Body, Soul, and Human Life 2

The second part of my review of Joel Green’s Body, Soul, and Human Life gives a quick summary of the books main arguments. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Having established his basic framework for understanding humanity, Green then turns his attention to three areas of convergence between neuroscience and biblical hermeneutics that support and explain his position. First, Green considers human free will. Looking to the sciences, he argues that human behavior is constrained by physical, psychological, and environmental factors, among others, making it impossible for us to have ‘free will’ in the popular sense. He finds a similar picture in the biblical portrayal of sin as a power that traps and shapes human persons such that they are unable to act ‘freely’. Green points to a similar convergence in how we should understand salvation. In possibly the most novel contribution of the book, Green looks at the nature of conversion, salvation, and sanctification, arguing that all three must be viewed, both scientifically and biblically, as embodied realities. Green takes us on a quick tour of the neurophysiology of change in the human brain before showing how the conversion narratives of Luke/Acts emphasize the embodied nature of Christian salvation. The third convergence addresses how we understand the resurrection. Here Green argues that neither the Old nor New Testaments should be understood as teaching that there is an intermediate, disembodied state that occurs between death and resurrection. Instead, both affirm that humans are physical beings who cease to exist at death and are raised to new life in the future with no conscious awareness of any intervening time. Continuous personal identity (i.e. what establishes that it really is me who is raised in the future) is grounded in narrative and relationship, rather than the continuous existence of an immaterial soul.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on October 1, 2009, in Anthropology, Hermeneutics, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I have never heard anyone suggest that we cease to exist upon death. What does Green do with the parable where Jesus seems to indicate Abraham, Lazarus, and the rich man are conscience after death? Even if it is a parable it may suggest something about the biblical world-view of postmortem existence. Or the souls in the Book of Revelation who cry before the throne of God for vengeance? Or even the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that the author of Hebrews alludes toward in a very vague way?

  2. The idea that the human person has no real existence between death and resurrection is very common in non-evangelical Christian circles and has a growing influence among evangelicals as well. I should say that ‘cease to exist’ is only how we view it from an earthly perspective. From the perspective of the deceased, they simply died and then awoke again at the resurrection.

    Green reads the parable of Lazarus as primarily a story about wealth & Law. He denies that it has any significance for the ‘intermediate state’ because it can just as easily be read as a picture of our eternal, resurrected state. I’m not sure that I’ve seen Green comment on the ‘souls’ in Revelation or the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ in Hebrews, but I’m sure he’d take those as literary figures used to express a longing for justice or a call to faithfulness.

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