I know this is an older discussion, so I hope it’s okay to still add comments.
I’d just like to go back, if I may, to some of the questions raised by BradKramer in the original post about the concept of the non-physical soul and how it relates to modern Christianity. Concepts of the soul were the topic of my Master’s research paper, so I get very enthusiastic about these questions.
One thing I learned during my research into theories of the soul is that there isn’t a single theory shared by all religions, or even a single theory that unites the cosmological and cosmogonical doctrines of each major world religion. There seem to be three major ways of understanding the soul that pop up repeatedly across boundaries of time, culture, and religion, and these three basic theories are always in tension with each other. It’s no different for early Christianity, where evidence for all three theories can be found. The three basic theories involve doctrines intended to heal help or close the perceived rifts between (1) nomos and physis (2) nomos and the Divine and (3) physis and the Divine. But not all not three (nomos, physis, and the Divine) on the same page at the same time, perhaps because possible solutions are considered too messy, too complex, and too non-Materialist to suit the needs of the brain’s System 2 circuits.
Within Christianity, Jesus’ core teachings fall most closely within the “physis and the Divine” category, while Paul’s teachings fall very clearly within the tradition of trying to heal the perceived rifts between nomos and the Divine.
What’s fascinating is that Jesus’ own theory of soul doesn’t seem to fit neatly or conveniently within the three main categories. He seemed to have a theory of soul that transcended “the usual suspects” and offered an expansion of the understanding of soul that’s still relevant to Christianity today. His theory was non-Platonic (an important distinction between his teachings and Paul’s), non-apocalyptic, non-eschatological, non-status-addicted, non-Materialist, and based on his powerful and unquenchable loving trust in God.
The modern world tends to assume that ancient theologians weren’t interested in questions of science and natural law, though, as many others on BioLogos have pointed out, this simply isn’t true. A persuasive theological doctrine – one that appeals to both heart and mind – has to be consistent with the natural laws that people can see for themselves on a daily basis. But the laws we normally see are the Materialist laws of cause and effect – the laws of classical physics, if you will. So the roots of ancient theories about the soul have relied heavily on classical physics and have attempted to prove how the soul might be created in ways that are consistent only with Materialist laws. This is exactly what Paul did in 1 Corinthians. Tertullian’s Materialist doctrine of the soul has also had a profound influence on Christian understandings of the soul, despite the fact that Tertullian’s traducianism was eventually rejected by Western orthodoxy.
Jesus, however, having made the leap that allowed him to transcend purely Materialist thought and enter into the more expansive and infinitely weirder quantum layers that make up most of Creation’s energy, didn’t feel obligated to limit his understanding of the soul to the realm of classical physics. Only today is our understanding of non-locality, interference patterns, dark matter, neutrinos, and dark energy finally catching up with Jesus’ highly intuitive grasp of how God’s Creation actually works.
Just because we don’t yet understand the science of the soul (i.e. non-Materialist consciousness loosely shaped by the powers of free will, independent causation, and independent action within the cosmic web of life created by God) is no reason to suppose the science doesn’t exist.
The best analogy I’ve seen for how the non-Materialist quantum energy bits of the soul (i.e. the complex blueprint God uses to generate the “body, heart, mind, and talent” of each soul) is the process of turning a caterpillar into a butterfly inside the strands of the cocoon. You can read about the small number of imaginal discs that survive the digesting process in a protein-rich soup in this Scientific American post.
I don’t think it’s really that much of a leap to think of the soul as a complex series of quantum imaginal discs that get digested (as it were) and respun into biological DNA when we’re conceived (like a quantum biological step-down transformer), then later redigested upon biological death and returned to our true “butterfly” state of quantum wholeness, with all the important imaginal discs of the soul still intact.
Of course, this theory of soul leads to a whole bunch of other human questions and problems, but at least it’s consistent with the known science.
Thanks for taking the time to read my post.