A Reflective Christian

All for God’s Kingdom

The mind-body problem and Jesus

The mind-body problem has been the focus of debate and discussion. Descartes tried to place the exact point of the soul. Modern day materialism tries to deny it altogether. Others maintain a strict dualism. But the topic has been thrown around and there hasn’t been any conensus, nor will there be anytime soon.

However, there has been a growing trend with people who can not accept materialism’s claims, but yet also have a problem with a soul-body dualism. They have formulated a solution called epiphenomanlism, in which the soul exists but it is purely a byproduct of the body. Epiphenomanlism is even workable in classical Christian belief, due to the belief in resurrection and the fact that some postulate that one the soul exists, it may continue to exist even if the physical cause does not.

But the problem has far ranging implications for Orthodox Christianity. In an attempt to try to explain things totally in terms of the observable, one may take an axe to the trunk of Christianity in regards to our understanding of Jesus. If the soul is a byproduct of the body, then one is left with an interesting dilemma when it comes to the person of Christ. The results could be either towards a denial of Jesus divinity, denial of Jesus’ humanity mythology, pantheism, or a peculiar form of materialism.

If human like is not comprised of an existance independent of the body, then where does that leave the person of Jesus, the Logos of God? The Logos spoken of existed with God in the beginning would not naturally be viewed as a physical entity. And yet, if we proclaim humanity is a body with a projected soul, then Jesus becomes either a superhuman with something more than all other people have or he becomes a God who is only in the illusory apperance of a person. Where can the non-material pre-existant Logos fit into the equation?

The next possibly solution would be to move towards a form of mythology, in which God is not a trascendant being, but he lives as the form of a person. Not only does this deny orthodoxy in God’s transcendance, but it also leads to the denial of the Trinity itself. One must accept either Jesus being by himself God (a form of modalism) or tritheism.  Such would not appeal either to a materialistic world or to Christian orthodoxy.

The next step would be to move towards pantheism, in which God is everything and thus Jesus can be God. One might even move further and say that Jesus is God fully realized. But again, this strikes against the root of Orthodoxy, like above, in its denial of classic theism.

A final form, similar to another idea, is a weird form of materialism in which God himself is a material being. It is different from the mythological view subtly in that it doesn’t present God necessarily as a human being. But in order to incoporate Jesus divinity, one must state that God himself can be material.

The last three would be rejected by almost all people (except pantheists accepting the pantheistic working). The first, while maybe acceptable to different groups, strikes right at the heart of the Incarnation.

One doens’t have to accept a radical dualism, a one way interaction from the body to the spirit is workable within Christian theology and Incarnational understanding. But the rejection of an independent immaterial existance calls for the rejection of the Orthodox faith as a whole.


October 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment