In response to the materialist one must make an argument for the existence of God. Such a God would be greater and different in kind from the physical universe (and able to interact with it for the purpose of providing an anology in response to the mind-body problem). Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, assumes that it is possible to make a reasoned inference that God does exist. He states that because humans are capable of reaching this position, they are culpable when they do not believe in God (which he implies is by choice): “For the invisible attributes of God are clearly discerned from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they [sc. humans] are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). There are problems with making deductive arguments for the existence of God, but one may certainly make a good inductive argument.

This is not to say that we understand how God made or moves the world. We have not “solved” the mind-body problem. However, in accepting that believing in the existence of God is a reasonable thing to do, we are accepting the existence of a God different in kind from the physical universe, since good arguments that support the proposition of His existence require that God be so. In accepting the existence of such a God, one is able to accept the existence of a mind or soul different in kind from the body and yet able to influence it, even if one doesn’t understand how this is the case. In short, the two propositions are logically consistent.

A further complication is the place of the spirit within the Christian anthropology. Man is composed of body, soul, spirit. Soul and spirit, while inter-related, are clearly different terms in Pauline anthropology, as evidenced by Heb. 4:12: “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul and spirit”. Spirit is the Latin translation of the Greek πνευμα (pneuma) which is the term used by the LXX (Septuagint) translators for the Hebrew רוח (ruach), which can also mean “wind” or “breath”. However, in Genesis 2, the locus classicus for biblical anthropology, the LXX translators rendered the “spirit of life” that the LORD God breathes into the man as the “breath of life”, using the Greek term πνοη (pnoe), which is related to πνευμα. The meeting of this “breath” and the body of clay causes man to become a “living soul” (“ψυχὴν ζῶσαν”).

It is  not clear from the Genesis account how man differs from the animals with respect to soul and spirit (he shares corporeality with them), but man is said to be made “in the image of God”, which is understood to mean that man is the summit of God’s earthly creation; man has dominion over the animals and the earth. It is also not clear how the term usually rendered “God” in the phrase “image of God” should be rendered. God’s use of the plural pronoun “us” in His utterance “let us make man in our image” is understood often by Trinitarians as an oblique reference to the Persons of the Holy Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, this is not the only possible reading, and recent scholarship tends to support the position that God is speaking to the other elohim (“gods”), the members of His Divine Council (for further information see works by Michael Heiser). Furthermore the relationship of the Man of the Garden to the humans of Genesis 1 is also debateable: while traditional readings have taken the two to be references to the same person, other readings are possible.

Nevertheless, the emphasis of Genesis 1-3 with respect to anthropology is on man’s special creation by God and his moral agency. His moral agency is underpinned by a persistent self to which honour and shame may be attached and the faculties of reason and conscience that allow him to discern his obligation of obedience towards God and (some of) the consequences of his action. At this stage “death” is not fully explored: the concepts of Sheol and resurrection are not revealed to the reader. But the text makes clear that life comes from God, so death may be understood as exclusion from the presence of God.

 

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