Subject: Who I really am is invisible – #EmmaLives
Psalm 49:15 “God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for He shall receive me.”
When you think of people who have made a lasting impact in your life, what is it that you most remember? Is it their physical appearance? Their athletic ability? Maybe it’s their work ethic? Last week, more than fifty teens sat around the living room of Emma Aronson’s Youth Pastor, spending an evening celebrating her life and sharing how she had impacted their lives. And nobody talked about what she looked like or how she dressed or her basketball skills.
We talked about the ‘invisible Emma’ – the one no one saw unless you had spent time with her. How she made you laugh, how she would love on people she had just met, how she could cry with you and genuinely cared about you personally. What do you call that? The Bible confirms what mainstream science is discovering – that human beings possess an immaterial nature that is unique from animals. It’s the spiritual dimension known as your soul. Our Bible verse this week is one of many examples where God highlights the immaterial ‘invisible Emma’ (her soul) versus the ‘material Emma’ (her physical body).
In the New York Times bestseller ‘The Case for a Creator’ (its subtitle is ‘A Journalist investigates Scientific Evidence that points toward God’), former atheist turned Christian Lee Strobel interviews Professor J.P. Moreland to get his top three evidences for why people have an immaterial soul. Moreland’s qualifications as both a scientist and a philosopher make his evidences worth studying. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Mizzou, then declined a doctorate invitation in Nuclear Chemistry from the University of Colorado to pursue his Masters in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, subsequently receiving his Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Southern California.
Dr. Moreland explains his first evidence of the reality of the ‘invisible Emma’ that is easy for anyone to grasp: “A person is really invisible. My soul and conscience are invisible, while my body is visible. We don’t learn about people by studying their bodies. We learn about people by finding out how they feel, what they think, what they’re passionate about, what their worldview is… we get ‘inside’ people to learn about them. There’s more to me than my conscious life and body. I am a ‘self’, or an ‘I’, that cannot be seen or touched unless I reveal myself by my behavior or my talk… I am a ‘self’, or a soul, not just a brain.”
Dr. Moreland’s second evidence is that people, unlike animals, reflect on things from a subjective or personal point of view. Each person has their own, unique point of view on any subject. If everything was just physical, it would be described objectively. Moreland explains: “By simply introspecting, I have a way of knowing about what’s happening in my mind that is not available to anyone else (my spouse, my best friend, my neurosurgeon). A scientist could know more about what’s happening in my brain than I do, but he or she can’t know more about what’s happening in my mind than I do. He has to ask me. The human soul is vastly complicated because it’s made in the image of God. We self-reflect and think.”
Dr. Moreland’s third evidence is the reality of free will: “I can make choices. I’m more than just a physical brain. Physical matter is governed by the laws of nature. If I’m just a material object, everything I do is fixed. I’m a computer that acts according to the programming I’ve received. So whatever is going to happen is already rigged by my makeup and environment, so I can’t be held responsible for my behavior since I wasn’t free to choose it. But we intuitively know we are not rigged – we do make our own individual choices each day.” The Bible validates Dr. Moreland’s third evidence that I make choices that eventually have consequences. In 1Kings 18:21, Elijah the prophet tells people they must choose, of their own free will, whether or not to follow God: “…Elijah came to all the people and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.”
Our verse this week also highlights the Bible’s important point: the real me doesn’t cease to exist when I die – my soul lives on for eternity. For Emma, that eternity is with Jesus Christ, who ‘redeemed her from the power of the grave’, because she made the choice, as Elijah said, to follow Him. Emma’s guarantee of heaven wasn’t something she earned. Luke 23:42-43 explains it as based on Christ’s promise: “…he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’” The most important decision each of us will make is what to do with Jesus Christ? Follow Him like Emma, or reject Him and spend eternity separated from God.