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  #1  
Unread 19th August 2009, 11:09 PM
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Dualism vs. Monism and the Christian Stance on the issue.

Hi everyone,

I would like to open this thread to probe a few questions I have about the Christian Faith and hopefully gain some measure of understanding through this discussion.

I will start by introducing my current stance on things. First, I am not exactly a Christian. When I was younger, high school days I was very active in a Baptist Church and even felt confident that I was being "called" to go into the ministry and even spent 3 months as a youth missionary. However, as I got older...cough cough wiser...I begin to notice some questionable things about my faith and the church environment that I was part of seemed firmly against asking questions that seemed to run counter to the concept of "blind faith."

I simply could not agree with that concept and reasoned that if there were a God and he provided me with such an inquisitive mind, then certainly he would not be against my asking "tough" questions as they would be the product of the mind which He gave me.

Shortly after this I left the church and decided that I would seek to understand the human experience through the study of Philosophy and Psychology instead.

Now, I am certainly not "against" the notion that there may be a God and that Jesus was in fact who he claimed he was. However, I am equally not against the concept that there is in fact no God at all. I can not prove nor disprove either concept to an extent that I would be able to claim "faith" in one or the other.

Most of the Christians I have talked to suggest that this leap requires a great deal of faith in the unknown. Fine. I can accept that possibility and take the posture that such a leap of faith could be an essential requirement to the Christian faith. (I, however, am unwilling to make such a leap.)

But the thing that has me puzzled is a step beyond that leap. If we were to assume that the "leap" discussed above was already given, we must still eventuality consider the nature of human beings.

This brings me to my original question, does a such thing as the soul actually exist? In philosophy, the has always been a fairly healthy debate regarding the existence of the soul. The two sides of the argument are dualism and the monism.

Dualism suggests that there actually two elements which are elements of human composition, the soul and the body. Monism suggest that this is no actual soul, in the same way as there is no actual smile but rather it is the product of some abilities that human body has.

Presumably, Christians are fundamentally Dualistic. Because of this and for the sake of resemblance, we will strike monism and focus on dualism. But then my question comes, what evidence do we have that suggest that the soul does not perish along with the body? And to take this one step further, presuming for a moment that there is a "glorious" welcoming awaiting our souls after physical death then why do we strive to prolong our lives? Wouldn't the Christian faith suggest that self preservation through the prolonging of life via medicine and so forth would be in essence attempting to strip God of His power?

Again, please do not take my post the wrong way. I am simply seeking the Christian perspective of these questions. Frankly, I can not accept "blind faith" to be a viable answer simply because according to Christian text, man was created in God's image. Therefore, I believe that if in fact Christian text is true and if the existence of God can be assumed then it was God himself who created me with an inquisitive mind that seeks concrete answers to such questions.
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  #2  
Unread 20th August 2009, 01:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Timeless1 View Post
Hi everyone,

I would like to open this thread to probe a few questions I have about the Christian Faith and hopefully gain some measure of understanding through this discussion.

I will start by introducing my current stance on things. First, I am not exactly a Christian. When I was younger, high school days I was very active in a Baptist Church and even felt confident that I was being "called" to go into the ministry and even spent 3 months as a youth missionary. However, as I got older...cough cough wiser...I begin to notice some questionable things about my faith and the church environment that I was part of seemed firmly against asking questions that seemed to run counter to the concept of "blind faith."

I simply could not agree with that concept and reasoned that if there were a God and he provided me with such an inquisitive mind, then certainly he would not be against my asking "tough" questions as they would be the product of the mind which He gave me.

Shortly after this I left the church and decided that I would seek to understand the human experience through the study of Philosophy and Psychology instead.

Now, I am certainly not "against" the notion that there may be a God and that Jesus was in fact who he claimed he was. However, I am equally not against the concept that there is in fact no God at all. I can not prove nor disprove either concept to an extent that I would be able to claim "faith" in one or the other.

Most of the Christians I have talked to suggest that this leap requires a great deal of faith in the unknown. Fine. I can accept that possibility and take the posture that such a leap of faith could be an essential requirement to the Christian faith. (I, however, am unwilling to make such a leap.)

But the thing that has me puzzled is a step beyond that leap. If we were to assume that the "leap" discussed above was already given, we must still eventuality consider the nature of human beings.

This brings me to my original question, does a such thing as the soul actually exist? In philosophy, the has always been a fairly healthy debate regarding the existence of the soul. The two sides of the argument are dualism and the monism.

Dualism suggests that there actually two elements which are elements of human composition, the soul and the body. Monism suggest that this is no actual soul, in the same way as there is no actual smile but rather it is the product of some abilities that human body has.

<snip>

Your soul is your self. That simple.

Sin is error... if you do not hate your sin you are your sin: greed, lust, covetousness, blasphemy, and so on. You have lost your self in false things.

