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Fall 2008 · Vol. 37 No. 2 · pp. 185–200 

Is the Search for the Anabaptist Soul a Dead End? Historic Anabaptism Meets Nancey Murphy’s Nonreductive Physicalism

Terry G. Hiebert

Mr. Miller was in his eighties and blind. I was a pastoral candidate out of graduate school looking to serve in my first church. The search team in this rural community sent me to visit, read the Bible, and pray with him. Since I enjoy seniors, the conversation easily moved from family to faith. And then he asked the question: “What will happen to me when I die?” The question moved this graduate student from theory to existential reality in an instant, because Mr. Miller’s condition was terminal. I stumbled through a reading of 1 Corinthians 15 and babbled something about mystery and seeing Jesus. He died a few months later. I wondered about his soul and whether I had spoken truth.

. . . it is time to reconsider the admitted paradoxes surrounding the Anabaptist views of the soul and death

Poet Di Brandt, in a wonderful passage, asks the same big questions about death and the hereafter, much to the chagrin of her mother:

look when grampa died last week everybody said he’s better off
where he is because he’s in heaven now he’s with God we should
be happy he’s gone home but yesterday when they put him in the
ground the minister said he’s going to be there till the last trumpet
raises the quick & the dead for the final judgement now look
mom i can’t figure out which is true it’s got to be either up or
down i mean what’s he gonna do swoop back into his body at the
last moment so he can rise with the trumpet call or what i got to
know mom what do you think 1

The passage strikes at the heart of the theological and pastoral paradox that non-speculative Anabaptist biblicists typically face when dealing with death. What are we? Souls dwelling in bodies but released at death? Bodies and souls separated at death only to be re-embodied at the resurrection? Now, a deeper question is being asked: Does the soul exist at all? Or is it a concept that should be relegated to same receptacle as Menno Simons’ discredited theory of conception? Challenges to the popular conceptions of the soul have become more urgent with the recent findings of neuroscience and the theological work of Nancey Murphy 2 based on these discoveries.

The paradox of death has not gone unnoticed in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Perhaps as a tribute to the historic Anabaptist reticence to speculate, this comprehensive encyclopedia has sixty-three pages mentioning deaths, but no article on the soul. The author of the “Death and Dying” article expresses the paradox of Christian death: “The third death/birth means dying to what one has known of one’s Christian life on earth and again born into a life which will be far beyond our human comprehension here and now . . . death is life’s greatest paradox!” 3 Does this “soul-silence” verify Nancey Murphy’s claim that “Anabaptist writers never made this [the intermediate state] a part of their teaching, and many argued instead for ‘soul sleep,’ which could mean either the unconsciousness of a surviving soul or death, pure and simple?” 4

In light of bold claims made by Tom Wolfe (“sorry but your soul just died” 5) and more recently by Daniel Dennett (“this idea of immaterial souls, capable of defying the laws of physics, has outlived its credibility thanks to the advance of the natural sciences” 6), it is time to reconsider the admitted paradoxes surrounding the Anabaptist views of the soul and death. The search for the Anabaptist soul could produce a theological rebirth, if you will. Given the diverse biblical interpretations of early Anabaptist writers and church confessions, as well as the recent neuroscientific insights that shore up Murphy’s “nonreductive physicalist” account of the person, some traditional and new possibilities appear.

EARLY ANABAPTISTS ON THE SOUL AND DEATH

Early Anabaptists practiced the kind of occasional and pastoral theology found in Paul’s letters. One might think that their encounters with persecution and death would lead them to reflect on such ultimate questions as the soul and its fate after the body’s demise. Surprisingly many did not.

