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Fall 2008 · Vol. 37 No. 2 · pp. 243–47 

Recommended Reading

Body and Soul: A Selected Annotated Bibliography

Vic Froese

The usual disclaimer applies with special force to this bibliography: it is not exhaustive. The body of literature that discusses the findings of scientific research into the brain and the implications of bodiliness for Christian anthropology is vast and growing. The titles listed below will, I trust, give readers a good introduction to the debates and discussions spawned by the meeting of neuroscience and Christian theology. I have also included some historical, biblical, and theological works that touch on or directly address the subject of human identity.

Barrett, William. Death of the Soul: From Descartes to the Computer. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1987. Barrett reviews attempts by philosophers to answer the question of whether such a thing as a human soul exists. In the concluding chapter Barrett makes his argument that even in a world spellbound by reductionism and materialism it is not irrational to hold that souls are real.

Beauregard, Mario, and Denyse O’Leary. The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul. New York: HarperOne, 2007. World renowned neuroscientist, Mario Beauregard (U. of Montreal), offers his evidence that religious experiences have a nonmaterial origin and suggests that it may well be God who creates our spiritual encounters, not brain processes. This controversial book is not, strictly speaking, a case for the existence of the soul but for the reality of a God acting directly on human brains.

Beck, James R. and Bruce Demarest. The Human Person in Theology and Psychology: A Biblical Anthropology for the Twenty-first Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2005. Explores four aspects of human persons from a scriptural/theological and a psychological perspective: their origin and destiny, substance and identity, function and behavior, and their relationships and community. Beck and Demarest argue that scripture and psychology agree that the person is a whole but that this whole includes something immaterial; hence, that dualism of some kind is inescapable.

Boyd, Jeffrey H. Reclaiming the Soul: The Search for Meaning in a Self-Centered Culture. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 1996. Boyd is among the most strident defenders of a Christian “soul-body dualism,” but not the most careful of scholars. The book has received mixed reviews.

Brown, Warren S. et al., eds. Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1998. Brown, Nancey Murphy, and others probe the advantages and challenges of “nonreductive physicalism,” an anthropology that attempts to remain fully Christian while firmly rejecting the notion that human beings possess an immaterial substance called the soul. Contributors include biologists, geneticists, neuroscientists, ethicists, and Bible scholars.

Cooper, John. Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003, 1989. Cooper presents probably the strongest biblical argument made in recent times for body-soul dualism, but finally rests his case on the logical necessity of an intermediate state between death and the final resurrection. In the latest edition of his book, Cooper expresses guarded support for the “emergent dualist” position of Christian philosophers like William Hasker.

Corcoran, Kevin. Rethinking Human Nature: A Christian Materialist Alternative to the Soul. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006. Attempts to navigate between body-soul dualism and a materialism that reduces humans to biological computers. Corcoran makes a case for the view that while human beings are not identical with their bodies, they are constituted by them, a view consistent with the biblical witness.

Cullmann, Oscar. Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? The Witness of the New Testament. London: Epworth Press, 1958. Cullmann’s controversial 1955 Ingersoll Lecture in which he argued that the New Testament, for all its use of ancient Greek anthropological terms, remains profoundly Hebrew in its understanding of what a human being is. New Testament writers overwhelmingly assume a future bodily resurrection rather than a disembodied immortality.

Green, Joel B., ed. What About the Soul? Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004. The contributors to this collection of essays include biblical scholars, a pastoral counselor, a philosophical theologian, a psychologist, a biologist, and an anthropologist. Each provides a perspective on what the startling discoveries of neuroscience mean for a Christian understanding of the human being.

Green, Joel B. and Stuart L. Palmer, eds. In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005. This book presents four Christian answers to the mind/soul-body problem: substance dualism (S. Goetz), emergent dualism (W. Hasker), nonreductive physicalism (N. Murphy), and the constitution view (K. Corcoran). The representative of each position responds to the others, which quickly gives readers a sense of what the most urgent issues are.

Harris, Murray J. Raised Immortal: Resurrection and Immortality in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985, 1983. Harris argues that in the New Testament, God alone is immortal. Human immortality is not by virtue of possessing an immortal soul but is a gift bestowed by God at the resurrection. In the end, says Harris, immortality and resurrection are complementary terms, each of which loses its fuller meaning when treated apart from the other.