There are not "two elements": there is the flesh which is made in the Image of God, but is not God. And God alone is good. So, God came in the flesh through the person of Jesus Christ that everyone who believes on Him might be saved from the flesh.

The body radiates what is in the heart. What you see their your flesh eyes and ears is what you see and hear through your spiritual body. Good people produce good deeds through their Spirit through their flesh. Bad people produce bad deeds through their own spirit through the flesh.


To say there is "no soul" is to ignore and pretend the concept of "self" does not exist.

Of course you exist.


Worldly philosophies can build up complex strawman arguments. I see this all the time. But, that is really what they are. Create a strawman which is not true, then knock it down to prove something else which is not true.

Clever, but it is all a lie.


The truth is always more simple.

This is because any complex matter when broken down is made up of simple components. And that is where the truth is, breaking down into the components which make up any complexity.

As for Jesus, whether to believe or not, you need to look at what He said and what He did and really think on that. For me, what He said and did is the core of all goodness and truth.

So, I believe.


From that belief, then, springs all else.

That is the real matter to grapple with.
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  #3  
Unread 20th August 2009, 01:16 AM
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Hi Timeless1, you say you are an agnostic, and you are unable to trust in the possibility of God. But, you say you want to assume there is a God, and then ask questions about spiritual things. There is a division within Christianity about whether man is made up of two elements, body and spirit, with the "soul" being simply the core attributes of the spirit, or man is made up of three distinct elements body, spirit and soul. I accept the two element view.

Next you ask, after accepting that God exists, if God's word, which describes the afterlife of humans - heaven and hell (Hades/Gehenna) - is true. The answer of course is "in for a penny, in for a pound." To "assume" God exists, then it follows that His revelation in scripture is true. Otherwise, you are simply asking the same question twice.

Next, you ask if efforts to prolong our physical lives through medicine and clean living is not an affront to God. Nope. Once a person becomes a Christian, they have a job to do until God calls them home to heaven. We call it the ministry of reconciliation. We are to form fellowships, assemblies if you will, and work together to build one another up, and carry out evangelism, by reaching, teaching and training others. God gave us bodies and we are to strive to take care of them.
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Unread 20th August 2009, 01:20 AM
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Originally Posted by freeport View Post
Your soul is your self. That simple.

Sin is error... if you do not hate your sin you are your sin: greed, lust, covetousness, blasphemy, and so on. You have lost your self in false things.

There are not "two elements": there is the flesh which is made in the Image of God, but is not God. And God alone is good. So, God came in the flesh through the person of Jesus Christ that everyone who believes on Him might be saved from the flesh.

The body radiates what is in the heart. What you see their your flesh eyes and ears is what you see and hear through your spiritual body. Good people produce good deeds through their Spirit through their flesh. Bad people produce bad deeds through their own spirit through the flesh.
I do not follow what you mean because you said "there are not two elements" but you went on to mention the "spirit" and the "flesh".

To say there is "no soul" is to ignore and pretend the concept of "self" does not exist.

Of course you exist.
Monism compares the soul to the smile. While there is no physical part of the body referred to as a smile, we recognize it as the product of other physical elements. Could we not then suggest that the soul is nothing more than the product of physical elements such as the brain? And thus, when the brain dies as does the soul because its a construction of the brain.
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Unread 20th August 2009, 01:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Van View Post
Hi Timeless1, you say you are an agnostic, and you are unable to trust in the possibility of God. But, you say you want to assume there is a God, and then ask questions about spiritual things. There is a division within Christianity about whether man is made up of two elements, body and spirit, with the "soul" being simply the core attributes of the spirit, or man is made up of three distinct elements body, spirit and soul. I accept the two element view.
I am absolutely not agnostic. To be agnostic implies that I am not concerned over the existence or non existence of God. I am in fact quite concerned with that issue.

Next you ask, after accepting that God exists, if God's word, which describes the afterlife of humans - heaven and hell (Hades/Gehenna) - is true. The answer of course is "in for a penny, in for a pound." To "assume" God exists, then it follows that His revelation in scripture is true. Otherwise, you are simply asking the same question twice.
Point taken.

Next, you ask if efforts to prolong our physical lives through medicine and clean living is not an affront to God. Nope. Once a person becomes a Christian, they have a job to do until God calls them home to heaven. We call it the ministry of reconciliation. We are to form fellowships, assemblies if you will, and work together to build one another up, and carry out evangelism, by reaching, teaching and training others. God gave us bodies and we are to strive to take care of them.
I am not so sure of this. Take for example those who are on their deathbeds and are confined to their hospital beds and being supported by life support and similar equipment. Or even those who are surviving solely because of medication. Could it not be viewed that the act of taking medication to prolong life is human obstruction of God's calling to heaven?
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Unread 20th August 2009, 01:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Timeless1 View Post
I do not follow what you mean because you said "there are not two elements" but you went on to mention the "spirit" and the "flesh".