Michael Sattler’s imprisonment occasioned his pastoral letter to the church at Horb. Sattler contrasts Christian love with those who fall short, “but are puffed up and have become useless with vain speculation and understanding of those things which God wants to keep secret to Himself.” 7 True Christians, he implies, should remain focused on the goal of obedience to the Holy Scriptures. In his farewell to the church, Sattler testified, “it is better for my sake to be released and with Christ to await the hope of the blessed.” 8 Sattler continues with a quote from 4 Esdras 2, a text with images depicting eternal rest, the end of the world, the judgment, the righteous separating from this world, and obedience to God. On Mount Zion the righteous exchange their mortal robes for immortal ones, and receive the crown of victory. 9 Not long after this letter, Sattler perished in the flames while repeating the words of Jesus, “Father, into thy hands I commend my soul!” 10 Why did Sattler not speculate about his soul? A clue lies in Sattler’s letter to Bucer and Capito where Christ, not the human soul, is the focus. While “the flesh is against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh . . . the citizenship of Christians is in heaven and not on earth.” 11 For Sattler, death and life, flesh and spirit 12 are scriptural terms contrasting the life devoted to Christ with that yoked to Belial.

Balthasar Hubmaier represents an explicitly theological approach to the soul, but his interest was not primarily in death or immortality. Rather, the Augsburg theologian was most concerned to present a case for free will and moral responsibility in opposition to the Reformed doctrine of predestination. Hubmaier proposed that a human being consists of flesh, soul, and spirit. Before the fall of Adam, all three substances were good. After the fall, the flesh became hopeless and worthless, destined to return to the ground. 13 But the spirit now imprisoned in the flesh, “remained upright, whole, and good.” 14 The soul, as the seat of the will, is also the source of its freedom. 15 While damaged by the Fall and tempted by the flesh, “it has been awakened by the heavenly Father . . . as well as made whole by his dear Son, and enlightened by the Holy Spirit. . . . [B]y this the soul now again knows what is good and evil. How it has again obtained its lost freedom.” 16

Hubmaier’s view of free will, like his view of the soul, attempts to use biblical rather than philosophical categories. Ultimately the soul is created by God and subordinate to the mystery of God’s will. 17 Details about the soul’s state between death and the general resurrection therefore remain fittingly obscure. Hubmaier affirms, however, that existence in the afterlife will include our bodies in the altered form that Paul describes, “. . . after this life through the resurrection of the flesh, the body will become a heavenly, imperishable, noble, and spiritual one for action and fulfillment.” 18 His vision of the ultimate goal of the believer reflects the biblical hope of “an eternal, sure, and joyful vision of God’s face . . . where there is nothing but bliss, joy, peace, rest, and all security throughout eternity.” 19

Menno Simons exposed such Roman teachings as purgatory as “accursed idolatry and abomination” because they came from “philosophic cleverness” and resulted in “nothing but the doctrines and commands of men, proposed contrary to the Scriptures” in their “incontrovertible clearness and power.” 20 While Menno refers to the human soul as immortal, his main concern is the war between flesh and spirit as well as flesh and Spirit. 21 He is more focused on the biblical concept of humans as created in God’s image and reflecting God’s holiness. In “The Spiritual Resurrection” Menno expands on the contrast between humans born of Adam, the natural or fleshly seed, and those reborn of Christ with the spiritual seed. “That which is born of flesh is flesh, and cannot see eternal life; and that which is born of Spirit is spirit, life and peace, which is eternal life.” 22 Those resurrected spiritually are “united with God” to such an extent that they become “partakers of the divine nature” and become conformed to the “image of His Son” which is the “first resurrection.” 23 The seed of God planted in human flesh then produces holy resurrected living as its fruit. The second resurrection at the last day will awaken believers from the “sleep of death” to judgment and eternal life. 24

Later, Menno wrote a pastoral letter to the faithful facing pestilence, comforting them with these words: “Therefore we ought not to dread death so. It is but to cease from sin and to enter into a better life. Nor should we sorrow so about the friends who have fallen asleep in God, as they do who do not look for a reward of the saints.” 25 Unconcerned about setting clear timelines, the aging leader gently reassures believers that they “shall rest in peace” and be “summoned to the eternal, holy Sabbath.” “[Their] souls are in lasting rest and peace in the Paradise of grace” under the throne of God “waiting henceforth until the number of their brethren be complete.” Then finally it will be their delight “joyfully to enter the eternal marriage feast, prepared in heaven for all the chosen ones by the blood and death of Christ.” 26

