Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Mind/Body and the Resurrection

I know that it may fall in the realm of adiaphora, but...

We have been discussing a tape series at work which gives a theological background of the counseling endeavor and we are talking about the interface between the concepts of mind, body, spirit and soul. This person contends that the brain is the interpreter of consciousness (after Hippocrates) but not that the mind is an emergent property of the functioning of the brain (after modern philosophy of science). To him the mind is not the organ of the brain but an "element closely related to but distinctly separate from the brain" that thinks, wills and reasons. Essentially what this person would have is a body/mind dichotomy with spirit being equivalent to mind.

Now, I can poke your brain and make you forget how to talk. I can poke your brain and make your arm move (without your willing it). I can apply a magnetic field to your brain and give you a mystical experience of God. I can easily manipulate your memory and even manipulate your behavior (albeit in small ways) simply by presenting information to you that will prime particular pathways in your brain. I can manipulate your emotions, through music for example. This does imply that I can manipulate your will to an extent.*

In my mind (or maybe just in my brain), the mind/body problem has everything to do with the resurrection. A dualism of body and spirit has become the cultural standard (albeit without much conscious reflection). I think that it has also become a standard in the American Church, with a Gnostic flavor. I recall a pastor who said that we don't need our brains to think and that the moment after our deaths, we will be thinking more clearly than ever. Doesn't this sound like some of the Gnostic thought, which said that the body was a cage to the soul? But as earthy Lutherans, we believe that the physical is fallen and in need of redemption, but also that it matters.

If the spirits of the dead go immediately to be with God, what need is there of a resurrection?

I think that Christianity in America today has forgotten the resurrection as anything but a topic for Easter services (and then primarily to illustrate what God can do in your life/marriage/etc.) Now, I've not done a thorough study of the section, but the religious sympathy cards that I have seen do not point us to the hope of the resurrection, rather they point us to some other hope, generally God's goodness.

What if there were no spirit/body distinction? What if the mind was an emergent property of the functioning of a couple of pounds of fascinating matter in my skull. What if the part of me that believes in Christ as King of all creation and that thankfully receives the merit of his holy, innocent suffering and death is physically located behind my eyes? If we are each unity instead of duality, does this affect our theology?

I have read that Luther believed in soul sleep. This sounds quite a bit like a monism of mind/body and it has a great deal of intuitive appeal to me because I think that the resurrection is important. "This body in the grave we lay, there to await that solemn day, when Christ himself shall bid it rise, and mount triumphant to the skys."**

Perhaps I'm overreacting to a general Gnostic whiff in the air and a sense that no one cares about the resurrection. Perhaps I am trying to harmonize science and theology without being fully conversant in the latter (or the former half the time, especially before coffee). I would love recommendations for resources, thoughts, gentle reproval/correction, as you "feel led".

* This is hyperbole. Each of these things CAN be done, but not in my office and you would probably want me to read up a bit before attempting the brain-poking tricks I mention.

** I want my tombstone to read, "Awaiting the resurrection of the dead in Christ since Day Month Year."

11 Comments:

Blogger Mutti said...

Help me understand this, perhaps I've misread. I think you are struggling with the idea that we (christians) don't go straight to heaven when we die, that we slumber until the resurrection of the dead at the last day, is this right?

11:12 AM  
Blogger Kletos Sumboulos said...

Yes. I'm wondering if the position of soul sleep (or even thnetopsychism - soul death) is consistant with the Word of God and avoids the Gnostic tendencies that a dualistic idea can bring. I guess first it must be established that a monistic position is implied by soul sleep or that soul sleep implies monism. I guess you could believe in a distinct soul and spirit and still believe in soul sleep.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Mutti said...

Okay, now I'm following, can you point to scripture to support this "soul sleep"? Have you found a scriptural basis for or against your musings? I'll try to keep up. ;)

3:39 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

I'm not sure I fully understand what it is you're talking about (not because you're explaining it poorly, but because it's out of my league). But my pastor recently finished a series on Colossians, and his theme verse was 3:3.

I can't begin to expound upon what his points were, but perhaps there's some clarity in those few verses surrounding 3:3.

However, I think the passage deals more with our earthly self and spiritual self rather than mind/brain.

3:48 PM  
Blogger solarblogger said...

I think there may be two parts to this.

First, I tend to agree with your monism here.

Second, I want to make sense of "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."

Somehow, I think we have to say that the soul is absent from the body when we die. But what does present with the Lord mean if we're asleep?

I'm not sure of the answer here, but perhaps there is a distinction to be drawn between how the person who dies experiences this and how the rest of us experience it.

When Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration, did the disciples not see bodies? It seems to me they did. My best way of making sense of this is that when the curtain got pulled back between heaven and earth, heaven was on a different timeline.

