A History of the Concept of the Soul During the 20th Century

Volume 26
Spring 1998
A History of the Concept of the Soul During the 20th Century

The word soul can have many meanings. In this article it is taken to mean the inner or subjective person. When the body dies and disintegrates, the inner person survives and provides continuity of personal identity between this life and the resurrection life. Sigmund Freud and the mental health movement have been involved in treating the soul, and I argue that the soul is the central focus of all psychotherapy. During the 20th century the Biblical Theology Movement sought to discredit soul-body dualism as an allegedly Greek philosophical idea that contradicted the whole-person view of human nature that was found throughout the Bible. They restricted their use of the word dualism to refer only to Platonic dualism, in which the body was despised or inferior. There are other forms of dualism which say that the human is made of two parts, only one of which is the corpse. The Biblical Theology Movement emphasized this life and the resurrection life, but paid little attention to the intermediate state. The word soul was, to some extent, dropped from contemporary Bible translations. But that anti-soul position is not tenable when one considers the intermediate state (between death and resurrection) when there is a clear dichotomy: the soul (or spirit) is with Christ while the body lies in the grave. I propose that it would be theologically acceptable to bring the soul back from Siberia, so as to make it again a part of theology and the theological object of care and healing.

Dr. J.H. Boyd
66 - 82
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