Sattler, Hubmaier, and Menno represent a spectrum of Anabaptist views on the nature of the soul and its implications for facing death. 27 Sattler and Menno refused to speculate on the nature of the soul, but referred to the soul as a believer’s openness to God. Flesh and spirit were terms more suitable for describing the Christian life of separation and holiness. Hubmaier posited the immortal soul as the seat of free will, open to the higher workings of the Spirit after conversion. Sattler expected to die and wait for the resurrection. Hubmaier expected his soul to meet God at death. And Menno expected to rest in Paradise until the seed of the new body was born at the resurrection. Perhaps it was their opposition to the doctrine of purgatory and its corruptions that kept Anabaptists relatively silent about immortal souls and what might be hoped for immediately after death. This silence was obvious to reformers like Zwingli and Calvin who accused the Anabaptists of promoting heretical notions like soul sleep and even soul death. 28

ANABAPTIST CONFESSIONS ON THE SOUL AND DEATH

First generation Anabaptists like Michael Sattler and Menno Simons preferred quoting scriptures to theologizing about the soul and death. But as churches faced internal divisions and boundary issues with Lutherans, Calvinists, and English Separatists, biblical quotations gave way to doctrinal confessions laced with biblical references. 29 During the sixteenth century and after, confessional statements about the soul and death became more developed while maintaining early Anabaptist themes. Anabaptist confessions spoke about the soul and death following the three main patterns set by Sattler, Hubmaier, and Menno.

The Schleitheim Confession (1527) expresses well Michael Sattler’s concern for biblical church practices and discipline. 30 Since ecclesiology is the main concern, questions of the soul and death are either not addressed or connected incidentally with the ecclesiology. Schleitheim’s ordinance of baptism is given to those who desire to “be buried with Him [Christ] in death, so that they might rise with Him.” 31 Christ is seen as the “true Shepherd of our souls who will direct his followers unto the end, to His glory and our salvation.” 32 Through pastoral care, shepherds of the church will provide rest for believers’ souls. In the Swiss Congregational Order, the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper reminds participants “to be ready to give our body and life for Christ’s sake . . . for the sake of the brothers.” 33 The Swiss Brethren focused on following Christ in the present and the expectation of resurrection in the future.

Fifty years later, Hans de Ries drafted the Waterlander Confession (1577), one year after leaving the Reformed church. The confession reflects a desire to promote understanding between moderate Anabaptist churches in a largely Calvinist region of the Netherlands. 34 The confession describes the body and soul as two distinct but related entities. The body is the “house, temple, or tabernacle in which the soul lives” as the body’s “natural life and ruler.” 35 Upon death, the soul departs the body but “nevertheless retains the power of life, being imperishable and immortal.” 36 During the intermediate state, the souls of believers are “carried by angels to places where they taste and feel joy and happiness” while unbelievers “are carried [to places] where they suffer pain and fear.” 37 In the last days, “all people . . . shall arise from the dead and be resurrected, that is, their body shall be united with the departed soul” to be judged and receive eternal life or eternal punishment. 38 The Waterlander Confession echoes the body-soul dualism found in Calvin’s theology and shares some features of Hubmaier’s theological approach. 39 Influenced by Reformed and English Separatist 40 theology, the Waterlander Anabaptists advocated a dualistic understanding of body and soul and described with confidence the believer’s hope at death.

