The Evangelical Universalist Forum

What kind of dualism?


As theists, I think it’s safe to say all of us are dualists of some kind. But what kind? As I’ve worked to acquire a more ‘reasonable’ basis for my faith, I’ve learned that there are a variety of views among theists on how the body and soul relate to each other. What do you think?


Hi qaz…

Can you start by defining your dualism for us?


I’m not sure davo, still trying to figure it out. :slight_smile:


I have some idea what “body” refers to, but am not sure how the “soul” is being defined, so I can’t evaluate how the 2 may relate to each other.


Ok qaz, what if we take it back a peg and you tease out further what you mean here…


I think Fuller Seminary’s philosophy prof, Dr. Nancey Murphy is representative of many Christian scholars who reject dualism. Her book, “Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies” is one of several volumes where she argues against dualism.


Meaning that we think there is more to each human than his body: His or her soul. We have a physical body and an immaterial soul.


I’ve been reading philosopher J.P. Moreland’s book Body & Soul: Human Nature & the Crisis in Ethics which is among other things an extended argument, in some depth, in favor of a body-mind dualism. Not a particularly easy read, but doable.

He does argue for a non-physical Mind; in other words, Mind cannot be reduced to material elements only. The argument also denies any sort of epiphenomenalism, which is Mind ‘emerging’ from strictly physical processes in the brain.

So it’s a full-blown dualism he argues for! A physical body/brain, and a non-physical Mind.

Somewhat allied with that view is Dallas Willard’s contention that we are spiritual beings who inhabit bodies. … .+Moreland


DaveB wrote

In her book ‘On Life After Death’ Elizabeth Kubler Ross contends that our spirit inhabits our bodies until the time of death and then we are released, much like a butterfly is released from a cocoon. As an interesting side note, she also seems to indicate that God has given every person a job or mission to do, and once done, we are allowed to flee our physical bodies and be part of the other side. She suggests this is why a child might die at such a young age.


I don’t think P-Zombies or Zombies, believe in dualism. :laughing:


qaz, does this “immaterial soul” change at all? Or does it “grow up” along with the body. Does it grow old along with the body?
Is this “soul” the “real you” that survives the body and goes somewhere after death? In that case, why do the souls of some people become senile with age? Why should something that happens to the physical body (in this case aging) cause a change in the immaterial soul (becoming senile)?

Conversely, why, when you worry (or your soul worries), does this cause stomach ulcers? Why should that which happens to the immaterial soul affect the physical body?

Does this senile soul go somewhere after death and remain senile? Or does God restore it? And if so, does this restoration correspond with a specific age the body was while the person still lived?

In Jesus parable, a man talks to his “soul”:

So if the “soul” is the “real person”, then who did the talking to the “soul” of the man in Christ’s parable?

In the Old Testament, the word translated as “a soul” simply meant “a being.” Animals were souls, and in one case Yahweh is said to have forbidden people to touch “a dead soul.” (though most translations render the Hebrew word “nephesh” as “body” in THAT context.

In the New testament, the Greek word translated as “soul” means “self.” The rich man in Christ’s parable was talking to himself.

As I see it, soul and body (or perhaps more clearly “mind and body”) are two aspects of the whole person.

The concept of “soul” being a separate entity from the body that survives death originates from Greek philosophy, and has thus entered Christendom. Plato taught that souls are reincarnated after death and will be reincarnated as people if they have lived good lives, or if not will be reincarnated as animals. Justin Martyr, while he was still a disciple of Plato, spoke of it to the old Christian man that he encountered when he was in a remote area seeking to see God with “the eyes of his soul” (as his teacher Plato taught).


The philosophical argument that we exist as us apart from any bodily nature is interesting. Most scientists think the objective evidence for it is scant. And for many, it’s decided by their view of what revelation asserts. But of course, the many evangelical non-dualists, like Nancey Murphy, argue that the Bible is not really teaching dualism (or tripartism). They find that when it has folk addressing their “soul” (nephesh), it is just a Hebrew way of speaking to the core of your whole being, which is understood wholistically, rather than dualistically.


