Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nancey Murphy on Reimagining Christian History Without Souls to Save

"What might theology be like today, and how might Christian history have gone differently, if a physicalist sort of anthropology had predominated rather than dualism? It seems clear that much of the Christian spiritual tradition would be different. There would be no notion of care of the soul as the point of Christian disciplines -- certainly no concept of depriving the body in order that the soul might flourish. As some feminist thinkers have been saying for some time: dualist anthropology all too easily leads to disparagement of the body and all that goes along with being embodied. [. . .]

"Here are some questions: Without the Neoplatonic notion that the goal of life is to prepare the soul for its proper abode in heaven, would Christians through the centuries have devoted more of their attention to working for God's reign on earth? And would Jesus' teachings be regarded as a proper blueprint for that earthly society? Would the creeds, then, not have skipped from his birth to his death, leaving out his teaching and faithful life? Would Christians then see a broader, richer role for Jesus Messiah than as facilitator of the forgiveness of their sins? If Christians had been focusing more, throughout all of these centuries, on following Jesus' teachings about sharing, and about loving our enemies at least enough so as not to kill them, how different might world politics be today? What would Christians have been doing these past 2000 years if there were no such things as souls to save?"

--Nancey Murphy, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 27

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