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8 comments | Friday, September 30, 2005

Am I just a material being?—composed simply of a body, a brain, and a central nervous system—or is there something more to me? This is an important question. The soul is a necessary quality of the living human entity. Without the soul, a person isn’t a person; they are just a lump of meat. The soul is the quality that gives one personhood.

So, what exactly is the Soul? The soul is the immaterial “you.” Some of you may be wonder if there is any evidence of such a thing as a “soul.” Let’s take a look.

Evidences for the Soul

One thing to note is that if we are only composed of physical properties, when the body dies, we die. The assertion that there is no difference between the mind and the brain, and that chemical reactions and physical processes is all that goes on in the brain—is physicalism. In other words, consciousness is a mere property of the brain. It is produced by the brain and is dependent on the brain.

However, if “dualism” is the accurate representation, then we have both bodies and a soul. To put it this way, in dualism, there is an immaterial you and it cannot be tested with scientific tools. You can’t put the soul into a test tube and measure it. The soul, gives the body life and houses the body, but not in a local way, because it is immaterial.

According to scientific studies, all the matter in your body changes (I think it was somewhere around every 7-9 years) at the atomic level, these changes include your brain. I know that I have physically changed drastically within the past decade (probably not for the better). However, if we are just physical and nothing else that means I am not the same “me” I was and I am a different person. First thought, crazy. Of course I am the same person. If we conceded to physicalism, we can reject many of our common sense ideas. Take for example your baby pictures. If you change every decade, your baby pictures are not really you; the person in the picture has a different body than you do.

Yesterday, I just signed up for a 401K at work (and a mighty reasonable one at that). But if I am only physical, and I know I am going to change, why bother with the 401K? I bother, because I know I will still be me, even though my body changes. This is only possible if there is something that remains the same throughout your whole life, not something material, but immaterial. The soul.

Some of you may be thinking that we have no scientific evidence that there is a soul. Therefore there is no soul. We can’t open anything physical about you like the brain and find the soul. If we cannot sense it, then why should we believe it exists?

Science is insufficient

Science by its very nature can't disprove a soul's existence because science deals with the physical and is not equipped to measure the non-physical.

Greg Koukl comments on the “scientific position” to address the soul. He says,

Science doesn’t tell us everything we know; in some cases, we must trust our reason. For example, in mathematical knowledge, we rely on evidence of reason based on certain universal mathematical principles, which are not empirical.
This is what I hear when people try to say there is no scientific evidence for the soul: “You said there was an invisible man in your house, but I went inside, looked everywhere, and I couldn’t find him.” Clearly, empirical evidence is ineffectual when looking for the soul. Therefore, any objection of the existence of the soul due to lack of empirical science only states there is no “physical evidence."

The correspondence relationship

As evidence for physicalism, it is often pointed out that for every so-called mental event, a corresponding change in brain activity can be demonstrated. From this it follows, it is said, that physical and mental events are the same-that is, what appear to be mental entities are simply physical entities (that is, physical properties, events, and substances)--and thus dualism is false.
If dualism is true there is a connection between brain (the physical organ in our heads) activity and mental activity (the activity of our souls). But connection is not identity. As J.P Moreland says, "...just because A causes B (or vice versa), or just because A and B are constantly correlated with each other, that does not mean that A is identical to B"

So the correlation between brain activity and mental events can be easily accounted for by recognizing that the mental and physical interact with one another and so influence one another. Thus, what happens in the physical brain influences and is reflected in the non-physical soul; likewise, what happens in the non-physical soul influences and is reflected in the physical brain. If the brain or physical body becomes limited (brain injury), so shall the soul be limited to have connectivity. For example, alcohol and drugs cause chemical reactions to the brain, thus hindering the soul’s ability to “connect” to the physical. But connection is not identity. The precise methodological relationship and function of interaction between the body and soul is unknown. But what follows from that? It certainly does not discount the existence of the soul.


Nobody argues that we have no conciseness. Secondly, through introspection and self examination, we know about our own internal mental states. Most of our internal states are self-evident. But is a consciousness just complex physical state of the brain? No.

Philosopher Thomas Nagel makes this quite clear:
It is not a far stretch at all to suppose that bats are conscious. Suppose someone had perfect physiological knowledge of bats. It would follow, then, that if consciousness were merely a complex physical state, then that person would know exactly what it would be like to be a bat. However, it seems clear that all the knowledge in the world about bats could not tell someone what it is like to be a bat.

Objective facts are accessible to anyone. Consciousness is not accessible to anyone but the individual person. If we were merely physical beings, conciseness should be accessible to anyone. However, this is not the case; therefore, it is clear that the “mind” is not physical.

The Freedom of Choice and Determinism

It‘s clear from our awareness of our choices that we have free wills to do and act in any way we choose. We can choose to have pizza with pepperoni, or sausage (or both) these choices seem quite undetermined. When it comes to physical states, they are determined by other physical states, governed by physical laws. If it is the case that our minds are simply physical states, then we are not free. All of our decisions are determined.

Take a moment and think of all the choices you have made in your life. Your choices make you into the person you are. Why should you accept that the decisions you make are simply random events that you had no control over? A purely physicalist worldview limits us to this quandary. So, therefore, if you don’t believe in the soul, it’s because you are predetermined not to, and if you do it’s because you were determined to. So, if all are decisions are predetermined, any view you hold is not a result of reasoning. If this is the case, what are we quarreling about? We can’t choose our beliefs anyway, and to try to persuade—would be futile. Our free will choices make us unique and give us identity.

Near Death Experiences

There is another area of evidence that must be considered--Near Death Experiences (NDE). Roll your eyes if you want, but there is an interesting phenomenon that is valid. But I am not talking of just subjective experiences that can neither be proved nor disproved; I am talking about verifiable statements.

Dr. Raymond Moody documents some of these facts. Here are three verifiable examples recorded by Moody:

Example 1:

An elderly woman had been blind since childhood. But, during her NDE, the woman had regained her sight and she was able to accurately describe the instruments and techniques used during the resuscitation her body. After the woman was revived, she reported the details to her doctor. She was able to tell her doctor who came in and out, what they said, what they wore, what they did, all of which was true. Her doctor then referred the woman to Moody who he knew was doing research at the time on NDEs.

Example 2:

One patient told Moody, “After it was all over the doctor told me that I had a really bad time, and I said, ‘Yeah, I know.’ He said, ‘Well, how do you know?’ and I said, ‘I can tell you everything that happened.’ He didn’t believe me, so I told him the whole story, from the time I stopped breathing until the time I was kind of coming around. He was really shocked to know that I knew everything that had happened. He didn’t know quite what to say, but he came in several times to ask me different things about it.”

Example 3:

In another instance a woman with a heart condition was dying at the same time that her sister was in a diabetic coma in another part of the same hospital. The subject reported having a conversation with her sister as both of them hovered near the ceiling watching the medical team work on her body below. When the woman awoke, she told the doctor that her sister had died while her own resuscitation was taking place. The doctor denied it, but when she insisted, he had a nurse check on it. The sister had, in fact, died during the time in question

There are many more examples that could be shown. If these experiences were only firing neurons or physical dispositions, how did they know and describe the things that they did? There are far too many documented cases to write it off as a hoax. These experiences could only take place if you are not your body.

Who Cares?

I do have a soul; what are the implications for the decisions I make today? The amount of time you are on earth (even if you live 100 years), compared to eternity, is incomprehensible. When you die, your deeds will be evaluated against the purpose for which you were originally created. Many people already evaluate themselves; others evaluate them this way also. But it is your creator to which the final reckoning must be given, the one who "began" you. It’s worth investing your time and effort to investigate and secure you eternity. This is why one should care about the soul.