What about Holy Saturday? The harrowing of Hell? If Christ did descend to preach to the ‘spirits in prison’, did He go bodily?

St. Paul did not know, on one occasion, if he was in or out of his body.

Just asking - I don’t know the answers to this.


Notice that “the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). The context states that a person is “sown” as a physical body but will be raised as a spiritual body. The resurrection body differs from the present body in some respects. It is immortal. And it can walk through a closed door, as Jesus did after He was raised. Yet He ate food in front of his disciples after his resurrection. But then Jesus also became a life-giving spirit. After He was raised, He could extend his spirit anywhere in the Universe, but especially into the hearts of the faithful. This is the Holy Spirit. That’s why Jesus said that He could not send the Spirit until He departed this earth. For while He lived here as a human being, his spirit was confined to his physical body.

Let’s look at the passage carefully:

  • For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. (1 Peter 3:18-20 ESV)*

It is my view that people do not go somewhere at death, but rather they do not exist, and will not exist until Christ raises them at the last day. However, while the ark was being prepared, there were giants (nephilim) on earth who, according to Moses, came into being as a result of fallen angels copulating with human women. These “half-breeds” had a spirit that survived death because their fathers were angelic beings. So the passage in Peter refers to Christ going to minister to those spirits in Tartarus.

  • For if God did not spare the sinning angels, but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to chains of darkness to be kept until the judgment…(2 Peter 2:4)*

I am suggesting that the nephilim, like their fathers, the sinning angels, were cast into Tartarus. Notice it is only until the judgment. What happens to them after that is not stated.

I would guess that Christ went in his resurrected body to minister to those spirits, but on the other hand He may have simply sent His spirit, the Holy Spirit, to them.


Thanks Don for those thoughts, more fodder for me to think about. Still:

Was He dead? For 3 days give or take, in the tomb? Did He die like we all must?
If He was raised on the 3rd day, he was not alive during that time?

And for those that believe in the pre-existence of the Son - did He die or not, as is the lot of his younger brothers (us - and sisters).


I’m inclined in this direction myself. So when Paul says, for example, what he does in 1Thess 5:23, he is basically just dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” in speaking of the whole person.


Davo/Paidion et. al. - any thoughts on my question at the end of my last post?


Dave, why do you wonder whether Jesus died? Isn’t this the consensus of the creeds, 1 Corinthians 15, etc?


Bob - I don’t wonder about it at all. It’s gospel truth and I glory in it.

But the name “Jesus” denotes different entities according to one’s presuppositions/beliefs.

One camp : “The two natures of Jesus refers to the doctrine that the one person Jesus Christ had/has two natures, divine and human. In theology this is called the doctrine of the hypostatic union, from the Greek word hypostasis (which came to mean substantive reality). Early church figures such as Athanasius used the term “hypostatic union” to describe the teaching that these two distinct natures (divine and human) co-existed substantively and in reality in the single person of Jesus Christ. The aim was to defend the doctrine that Jesus was simultaneously truly God and truly man.” - theopedia

My ‘camp’ : “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”

So when Jesus died - who died? The combined God-human, or the human? Or were the docetists corrects, that the ‘God part’ left Jesus’ body before the actual death?


It is my belief that He truly died like everyone else dies. And God raised Him from death, even as Christ will raise us from death on the last day.
I do not go around saying that Jesus did not exist during the time between His death and resurrection, for that offends people’s sensibilities, and would think that I am affirming that God died (since Jesus is called “God” in some sense by the apostle John). However, in my mind, it only depicts the necessity for the resurrection.

Though I do believe in the pre-existence of Jesus as One whom the Father begat as His first act (that marked the beginning of time), I still believe that He was born fully human, that in becoming human He divested Himself of His divine attributes, that He could do no miracles while He lived as a human being, but trusted His father implicitly to work the miracles through Him, that He truly died as any other human being died, and that God raised Him from death, even as Jesus will raise from death at the last day all who entrust themselves to Him.

If anyone wants the scriptures upon which any of these beliefs are based, let me know.