Lints, Richard et al., eds. Personal Identity in Theological Perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006. A collection of essays by scholars from Evangelical, Reformed, Lutheran, and other confessional traditions on theological anthropology. Contributors include Robert Louis Wilken, Stanley Grenz, Nancey Murphy, and David Kelsey, along with others.

Machuga, Ric. In Defense of the Soul: What it Means to be Human. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2002. A Thomist (and, hence, student of Aristotle) offers a complex but vigorous argument for our having immaterial souls. While his philosophical foes are Darwinian reductionists, who reduce the development of life to efficient causes, he also takes issue with proponents of intelligent design who fail to see that perceiving form is imperceptible to scientific observation, which cannot therefore provide scientific support for a Designer.

Martin, Dale. The Corinthian Body. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995. An important and challenging study that sets Paul’s use of Greek terms like “body” and “soul” in 1 Corinthians in the context of the ancient world where Plato and Aristotle, rather than Descartes, were the dominant philosophical influences. Martin shows why doing justice to the complexity of Paul’s thought demands careful study.

Martin, Raymond, and John Barresi. The Rise and Fall of Soul and Self: An Intellectual History of Personal Identity. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. A helpful survey of Western thought that is likely to provoke strong reactions for its conclusion that Western theories of soul and self are in the end failed attempts to elevate human beings above the non-human world.

Murphy, Nancey. Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2006. Murphy insists that we don’t “have” souls, that we are physical beings in every dimension of our beings, including the spiritual. But she rejects the argument that this belief requires her to reduce the human being to base material causes and to abandon the spiritual. The book outlines what a “nonreductive physicalism” informed by Christian faith might look like.

Powell, Samuel M. and Michael E. Lodahl, eds. Embodied Holiness: Toward a Corporate Theology of Spiritual Growth. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999. Among the interesting essays in this volume that take our bodiliness seriously in conceptualizing holiness are Stanley Hauerwas’s, “The Sanctified Body: Why Perfection Does Not Require a ‘Self’,” and Rodney Clapp’s, “Tacit Holiness: The Importance of Bodies and Habits in Doing Church.”

Prokes, Mary Timothy. Toward a Theology of the Body. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996. The author, a Franciscan Sister, offers a deep reflection on the spiritual significance of our being bodies. Rooted in the truth of God as trinity, the author brings insights from the life sciences and even physics to bear as she examines the meanings of human sexuality, prayer, work, creativity, suffering, and death.

Ryan, Thomas, ed. Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality. New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004. What might our spiritual lives look like if we took the goodness of our created bodies to heart and discarded the lingering influence of Descartes’ soul-body dualism? The contributors to this volume offer answers to this question.

Seybold, Kevin S. Explorations in Neuroscience, Psychology, and Religion. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate Pub, 2007. Addressed to the “person in the pew,” this book introduces readers to neuroscience, psychology, and their relation to religion. The author seeks in particular to point out ways in which the advances in neuroscience and psychology since the 1990s can illuminate Protestant Christian doctrine and ethics.

Stendahl, Krister, ed. Immortality and Resurrection. New York: Macmillan, 1958. Includes Oscar Cullmann’s famous Ingersoll lecture and three other essays. Though older, the papers in this collection—Wolfson’s on immortality and resurrection in the Church Fathers, W. Jaeger’s on Greek ideas of immortality, and H. Cadbury’s on intimations of immortality in Jesus’s thought—represent the work of first-rate scholars and still repay careful reading.

Ward, Keith. In Defence of the Soul. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1998, 1992. Ward (Oxford University professor and a Canon of Christ Church) offers a wide-ranging discussion in defense of the human soul as “the presence of transcendent subjectivity in the material world” against the advocates of scientism who suggest that human personhood “is a random product of material, unconscious forces.”

Wright, N. T. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. New York: HarperOne, 2008. This Anglican bishop and respected Bible scholar argues that much of what Christians believe about the afterlife does not hold up under scriptural scrutiny. He goes on to demonstrate that what the Bible does teach offers the faithful even more hope, but requires us to reconsider what doctrines such as heaven, resurrection, and the church’s mission truly mean.

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