Adult Education Lesson on the Soul and the Afterlife
Goal: To explore what the soul means for us as Christians.
Objective: To look at the relationship between the body and the soul.
Kung, Has. 1984. Eternal Life? Life After Death as a Medical, Philosophical, and Theological Problem. Translated by Edward Quinn. New York: Doubleday and Company.
MacGregor, Geddes. 1989. Christian Concepts of the Soul. In Death, Afterlife, and the Soul, ed. Lawrence E. Sullivan and Mircea Eliade. New York: Macmillan Publishing.
BIBLICAL EXPLANATIONS OF THE SOUL
* Soul in the Old Testament rarely (if ever) means the immortal soul, but essentially is the living being. It refers to “breath-soul” and began with the Spirit of God being breathed into human beings (Genesis 2:7). The soul, like the spirit, can increase or decrease in strength. When all its strength is gone, death happens.
* To pour out the soul is to stand forth as helpless (I Samuel 1:15, Psalm 42:5) In the New Testament it is also life; however, it is now included as a part of the total person (spirit, soul, body) as in I Thessalonians 5:23.
* Few today interpret resurrection in terms of total reconstruction of corpses (most if not all are influenced by cultural teaching not religious teaching - for example, the Eastern Orthodox churches do not teach reconstruction of the corpse, but is hampered by the cultural believe). Any other view of resurrection depends upon supposing that personal identity can be guaranteed from one life to the next by the continuity of mental characteristics. This is what the concept of the soul affirms, and this belief in the soul would appear to remain essential.
* I Corinthians 15:42-50 supports the notion of “Physical” as well as “Spiritual” body stating that the mortal (physical) could never possess the everlasting.
* Affirmation about eternal life is woven into the Gospel According to John should be emphasized. Eternal life is here and now. According to St. Paul, the light of promise shines in the present moment. Eternal life, not death, is the ultimate reality. This assurance keeps Christians from being afraid to live.
RELATIONSHIP WITH A COVENANT COMMUNITY
* Christian understanding of resurrection primarily involves a loving relationship with the covenant group of the deceased. This provides a contrived role for the departed dead in the ongoing formation process of the faith community.
* The understanding that resurrection involves the physical components (the flesh and organs) of an individual does not occur in the New Testament. In fact, it was not even a concept in the Christian community until the fourth century. It has been pointed out that early persecutors of Christianity though they might dissuade believers from resistance and martyrdom by destroying their bodies afer death. The plan did not work and there were even more martyrs and resistance. This makes it clear that the early Christians were not deterred by the knowledge that their physical bodies might be destroyed for the understood that “resurrection of the body” involved their relationship with the covenant community - the “Body of Christ.”
* Reformed theology believes that the soul leaves the body at death but what form it takes is unclear in scripture (I Corinthians 13:12).
* “Resurrection of the body” does not mean the total reconstruction of corpses.
* Eternal life, not death, is the ultimate reality.
* Early Christians were not concerned about the state of their physical body but instead their spiritual body.