Sunday, August 29, 2010

Adam Conclusion 2

Another area where modern study potentially impacts our discussions is in the area of brain research and psychology. Neuro-scientists still have a long way to go in mapping the brain, but it seems fairly clear that there is least some part of the brain that corresponds to each human experience. Whether it be thinking, memory, anger, personality, or even religious experience, we can say which parts of the brain "light up" when that happens. Change the structure of the brain--whether through Alzheimers, cancer, or physical injury--and you change the person.

These discoveries have led some Christians to explore whether the idea of the soul might itself be an instance of Christian language that points to something real but not exactly in the way we have thought. [1] Such Christians point out that the word soul in the Old Testament never refers to a detachable part of me that survives death. Rather, the Hebrew word soul refers to an entire living thing, whether it be a human or a fish. Even in the New Testament, it is only rarely that the word seems to refer to a part of my human make-up (e.g., Heb. 4:12*). Our common conceptions of the soul have as much to do with later Greek influence on Christianity than on what the Bible actually says.

The point here is not to take a position on this issue. Our point is that if scholars are debating on this level, then we can see how far afield the old arguments about whether our carnal nature can be eradicated or suppressed were. Yet no one who pays much attention to the world around us will doubt that our world is thoroughly "enslaved to sin." Ask the social worker at the local elementary school or the prosecutor who works at the courthouse or the nurse that works the emergency room or the person who helps with foreign aid. They can perhaps identify with the pessimism of Joshua 24:19 as Joshua tells the Israelites, "You cannot serve the LORD."

In other words, you guys can't hack it. Serving God is just too hard. Godliness and righteousness is a miracle in this world. This issue, perhaps more than any other, surfaces especially in Romans 6-7, the subject of our next section.

[1] cf. Joel Green, ***

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