human soul and sin (was: humans irreducibly complex?)

Tim Mitchell (
Tue, 25 May 1999 11:48:01 +0100

At 18:03 24/05/99 -0400, you wrote:
>Hi, folks!
>I know that this doesn't have much to do with the current discussion, but
>the last question raised by Rich Daniel touched on something that has been
>bothering me a lot lately. If the human mind can be completely reduced to
>neuronal processes, where is the human soul? Does it interact with our
>sensory system? If it does, can it be observed? Where is our immortal
>essence? Moreover, if I got a gene that increases my propensity to do sin
>(e.g. drug addiction), am I going to be judged by the same standards as
>people who do not have this gene?
>I really look forward to your comments on this.

Dear Marcio,

I hope that I can make some comments that may prove helpful... I've changed
the subject line because we are going off at a very interesting tangent here.

The Bible teaches that there is more to the human than just flesh and
bones; as well as physical bodies (including neuronal processes), we have
what the Bible calls a "soul" or "spirit".
For example:

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead
James 2:26 (James is making an analogy, and the basis of his analogy is
that an alive human has both a body and a spirit.)

Matthew 10:28 ╩And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to
kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and
body in hell. (The Lord Jesus is teaching that the body and soul are two
different things; that humans are only able to kill the body, whereas God
can destroy both body and soul.)

Ecclesiastes 12:7 ╩Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and
the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Speaking of death, Solomon
says that when we die our bodies return to dust, but our spirit/soul does
not die, but returns to God.)

The points that I am trying to establish are that:
(i) every human has both a body and a soul, and they are different from
each other
(ii) every human needs both a body and a soul to be alive
(iii) the soul is not killed when the body is killed

The first question that you asked "Where is the human soul?" can therefore
be partly answered; it is bound up **WITH** the body (including neuronal
processes and the mind), but it is not **OF** the body.

You ask "Does it interact with our sensory system?". Yes, it certainly does
do, because the body and the soul are bound together while we are alive. I
am a single person, not two persons! However, this is a metaphysical and
theological argument, not a scientific one, for the simple reason that I do
not believe that a soul can be scientifically observed in the way that the
body can be observed. The soul is not subject to scientific measurement and
treatment in the same way that a body is - if it were then it could be
destroyed by humans, and Christ teaches that humans cannot destroy the soul.

However, that is not to say that we cannot recognise things about our
souls; I know when I have sinned because I have consciousness of sin, which
is a sign of my having a soul. I also feel closer to God at some times than
at others, which again is a sign of having a soul. If I want to feel closer
to God then I treat my soul with care, feeding it with God's Word, the
Bible. That is an illustration of how the body and soul go together,
because I must use my neuorological processes (reading and thinking about
what I have read) in order to benefit my soul.

Another of your questions is "Where is our immortal essence?". Those verses
that I quoted above explain that our "immortal essence" is in our souls,
but not in our bodies. When you think about this, it seems strange. Why
should we have mortal bodies but immortal souls? How did this come about?

The Bible teaches that when God created humans they were perfect, and that
death was unknown. But then those humans sinned (they rebelled against
God's rule and did that which he had commanded them not to do), and because
of their sin death came into the world. Their bodies immediately started
the slow decay that leads to bodily death, and their souls would one day be
destroyed in hell (not annihilated, but eternally punished.) Where do I get
these ideas from? From the Bible again...

Genesis 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was
very good. (At the end of his activity in creation, God declared that
everything was very good - there were no faults, no imperfections, no
incompletions. All was perfect, including the humans.)

Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou
return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art,
and unto dust shalt thou return. (When Adam sinned by rebelling against
God's rule, the final part of the punishment was the introduction of death
for the body - now the body that had been taken from the dust would no
longer be immortal, but return to the dust.)

Romans 3:9-18
9 ╩What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before
proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
10 ╩As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 ╩There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
12 ╩They are all gone out of the way, they are together become
unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
13 ╩Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used
deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
14 ╩Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
15 ╩Their feet are swift to shed blood:
16 ╩Destruction and misery are in their ways:
17 ╩And the way of peace have they not known:
18 ╩There is no fear of God before their eyes.
(Paul explains to us, with lots of quotations from the Old Testament, that
since Adam there has not been a single human who is "righteous", who does
not sin. That includes you and me. Sadly, we are all sinners.)

Ephesians 2:1 ╩And you hath he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and
(Paul is speaking to Christians. He explains that although they have been
made alive by Christ, he goes so far as to say that they were once, in a
sense, living corpses, because they were "dead in trespasses and sins".)

So we see that we are sinners, and that we deserve death. On the Day of
Judgement we will stand before the judgement seat of God and be proclaimed
to be sinners and rebels. Some of us will not have had the same
opportunities as others to turn away from their sins, and God will take
that into account. But even those of us who have had less opportunities
will still be declared guilty, and will have to take the punishment of
sinners and rebels.

The only way out of being declared guilty is for someone else to take my
personal guilt upon themselves, and to take the punishment upon themselves,
so that I no longer need to suffer that punishment. Only one person could
do that, and He is God Himself, Jesus Christ. He came to earth as a man to
die on a cross (nearly 2000 years ago now) to take in his own body and soul
the penalty due for the sins of all those who put their trust in him.

Some famous words that you have probably seen before come in John 3:16...
16 ╩For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 ╩For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that
the world through him might be saved.
18 ╩He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is
condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only
begotten Son of God.
That is the free offer. No strings attached! Salvation from sin, from the
slavery to sin, and the living death that is our life without Christ. All
that God demands is that you leave behind your sin and live for him instead
of yourself.

Your last question was about things in our bodies that might push us
towards doing things that God has ruled off-limits. We might also include
things in our upbringings here as well. The good news is that Christ
promises to heal us from all in our bodies and upbringings that pushes us
towards sin. We have gradual and partial healing in this life, and then we
are given perfect new bodies to go with perfect new souls on that Day of
Judgement, which turns out to be a very happy day for the person who has
trusted in Christ.

I hope that this is of some help. Feel free to send me comments or thoughts
or questions directly to my email address or to the mailing list if you
think that I might be of any help.


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Tim Mitchell
Climatic Research Unit

post: CRU, UEA, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
phone: +44 (0)1603 593161
fax: +44 (0)1603 507784