Ps 139:14 “Marvelous are Your works, O Lord, and that my soul knows very well.”
There are many professors at our universities who teach their students that there is no such thing as an immaterial soul. They think our consciences are physical, including all our abilities to think, feel, self-examine, all originating as part of our brain. As Nobel Prize winner Francis Crick (co-discoverer of the DNA molecule) once said, “Humans are the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their molecules.”
This is the secular doctrine of materialism, which claims that everything in our universe is made from physical materials including the human mind. In materialism, your mind and your brain are one and the same. This view adamantly rejects that any spiritual, immaterial attributes exist in the universe.
The opposing doctrine is dualism, which claims that your mind is more than your brain. Your mind has a non-material, spiritual dimension that includes consciousness. Christian philosopher William Lane Craig explains the existence of your soul this way: “By a soul I mean a living, spiritual substance. A human soul has rational cognitive faculties but is not identical with those faculties, since faculties are not something that exist on their own. What is a soul? It’s what you are without your body.” Dr. Craig then explains dualism.
A dualist does not take the soul to operate independently of the brain. Rather, as the Nobel Prize-winning neurologist Sir John Eccles emphasizes, your soul uses your brain as an instrument to think, just as a musician uses a piano as an instrument to make music. If the piano is out of tune or damaged, then the pianist’s ability to produce music will be impaired. In the same way, says Eccles, if your soul’s instrument of thought, the brain, is damaged, then your soul’s ability to think will be impaired.
Philosopher Stewart Goetz points out that anyone who has felt pain when he dropped a brick on his foot realizes that what affects the body affects our conscious mental states. Your soul is that interactive entity that uses your brain as an instrument to think.” This is what David is doing in our verse this week. As his mind thinks on how amazing his body is, his soul, the real David, praises God as the One who created him.
Let’s look at three evidences for the existence of an immaterial soul. These evidences are intuitive (they are self-evident), which makes it easy for you to grasp that you are more than your body.
Truth #1: I reflect on things from a first-person (personal) point of view. Each person has their own point of view on any subject. If everything was just physical, it would be described in the third-person (impersonal). The Bible teaches this truth. In Luke 2:19, when Mary gives birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, she reflects on the angel Gabriel’s message that the Savior of the world would be born through her: “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Mary, in her soul, uses her brain for introspection – personalized thinking.
Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland explains how introspection is a proof for our souls: “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). Scientists could know more about what’s happening in my brain than I do, but they can’t know more about what’s happening in my mind than I do. They must ask me. Our soul is vastly complicated because it’s made in the image of God. We self-reflect and think.”
Truth #2: I have a free will. I can make personal choices. 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. 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 the Bible teaches that we intuitively know we are not just physical – we can each make choices. As the prophet Elijah said in 1Kings 18:21, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.”
Truth #3: I have a “disembodied” state. I don’t “cease to exist” when I die. My soul lives on for eternity. The Bible teaches that when I die, my soul leaves my body and awaits the resurrection of my body from the dead. If I am just a brain, it’s impossible for me to exist outside my body. So, there is no hope for life when my physical body dies. The Bible teaches that true life is not physical but extends after this physical world is over. In Luke 23:42-43, Jesus explained to the thief on the cross next to Him that he would live on with Christ in heaven: “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 evidence is in – we are living souls.
The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #366