Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What is a human person?

The journal Science and Christian Belief have asked me to review the book Mind, Brain and the Elusive Soul: Human Systems of Cognitive Science and Religion, by Mark Graves.
[I hope to post more on that later...]

This has prompted thoughts on such matters. I remain to be convinced from either a scientific or a theological perspective that we can partition the human person.

To me, the following passages of Scripture suggest the totality of human personhood rather than helping to define a division.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
Matthew 22:37-38

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:23


  1. What do you think about the idea that the 'divisions' of man found in Scripture are as likely to be a divine condescension to using human language and terms. (like the phrase 'the sun rose in the east' when it technically doesn't 'rise')

    It makes the concept of using the Biblical text to divine such things a bit more tricky.

  2. Kutz, you must be reading Calvin!

    I think Scripture paints pictures of many things (such as these 'divisions') which help people (regardless of education and culture and time) understand who we are, what the world is like, and who God is.

    But, it is tricky to know how far to push these pictures.

  3. I've never been a fan of the phrases "head knowledge" and "heart knowledge", and I think I probably tend to agree with you Ross, although perhaps the language is not precise/specific enough for me to say that confidently.

    Nevertheless those seem to be interesting choices of Scripture. The Matthew chunk implies division to me, not unity. The way I read it is that I need to not only love God with this, but also with that. If anything I would have thought the verse was portraying the whole as a sum of parts, but still communicating that God requires our whole selves.

    Anyway, what about "who knows a man but his Spirit"? I'd be tempted to go down Kutz's line with that except that it's being used to argue a pretty real, tangible thing - the indwelling Spirit endowing knowledge of God to us (if i remember correctly).

    I think it was Justin Martyr (spelling?) who investigated a bunch of other religions but could find none that truly 'satisfied his soul'. I know that feeling... anecdotal and meaningless? I suppose...