2 Corinthians 5:8

2 Corinthians 5:8 KJV says “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
Biologos seems to promote a form of semi-monism as a view of the human soul. However, I am confused how this verse lines up with that view. If our soul and body are one, how can we be absent from the body?

Welcome to the Forum!

Why do you say BioLogos promotes monism? I wouldn’t describe us like that at all, curious to hear your viewpoint.

Biologos only promotes compatibility between science and Christianity – founded by a scientist who became an evangelical Christian.

Beyond that there is a diversity of viewpoints here.

I am not sure what “semi-monism as a view of the human soul” is supposed to even mean.

As for the verse you quote, lets put it back in context…

1 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.

This seems to be referring to 1 Cor 15, which explains how we have a spiritual body. So if the earthly tent of the physical body is destroyed we have a heavenly dwelling in a spiritual body. And not only is spiritual body so much better when resurrected (imperishable and powerful), but it would mean being with God who is spirit, so of course we would rather be there than here.

So perhaps you can explain where this conflicts with what you think Biologos is promoting.

As for myself, I think the rational soul is a concept of Greek philosophers and other religions and isn’t in the Bible. The word translated as soul in the NT is Greek word psyche which means breath and is also translated as person, mind, or life. I think these work better in the passages where it is used in the NT. For example 1 Thess 5:23 And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and mind and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Could you elaborate further on what you think this view is?

I agree that I don’t think the Corinthians passage teaches that we will exist as disembodied souls, but rather our embodiment in our current form won’t be eternal, and we will be embodied in a different form in the Eschaton.

When I google “semi-monism soul.” It just brings up the mind-body problem, which asks about the relationship between mind and body with a natural extension to asking about a relationship between the physical and spiritual. With regards to that I am personally a dual aspect substance monist, but that is my personal position on the metaphysical question and has nothing to do with Biologos. What this means is that I have found the monist approach of science to be more effective than the philosphical idea of dualism. In scientific monism you explain why things are different. My explanation is that the body and mind are phenomenon of the physical universe but are very much like two different living organisms with their own needs and inheritance passed on to the next generation – creating an effective dualism. Even for the physical and spiritual I posit some universal stuff out of which both physical and spiritual things take their form, and the difference is that physical things are all a part of this space-time mathematical structure described by the laws of nature, while spiritual things are not a part of this.

I am sure other people in Biologos have very different positions on this question of metaphysics.

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I was referencing this article: https://biologos.org/articles/body-and-soul-mind-and-brain-pressing-questions

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I was referring to this article: https://biologos.org/articles/body-and-soul-mind-and-brain-pressing-questions

You still haven’t explained what you mean by “semi-monism as a view of the human soul,” which is not used by the article you link.

There is only one use of the word monism to say… “Neurobiological evidence and/or philosophical arguments favoring some form of monism are not at all hostile to the witness of Scripture.”

I have given an explanation of the Bible passage, now you need to show why this is at odds with what the article claims. Though I don’t see how it follows that the article constitutes “what Biologos is promoting.” The only thing I even see Joel Green promoting is a more relational understanding of the soul as a way of dealing with scientific evidence which doesn’t support the classical dualistic notions of the soul.

My best guess is that Cathy got to the heart of the matter when she spoke of this idea of disembodied souls which is not at all supported by 1 Corinthians 5:8 when you read it in context. Since this is something which Joel Green also spoke about.

Sorry for not explaining more. And yeah, I think she has explained it. What I meant was a view of the human soul that holds that it is not possible to be disembodied. I did not think that we would be disembodied in Heaven/the presence of God, but I did think that at least during one stage of existence some disembodied version of us would make the journey there. I thought that the brain was not necessary for our mind biblically, but maybe I was wrong.
I still have a problem though. What does Matthew 10:28 mean in this context?
“New International Version
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Matthew 10:28 is a passage where opinions are going to vary greatly. I was just arguing with someone about that during this last week. I don’t believe that passage is talking about God destroying souls but about ourselves and sin as the destroyers, and they thought this was talking about God.

On the forum there are supporters of the main Biologos mission to promote the reconciliation of science and Christianity which includes universalists, “damnationalists” (eternal torment), annihilationists, and myself which takes a median position that people create their own hell, torment and destroy themselves because it is ourselves and our bad habits (sins) which are the real enemy not God. Furthermore, I have already explained that I don’t believe in the rational soul of the Greek philosophers and don’t believe the word in the Bible should be translated in that way. I believe in the spirit and the ONLY place in the Bible you see ANY explanation of something surviving the body and what that is like is in 1 Corinthians 15 – so that is my gold standard on that issue.

One thing which science makes crystal clear is that there is no life-stuff which can be added to non living material to make it alive and there is no mind-stuff which can be added to living organisms to give it a mind. Life is a complex self-organizing process in a universe filled with many self-organizing processes. Living organisms are those which have managed to store information about what is learned so that they develop and evolve to more capable forms and passing an inheritance of what they have learned to the next generation. The mind is less well understood and more hotly debated but I think it is also a self-organizing process the substance of which is ideas, concepts, and language, passing on what it learns to the next generation by the various means of human communication.

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Just wondering, what is your perspective on the lake of fire?

