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Dualism vs. Monism and the Christian Stance on the issue.

Discussion in 'Exploring Christianity' started by Timeless1, Aug 19, 2009.

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  1. Timeless1

    Timeless1 Newbie

    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.
  2. freeport

    freeport Guest


    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.
  3. Van

    Van Contributor

    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.
  4. Timeless1

    Timeless1 Newbie

    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.
  5. Timeless1

    Timeless1 Newbie

    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. :)

    Point taken.

    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?
  6. freeport

    freeport Guest

    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?
  7. Van

    Van Contributor

    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.
  8. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

    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.
  9. Timeless1

    Timeless1 Newbie

    But you've effectively separated the two elements by suggesting one as a "house" and the other as an "inhabitant".

    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.

    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.

    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 soul 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.

    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?
  10. Timeless1

    Timeless1 Newbie

    Agnostic Definition | Definition of Agnostic at Dictionary.com

    ag⋅nos⋅tic  [ag-nos-tik] Show IPA
    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".
  11. freeport

    freeport Guest

    It depends on the context. While a spirit is in a body, they are unioned with that body. But, can a spirit be without a body? Yes.

    And that is not a good place to be.

    However, in context, we were discussing spirits in bodies. When they are in a body they are unioned to that body.

    "In the Septuagint (LXX), ψυχή translates Hebrew נפש nephesh, meaning "life, vital breath", in English variously translated as "soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion"; e.g. in Genesis 1:20:"

    Soul - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Your answer to point three I think is key. I do not think you are an imaginary construct, either.

    One can consider all sorts of possibilities, but end of day, there you are, kicking and breathing.

    And that is good. And you want to live more. Be more aware, more conscious, surely.

    I am simply saying they are connected, as far as anything important goes. You have a self... a soul. A consciousness. There are many things you are unconscious of, for instance, the beating of your heart or the control of your immune system...

    Or what dreams you dreamt last night. Many things.

    Is the self or soul eternal? Do you feel like you could be destroyed?

    It is hard to get to that point where someone goes, "This is me", because there is so much noise in the world: things people chase after, knowledge, feelings, prejudice, and so on.

    But, there are points where someone can stop and go, "I am alive".

    And "this is me"... and "I am different then that"... or "Though I eat, I am not food; though I sleep, I am not sleep; though I even think, I am not thought". Descartes had a good idea there with his "I think, therefore I am", but we are not our internal monologue. We are something more.
  12. Van

    Van Contributor

    Hi Timeless1, even your definition does not suggest an inference about a lack of interest in God. Now from my dictionary: "Agnostic noun, Someone who believes that there can be no proof of the existence of God but does not deny the possibility that God exists."

    That is the one and only definition included in The American Heritage Dictionary. Nothing about level of interest. And I certainly made no reference to epistemology.

    Here is a word history I found on the internet:

    Word History: An agnostic does not deny the existence of God and heaven but holds that one cannot know for certain whether or not they exist. The term agnostic was fittingly coined by the 19th-century British scientist Thomas H. Huxley, who believed that only material phenomena were objects of exact knowledge. He made up the word from the prefix a-, meaning "without, not," as in amoral, and the noun Gnostic. Gnostic is related to the Greek word gn[​IMG]sis, "knowledge," which was used by early Christian writers to mean "higher, esoteric knowledge of spiritual things"; hence, Gnostic referred to those with such knowledge.

    In coining the term agnostic, Huxley was considering as "Gnostics" a group of his fellow intellectuals, who had eagerly embraced various doctrines or theories that explained the world to their satisfaction. Because he was a "man without a rag of a label to cover himself with," Huxley coined the term agnostic for himself, its first published use being in 1870.

    Goodbye and may God bless.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2009
  13. aiki

    aiki Regular Member

    Uh, what's with the "cough cough wiser" bit? Are you implying that those of us who haven't abandoned our faith are foolish?

    A human, finite mind attempting to grasp the infinite is doomed to failure. Did you really expect that you would be able to understand God fully with only your limited cognitive abilities? Given the vast difference between God and ourselves, it seems pretty obvious that very quickly we will come to the limits of our capacity to comprehend Him. This can be an ending point or a beginning point - depends on what you really want and how willing you are to exercise faith.

    Ah, seems it was an ending point for you...

    According to Christ, whoever is not for him is against him. (Matt. 12:30) There is no fence to sit on in the Christian worldview.

    Actually, I found that it wasn't a great leap of faith that was required to enter into fellowship with God, but a willingness to submit to Him and admit my sin. Now that was hard (and sometimes still is). The Bible asserts the same thing:

    John 3:19-20
    19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
    20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

    I think there is plenty of reasonable, logical evidence - stuff my finite mind can get ahold of - that serves as a platform from which my faith can leap toward God. There is nothing blind about my faith; it rests completely upon what may be known of God.

    I believe humans have a soul. I believe the Bible teaches this as well.

    I think that while my soul remains within my body it is linked to it in such a way as to make it responsive to physiological changes in the body and vice versa. I would suggest to you that the smile you mention is the effect of the soul upon the body, not the other way 'round.

    What evidence are you prepared to accept? That seems to me to be the real question here.

    As I think Van has already suggested, God has a purpose in our existence here and reserves the right to Himself to determine the length of our time on this globe. Paul the apostle writes, too, that there are rewards, "treasures in heaven," that one may lay up for oneself through obedience to God's will while here on Earth. Cutting short one's divinely-allotted time, of course, prevents one from laying up such treasures.

    You think too much of medicine (or, perhaps, not enough of God). My God is not so small or weak as to be impeded by drugs or life-support machines in taking me home when He has determined to do so.

    God doesn't expect you to trust Him totally blindly. Paul the apostle wrote,

    2 Timothy 1:12
    12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

    Paul was persuaded of certain facts about God and on the basis of these facts was able to believe in God and commit himself to Him. Paul's faith was not "blind" and neither is the faith of any mature Christian. There are philosophical, archaelogical, historical, experiential, and even scientific reasons to believe in God. These reasons serve as the basis upon which Christians are able to go beyond what they understand into the realm of faith with God.

    How you have used your mind is something for which you must answer, not God. You have used your inquisitiveness to propel you away from your Maker rather than toward Him. This is not God's doing, but your own.

    Last edited: Aug 21, 2009
  14. Bible2

    Bible2 Guest


    Faith is blind in the sense that it's not based on literal sight: "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). For example,
    we believe that God exists even though we cannot see him: "the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15); "No man hath seen God at
    any time" (John 1:18, 1 John 4:12). But all men can know that God exists because of everything else that exists: "For the
    invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his
    eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no
    God" (Psalms 14:1). "Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people,
    and the sheep of his pasture" (Psalms 100:3). "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that
    was made" (John 1:3). "He is before all things, and by him all things consist" (Colossians 1:17). "In him we live, and move,
    and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

    The blindness of faith doesn't mean that believers can't use their minds and ask tough questions; they should ask as many
    questions as they have. But if by "tough" questions you mean questioning the veracity of what the Bible teaches, then that
    falls outside the realm of faith altogether, and there is nothing that can bring a person into the realm of faith but a miraculous
    gift from God: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8);
    "Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father" (John 6:65). "As
    many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). This gets into the whole area of election and unelection of
    people: not all people are elected by God to be saved, and so he doesn't give the gift of faith to everyone when they read
    (or hear) the Bible: "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Those who persist in unbelief
    unto death, no matter how much they read the Bible, are not elect, not of God: "Jesus said unto them, If God were your
    Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not
    understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye
    will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh
    a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which
    of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye
    therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God" (John 8:42-47).

    Another possibility, if someone persists in unbelief unto death, no matter how much they read the Bible, is that they are of
    God, are elect, but are wrongly employing their will to harden their hearts against God's Word the Bible: "While it is said, To
    day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts" (Hebrews 3:15). Even those elect who had soft hearts at one time and
    so were given the gift of faith, can subsequently wrongly employ their will to commit apostasy, to willfully depart from the
    faith in order to follow their own lusts: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the
    faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (1 Timothy 4:1-2). "For the time will come when they will not
    endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall
    turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

    "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the
    world, and not after Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

    Man is neither of a singular nature nor of a dual nature, but is of a triune nature: "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and
    body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23). God is also of a triune nature:
    "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"
    (Matthew 28:19). It could be in at least this triune-nature sense that "God created man in his own image" (Genesis 1:27).

    The soul can perish along with the body: "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" (Matthew 10:28). But Jesus came to save our souls: "Receiving the
    end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:9); "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. For God sent not his Son into the world to
    condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 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. And this is
    the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
    For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved" (John 3:16-20).
    "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his
    soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall
    the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:36-38).

    Believers can know for certain that when their bodies die, the rest of them will go into heaven to be with Jesus: "Therefore
    we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by
    faith, not by sight). We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord"
    (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). "To live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I
    shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better"
    (Philippians 1:21-23).

    Believers should never desire to prolong their lives for their own sake, for "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that
    hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal" (John 12:25). "They loved not their lives unto the death"
    (Revelation 12:11). "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever
    will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what
    shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:34-36).

    But, at the same time, believers should never do anything which unnecessarily shortens their lives, such as committing suicide,
    fasting to death, etc., for believers have no right to harm themselves in any way: they are wholly God's property: "ye are not
    your own... For ye are bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
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