Monism compares the soul to the smile. While there is no physical part of the body referred to as a smile, we recognize it as the product of other physical elements. Could we not then suggest that the soul is nothing more than the product of physical elements such as the brain? And thus, when the brain dies as does the soul because its a construction of the brain.
There are not two elements in the sense you are speaking of them. The soul and body are entwined just as the heart and brain are entwined. And yet, they are also different, just as the heart and brain are different. The flesh is a wrapping, a house, for the soul. Nothing more, nothing less.

If the soul is good, that wrapping is good.

If the soul is bad, that wrapping is bad.

As for "monism", is the self an imaginary construct? See, these terms are semantics. Semantics have to be expanded. Many such philosophical problems have to be approached this way, just as one would approach the gordian knot. You do not try and untie it, that is foolish, you cut it in half.

This is often the case with words. Someone creates a word, then fills it with their own meaning. The word is good or bad only if the meaning behind the word has any value.

It is best to not take seriously any such terms.

"Monism", by your definition, however, okay, let us say, 'the argument that the self does not really exist but is an imaginary construct of the brain'.

Do you really believe you are an imaginary construct of your brain?

Does anyone?

If this is repeated enough times, will they believe this?

I think, for many people, they are as alive as this, so it is true for them. They really are nothing more then their flesh. And this is what I was explaining in the first response. There is no self, no soul: only the lustful cravings of the flesh. They are dead, not alive. They are only the summation of their appetites.

So both are true, in a sense: some have souls and some do not.

Yet, in another sense, all have souls, but some are asleep and given over entirely to the flesh, so they are not awake nor alive.

As for life after death: there is life after death. There are two deaths, the natural death, and the death everyone but Jesus was born in.

One does not become alive after they physically die, one becomes alive before they physically die. Then, even if they physically die, they live.

This life, this awakening is not something which is to be grasped tomorrow. It is to be grasped today.


See what I am saying?
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Unread 20th August 2009, 02:12 AM
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Hi Timeless1, two quick points, then I will fall silent. I use words as defined in the dictionary, and so agnostic means a person who believes in the possibility of God, and does not address or imply any level of concern about God. It could be high or low.

Second point, lets say a person is terminal, on life support, and whose continued existence on life support simply brings added grief to their family and loved ones. The terminal person has run the race and is ready to go home. But lets also suppose the person does not have an "advanced directive" which says if there is no hope of recovery to productive living, un-plug the life support. Like all difficult decisions, what the Bible says we are to do is: search scripture for direction, ask other Christians for advice, and fervently pray to God to give us guidance. And in this situation, I fully expect my decision would be to pull the plug. But if I delayed, I think God would not think I was trying to win a power struggle with Him. He knows my heart and my desire to do what is pleasing to Him.
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Unread 20th August 2009, 02:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Timeless1 View Post
Hi everyone,

I would like to open this thread to probe a few questions I have about the Christian Faith and hopefully gain some measure of understanding through this discussion.

I will start by introducing my current stance on things. First, I am not exactly a Christian. When I was younger, high school days I was very active in a Baptist Church and even felt confident that I was being "called" to go into the ministry and even spent 3 months as a youth missionary. However, as I got older...cough cough wiser...I begin to notice some questionable things about my faith and the church environment that I was part of seemed firmly against asking questions that seemed to run counter to the concept of "blind faith."

I simply could not agree with that concept and reasoned that if there were a God and he provided me with such an inquisitive mind, then certainly he would not be against my asking "tough" questions as they would be the product of the mind which He gave me.

Shortly after this I left the church and decided that I would seek to understand the human experience through the study of Philosophy and Psychology instead.

Now, I am certainly not "against" the notion that there may be a God and that Jesus was in fact who he claimed he was. However, I am equally not against the concept that there is in fact no God at all. I can not prove nor disprove either concept to an extent that I would be able to claim "faith" in one or the other.

Most of the Christians I have talked to suggest that this leap requires a great deal of faith in the unknown. Fine. I can accept that possibility and take the posture that such a leap of faith could be an essential requirement to the Christian faith. (I, however, am unwilling to make such a leap.)

But the thing that has me puzzled is a step beyond that leap. If we were to assume that the "leap" discussed above was already given, we must still eventuality consider the nature of human beings.

This brings me to my original question, does a such thing as the soul actually exist? In philosophy, the has always been a fairly healthy debate regarding the existence of the soul. The two sides of the argument are dualism and the monism.

Dualism suggests that there actually two elements which are elements of human composition, the soul and the body. Monism suggest that this is no actual soul, in the same way as there is no actual smile but rather it is the product of some abilities that human body has.

