Scott A. Oakman (oakma001@maroon.tc.umn.edu)
Tue, 10 Feb 98 21:22:56 -0600

I've held my peace on this subject for awhile--but I think that we REALLY ought
to be more precise about what we mean when we speak of the concept of "soul" as
it occurs in Scripture.

I haven't studied this nearly to the level that I would wish to, being
preoccupied with such trivial things as earning doctorates, but I think that we
should point out that the Scripture uses a number of terms to express the idea
of the human personality and inner being. IN GENERAL, the Hebrew 'nepes' and
Greek 'psyche' usually convey the idea of mind, including emotion and will--the
things we tend to think of as "personality". (Interestingly, the Hebrew term is
also frequently used of animals as well as humans). Personally, as a
psychologist and neuroscientist, I think of these things as being *strongly*
based in the functions of the biological brain, though as a human and a
Christian, I also find them difficult to separate from the "higher life" that
the Scripture *usually* describes as 'spirit' (Heb 'ruah'; Grk 'pneuma'). These
terms of 'soul' and 'spirit' often overlap with 'heart' as a description of
man's inner self, but there is a general trend toward using 'soul' and 'spirit'
to refer to the 'lower' and 'higher' aspects of our immaterial qualities. An
example of this distinction is seen in I Thess 5:23, where Paul places the
'lower' and 'higher' immaterial qualities alongside the material qualities--and
expresses his confidence that Jesus Christ will sanctify the whole package!
(One of my sources for the above paragraph is the _New Bible Dictionary_, 2nd
Edition, Tyndale. I found its articles on 'Soul' and 'Spirit' to at least
somewhat confirm my simplistic, preliminary speculations on this topic.)

Personally and professionally, I find this distinction a helpful one in sorting
out what it means to us that biological factors in the brain exert so much
influence over such "immaterial" things as emotion, behavioral predilictions,
and personality.

How I would apply this distinction to this discussion is to assert that the
"soul" probably does not exist until brain activity begins, whereas the "Image
of God" kind of unique human qualities which Brian refers to below might be
better described as 'spirit'--the unique life breathed into us by God to allow
fellowship with Him. I do not know when this event occurs, nor do I believe
that science can answer that question. (For that matter, Scripture is
essentially silent as well!) I am content, however, to leave the matter in His
Sovereign hands, and to err in the direction of protecting the sanctity of ALL
human life--born and unborn, rich and poor, saved and unsaved, regardless of
national origin or relative epidermal pigmentation.


Brian T. Greuel <bgreuel@acc.jbu.edu> writes:
> I think it makes a big difference whether we regard the soul as a material or
> spiritual entity. Ultimately, I favor the view that the soul is a spiritual
> entity which is placed there by God, but let me try to address both
> possible scenarios.
> The main problem I see with a soul being a material entity is that it would
> be subject to death and decay like the rest of the mortal body. But that
> isn't
> how most of us view the soul, is it? We view the soul as an entity that
> exits
> the body at the time of death, persisting as a spiritual entity in the
> "presence of the Lord." Now we're back to the same old questions again. If
> the soul is a spiritual entity, at what point does it enter in the continuum
> of
> human development? And how does it get there? I would submit that it is put
> there directly by almighty God--a purposive act by an omnipotent Deity who is
> the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He imparts a soul to each human
> life so that we are "made in His image"--so that we, like Him, will exist for
> eternity, in eternal fellowship with Him if we choose to follow Him. When
> does God transfer a soul into a developing human life? My best guess is that
> it is
> at the earliest moment when the process of fertilization is complete and a
> single-celled embryo, the zygote, has been formed and commences development.
> Perhaps the soul, as a spiritual entity, is still capable of "regulative
> development" as I described above--so that two distinct souls could become
> "one soul" and vice versa. Whatever the case, God is in control--He is the
> Sustainer and Creator of the Universe.. Therefore, IMHO, to terminate an
> embryo, even as early as the zygote stage, would be to terminate a human life
> made in the image of God--this would be an act of murder.

Scott A. Oakman GO TWINS--
oakma001@maroon.tc.umn.edu And take the Vikings with you!