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Christian Physicalism
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TOPIC: Christian Physicalism

Christian Physicalism 1 month, 2 weeks ago #5228

  • Ian
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Hey Everyone,

I've been exploring conditionalism (primarily via the RH podcast and associated sources) over the past year and am near to fully embracing this position on final judgment. As I've explored it, my thoughts on biblical anthropology have been challenged as well. To me, physicalism/monism seems to fit with conditionalism better than dualism, both theologically and hermeneutically. That said, I'm not totally sold yet and I'm still exploring the topic.

That said, a few questions:

1) Regardless of your stance, what are the best books you have read that deal with physicalism/dualism which may be resources to those of us who are investigating the topic?

2a) If you have moved toward a physicalist view, what contributed to that change?

2b) If you are a dualist who embraces conditionalism, what convinces you of dualism?

I appreciate your interaction with this!

Re: Christian Physicalism 1 month, 2 weeks ago #5229

  • LP Dion
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My explorations on RH and associated sources pulled me a toward physicalism/monism stance as well. However soft that stance may be.While I'm no expert, these are some of the books I'd list as good reads on the subject.

The Resurrection Of The Body - Caroline Walker Bynum. This is chock full of obscure and mainstream historical views on afterlife in Western Christianity from early patristics (circa 200) onwards.

Body, Soul, & life Everlasting : Biblical Anthropology and the Monism / Dualism Debate - John W. Cooper. This book stays close to the Scriptures and has an exegetical nature, building from many scholars, many of which are Reform.

My personal favourite;
The Death Of Death: Resurrection and Immortality In Jewish Thought - Neil Gillman. While this book is not totally unaware of Christian thought, its primary focus is of a Jewish nature. (an oft forgotten feature in the debate) This is the easiest read of the three, but it will tug at your Christian preconceptions. And spoiler alert: it won't once-and-for-all settle the issue for you.

Paula Gooder has written excellent stuff on the subject as well. Her treatment on Paul's 'thorn in the flesh' and his 'third heaven visit' is unprecedented. Her latest book, 'Body' is very interesting and at a popular level.

Hope that helps. Happy exploring.
Last Edit: 1 month, 2 weeks ago by LP Dion.

Re: Christian Physicalism 1 month, 1 week ago #5231

  • webb
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If you are a dualist who embraces conditionalism, what convinces you of dualism?
I think Jesus and the NT writers speak and write as though they think people who have physically died can have consciousness of a sort. This doesn't precisely make me a "dualist." Rather, I accept their way of talking about and imagining the situation post-death. I don't insist on it as an article of belief, and I don't crystallize it into a two-component view of the human being. I just embrace it because I'm encouraged to imagine the situation in this way (e.g. Lk. 16:19-31; 2 Cor. 5:1-9; 12:2-3; Phil. 1:21-23; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 5:9-11).

Rather than talking about separable components of the human person, I would tend to talk about human beings having a deeper dimensionality than we normally note ourselves to possess. What this entails I don't know, on a literal level. I am confident that God, in his infinite creativity, may have created (may be creating) an indefinite number of dimensions. My consciousness is usually only aware of four or so (three dimensions plus time) in this mortal life, but this fact does not constitute revelation as to the limits of my being. I may be like an iceberg--with some dimensional aspect(s) of my being currently hidden from my perception. Other beings--such as angels--may participate in dimensions that we rarely interact with. The fact that they are seemingly able to make themselves instantly "present" at will here and there in our conscious dimensional levels, and the fact that they seem able to engender in human imaginations experiences that transcend the normal realm of experience (e.g. visions of heaven and of God, as in Revelation--see Rev. 1:1; 19:10) seems to suggest that they are significantly differently embodied than we are. In biblical language, they "are" spirits, whereas we "have" spirits. Our "spirit" may be a way of talking about that aspect (I do not say component) of us that seems--in a way evocative of the capabilities of angels--to be able, with God's activation, to sense things and even communicate at arbitrarily large distances. Call this ESP or telepathy or whatever, but it is a fact of human existence that we, under rare circumstances, seem to show that our conscious interaction with the world does not always stop where our five senses stop.

All this means that I do not know what "physicalism" means or can mean. I don't know how many dimensions my being takes part in, so I can't specify the relationship between my consciousness and my brain--analyzed as a four-dimensional biological process. I can't say in scientific terms what happens to my consciousness when I die. I can only characterize it as New Testament sources do and take it on faith that their characterization is trustworthy and is a useful way for me to think about what happens. For example, if what happens is analogous to sleep--as Paul and Jesus like to say--then the truth is that some of the most amazing and life-changing experiences of Christ I have had as a believer have taken place while I was dreaming.

The idea, expressed in OT books like Ecclesiastes and Job, that dead people are absolutely inert and will never take part in life again, is not one that I feel bound to use as a hermeneutical foundation for the way I read New Testament passages about the experience of the dead. Indeed, I do not remove the contradiction between Ecclesiastes and Job and, say, 1 Corinthians 15, by denying consciousness between death and resurrection, because those OT authors did not believe that the dead will ever live again. My biblical hermeneutic has room for progressive revelation. My sense is that the Hebrews did not always understand that there would be resurrection and everlasting life for the faithful. This was new information and was revealed specifically only through the prophets (e.g. Isa. 26:12; Dan. 12:2, 13).

I'm well aware that one can, with some significant effort, explain away all passages in the Bible that seem to picture dead people as possessing some level of consciousness. I have a non-literalistic hermeneutic that includes the possibility of progressive revelation so I do not need to do that.
Last Edit: 1 month, 1 week ago by webb. Reason: fix garbled phrase

Re: Christian Physicalism 1 month, 1 week ago #5233

  • kgddds
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webb wrote:
Rather than talking about separable components of the human person, I would tend to talk about human beings having a deeper dimensionality than we normally note ourselves to possess. What this entails I don't know, on a literal level. I am confident that God, in his infinite creativity, may have created (may be creating) an indefinite number of dimensions. My consciousness is usually only aware of four or so (three dimensions plus time) in this mortal life, but this fact does not constitute revelation as to the limits of my being.

I too have thoughts along these lines.

Like how the circle becomes the sphere with an additional physical dimension, perhaps a day could become like a thousand years with an additional time dimension. Maybe time as the single dimension we experience is really—in a sense—more 3-D to God.

I know...a 3-D time thought is uncomfortable and hurts my brain too! But if unexplainable and uncomfortable are the basis for denial, then our world would be limited to simple box dimensions (LxWxH) versus explained by the more complex mathematics of integral calculus, where indefinite integrals can be applied to differential equations to determine lengths, areas, and volumes. (Point here: our current dimensions we know of and accept can produce brain pain too! And I can’t just say, “I don’t believe in integral calculus” because I cannot explain it or understand it!)

Rx: Being in awe of God (think three thoughts daily) is therapeutic for any brain pain caused by thinking any integral calculus thoughts or expanded time thoughts!

Ken
The beauty of grace is seen in the glory it reveals.
Grace is glory's seed; Glory is grace's bloom.
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