The Dordrecht Confession (1632) represents the majority Anabaptist perspective and is situated theologically between the ecclesiological con-cerns of Schleitheim and the Reformed theologizing of the Waterlanders. 41 This confession uses the language of scripture and resists speculations like those of Menno. It mentions the soul in more pastoral, functional, and even metaphorical terms, but also echoes the biblical language that Adam “became a living soul, created by God in His own image and likeness, in righteousness and holiness, unto eternal life.” 42 The remaining references to soul relate to Anabaptist ethical precepts. For example, ministers are called to follow the example of Jesus, the chief Shepherd of our souls, who “came into the world, not to bruise, break, or destroy the souls of men, but to heal and restore them.” 43 Jesus commanded footwashing for the saints as an example of true humility and the “true washing, whereby we are washed through His precious blood, and made pure after the soul.” 44 In regard to God’s order for marriage, believers “have previously become united with the church as one heart and soul, have received one baptism, and stand in one communion, faith, doctrine and practice, before they may unite with one another.” 45 The moral condition of the soul appears more important than speculation about its journey in the afterlife. The confession offers hope that in the last day those who “have died, and fallen asleep, shall be awaked and quickened, and shall rise again” to final judgment resulting in eternal life and joy or everlasting darkness and pain. 46 The biblical language in the confession leaves the intermediate state more ambiguous but retains confidence in the resurrection, judgment, and eternal life.

Swiss Confessions and a few Dutch/North German confessions were in general more concerned about ecclesiology than anthropology. The broader stream of German and Dutch confessions retained the biblical language for the soul as that aspect of the person directed toward God. However, within this broad stream there were more explicit statements about a distinct human soul surviving death, perhaps in a dream state, prior to the resurrection. The Waterlander confessions taught a body-soul dualism with the soul continuing a conscious existence after the body’s death. A century later, confessions in the Netherlands, Germany, and Prussia would continue with either the dualistic language of the Waterlander Confession or the biblical language of Dordrecht. 47 Across most Anabaptist confessions there are shared convictions and hopes of resurrection, final judgment, and eternal life.

NANCEY MURPHY ON THE SOUL AND DEATH

In Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies Nancey Murphy reviews the challenges by twentieth-century biblical scholars and theologians on the concept of the soul as a metaphysical substance. 48 In this most recent “Copernican revolution,” substance dualisms of body-soul or brain-mind are being replaced by the monism of materialism. In biology, Darwinian evolution sought to demonstrate continuities between humans and animals. In neuroscience, functions once attributed to the soul are being located in specific regions or functions of the brain. In the cognitive sciences, human learning is described in ways that make computer modeling of mental operations possible. Murphy argues that the various faculties of the human soul as defined by Thomas Aquinas can now largely be attributed to brain function. Even so, she rejects the notion that neurophysiological determinism adequately accounts for human nature. As an alternative, she proposes the metaphysical thesis she calls “nonreductive physicalism” (hereinafter referred to as NRP):49

The nonreductive physicalist says instead that if there is no soul, then these higher human capacities must be explained in a different manner. In part they are explainable as brain functions, but their full explanation requires attention to human social relations, to cultural factors and, most importantly, to God’s action in our lives. 50

If rationality, morality, and spirituality can be satisfactorily explained as higher brain functions, then does the traditional Christian doctrine of the soul become theologically unnecessary? Murphy assures her readers that the spiritual cost of abandoning the doctrine is minimal. In fact, she demonstrates that reading scripture without recourse to an immortal soul doctrine can allow readers to see more clearly the ethical and political implications of many familiar biblical passages. For example, the Christological hymn in Philippians 2 becomes the ethical pattern by which Christians image God, for “to be made in God’s image has to do not with possession of an immortal, immaterial soul, but with costly obedience.” 51 Murphy believes that Anabaptists will benefit from this move because the Christian passion for saving lost souls for a transcendent heaven can now be redirected toward a more biblical vision of realizing God’s kingdom on earth while waiting for its future coming. 52