The Bible uses tons of metaphors, parables, and descriptive imagery which even Jesus warns against taking literally (Matthew 13). The lake of fire is a visual description of Jesus’ warning in a number of places that eternal torment awaits people who make the wrong choices in life. I disagree with the universalists that we should dismiss this entirely to say that any torment is temporary. I disagree with the annihilationists that God uses such a thing to destroy the spirits of those he finds unacceptable. I disagree with the damnationalists that a vengful wrathful God created such a place to torture people for eternity. Instead I see plenty of evidence in life and the world that there are people who create hell for themselves and those around them, tormenting both others and themselves with no sign whatsoever that they are ever going to stop. We have self-destructive habits (sin) which are quite capable of turning all of us into such creatures, destroying our free will and everything else of value within us if it isn’t stopped.

Some believe that God will put such people out of their misery by destroying them in a furnace described as a lake of fire. I am not so hopeful because of the places in scripture where Jesus said we can expect eternal torment. I just don’t think it is God doing this to people, but people doing this to themselves.

He’s saying he’d rather be dead.

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If you want a dense and erudite discussion of the philosophy and biblical interpretation relevant to this question, N T Wright has an article posted that goes into the idea of dualism and what that meant in the NT context. He discusses the Matthew passage and how Paul uses psyche in 2 Corinthians, though not that specific verse 5:8.

The book of revelation interprets the lake of fire as the second death. The fire imagery is not literal. You can see work by Edward Fudge that details this out very well scripturally. Any counter arguments you can think of he probably has answered in his book or by the writings of chris date with rethinking hell.

Been reading through the Wright’s article you gave in the link. I wasn’t happy with his description of the RSV translation of psychikon to “physical” as disastrous. For me, as for any physicist, the translation to “natural” is equivalent. Of course the problem is that for many people the word “physical” means something quite different, i.e. “bodily.” After all this usage of the word is quite prominent in the English language in such phrases as “physical exercise,” “physical therapy,” and “physical education.” All of these are talking about the body obviously. But Paul removes all confusion about this in the phrase “spiritual body” so when he says the resurrection is to a spiritual body not a physical body, there can hardly be any confusion that Paul is talking about a resurrection which isn’t bodily. But perhaps this is just difficult for me to comprehend because as a physicist the meaning of this word “physical” as natural is more automatic than it is for other people.

AND Wright can hardly claim that this removes all difficulty with the empty tomb. There is the very difficult contrast between Paul saying “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” and the resurrected Jesus saying that he is “flesh and bone.” That is going to require a fancy semantic dance no matter how you look at it. LOL

I am also not buying his argument here…

The suffix, - ikon , in which the psyche (soul) and pneuma (spirit) terms end, refers to function or ethics rather than substance or material. In other words, soma psychikon refers to the body that is empowered or animated by the life principle as found in Genesis 2:7 when man became a living nephesh (Hebrew meaning same as Greek psyche ). So the soma psychikon will die. But the soma pneutmatikon , the body enlivened, energized, animated, empowered by the spirit will never die.

The reason is because 1 Corinthians 15:48 also speak of substance and what they are made of “48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven.” And there is nothing there about any animating principle. In fact we get a confirmation that Paul is talking about substance in verse 50 “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” So the idea the “spiritual body” is the same body being animated by different things doesn’t agree with Paul at all.

So what is the big deal anyway? The problem is the whole idea of bodies rising out of graves to be reanimated just isn’t rationally coherent. That is a scenario which is extra hard for us scientific types to swallow – way too fantasy novel and horror movie material to take seriously. On the other hand, Wright would be quite right in thinking the empty tomb doesn’t have much weight in my thinking. And there is a lot of Christian tradition which does make much of this.

So the resurrection is spiritual?
Sorry, I’m just not understanding. Do we have an afterlife or not? What is the resurrection?

Depends. What does “spiritual” mean to you?

What comes to my mind is that God is spirit and thus it would mean going to be with God. But those who equate spiritual with the rational soul of the Greek philosophers might equate this with meaning the resurrection is something of the mind rather than the body which is definitely not what Paul is saying. He says the resurrection is to a spiritual body.

But read it for yourself

Corinthians 15:35 But some one will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

(and if it helps, instead of the word “physical” you can read “natural” instead)

How do you understand this?

That is undeniably what both Jesus and Paul taught.

That is precisely the question which the apostle Paul is answering in 1 Corinthians 15. Do you know of any other place in the Bible which talks about this?

And what about the resurrected Jesus? There seems to be something just a little different about Him. People don’t recognize Him at first, and He appears in the room without opening the door. But most of all, He doesn’t stick around. It is not like Lazarus who woke up out of the tomb and then went on with his life. The resurrected Jesus went to be with the Father.

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Yeah, I think I’ve realized that we basically agree on this. Of course, as I believe, we are not “resurrected” as disembodied consciousnesses. We are resurrected as physically extant beings. The difference being, the “spiritual bodies” are physical but notedly different from typical biological organisms. I cannot say with absolute certainty what characteristics they shall possess, but I do know that they will probably resemble the characteristics of Jesus’ resurrected form. (I don’t know where to draw the line, however, between the characteristics originating in His divinity and the characteristics originating in His new form.

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