Dr Pamela Prince Pyle

What is a Soul?

We live in a world of catastrophe. War, genocide, sex trafficking, cartels, terrorists, and hate speech to name but a few. If we were to watch a news channel for twenty-four hours our hearts and minds would perhaps understand the fragility of life.

Catastrophe comes in the dreaded phone call from an emergency department. It is the 2 a.m. knock on the door by police, the biopsy results, and the first moment you pull your car to the side of the road because you have forgotten the way home. 

Life is Fragile

It is crucial for us to remember that the catastrophe which exists out there is the same which may visit in here. Even our bubbles of stability, tranquility, and predictability can burst in a single defining moment. Life is fragile. James, the brother of Jesus Christ describes the brevity of life:

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is

 like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

James 4:14 (New Living Translation)

Living with the End in Mind equips us for the expected and the unexpected. We can experience hope and peace when we know we are prepared. It is vital that we explore what we believe and confirm our destination. Confidently declare: My soul is prepared to die. 

What is a Soul?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes the soul as “the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life.” The soul is further defined in theology by “the aspect of humanity which exists in relationship to divinity and is considered to survive the death of the body.” We are a soul that experiences existence beyond the confines of our physical body and our present life. 

I write that statement as an absolute. It is based upon my faith and the logical evaluation of all scientific disciplines which is yet to disprove the mysterious existence of our soul, or referred to as self.

Vocal scientists claim there is a consensus in their community regarding the lack of evidence for the concept of a soul.

Materialism is described as “the philosophical stance that the reality under investigation is wholly material in nature, mechanistic, and is governed solely by regular lawful events. And, it is often supposed that belief in the soul, if not in contradiction with it, is not supported by science.”

In other words, the aspect of humans which defines our individuality is merely a function of our parts. The advocates for materialism are primarily in the field of neuroscience and not all neuroscientists agree. I am reminded of the Darwin’s Theory of Evolution presented as absolute truth. A theory is an idea or supposition, not a fact. He (or she) who declares that the concept of a soul is only a function of historical “mind washing” has not fully examined what it means to be human. 

Neuroscience is not the only field of study relevant to understanding the concept of the soul. Biocentrism and other scientific theories are exploring alternative viewpoints to materialism which itself is a theory. 

One scholar helps clarify this point:

“The fact is that we are simple (i.e., indivisible) beings unlike our material bodies. The nature of our internal lives is such that it is not characteristically complex and, in principle, divisible in the way that material things are divisible. Conceivably, the body could be divided into smaller pieces, and, for that matter, all material things are divisible into smaller parts. However, one’s own consciousness does not work that way. For what would it mean for a soul’s thinking to be broken down into parts?” Another way to describe this perspective is cutting off a limb does not impact the totality of the consciousness or soul. 

Philosophers have offered various theories about the nature of the soul. For Plato, the soul was immortal and existed prior to and after physical life, embodying reason, emotion, and desire. Aristotle conceptualized the soul as the form of the body, the organizing principle that gives life to living things. In more modern philosophy, thinkers like René Descartes proposed a dualistic view, where the soul is a non-physical substance distinct from the body.

Psychology is the academic discipline that originated in the late 1800’s reflecting a background in the world of philosophy and biology. There are many terms that are utilized in the field to describe the soul. Interestingly, the word psychology originates from the Greek word, Psukhe. Psukhe means soul, spirit, mind, life, and breath. The latter part of the word, “ology” is associated with the Greek word, logos, or “the study of”. The field of psychology analyses our consciousness, consciousness of self, and personality. 

A Biblical Worldview

A Biblical Worldview in the context of this post is viewing the Bible as God’s Holy and inerrant Word. The word soul is mentioned more than 500 times throughout scripture and yet, theologians have different perspectives on the term and especially as it relates to our spirit. For a thorough discussion on this topic, I recommend this article, ‘What is The Soul?’ published by Zondervan Academic. 

This quote from St. John of Damascus describes the soul in a manner that reflects the opinion of most modern theologians and reflects my own opinion:

“The soul, therefore, is a living essence, uncomplicated, incorporeal, invisible –

 in its proper nature – to the eyes of the body, immortal, reasoning and intelligent,

 formless, making use of an organic body and being the source of its powers of life,

 growth, sensation and generation, the intellect being its purest part though not in any

 way alien to it (as the eye is to the body, so the intellect is to the soul). It has power

 over itself, its volition and energy, and is mutable, i.e., able to be changed, because

 it is created. All of these features are natural to it through the Grace imparted

 by its Creator, and its being and nature are thus because of this same Grace 

which it has received”. ~ John the Damascan

The soul’s existence is incontrovertible when you consider the entirety of human history and the inability to prove its absence or to divide it into parts and still exist. Therefore, exploring what you believe about your soul, including its immortality prepares you for death but also equips you for life. 

In my next post, I want to share with you some soul food. If you have questions about preparing your soul to die, please reply in comments or contact me directly via the contact form. 

6 Responses

  1. I think the Holy Spirit helped me with preparing. Starting a couple weeks before I was diagnosed with IPF. You would know better than I, but I wonder if everyone gets that. Maybe some don’t listen or blow it off. I don’t know, but I wonder.

    1. Jim, I agree with you 100%! The Holy Spirit within us as Christians connects us to God the Father and Jesus the Son. It prepares us for the end that we each will face but will come to yearn for as our time draws near and we see heaven.

  2. When my husband Jimmy began his last season of life here on earth with cancer , we prepared for his life in the Spirit to be at home in heaven. For myself being still here, my perspective is seeking the Lord Jesus daily and doing the same, preparing for home with Him. God is gracious and I love Him so, that I too live with an abundant life now, knowing where my hope is deep within my soul.
    Thank you Dr Pyle for using the gifts you have for His kingdom

    1. Dear Terry,
      I am sorry for the loss of your husband. I have a book launching in January called, Anticipating Heaven: Spiritual Comfort and Practical Wisdom for Life’s Final Chapters. Your comment reflects what it is like to Anticipate Heaven, even amid our sorrows. We will one day experience the fulfillment of our hope we treasure now. If you see gifts, know they are from God for His Glory!Thank you for commenting!

  3. Thanks Pamela. I believe our soul is our thoughts, will and emotions. It is immortal and will be with my spirit in heaven so I can worship with my will, think on my Savior and love Him with my emotions!!

    1. Hi Jo,
      I agree 100%. “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”
      2 Cor 5:8-9
      Jo, you are living this!

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