Monday, September 14, 2015

Greg Koukl on "What Is a Soul?"

Once a seven-year-old boy called my radio show and asked, "What is a soul?" Simply put, I told him, your soul is your invisible self. Think of a soul like a hand in a glove. A soul makes the body move much like your hand makes the glove move. When you remove your hand from the glove, the glove can't do anything. The same thing happens to a body when the soul leaves. It just lies there.

I went on to make two clarifications to my young caller. First, souls aren't actually in bodies in exactly the same way a hand is in a glove. Our hands are physical, but our souls are not. Souls are invisible, but they are still real. They are united to our bodies in  a deep and profound way.

Second, if we wore gloves all the time and never took them off, some people might say we didn't really have any hands at all because they never saw them.  They'd say that gloves were the only things that were real, that hands didn't actually exist.

This would be a mistake because when we look closely at gloves, it becomes very clear that they would not be able to do the things they do all by themselves. Hands do things that gloves alone can't do.

In the same way, souls do things that mere physical bodies can't do.

Stand firm in Christ,

Koukl Greg. Precious Unborn Human Persons. Page 41. 


Richard Kerry said...

With this metaphor - how do we distinguish between what the brain does and what the soul does? What things do souls do that physical bodies can't? Would love to hear your thoughts...


Chase said...

Welcome to the blog Richard!

First, I want to echo Koukl when he states that the way in which the body and soul are united is deep and profound. As a result, I think that any illustration we use to represent this unity will be limited.

Second, I have not done much reading on the relationship between the body and soul (Or mind/spirit/self/person. I think all of these terms are synonymous), so take my thoughts with a grain of salt and see what those who have done much research on the relationship say. J. P. Moreland comes to mind as one of those individuals.

How do we distinguish between what the brain does and what the soul does?

We ask the person thinking/emoting/desiring/etc. All we see is synapses firing in certain areas of the brain. We do not know what those synapses correlate with until we ask the person what they are thinking/emoting/desiring/etc. William Lane Craig has stated that the brain is the instrument the mind uses for thought; similar to a musical instrument.

What things do souls do that physical bodies can't?

Rational thought, emotions, desires, intention, relational interaction. Think of a corpse. It does none of these things. I can imagine a corpse being animated in some way, like a zombie, but there would still not be rational thought, desires, emotions, intent, or relationship occurring. I recall a Christian apologist recently using the zombie illustration but I cannot recall their name.

I hope my thoughts are a helpful starting point. What are your thoughts?


Richard Kerry said...

I don't have many - it's a perplexing subject and connection. I take great comfort in knowing men (JP Moreland) and women (Caroline Leaf) much more educated and much smarter than me are able to reconcile the two.

You said that the soul is able to have, "Rational thought, emotions, desires, intention, relational interaction." I think my assumption or struggle is that on some level I would assume that the brain is responsible for many of those things. I might agree that the soul is responsible for some desires and relational interaction - or at least the need for relationship - but the others might fit in the brain basket for me.

One thing you don't have listed is personality - and I think the personality connects directly to the soul. My wife and I have a 20 month old. There are parts of his personality and mannerisms that I attribute to nurture (it's things he's seen me or my wife do) and some things I attribute to nature/soul (things that I have no idea where he learned it from or why he acts a certain way). So on some level - I definitely think the soul is responsible for parts of or most of our personalities - the other part being learned.

The last thing I think about with the soul - I definitely think that inside each of us is this longing for something more - this longing for something larger and bigger than ourselves - a desire to have some sort of ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment - and I feel pretty certain that comes from our souls. My pastor used this C.S. Lewis quote this week and it fits here...

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things — the beauty, the memory of our own past — are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

Thanks for your response, Chad. Huge fan of the site - would love to hear your thoughts or challenges to what I have posted here.