note, when I make that analogy I’m not trying to make any determination as to what can happen to a disembodied spirit in terms of environment or interaction from other spirits.

    I also want to clarify a bit of what I said concerning abortion in case Dr Heiser gets to respond or others read along. My concern is not that I think our society would suddenly condone mad scientists advocating the slaughter of children or the comatose, etc., but that if a powerful body of science/religion made an authoritative conclusion regarding a soul’s existence and when it was “viable” and particularly if they determined it was even much later than birth, then the justification and comfort level with abortion would suddenly rise way up. Under such a theory the burden of not knowing whether a PERSON was being killed in abortion would be greatly lifted and the value of the unborn would plummet. I tie this to people like Spong, whom some do take seriously, because it would be the same downgrading that occurs in theology when individuals in authoritative positions begin teaching that Jesus might not have really meant that”, or that he was probably mis-quoted, or that the resurrection wasn’t real or necessary, and on and on.

    So, I mean to say, that this subject, if taken seriously and decided upon in the church and scientific community could once again slowly usurp the truth. It would be a continuation of the destruction of the church from within, and although it still might not hit as strongly as the influence of “evolution” it could still affect too many.

    And quickly on zygotes. I agree with Dr. Heiser on the Romans 5:12 issue as best as I can understand it, and I don’t see how being human, whether you’re an embryo or a newborn, suddenly makes you guilty before God. You certainly still need to accept His love given through Jesus, of course!, but your accountability in terms of right and wrong at that point is a non-issue. I would also like to add though, regarding a pro-life position, that I don’t know yet how to argue the matter or whatever, but I am also bothered by the notion of embryos being created and then NOT used for in vitro fertilization. That practice, I’m guessing, probably falls into the comfort zone for many Christians who are against abortion. I’m not making a determination on how embryos and souls go together or if they can, however itfollows with what I said before. If it could be shown Scripturally and by whatever other means, that a brain was necessary before a soul was an issue, then we’re right back to comfort levels regarding when abortion would be acceptable. As soon as an egg becomes fertilized, a human is in the works. I don’t see why that’s an issue for some, but if the questions about WHEN the soul was present could be reasonably answered, it would at least for Christians, help us resolve and deal with such difficult issues. The matter of WHEN the soul is in play, I think, is much akin to the “life is in the blood” stance some take as being the tipping point on when a person is a person…

    Thanks, Dr. Heiser for tolerating these long comments on your blog!

  5. blop2008 says:

    I will be getting this book
    Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences

    Jeffrey Long is very convincing besides Dr. Melvin Morse and Dr. Richard Kent. He’s convincing because he’s got real consistent evidence that has been accumulated for over 10 years now. I heard him on Coast to Coast.

    • MSH says:

      just so you know, I did ask Nancey Murphy (on the drive to the airport) about how NDEs factor into a physicalist view. She had not read the material on NDEs. Another one of our speakers, John Cooper, was more familiar with that material, and agreed with me that it was very relevant to the idea of a genuine disembodied existence.

  6. stringbox says:

    Hi there, blop, Is this the book?,2933,585955,00.html

    This interview on O’Reilly actually came to mind earlier when I was thinking about this stuff. I’m unfamiliar with the author or the other guys you mentioned, but I do have a question about that book. I was a little curious about Dr. Long’s assertion that everyone was having the same or very similar experience. I don’t think he said precisely, but it seemed like there could be a lack of the bad and scary near-death experiences in his research. I could be quite wrong on that so I’m sort of asking. I was just under the impression that there were some terrifying near-death experiences that really had an effect on some people. Again, I could be completely wrong on that too.

    • MSH says:

      I did ask Nancey Murphy (on the drive to the airport) about how NDEs factor into a physicalist view. She had not read the material on NDEs. Another one of our speakers, John Cooper, was more familiar with that material, and agreed with me that it was very relevant to the idea of a genuine disembodied existence.

  7. blop2008 says:

    Yes Stringbox, that is the one

    I haven’t read his book, but I have gone on his website in the past:

    It’s true that he mentions the compassionate and loving NDEs more than the terrifying hellish NDEs, however he has studied many such cases. However, they do not abound increasingly.

    Maybe you should listen to Jeffrey Long here at Coast to Coast AM:

    I am a subscriber of Coast 2 Coast AM, not sure if you would have to sign up and/or subscribe to download the full interview.

  8. stringbox says:

    Thanks for the links, blop2008, I’ll try to get caught up in the NDE area soon. What’s interesting to me from a Christian perspective about NDE’s is the serious questions they can, in theory, force us to tackle. If it turns out there are many persons having “happy place” experiences after death, but who also do not profess Jesus as their savior, we’re right back to grasping the difficult nuance in the original question of ‘what happens to people IF they never hear of Jesus’? Though there is complexity in all of that, as well, amongst the possibilities: 1) heard of Jesus, rejected, still have happy NDE, 2) not heard gospel, happy NDE 3) accepted gospel, happy NDE. Oh the permutations(?) and why do I try to figure it all out in a blog comment? It’s the coffee I tell ya.

    But so I don’t forget this thought, I’m gonna put it here. This area of NDE’s, at least for me, proves much more difficult than the intelligent alien life questions. At least there’s enough history and testimony in antiquity and in texts to form a well-balanced view of how to approach the extra-terrestrial realm, but with NDE’s, what I’ve understood thus far is only vague and brief. I can cope with whatever it all turns out to be in the end, it’s just fascinating in regards to happy NDE’s and weighing that against a person’s “heart” and how that weighs against their “intellectual” understanding of God and his son. Very interesting indeed.

  9. WoundedEgo says:

    The scriptures are crystal clear on this matter, but people find it untenable because it is so clearly unscientific. But here you go:

    * Moses says that God molded clay into a statue of himself.

    * then, God breathed his own breath into the clay and it made it a living being;

    So the Jews ascribe to the breath:

    * the power to animate (make alive) that which is inanimate;

    * intelligence and self awareness;

    In other words, the breath is an intelligent organ. That is the key. There is no such thing as “spirit.” “Spirit” is a word coined from the latin word for breath (“spiritus”). In fact, as late as 1640, everyone knew that “spirit” was another word for “breath” because the words “Holy Ghost” meant “holy breath” (ghost meant breath).

    “Soul” just means “person” or “being” or in some contexts “self.” It is not a physical component, but rather the identity, the person. Consider a light bulb. Electricity (breath) energizes the wire (clay) resulting in a lit bulb (a soul, living person).

    In Christianity, there are two kinds of breath operating. Believers receive anew God’s own breath (and with it, union and communion with God). Non-believers, for the Paul of Ephesians, are operating on the air of the breath of the wicked one:

    Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [of] the spirit [breath] that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

    They speak by the air of the antichrist:

    1 John 4:3 And every spirit [breath] that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit [breath] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

    But the believer, who has the right breath (and with it, the mind of Christ and the knowledge of God), is in conflict with their body. The problem for the believer is in the clay part:

    Galatians 5:17 For the flesh [clay part] lusteth against the Spirit [breath], and the Spirit [breath] against the flesh [clay part]: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

    I could go on and on, but this is the critical information that elucidates the whole of the scriptures.

    But it will be refused because it is so obviously unscientific, and an embarrassment to the “True Believers.”

  10. Chris says:

    I just finished reading The Spiritual Brain by Beauregard and O’Leary.

    This might not be the best place for this question, so if you decide to answer, feel free to email me instead.

    Anyways, what’s your opinion:

    With all the NDE evidence, it would seem that people across cultures and worldwide have more or less the same experiences. This is pointed out in the book.

    If this is the case, how do heaven and hell fit in? Am I just taking these concepts too literally and basing them on pop-culture speculation? Or, is it like, well, if they had been dead another 10 minutes then they would have gone to hell/heaven. In other words, they weren’t “dead enough” yet, or God knew they’d be revived and so didn’t show them the real deal.

    These are the two ideas that come to my mind. I’d love to hear what you think.


    • MSH says:

      I’ve read that, too, as well as von Lommel’s book (study) of NDEs (he’s the cardiologist whose work on NDEs appeared in the medical journal Lancet). The mind-body problem is a favorite of mine (did a series on it on this blog many moons ago).

      Ultimately, I think the answer to this question has to involve the nature of consciousness itself and how that relates to death. Any non-materialist view has to posit that consciousness is intact and personal, accumulates information via the experience of embodiment (and disembodiment), but yet remains extant beyond embodiment. Since consciousness ultimately resides in a realm of disembodiment, on one level, words like “heaven” and “hell” aren’t helpful. They don’t have physical geography (i.e., they don’t have latitude and longitude). Are we speaking of another dimension of reality? Who knows. If so, our geographical-spatial language still isn’t helpful. That’s why in the Bible the terms are framed by earthly places and scenes – paradise vs. the fiery pit, that sort of thing. That helps communicate *ideas* about an afterlife in God’s presence (or not), via language we can somewhat comprehend.

      Basically, we’re stuck having to talk about states of being that aren’t geo-spatial and that transcend embodiment using terms from our geo-spatial world, experienced in bodies, that don’t really apply. Good luck with that. It would make some sense (but doesn’t answer some questions) – if consciousness accumulates information via embodiment – for the brain to use that information upon re-embodiment to parse the disembodied conscious experience. Sounds convoluted because it is.

      But no one really knows what’s going on.

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