Whatever Happened to the Soul?

Edited by Warren S. Brown, Nancey Murphy,
and H. Newton Malony, Fortress Press
ISBN: 0-8006-3141-2, 1998, 252 pages

One of the most fundamental purposes of the Does God Exist? program is to show that science and faith are friends and not enemies. It is our contention that God created the cosmos and gave us an account of what He did in the Bible, so both have the same author. If there appears to be a conflict, we either have bad science, bad theology, or both. The lesson of history is that there have been a lot of both.

In the past two years, there has been a great deal of study of the human brain and how and why we do what we do. In addition, there has been a growing body of knowledge about how Alzheimer's disease affects people's behavior and moral conduct. Genetic studies have also brought a great deal of new data to the discussions of how people behave and the values and beliefs they have. All of this raises new questions about man's spiritual makeup and how the soul relates to man's behavior. That is what this book is about.

The editors of this book state their position up front. "We have written from the perspective that views soul as a functional capacity of a complex physical organism, rather than a separate spiritual essence that somehow inhabits a body."

Nine experts with doctorates then write essays from their own field in support of that premise. This is part of a series on Theology and the Sciences and not atheistic in its approach. By the same token, the concept of the soul and the evidence for its existence is generally dealt with in a negative rather than a positive approach. The authors are explaining how the stated assumption fits their disciplines, not how their disciplines demonstrates the existence of the soul. Questions like the effects Alzheimer's has on a person are raised, but not answered. Evolution is totally accepted and a theistic evolutionary approach is applied to each discussion. The book raises considerably more questions than it answers.

This is a book that is well written and which does an excellent job of reviewing past views of the soul by scholars and raising new issues--cloning, genetics, brain injury effects, Alzheimer's, and man's mind. Evidence of man's spiritual makeup and uniqueness is not presented well and is generally ignored. The theological presentations are useful and offer some unique insight, and a number of case studies are included which are interesting.

We recommend this book for advanced readers who have questions about modern discoveries in biology and their implications for the concept of man in the image of God. You will not agree with some of what you read, but you will learn from it.

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, NovDec02.