While Murphy’s case for against the soul appears to have some scientific support, her biblical case is ambiguous at best. Early Anabaptists—and for that matter, her evangelical students at Fuller Seminary—consider biblical authority as primary on faith questions of the soul and death. On this front Murphy admits the case for NRP becomes “complicated,” stating “while there is wide agreement among biblical scholars that at least the earlier Hebraic scriptures know nothing of body-soul dualism, it is surprisingly difficult to settle the issue of what the New Testament has to say.” 53 Murphy relies primarily on Joel Green for a monistic biblical reading of the soul. Green states that Old Testament scholarship has made axiomatic the idea that “humans do not possess a body and soul, but are human only as body and soul.” 54 However, Green notes the “Hellenistic influences” in the Old Testament, so that the evidence for Hebraic monism is strong but not complete.

Murphy cites James Dunn in providing New Testament support for a physicalist view of the human being. Dunn sees the texts speaking of humans aspectively from several perspectives or relationships, instead of speaking partitively or dividing humans into components. 55 Still, the human soul question indeed remains “complicated” in the New Testament. Joel Green argues that Luke had no concept of a disembodied soul, and that Jesus was “with God” between death and resurrection. 56 He adds, “even though Paul’s language may not be consistent in all cases, it is nevertheless clear that, for Paul, embodied existence is the norm.” 57 Green and Murphy agree that enough “conceptual glossolalia” occurs in the New Testament to lead people to develop a dualistic theology of body and soul. Green nevertheless maintains that the dominant picture of humans in the New Testament is ontologically monistic and that images of disembodied souls and escape from the body are outside the parameters of biblical thought. Rather, the New Testament locates personal identity in embodiment, relationship, and narrative central to the calling of people of God. 58

For Murphy, nonreductive physicalism moves the biblical hope of the resurrection to the center of theology. In comparison with the resurrection, “the doctrine of the intermediate state is but a minor issue.” 59 When the resurrection is made central in the Christian hope, Murphy believes that Christians will see themselves as more connected with the rest of nature, and will find the vision of God’s transformation of creation in Romans 8:19-21 far more compelling. In support of this emphasis, Joel Green says Paul’s view of life after death is not the dualistic language of body and soul/spirit. Rather, personal identity in Christ and with Christ become the relational terms depicting believers after death. Personal identity at the resurrection, according to Green’s interpretation of Paul, “suggests that the relationality and narrativity that constitute who I am are able to exist apart from neural correlates and embodiment insofar as they are preserved in God’s own being, in anticipation of the new creation.” 60

CONCLUDING UNSCIENTIFIC POSTSCRIPT: WHO CARES?

Nancey Murphy begins Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies with a quiz: “Which of the following comes closest to your understanding of human nature?” The final option is simply, “Who Cares?” 61 Although the answer is meant to be rhetorical, there are people who care. Mr. Miller encountered a crisis of faith with his impending death. The pastoral candidate searched for a word from God for this aging believer. Di Brandt was searching for clues regarding her grandfather’s whereabouts. John Cooper, the evangelical philosopher, may lament with some justification that, “an intellectual and personal crisis for Christians who affirm the traditional view of the afterlife has been generated by the massive assault on anthropological dualism by modern scholars.” 62 Unaware of the current discussion, many evangelicals and Anabaptists continue to believe in the traditional dualist hope for their souls when facing death. Christians informed by physicalism and monism may affirm the historical teachings of their churches but privately question the existence of their souls. Is there a way forward for those called to care for the dying? I hope there is, but the following points still need to be addressed for that to happen.

