Science in Christian Perspective
Letter to the Editor
Response on Body and Soul
Johannes G. Vos
Professor of Biblical Literature
Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA
From: JASA 25 (September 1973): 128.
After reading the article on The Concept of the Soul in Psychology and Religion by J. K. Howard (Journal ASA 24, 147 ( 1972) ) I find myself enthused and battled by his brief treatment of the intermediate state between death and the resurrection. The unqualified statement that 'any future state must be peopled by real beings and out incorporeal spirits' is also confusing. Certainly God is an incorporeal spirit-is lie therefore not a real being? The angels are pure spirits-are they not real? (John 4:24; Hebrews 1:7, 14).
The emphasis on the reality and importance of the bodily resurrection as the true and ultimate fulfilment of human destiny is surely Biblically sound. But what does the author of the article make of such Scripture texts as Hebrews 12:23 ("the spirits of just men made perfect"), Luke 23:43, ("Today shalt thou be with me in paradise"), II Cor. 5:8, ("willing to be absent from the body, and to he present with the Lord"). ..?
Attempts such as those of author Howard to eliminate the concept of "the soul" and even the term "soul" from Christian vocabulary need to he carefully guarded lest they seem to support the materialism which is so widespread today. I am sure that Howard does not believe that bodily death is the end of a human life, lie seems to prefer to speak of "the preservation of personality" rather than using the common expression "the immortality of the soul." It may be another way of saying the same thing, but I find it vague and likely to he misleading.