Dangers of a Materialistic View in Theological Anthropology

Posted By on December 21, 2019


[Questioner] you’ll be well aware that many Christian
philosophers and theologians are adopting some form of materialism, and
can I just ask you to comment on what do you think the potential repercussions
could be of this move? [Craig] Well if my colleague is correct, I think he is, that
a materialistic view is incompatible with things like freedom of the will, and
intentionality, mental causation, I think this is disastrous for theological
anthropology, as well as being unbiblical. The biblical view is clearly soul-body dualism; you see this especially in passages that contemplate the existence
of the soul upon the death of the body like second Corinthians chapter 5, where
Paul says to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord, and we would
rather be at home than away, but he is patient in living through this life
until he goes to be with the Lord. But it’s clearly Paul is thinking there an
intermediate state between the death of the body and the resurrection of the
body at the return of Christ during which one exists as a disembodied soul.
So I think dualism is the biblical view, and you’re quite right that there is an
unsettling tendency among many theologians who are frankly in many
cases not very familiar with issues in philosophy of mind. I would say it’s more
important in many cases to study philosophy than to study theology with
respect to these questions, and many of these theologians aren’t familiar with
debates and so they get into this kind of dead-end [Moderator] For those who may not be familiar with the context there how does that manifest itself, this materialism
move within theology? Can you give us examples? [Craig] Well it would typically be to deny the existence of the soul, and accordingly to deny the state of the
soul after death. These folks will champion the view of the resurrection of
the body, that when you die you cease to exist, but God will raise you from the
dead again when your body is raised, but you cannot exist apart from your body;
there is no soul. And I remember talking once with Nancy Murphy who is a
professor of theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, and we were
chatting and she announced to me well I’m a materialist. And I said you are a
materialist? And she said yeah! And I said what about God? And she said oh, well I make an
exception in his case. Well that is totally ad hoc! God is a mind without a body, so if you’re a
materialist, how can there be a God? I think this is perhaps where the real
danger lies; these people may be theists, but what’s going to happen to their
students in the next generation if they’re convinced of materialism? Theism goes out the window.

Posted by Lewis Heart

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