Hebrews 9:27: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment"

Romans 14:12: "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God."

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17 comments | Wednesday, September 28, 2005

While blog hopping, I came across Nick Woomer's blog, an atheist lawyer who wrote “Disconnect in the abortion debate”. Interestingly, he gave a well written defense of the pro-choice movement and pointed out the central argument of the issue—namely: Is the zygote, embryo, or fetus a moral person? According to Woomer—No. Although I may be out of my league (trying to contend with a lawyer), in this blog, I will try to articulate and address his argument.

Let me a blunt as possible. If the zygote or embryo or fetus is not a human being (this includes personhood), no justification for abortion is required and pro-lifers might as well fold. However, if it is a human being, no justification for taking his or her life is adequate. This single issue is adequate to cover contingencies on both sides of the question.

Woomer argues his position (pro-choice) in the following way:

Now, there are plenty of obvious and relevant differences between a fetus and a young child: language; a normative outlook; mutual recognition of other persons by, and of, the child; complex emotions, etc. The pro-life argument can, and must be, addressed on its actual merits.

…human beings do seem to have a particular set of properties that distinguish us from other animals: language, a "conscious life," value systems, plans for the future, the ability to grasp metaphors, etc. What makes us special, then, isn't mere biological human-ness, but a cluster of uniquely human qualities.

True, embryos and fetuses are less developed than you and I. But why is this relevant? Woomer's argument asserts, although the embryo or zygote is a “biological” human, the fetus has none of the aforementioned capabilities; it cannot be a person with rights. But why should anyone accept the idea that there can be such a thing as a human being that is not a person?

If Woomer is correct about the distinction between human being and human person, he fails to adequately tell us why a person must possess self-awareness and consciousness, or other listed qualities in order to qualify as fully human. In other words, he merely asserts that these traits are necessary for personhood but never says why these alleged value-giving properties are value-giving in the first place, other than an insufficient differentiation between animals.

Even Woomer concedes the epistemological uncertainty of what makes human beings “special.” He says:

Why are human beings special? Why do we regard ourselves (rightly or wrongly) as superior to other creatures? The answer can't be determined with any certitude

If the immediate capacity for the listed qualities makes one valuable as a subject of rights, and newborns like fetuses lack that immediate capacity, it follows that fetuses and newborns are both disqualified. You can’t draw an arbitrary line at birth that spares newborns. Hence, infanticide, like abortion, is morally permissible. However, Woomer rejects this notion of infanticide in his post, “Infanticide is still wrong (Disconnect in the abortion debate, part 2)”, and argues that there are still good reasons to keep infanticide illegal.

Woomer gives an E.T. analogy and argues that E.T. is lovable because of his human like qualities. E.T. has the cluster of uniquely human qualities that allow us to identify with him and gain an emotional attachment; this is why it is so sad when E.T. dies in the movie. I am not sure, however, what this has to do with infanticide, since the infant (according to Woomer), does not have the human qualities.

This E.T. analogy can go either way. Take for example the movie, “Where the red fern grows”. The movie was about dogs, but yet, during the movie, many people develop an emotional attachment and they cry their eyes out. It does not follow; however, that the dogs were entitled to full moral personhood.

Woomer also argues that if biological humanness was determinative of moral personhood, then it would be morally permissible to treat E.T.-like beings like any other animal. Since this is hypothetical, it seems premature and morally ambiguous to immediately deduce this principal. There is a strong lack of data in this hypothetical analogy, such as E.T.’s origin and/or theological framework.

In his E.T. argument, he indicates that E.T. has the human qualities that attracts us too him; but according to Woomer, the infant (at least in early stages) does not posses his outlined human properties. Therefore, as suggested previously, the argument does not apply.

When does the cluster of uniquely human properties arise? The property, in which Woomer has listed, as he concedes, is definitely AFTER birth. However, he argues that infanticide is still wrong and would “brutalize” our culture. But why? If human value is based on properties as Woomer has purported, there should be no quarrels on infanticide. However, this is not the case; people on both sides of the abortion debate can intuitively know that infanticide is wrong; regardless of properties outlined by Woomer.

