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Peters, Ted. “Resurrection of the Very Embodied Soul?"

In “Resurrection of the Very Embodied Soul?” Ted Peters argues that the Christian understanding of eternal salvation is not threatened by the rejection of substance dualism. In fact, the rejection of dualism by both the cognitive neurosciences and the Christian tradition represents an important area of consonance between theology and science - namely, that human reality is embodied selfhood. Peters notes that this issue deserves attention because some theorists, in both cognitive science and philosophy, claim two things: first, the findings of the neurosciences regarding the brain’s influence on the mind demonstrate that the human soul cannot be thought to exist apart from a physical body and, second, that this physicalist interpretation so undermines the doctrine of the immortal soul that the Christian view of eternal salvation becomes counter- scientific.

Peters points out that until recently theologians have not been forced to clarify the distinction between two overlapping ways of conceiving personal salvation: One, rooted primarily in the ancient Hebrew understanding, pictures the human person as entirely physical, as dying completely, and then undergoing a divinely effected resurrection. The other, a later view influenced by Greek metaphysics, pictures the human person as a composite of body and soul; when the body dies the soul survives independently until reunited with a body at the final resurrection. In both pictures, however, the resurrection of the body is decisive for salvation. Now, however, to the extent that the dualistic vocabulary and conceptuality inherited by Christian theology from the Platonic tradition begins to look too much like Cartesian substance dualism, theology is in error.

In approaching the constructive question of how best to relate cognitive theory and theology, Peters first examines and rejects two “blind alleys”: the notion of the “humanizing brain” developed by James Ashbrook and Carol Albright, and the artificial intelligence model of the human soul as disembodied information processing developed by Frank Tipler. In contrast to Tipler’s view, Peters notes that belief in the resurrection, for Christian theology, does not depend on any natural process identifiable by science or philosophy, but on the witnessed resurrection of Jesus Christ at the first Easter. The Christian promise points toward an eschatological transformation - a new creation - to be wrought by God. Peters follows Wolfhart Pannenberg in connecting the resurrection to God’s eschatological act wherein time is taken up into eternity, and wherein God provides for continuing personal identity even when our bodies disintegrate.

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