Re: humans irreducibly complex?

Loren Haarsma (
Thu, 27 May 1999 11:27:13 -0400 (EDT)

Marcio Pie wrote:

> 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?

Well, my personal relationship with other human beings causes changes
in the physical/neurological state of my brain (every time I interact
with them, or even think about them). Similarly, I expect that my
personal relationship with God causes changes in the
physical/neurological state of my brain. I cannot say to what extent
God uses deterministic natural mechanisms vs. providential control over
stochastic processes vs. supernatural means to bring about these
changes in my brain. Whatever means God uses, God does have a personal
relationship with me which causes changes in my physical and mental
states. And God holds me accountable for my choices, accountable in
ways which have eternal consequences.

> Where is our immortal essence?

Our continued existence -- both in this life now, and in our next life
-- depends continually upon God's sustaining grace. In Christian
theology, our hope for eternal life does *not* rest upon the existence
of an immaterial, intrinsically immortal, distinct metaphysical entity
called a "soul" which is somehow united to our bodies. Rather, our
hope for eternal life relies upon God's grace and God's unshakable
promises. We will be resurrected to a new life without death.

I'm not necessarily arguing *against* the dualistic body/soul picture
of human nature here. I am, however, arguing that the monistic picture
of human nature poses no threat to the essential Christian doctrines of
the soul and life after death. Whether one takes a dualistic or
monistic picture of human nature, issues of the soul and life after
death always comes back to God's initiative and God's grace.

> 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?

The biblical view of "sin" is that it is both (1) the particular sinful
acts we chose to do and (2) our general sinful nature, which
predisposes us to commit sinful acts. Jesus incarnation, death, and
resurrection overcame *both* of those barriers to God. We each have
particular sins to which we are especially prone -- whether by genes or
by upbringing. This is part of our sinful nature. Once we become
aware of these factors which were beyond our control, they do not
EXCUSE us if we continue to behave sinfully. Rather, once we are aware
of these factors, we become all the more responsible to take the
appropriate steps (medical, psychological, social, and/or spiritual) to
try to overcome them. (Not that we will ever completely succeed in
this life. That's where grace comes in again.)

Loren Haarsma