Woomer also stated the following:

The motivation to legalize infanticide would be rooted in an unwillingness to devote economic resources to the care of unwanted neonates. To put it lightly, it would be beyond crass to kill a biological human that will soon become a moral person just because we'd have to increase taxes to care for it. [Emphasis added]

Again, I would argue, why is this wrong? If this biological human does not have “personhood”, and the cluster of uniquely human qualities is not there, there should not be the conviction that the infant “ought” not to be harmed. However, the convicting intuition is there. Woomer argues against this point by asserting an “unspoken intuition” that neonates really aren't moral persons. He exemplifies this by showing the grieving difference between the death of neonates and toddlers.

The argument asserts that when a neonate dies, the focus is on the mother, and when a toddler dies, the focus is on the child. This argument is far too week. There will clearly be more grieving for a toddler than a neonate. First, this has nothing to do with personhood. It seems self-evident that the toddler would be grieved more (especially as individual), than the neonate because of the built relationship between the child and people around him or her. The emotional attachment that builds after birth is the factor; not whether uniquely human qualities are being developed.

This emotional factor not only applies to humans, but animals too. For example, there would be a clear difference between grieving for a dog you had only one day, or one that you grew up with. The grieving would have nothing to do with the dogs unique K-9 attributes that made it lovable; it would be the built relationship.

Secondly, there are emotive intuitions about neonates. Take for example pictures of aborted neonates. The pictures bring out emotion; even tears. Bluntly, these pictures are disturbing, even for pro-choice activists. These emotive responses are derived from a different intuition; the intuition that this neonate is a child—a person.

Philosophically, I argue there is no morally significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not relevant in the way that Raleigh needs them to be. In addition, his philosophy untimely leads to infanticide, which; he denies as immoral. His collective argument for infanticide rests on the moral intuition that it is wrong to murder an infant; even though the infant does not possess the unique human qualities he has outlined. This example shows that personhood is not derived of the properties Woomer has given.

The pro-choice enterprise in any of its forms is doomed to fail because it ultimately reduces human value to functional terms. Humans have value simply because they are human, not because of some acquired property that they may gain or lose during their lifetimes.

A line in the sand

There is also another dimension to this argument. This dimension is difference in worldview. The majority (not all) of pro-lifers have a Judeo-Christian worldview (including myself). Thus, we hold the belief that people are created in the image of God, and thus is an answer to the question: What makes us special? This argument is predominately ignored in the public square; nevertheless, it develops the foundation framework of the pro-life argument.

In conclusion, which ever worldview prevails (Judeo-Christian vs. Secular) will determine the future of this and other significant (Homosexuality, Embryonic stem cell research etc…) debates.

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3 comments | Monday, September 26, 2005

I trust I am not setting up a “straw man” to beat up on this thought on relativism and truth. Nevertheless, here’s a quick thought.

With relativism, truth is naïve. Truth is a matter of opinion and is relative to the individual and/or social norms. Something can be “true for me”, and have nothing to do with others—like you favorite color. For the relativist, truth with a capital “T” is dead. It would seem that relativists, at least some, have taken subjective truth (my favorite food is apple pie), and applied to everything, thus eliminating any objective sense.

First, it should be brought out that the relativists view of truth is self contradictory. To say that truth is relative, or to claim there is no truth--is an affirmation of truth. Relativists believe that their view of “truth” is actually true for everyone. Thus, they make an absolute statement of truth. I like the way Greg Koukl puts it, if it’s true, it’s false, and if it’s false, it’s false. But even if it’s true that there is no truth; then it’s also must be false, because that becomes a true statement, which nullifies it……………………………just a thought.

