A primer on the soul, some notes

My recent post suggested that certain aspects of the abortion debate hinge on a definition of personhood and the soul.  That’s hard.  If you asked a church father before later Augustinian and Boethian reflection what a “person” was, they would shrug and say, “Heck if I know.”  What they meant is that person is specific.  By definition it resists a generalization (otherwise it wouldn’t be specific).

But this isn’t about what a person is.  And for that reason I don’t think person and soul are synonymous, though they are close.  The following is from JP Moreland’s Love Your God With All Your Mind, easily the best book on Christian discipleship ever written.

Philosophy and the Soul:  we must remember that both ancient man and the Christian tradition defined the mind (as well as the spirit) as a faculty of the soul (Moreland 70-73).  While it is a true statement that the soul has contact with God, yet it is the mind that is the vehicle for the soul’s making contact with God.  On the other hand, the spirit is the faculty of the soul that relates to God (Romans 8:16 and maybe Eph. 4:23).  

Moreland then outlines the five states of the soul (sensation, thought, belief, act of will, and desire).  What’s interesting about that is the above states of the soul cannot be reduced to purely physical categories.  This means the soul/mind is not reducible to the brain, which means scientific naturalism is false.

Not only does the soul have the aforementioned five states, it also has capacities or hierarchies.  Without getting too technical, understanding the soul’s capacities is key in the abortion debate.

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Author: Ephraim's Arrow

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, charismatic gifts

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