language switch

Open letter No,1-7

Open letter 1

Science and Religion

When talking about religion in science, the most noteworthy thing would be miracles. I believe that miracles fall into the category of religion. As I showed in the previous chapter, the miraculous feats of Jesus Christ described in the New Testament are completely impossible in everyday life. You would think that miracles are unscientific and insane, that they are a metaphor for something, a phrase describing something else. The average Japanese who does not believe in Christ would never think that it is a description of the truth.

The Western Europeans, however, went headlong into what the Bible described. As a result, they became so remarkable and famous that they are often studied as “Why the modern science had prospered only in Western Europe?”

I have been thinking along those lines and trying to figure out how in the world we can create science like the Westerners do. It would be a matter of the brain. It would not simply be a matter of being smart or not smart enough, but would have to be conceived of as a brain that accepts Jesus Christ. I have included some quotes from the literature I referred to below.

When we scientifically consider the function of the human brain in the real world, how should we think about the relationship between the spirit or soul, which is dealt with in religion, and the brain, which is the physical body?

Malcolm Jeeves & Warren S. Brown, authors of Neuroscience Psychology and Religion, remark in their book. It is inevitable that the forms which are taken by feeling, thinking, and action within any religion should be molded and directed by the character of its own associated culture. The psychologist must accept these forms and attempt to show how they have grown up and what are their principal effects. Should he appear to succeed in doing these things, he is tempted to suppose that this confers upon him some special right to pronounce upon the further and deeper issues of ultimate truth and value. These issues, as many people have claimed, seem to be inevitably bound up with the assertion that in some way the truth and the worth of religion come from a contact of the natural order with some other order or world, not itself directly accessible to the common human senses.

Ian Graeme Barbour, American physicist and theologian, author of “When science meets religion,” to which I refer in this article, makes the following statement in this book. There can be no conflict between scientific and religious assertions about human nature if they are independent and unrelated to each other. In the classical body/soul dualism, the soul is said to be immaterial and inherently inaccessible to scientific investigation. Another version of the Independence thesis is found among recent authors who hold that body and soul are terms in two distinct forms of discourse that serve contrasting functions and provide complementary perspectives on human life. This is not the original Christian view found in the Bible.

The body/soul dualism found in later Christianity is not found in the Bible itself. In the Hebrew scriptures, the self is a unified activity of thinking, feeling, willing, and acting. H. Wheeler Robinson writes, “The idea of human nature implies a unity, not a dualism.

H. Wheeler Robinson, an English Old Testament scholar write, “The idea of human nature implies a unity, not a dualism. There is no contrast between the body and the soul such as the terms instinctively suggest to us.”

Lutheran Swiss New Testament scholar Oscar Cullmann agrees, noting that “the Jewish and Christian interpretation of creation excludes the whole Greek dualism of body and soul.” In particular, the body is not the source of evil or something to be disowned, escaped, or denied—though it may be misused. We find instead an affirmation of the body and a positive acceptance of the material order.

Sri Lankan theologian and Methodist pastor Lynn de Silva writes: Biblical scholarship has established quite conclusively that there is no dichotomous concept of man in the Bible, such as is found in Greek and Hindu thought. The biblical view of man is holistic, not dualistic. The notion of the soul as an immortal entity which enters the body at birth and leaves it at death is quite foreign to the biblical view of man. The biblical view is that man is a unity; he is a unity of soul, body, flesh, mind, etc., all together constituting the whole man.

According to the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, the Hebrew word nephesh (usually translated as soul or self) “never means the immortal soul, but is essentially the life principle, or the self as the subject of appetites and emotion and occasionally of volition.” The corresponding word in the New Testament is psyche, “which continues the old Greek usage by which it means life.” When belief in a future life did develop in the New Testament period, it was expressed in terms of the resurrection of the total person by God’s act, not the inherent immortality of the soul.

Lutheran Swiss New Testament scholar Oscar Kullmann shows that the future life was seen as a gift from God “in the last days,” not an innate human attribute.

