Fwd: [asa] Physicalism and Incarnation

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Fri Mar 02 2007 - 13:27:49 EST

*"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."
As I understand nonreductive physicalism, however, the human soul is not *
merely* a function of the physical body. The soul / consciousness emerges
from the structures of the physical body *but exercises downward causation
upon those structures *. Thus, the soul / consciousness is not
*severable*from the physical body, but it is more than only a
"function of" the body.
It is a "property," not merely a "function." What you are describing sounds
more to me like a reductive physicalism, in which consciousness is *
determined* by the structures of the body.

Given this notion of downard causation, I can't see why nonreductive
physicalism necessarily rules out the incarnation. We could say that
Christ's human nature / soul / consciousness emerged from the structures of
his human body like any other man, but that the downward causation he then
exerted in exercising his will was united with his divine nature. This is
not "sequential processing," as with the analogy you gave of the word
processor and the spectrometer, because nothing emerges from those machines
that can exert downward causation on them. Again, the analogy of the
machines is more like a reductive physicalism than nonreductive physicalism.

Moreover, I can't see why this way of looking at the hypostatic union is any
worse than the way in which a dualist considers it. For the dualist, the
soul is just "there," perhaps divinely implanted in the womb. It is the
locus of personal causation, but it is not a physical entity. All
nonreductive physicalism changes, as I see it, is to reconceptualize the
"soul" as a property that emerges from the body's structures. It remains
the locus of personal causation, and it remains a non-physical entity (or
more properly, a non-physical property). In either case, there is a
non-physical locus of personal causation that is an aspect of Christ's human
nature and that was mysteriously united with his divine nature.

(For the record, I don't have a strong view monism / dualism on this one way
or the other, though nonreductive physicalism seems more consistent to me
with the Hebraic view of personhood than some Greek, sometimes
gnostic-leaning notions of dualism)

On 3/1/07, D. F. Siemens, Jr. <dfsiemensjr@juno.com> wrote:On 3/1/07, D. F.
Siemens, Jr. < dfsiemensjr@juno.com> wrote:
> Several articles, different arguments, all within the framework of
evangelical theology. The earliest had a response by Murphy which brushed
off biblically based critiques. The briefest summary is mine in
> Dave
> On Thu, 1 Mar 2007 19:01:06 -0500 "Jack" <drsyme@cablespeed.com > writes:
> Incompatible with scripture in what way? Did they propose that scripture
clearly teaches dualism? Or did they claim that, even if scripture is
unclear on the matter, that physicalism is incomaptible with scripture
> I think many would argue that there is no perfectly clear teaching that
supports dualism in the scriptures. It is a matter of interpretation.
Despite this being the traditional teaching, many claim that this
traditional interpretation can be traced back to Platonic influences. So,
putting this aside, the Christian monists have many explanations that allow
physicalism to be compatible with Christianity otherwise, and overall do not
think you can just claim that physicalism is incompatible with scripture.
> Personally, I think that scripture teaches dualism. My problem with
physicalism is that I do not think they have a good explanation for what
seems to be transitional states between physical existence, and a
resurrected body, that is I have not heard a convincing explanation of
biblical examples of disembodied conscious existence (Rev. 6:9-11 for
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: D. F. Siemens, Jr.
> To: dopderbeck@gmail.com
> Cc: rjschn39@bellsouth.net ; michael.andrea.r@ukonline.co.uk ;
alexanian@uncw.edu ; j_jammart@yahoo.fr ; asa@calvin.edu ;
> Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2007 4:28 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Physicalism and Incarnation
> I have to agree that physicalism handles the science better than dualism,
but only because science cannot handle dualism. For that matter, it cannot
handle values, except descriptively as what some culture accepts. But there
is no way scientifically to demonstrate that one culture's values are better
than another's. Those who try have a covert commitment that they do not
> In addition to my article in PSCF the Johan noted, there are a number in
/Philosophia Christi/, 2(2), 3(1) and 4(2) that reject Murphy's physicalism
as incompatible with scripture.
> Dave
> On Thu, 1 Mar 2007 12:12:05 -0500 "David Opderbeck" <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
> Michael, I'm confused by your comment about Tom Wright. Here is Wright in
a recent interview (
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/8.30/relrpt/stories/s1591836.htm ):
> Let's be quite clear. The word 'resurrection' in the ancient world, the
Greek word 'anastasis' always referred to something that we would call a
physical resurrection. That is to say, the word 'resurrection' was never a
kind of synonym for life after death, or a spiritual survival, or 'John
Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave, while his soul goes marching
on'. The ancient world was full of theories about bodies mouldering in
graves and souls being off somewhere else, and that is not resurrection. It
never was.
> Wright notes that a spiritualized resurrection would not have been a
scandal at all in either the pagan or Jewish context of the first century
church. I find Wright's arguments compelling.
> Bob -- we'll have to agree to disagree on the exegetical question, but it
seems to me that the physicalist position on human nature Jack mentioend
above and the nonreductive physicalist position I mentioned from Nancey
Murphy do a better job of handling the science of what we know today about
human nature. Yet if anything like those positions are true, then
resurrection for a human being can't entail only some spiritual aspect. And
as Jesus was fully man, and also is the archetype of the resurrection we
hope for, it seems impossible to me to spiritualize Jesus' resurrection
without bollixing up a Christian anthropology that is in dialogue with
contemporary science.
> On 3/1/07, Robert Schneider <rjschn39@bellsouth.net> wrote:
> >
> >
> > Nor do I. "Bodily resurrection" does not entail the physical body of
Jesus. That would be resuscitation, not resurrection. I believe that what
the disciples experienced was the real presence of the risen Messiah, but
read carefully 1 Cor. 15 to see how Paul wrestled with this matter.
> > Bob
> >
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: Michael Roberts
> > To: Alexanian, Moorad ; Johan Jammart ; asa@calvin.edu ; Janice Matchett

> > Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2007 10:44 AM
> > Subject: Re: [asa] Physicalism and Incarnation
> >
> >
> > Like Bishop Tom Wright I do not believe in a physical resurrection.
> >
> > Michael
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: Janice Matchett
> > To: Alexanian, Moorad ; Johan Jammart ; asa@calvin.edu
> > Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2007 3:07 PM
> > Subject: RE: [asa] Physicalism and Incarnation
> >
> > At 09:45 AM 3/1/2007, Alexanian, Moorad wrote:
> >
> > One must understand what the word "incarnation" means and see if one can
define it in purely physical terms. If one cannot, then the incarnation of
Christ is incompatible with physicalism. ~ Moorad
> >

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Received on Fri Mar 2 13:28:10 2007

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