Presumably, Christians are fundamentally Dualistic. Because of this and for the sake of resemblance, we will strike monism and focus on dualism. But then my question comes, what evidence do we have that suggest that the soul does not perish along with the body? And to take this one step further, presuming for a moment that there is a "glorious" welcoming awaiting our souls after physical death then why do we strive to prolong our lives? Wouldn't the Christian faith suggest that self preservation through the prolonging of life via medicine and so forth would be in essence attempting to strip God of His power?

Again, please do not take my post the wrong way. I am simply seeking the Christian perspective of these questions. Frankly, I can not accept "blind faith" to be a viable answer simply because according to Christian text, man was created in God's image. Therefore, I believe that if in fact Christian text is true and if the existence of God can be assumed then it was God himself who created me with an inquisitive mind that seeks concrete answers to such questions.
1. Soul, as a Judeo/Christian concept is properly "the whole person". One's mind, personhood, personality, identity, - and physicality... a concept, not an identifiable thing. And certainly not something that exists separate from our physical being.

2. The Christian hope is not for a disembodied existence, but for resurrection at the end of the age - a fresh, renewed, healed and redeemed body to go along with a fresh, renewed, healed and redeemed personhood in a fresh, renewed, healed and redeemed physical creation. With a rest between death and then. As John Polkinghorne puts it, God uploads our software until the time when he gives us new hardware to run it on.
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Unread 20th August 2009, 02:43 AM
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Originally Posted by freeport View Post
There are not two elements in the sense you are speaking of them. The soul and body are entwined just as the heart and brain are entwined. And yet, they are also different, just as the heart and brain are different. The flesh is a wrapping, a house, for the soul. Nothing more, nothing less.
But you've effectively separated the two elements by suggesting one as a "house" and the other as an "inhabitant".


As for "monism", is the self an imaginary construct? See, these terms are semantics. Semantics have to be expanded. Many such philosophical problems have to be approached this way, just as one would approach the gordian knot. You do not try and untie it, that is foolish, you cut it in half.
Its quite difficult to discuss matters such as the existence of "the soul" without allowing some credibility to monism. Any discussion regarding the "soul" is abounding with semantics. There really is no way around it.


"Monism", by your definition, however, okay, let us say, 'the argument that the self does not really exist but is an imaginary construct of the brain'.
If you prefer to discuss the existence of "self" rather than "soul", you are also playing with semantics. Self and soul are two different concepts.

Do you really believe you are an imaginary construct of your brain?

Does anyone?
No. I do not believe that I am an imaginary construct of my brain. But here you've created a couple of huge leaps. First, you went from "soul" to "self" and then to the phrase "you are an imaginary construct". So I well discuss each one.

1. Do you really believe your [b]soul[b] is an imaginary construct of your brain?
Is it not entirely plausible that the existence of "soul" is merely coordination of your mental faculties and spacial perspectives? Although I can not say that I squarely stand on that idea, I have not seen any evidence that would suggest otherwise.
2. Do you really believe that selfis an imaginary construct of your brain?
While it is certainly not imaginary I can say with all certainty that self is in fact and construct of your brain. Do you not wake up every morning and decide to go to work or not? Do you not have control over your presentability, appearance, and temperament? Do you not have complete authority when deciding how you address others and conduct yourself?
If one can assume that everyone has the power to control the above items, then it can be certain that ones brain controls "self" and not vice versa.
3. Do you really believe that you are an imaginary construct of your brain?
This could be a really difficult question to answer if we went deep into it. However, for the sake of this conversation, I will say that physically speaking I believe it is highly unlikely that I am an imaginary construct.


So both are true, in a sense: some have souls and some do not.

Yet, in another sense, all have souls, but some are asleep and given over entirely to the flesh, so they are not awake nor alive.

As for life after death: there is life after death. There are two deaths, the natural death, and the death everyone but Jesus was born in.

One does not become alive after they physically die, one becomes alive before they physically die. Then, even if they physically die, they live.
Once again we are separating the soul and the body which means one must assume that the soul and body are two individually distinguishable elements. Further, if we were to assume that they are in fact separate elements, what evidence do we have that suggest that either element "lives" without the other?
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Unread 20th August 2009, 02:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Van View Post
Hi Timeless1, two quick points, then I will fall silent. I use words as defined in the dictionary, and so agnostic means a person who believes in the possibility of God, and does not address or imply any level of concern about God. It could be high or low.
.
Agnostic Definition | Definition of Agnostic at Dictionary.com

ag⋅nos⋅tic  [ag-nos-tik] Show IPA
–noun
1. a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.

I am not trying to be a jerk. Its just that I would far from classify myself as an agnostic because the certainty in which agnostics claim that they are unable to find "ultimate knowledge".
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