Paul speaks of the dead as sleeping until the day of judgment, when they will be restored—not as physical bodies or as disembodied souls, but in what he calls “the spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44). Such views of the future life may be problematic, but they do testify to the belief that the whole being of persons is the object of God’s saving purpose. This sense of life can be considered a testimony to the belief that the whole of human existence is the object of God’s redemptive purpose. However, a dualistic view developed in the early church, largely because of the influence of Greek thought. Plato had held that a pre-existent immortal soul enters a human body and survives after the death of the body. The Gnostic and Manichaean movements in the late Hellenistic world maintained that matter is evil and that death liberates the soul from its imprisonment in the body. The church fathers rejected Gnosticism but accepted the dualism of soul and body in Neoplatonism and to a lesser extent the moral dualism of good and evil associated with it. Other forces in the declining Greco-Roman culture aided the growth of asceticism, monasticism, rejection of the world, and the search for individual salvation. Some of these negative attitudes toward the body are seen in Augustine’s writing, but they represent a departure from the biblical affirmation of the goodness of the material world as God’s creation.

In the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas accepted the Aristotelian view that the soul is the form of the body, which implied a more positive appraisal of the body. He said that the soul was created by God a few weeks after conception, rather than existing before the body. Animals were held to have “sensitive souls,” but only humans were said to have “rational souls.” Aquinas gave a complex analysis of human nature and moral action that included an important role for emotions (“passions”) in carrying out the good, which is known by reason as well as revelation. Medieval theologians expressed a sense of the organic unity of a world designed according to God’s purposes. Nevertheless, the concept of an immortal soul established an absolute line between humans and other creatures and encouraged an anthropocentric (human-centered) view of our status in the world, even though the overall cosmic scheme was theocentric (God-centered). However, in the overall cosmic level of organization, it was God-centered. Almost without exception, the non-human world was portrayed as playing only a subsidiary role in the human salvation drama of the Middle Ages and the Reformation.

Descartes’ dualism of mind and matter departed even further from the biblical view. The concept of soul had at least allowed a role for the emotions, as the biblical view had done. But mind in the Cartesian understanding was nonspatial, nonmaterial “thinking substance,” characterized by reason rather than emotion. Matter, on the other hand, was said to be spatial and controlled by physical forces alone. It was difficult to imagine how two such dissimilar substances could possibly interact. It was difficult to imagine how two such dissimilar substances could possibly interact. Descartes claimed that animals lack rationality and are machines without intelligence, feelings, or awareness.

Many theologians have continued to defend a dualism of body and soul. The official Catholic position is that the human body evolved from the body of primates and proto-human hominids, but the human soul was introduced into a body ready to receive it at a particular point in evolutionary history. In a statement in 1996, John Paul II said that evolution is “more than a hypothesis” since it has been supported by many independent lines of research; he also reaffirmed that throughout human history each soul has been “immediately created by God.”

Other commentators insist that the soul is immaterial and therefore cannot be discovered by the scientific investigation of either ancient fossils or the brains of present-day humans. They maintain that theological statements about the soul are not derived from scientific research and are quite independent of all scientific theories.

Religion is a very old part of human culture. Sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson says that religious practice may have been a useful survival mechanism in early human history. He believes that religious practice was a useful survival mechanism in early human history because such practice can be thought of as having contributed to group cohesion. He remarks, however, that when religion is explained as a product of human evolution, its power will disappear forever and it will be replaced by the philosophy of scientific materialism.

However, Ian Graeme Barbour, American physicist and theologian, author of “When Science Meets Religion,” responds to this as follows. If Wilson is consistent, I must say to him that the power of science, when explained as a product of evolution, will likewise gradually decline. Because, he remarks, it is divinely determined that evolutionary forces alone will eventually come to an end. Theologian Philip Hefner says that we humans can be considered co-creators, created in God’s ongoing process of creation. Evolution is both God’s purpose and means of creating free creatures and thereby opening the way for further creative possibilities. We humans are at the same time creatures of nature and culture, constrained by our genes and past history.

To be continued