Maybe from the dying person's perspective they go straight into the Resurrection body, which is their natural body remade at the end of time.

It's speculative, but I think any way of slicing this has some problems.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Bob Waters said...

I first encountered the notion of soul sleep- together with the attendant difficulties- as an ALC seminarian. I arrived at what I think is a perfectly
satisfactory solution to the whole dilemma thus:

We make the mistake of assuming that we
experience reality in its pure form when we experience each moment consecutively, in time. Not so. There is plenty of Scriptural support for saying that all of us who have ever lived are present to God- i.e., that outside of time, in eternity- where God lives, and where we go when we die- there simply is no gap between death and resurrection. What we experience as a gap is a distortion of reality brought about by our finitude- i.e., by our confinement in time, from which we are liberated in death.

In other words, in eternity, there is no yesterday or today or tomorrow. There simply is an everlasting now. Which means that our beloved who are with the Lord are, from their perspective (the true one; God's perspective), with not only the Lord, but also with us.

When we die, on this view, we immediately leave time and enter eternity. We experience the Final Judgment, and every single bit of glory for our resurrected bodies and souls which God has prepared for us- along with all of those whom, in Christ, we have known and loved.

Which makes death all the sweeter, heaven the more glorious, and the whole question of "soul sleep' versus
souls going to heaven without bodies
beside the point.

As Solar says.

9:36 PM  
Blogger CPA said...

I've addressed the Biblical evidence for the "intermediate state" here. I believe there is traditional Biblical evidence for an intermediate state (of an unsouled body) between this life and the Resurrection. There are also serious problems with assuming soul sleep, since the continuity of personhood disappears (see here and here.)

BUt I'd like to ask you about something: I've heard that in those "jab you brain and produce movement, emotions, etc." sorts of experiences, the person being experimented on can always tell that this is externally induced and not "me" doing it. Is that the case? And does it have significance for the body-soul debate?

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Rev. Benjamin T. G. Mayes said...

Dear Kletos,

I am neither a psychologist nor a psychologist's son. I'm a theologian and a conservative, liturgical LCMS pastor. And I'd like to encourage you to believe in the immateriality of the soul and to disbelieve in soul sleep. In my experience, medical doctors and psychologists often struggle with this article of faith.

You've stated that by affecting the brain, the mind can be impaired. But theologians who hold to the immateriality of the soul have known that soul and body can affect one another. Physical sacraments received in faith do the soul good. Bodily sins committed against conscience harm the soul and can lead to vices and certain sicknesses of the soul.

Some Bible passages for your consideration:

Matt. 10:28
2 Pt. 1:13-15
Phil. 1:23-24
2 Cor. 5:4-8
Luke 23:43, 46
Luke 8:55
1 Pt. 3:19-20
Luke 16:19ff. (Never called by our Lord or his apostles a parable. And even if it is a parable, our Lord told it to show us what it's like for us when we die.)


If there's a soul sleep, then it's only for believers. Isa. 57:20-21; Rev. 14:11, 13; Ps. 95. I think the "rest" being spoken of is the rest from our labors, and the rest or sleep of the body in the grave, not the sleep of the soul.

I'd be happy to send you an entire article I wrote on this issue for a layman in a local congregation who had come under the sway of Seventh-Day Adventist anthropology (in which one's soul/personality/ego is ended at death, but reconstituted in the resurrection).

I enjoy your thoughtful comments here on this blog. Keep up the good work.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Rev. Benjamin T. G. Mayes said...

Another passage: the epistle for Sexagesima Sunday (2nd Sunday before Ash Wednesday) 2 Cor. 11:19-12:9, especially 12:2-4.

9:28 PM  
Blogger solarblogger said...

One question. If the Luke 16 passage is taken literally, the rich man has a tongue. I don't see how that argues for the immateriality of the soul.

I think assuming the absolute nature of time is itself speculative, even if that usually goes unrecognized. When Martha identifies the Resurrection with a particular day, Jesus tells her that He is the Resurrection (John 11:25). To be absent from the body is to be present with the Resurrection.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Joe Fremer said...

I'm with Bob Waters and Solarblogger. At death we get zipped out of the seriatim of time and straight to The Finale.

You are right about the Gnostic whiff. I preach about that when I bury people. Had four of those in the last month. We Christians treat the body with respect, because it is the interface for accessing the spirit while we are on earth, and in the new creation as well.

One thing that puzzles me though, is Paul's comments in 1 Cor 15 that there is a natural body and a spiritual body. I take "spiritual body" as being flesh, but redeemed and restored so that it is a perfect (un-buggy, noise-free) interface for the spirit that is no longer contaminated with the sinful nature.

Fun stuff. We'll all have a good laugh about this in the new regime, I'm sure.

10:40 PM  

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