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11 comments | Friday, September 23, 2005

What is Christianity? A Simple question—with a million different answers. Let me give it a try…

Bare bones Christianity is Christianity boiled down to the basics. C.S. Lewis called it “Mere Christianity” and Walter Martin called it “Essential Christianity. Bare bones Christianity is Christianity stripped away of all the denominational differences and disagreements.

Christianity has a core—fundamental—essential beliefs system. Any doctrine denying or opposing these foundations is not Christian. This is what separates Christianity from Mormonism, Jehovah witness, and other sects.

The fundamentals:

The scriptures, both the Old and New testaments are entirely inspired by God and are completely without error in their original writing.
(2 Tim 3:16) (2 Peter 1:21)

There is one God, eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In this Trinity there is none greater or less than the other, but all three are coeternal together, and coequal. To believe anything other than that there is one "what," (God), revealed in three "who's" (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is in error.
(Matt 28:19) (John 10:30) (Hebrews 1:8) (Acts 5:3,4)

Lord Jesus Christ—is God's only begotten Son, He was born of a virgin (Mary), His life was sinless, He sacrificed Himself (the cross) for our sins, and He rose bodily from the dead (resurrection).
(John 1:1-3, 29) (Matt 1:18-25) (Luke 24:36) (2 Cor 5:21) (1 Cor 15:3) (John 20:9,19,20,26-28)

Man is saved by grace alone through faith alone, and nothing of man enters into his salvation; it is a free gift. Man's efforts regardless of how good or well intended, before or after salvation, have nothing to do with it.
(Romans 10:9,10) (Eph 2:8-9) (Gal 2:16) (Romans 11:6) (Col 2:13,14) (Titus 3:5)

All Christians believing the bodily, personal, imminent return of the Lord, Jesus Christ
(1 Thes 4:16-18) (Matt 25:31-46) (Rev 19:11-21)

Those who call themselves Christians, and do not affirm to the aforementioned beliefs are called heretics. Based on the above fundamentals, Christians entrust their lives to worshiping and loving Jesus-----this is Christianity in its bare bones. Weird? Yes. Erroneous? No.

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5 comments | Thursday, September 22, 2005

There are a few popular books going around about some new “discoveries” in the brain. Purportedly, our faith is wired into our Genes. I have my suspicions about this hypotheses and how they reach their conclusions. Nevertheless, some Christians might be getting scared that this assertion might be true, and it is the only reason we may have faith.

Rest assured; there is nothing to fear. Even if it is true that some people are wired to faith (although I do not necessarily agree), it makes no difference. Let me save you tiring library research. The bottom line is this: regardless if we are wired for faith or not, it tells us nothing about whether or not the claims of Christ are really true. In other words, the validity of Biblical texts and the historicity of Christ are either true or false regardless of how you are wired.

For this reason, I take no “stress” to the “God Gene” hypothesis.

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5 comments | Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I have only been a Christian for about three years. Since the time I became a Christian, however, I have discovered something significant about the Bible and my walk. There seems to be a direct correlation between reading scripture and my obedience to Jesus. Whenever I start to “backslide,” my time in the scripture has significantly decreased, or stopped—prior. Whenever I am obedient and following God’s will, my devotional reading time is always significant.

This correspondence is not just occasional; it appears to be the case—every time. Even other Christians I have spoken with regarding this correspondence concur with my hypotheses. Now, I am not saying that if you read a lot of scripture you will not sin; this is certainly not the case. However, more time in the Bible will result in less sin.

It would be interesting to test this hypothesis. If I could measure reading time vs. sin occurrence and graph the results—that would be remarkable. However, the data would be highly subjective, especially if I was testing myself. I may, for example, subconsciously skew the data to meet my preconceived notion. I must think more about this and see if there is an objective way to measure the correspondence between “reading and sinning.”

Nevertheless, here is something to write on the first page of your bible. “This book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this book.”

I don’t remember when and where, but I have heard the quote before; so it’s not original, but it sums up everything I said in one sentence. I think I will do some reading…!

