In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem

By Bassett, Rodney L. | Journal of Psychology and Christianity, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem


Bassett, Rodney L., Journal of Psychology and Christianity


IN SEARCH OF THE SOUL: FOUR VIEWS OF THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM. Edited by Joel B. Green, and Stuart L. Palmer. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005. Pp. 223, Pb, $19.00. Reviewed by Bryan Auday and Lauren Buckel (Gordon College/Wenham, MA).

What does it mean to be fully human? Who am I? What does it mean to be created in God's image (imago dei)? I see that I possess a body, but do I possess a soul? What is a soul? What is the relationship between the soul and the body? These are immensely important questions. These questions demand thoughtful scholarship from within the Christian academy.

Unfortunately, attention to the mind/body problem has been shortchanged by media outlets that have focused their energies on the headline-grabbing debate over evolution, creationism, and intelligent design. Although questions regarding how we evolved or were created are provocative, we believe that the questions that are addressed about personhood in the book In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem are far more important and have more relevance to our Christian life than any debate about origins.

The book, In Search of the Soul, edited by Joel Green and Stuart Palmer, is a welcomed addition to scholarship that has come to print in the past ten years on the subject of Christian anthropology and the mind-body problem. One impetus behind the recent scholarship has been the discipline of neuroscience which has caused some prominent scientists who are also Christians (e.g., Warren Brown, Malcolm Jeeves) to formalize a monistic (physicalist) position regarding the mind-body relationship which is more compatible with recent neuroscientific discoveries. This is the belief that mind (soul) and body essentially are one substance. The monist position is in contrast to more commonly held dualistic understandings (some would say originating from New Testament Greek thought) that argue that mind and body are different kinds of substance that exist independently.

In Search of the Soul, does not introduce a "new" model of the mind-body problem, nor does it defend a particular model. Its purpose is to introduce the reader to two dualistic models in addition to two closely related physicalistic positions-all four of which are couched within a broadly defined Christian theological framework. A distinguished group of contributors has been assembled to defend each of the four positions selected. Immediately after a model has been presented, the reader gets the pleasure of reading brief responses provided by the authors of the three other perspectives. We feel that the editors made an excellent choice by including these responses because the book clearly gives the reader a sense that they are eavesdropping on a conversation, albeit a one-sided one, since there is not a rebuttal to the response. …

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