Re: [asa] Event or process

From: David Buller <>
Date: Fri May 11 2007 - 19:53:33 EDT

On 5/11/07, Christine Smith < > wrote:
> David Buller writes on 5/9:
> Animals have a nephesh soul, although they are not in
> the image of God. More importantly, I do not believe
> that they have an eternal nature. Remember first of
> all how we would interpret "the dust of the ground" in
> Genesis when the Bible is referring to the creation of
> Adam. We TEs would interpret that to mean "the
> natural realm." In other words, apart from God's
> giving him an eternal nature (in my opinion), he had a
> natural origin. Secondly, remember the passage (I
> can't remember where) where the Bible says that the
> "soul" of an animal goes down, into the earth?
> Borrowing from the earlier definition of the "ground,"
> I would interpret this to mean that the "soul" of
> animals biodegrades into the earth along with any
> other part of the animal. It is therefore a purely
> material, non-eternal, non-spiritual "soul," entirely
> different from our eternal, spiritual souls, which the
> same passage says go up ( i.e., transcending the
> natural realm). This also draws a distinction that
> Jack drew on a little bit; the animal soul is
> incapable of existence apart from the animals mind and
> body, while our souls are."
> To expand a bit on my response to Jack (see above):
> As was mentioned in later emails, the verse referred
> to is Ecclesiastes 3:21. The larger context for the
> verse is:
> "I said in my heart with regard to the sons of men
> that God is testing them to show them that they are
> but beasts. For the fate of the sons of men and the
> fate of 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. All go
> to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to
> dust again. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes
> upward and the spirit of the beast goes down to the
> earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that
> a man should enjoy his work, for that is his lot; who
> can bring him to see what will be after him?"
> As I would interpret this, the writer of Ecclesiastes
> is asking the larger question, what becomes of us
> after we die? rather than specifying a particular
> doctrine about souls. More generally, my understanding
> of Ecclesiastes is that the author exhibits a rather
> melancholy mental state, and that more than anything,
> he is questioning everything, coming only at the end
> of the book to what his ultimate conclusion about the
> meaning of life is; so I would hesitate to use a verse
> in this book to formulate a doctrine.

Check out my other messages, especially my most recent one. I would agree
with what you said about the main thrust of the passage, but the main thrust
does not allow us to ignore any minor statements along the way. The point
remains that this "minor statement" seems to draw a distinction between the
animal and human souls. So far no one has countered otherwise. I agree
that it is important to look at the context of a verse, but in this case I
don't think the context changes the meaning of the verse at all. The larger
context of the verse also contrasts the fates of the bodies of animals and
humans (they both go into the ground) with the fates of the souls of animals
and humans (the human soul goes up, transcending the natural realm).

From a more scientific vantage point though, let me
> pose the question--do believe, for example, that
> animals are capable of emotion (i.e. love, fear,
> etc.), and that they are conscious? If not, then I
> guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this point
> and move on :) ;

I'm no expert on the mental processes of animals, but I'll have a go at it.
I think its important to realize that it is very difficult to distinguish,
for example, if an animal is showing an emotion. It's easy to recognize
human emotions; after all, we have the inside view. We do not only see our
actions, but we know exactly what drives them ( e.g., love, fear). In
animals, we do not have this advantage; we only see the actions. Sometimes
it is very easy to distinguish between natural drives and instincts and
emotionally driven actions in animals. Sometimes it is more difficult.

For example, I am lucky enough to have a pet Ball Python named Fabio Biondi
(after one of my favorite violinists). If a friend was over and saw him
gently come over to me and give my arm a gentle "hug" might say that Fabio
had grown to "love" me (showing emotion), especially since a wild Ball
Python would not do this. However, someone like me that is more familiar
with reptiles would merely recognize that Fabio had forgotten his instinct
to fear humans and (as an ectotherm) merely wanted to take advantage of my
body heat in order to help digest his latest meal. In this case, Fabio is
showing me no emotion, even though it may appear that he is.

My point is that it is often quite often to determine if an animal is
showing true emotion, since we do not have the inside view of its mental
processes, only the actions that result. As to the question of
conciousness, I'm not sure about that either. It's another difficult

Even having said that, I would say that most likely many of the higher
animals do have conciousness and do show emotion, although I don't know for

if you acknowledge that animals do
> have these attributes, then how do you reconcile your
> statement that an animal is "purely material"? Would
> you then posit that emotions and consciousness have a
> purely material origin and are unrelated to souls? If
> so, then how can it be said that "God is love" and
> that God is the "great I Am"?

My statement that animals are "purely material" was poorly worded. I should
have said "of purely natural origin." Evolutionary biologists have
demonstrated how natural selection can also work on "emotions." Once again,
I am no expert, but I would view emotions and conciousness as emergent
properties of complex brains. Are they unrelated to souls? No, not
unrelated. They are very closely intertwined but at the same time seperate
from the human soul. How then can it be said that "God is love" and that
God is the "great I Am"? I see absolutely no contradiction here. I can
bake a cookie that has no conciousness, emotion, or love, but does that say
anything about me. After all, did I claim that I baked it in my own image?
Nope, so there's no contradiction.

Jack writes on 5/11:
> "My point is that the bible clearly describes a
> transitional state between the physical earthly body,
> and the final resurrection body.
> I gave you the example of the "souls" in revelation.
> Another example is the "spirit" of Samuel that Saul
> talks too.
> Also, what form was Christ in after he died on the
> cross, and before he was resurrected, when he
> "descended into hell"?"
> C.S.Lewis, in one of his books (I forget which at the
> moment),

If I remember correctly that is from Mere Christianity.

describes his understanding of how God can be
> timeless through the analogy that it's akin to an
> author writing a book. The characters in the book are
> working within a certain timeline, but the author,
> relative to the characters, exists "timelessly",
> because the author is not constrained by their
> timeline; moreover, the author can jump around in
> their timeline, being present at any moment "in the
> book". I wonder if the resurrection could be
> accomplished in the same manner? Specifically, say I
> died today. My body, in an earthly timeline, would be
> dead until "the end" as we would know it. But couldn't
> my soul, having eternal properties and being detached
> from my earthly body, also exist "timelessly", and be
> instantaneously taken to "the endtime moment" of
> judgement, and be resurrected in my earthly body (as
> it exists in the future)? Thus, from the viewpoint of
> my soul, there is no need for a "transitory" period,
> but yet, the resurrection is still a physical one.

Aha. Very good point. I'll have to study that one a bit more. If the
human soul is outside of time as God is, I don't see how it could have a
nutural origin, though. Anyway, I'll leave the work of responding to this
up to Jack -- I did my own homework. :-)

Thanks for your comments!

-David Buller

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Received on Fri, 11 May 2007 19:53:33 -0400

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