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11 comments | Thursday, September 15, 2005

I noticed a prevalent phenomenon. That’s right—I said phenomenon! It seems that there is a common conception that Christians must check their brains at the door before entering the church building. When picturing this, I imagine a big mobster in a black pinstripe suit collecting the brains of Christians on a huge offering plate. Some how, everyone (in general) thinks Christianity is irrational and to even suggest that Christianity is true with a capital “T” is ridiculous and can be reduced to wishful thinking.

First, as a Christian, I don’t think that Christianity can be “proven” with all certainty. If it was such a clear cut case, everyone would be a Christian. I could be wrong about Christianity, but one must investigate and make the most sensible conclusion from the evidence. I do; however, think that it is more reasonable to believe in Christianity than anything else. I am not just emoting and wishing that Christianity is true. I think that there is good reason to believe so. The problem is, nobody checks it out, or tests the claims of Christianity. More often than not, I suspect, people just repeat the slogans drifting through he market place of ideas without really reflecting and investigating them. People just repeat what others say; just like a parrot.

Part of the problem is our [Christians] own fault. I have to say, most Christians don’t know nothing about nothing! This is especially true when it comes to defending Christianity. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know why I believe. I see Christians get clobbered by fancy clichés and “parrot” talk. But the Christian fails to engage these challenges and often retreats to “it’s just true for me.”

I think I have heard just about every argument against Christianity there is. Some arguments are really challenging, but most are trivial and are answered without difficulty. It is not my point to blog all day about different arguments; or make a case for Christianity—that might be a blog(s) for another day. I only want to state that Christianity is intellectual, scientifically compatible and true. There are many brilliant people out there who do not believe Christianity is true, but their dissent, I believe (at least in general), is for poor reasons.

As I stated above, I could be wrong, but nobody has given me sufficient reason, in so far as I can tell, to recant my belief in Jesus Christ. If Christianity is false, I want to know. I don’t want to waste my life on meaningless piety, but my convictions (rational and emotional) tell me otherwise.

Why go through life without thinking about what’s most important; go back to the mobster and get your brain back if you have given it up…

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17 comments | Wednesday, September 14, 2005

After taking in the devastating effects of hurricane Katrina, people are now wondering why this calamity has assaulted our country and why so many innocent have suffered. I have heard many suggest that this historical disaster was caused by God. It is this very notion that I wish to discuss.

It seems to me, arrogant to attest that God’s hand produced this catastrophe. The only way to actually know whether or not this is the case—is to be in the mind of God. Basically, the only one who knows (in certainty) that God caused the disaster of hurricane Katrina—is God.

However, what we can do is postulate possible reasons why God would (if he did) or why God did not (if he did not). For example, taking a Judeo-Christian position, let’s first assume that Hurricane Katrina was orchestrated by God. Why? Looking at the Old Testament, we can see many calamities falling on both Jews and Gentiles. Sodom and Gomorrah were utterly destroyed by God. Israel was taken captivity several times by foreign nations. In each instance, this was done as punishment for rebellion against God. Therefore, if Katrina was from the hand of God, it is because of rebellion and sin against God. This is frightening considering the moral decay of the rest of the United States. Chuck Missler, a Christian Theologian says that if God does not punish the United States, he owes an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Let’s now consider that God did not cause Hurricane Katrina. The first thought that comes to mind is, if there is an Almighty God, why did he let it happen? From a Christian perspective, during the “fall of Man”, the earth also fell. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:22, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now". Therefore, we live in an imperfect world. In this defective world, we cannot expect a utopia. In further stating why God would allow this calamity, is that he has the power to make good out of this disaster. Lives are gone, lives are destroyed, but lives are saved, heroes arise and people are accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior. This will not make sense if you’re not a Christian, but it means everything.

So, do I think that God is responsible for Katrina or not, I don’t know. I am not God. What I do know, however, is that God will make good out of it for his own Glory.

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