First, historic Anabaptist writers and church confessions were remarkably unified in using the biblical language of the soul. While more research is needed, apparently most Anabaptists, reflecting biblical diversity, were either implicit or explicit dualists. However, their concerns for holiness and discipleship inclined them to talk about the soul in non-speculative and pastoral terms. Anabaptists practiced a restrained use of this interior language of the soul in worship and ministry. They believed in the soul’s engagement with God and people through baptism, the Lord’s Supper, footwashing, marriage, and pastoral care. This rich metaphor evokes the moral, emotional, relational, volitional, rational, and spiritual dimensions of human experience. With the exception of the most explicit dualists, Anabaptists could have affirmed that we are souls rather than have them. 63

The Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith (1999), like most contemporary Mennonite statements, does not mention the soul, preferring to use the term “image of God” when describing what a person is. 64 These confessions provide space for both traditional dualist and contemporary monist views. While employing “image of God” language creates an important distinction between humans and animals, biblical soul language cannot be ignored. 65 Even if higher brain functions once attributed to the soul can be explained scientifically, a truly nonreductive physicalist view of humans can still explore biblical aspects of soul talk and soul care for the church today. 66 If science speaks primarily to the physical dimension of human experience, it seems crucial that the language of pastors and theologians—and for that matter poets, artists, and musicians—assist Murphy in resisting a theological and scientific reductionism toward materialism. 67

Second, historic Anabaptist theologians and later confessions were remarkably unified their biblical visions of life after death. Rather than forcing the scriptures into a uniform teaching, Anabaptists would have agreed with Murphy that the resurrection (and final judgment) is the primary hope of the believer facing death. However, many Anabaptists still believed in a waking or dream-like intermediate state of the soul/person between death and resurrection. Their main concern was following Jesus faithfully to the point of death and trusting God with their souls. Thomas Finger thinks the Anabaptists were less concerned about the intermediate state, and rightly so. A fixation on immortal souls at death creates serious distortions for biblical eschatology, including excessive individualism, spiritualization, and escapism. 68 On this point, whether Anabaptists believed in the intermediate state or not, there is certainly escapist language in many of their writings about the last things.

The Mennonite Brethren Confession does speak about death. “Since Christ destroyed the power of death by His resurrection, believers need not be afraid of death, the last enemy. Christ’s followers go to be with the Lord when they die. When Christ returns they will be raised and receive new bodies.” 69 The confession is loose enough to accommodate the traditional immortality view or the doctrine of soul sleep. The confession does not allow for complete annihilation at death because the righteous maintain an identity between this life and the resurrection, and justice is required for the unrighteous.

Third, while Nancey Murphy displays confidence that neuroscience leads to a nonreductive physicalist interpretation of the Bible, some questions remain. While physicalism is a powerful scientific thesis, Nobel laureates John Eccles (dualist), Francis Crick (materialist), and Roger Sperry (nonreductive physicalist) still differ in significant ways on the nature of body and mind. In fact, Malcolm Jeeves and Nancey Murphy agree, “that no amount of evidence from the neurosciences can ever prove dualism to be false and or physicalism true.” 70 Perhaps NRP is a sound, plausible approach to interpreting the biblical texts, but leaders in the field are still working through the alternative possibilities.

Fourth, Murphy shows that NRP shifts the philosophical emphasis concerning the relationship of the spiritual to the material world. Instead of dividing humans into spiritual and physical, NRP distinguishes God from the world. But if an immaterial soul does not act on a physical body, then how could an immaterial God act on the physical world? Further if an immaterial soul does not need to exist in this view, then would the logic possibly move toward the elimination of the immaterial God? The concerns are, I think, more significant than Murphy allows. Murphy replies that robust views of God’s actions through miracles have been problematic for modern science. But if miracles are problematic, then what is the basis for our hope in the resurrection? Here Murphy turns to theology and replies,

the nonreductive physicalist account of nature needs to be completed by a theological account in which descriptions of divine action supervene on descriptions of natural and historical events, but without being reducible to them. We need to conceive of the hierarchy of the sciences as incomplete without theology, and especially to maintain the nonreducibility of theology to other disciplines. 71

Why does the soul not exist? Because neuroscience has accounted for the human qualities that medieval theology attributed to the soul. Why does God exist? Because theological accounts supervene on descriptions of natural and historical events. Will a physicalist account of reality eventually supervene on theology at this point as well?

Nevertheless, Nancey Murphy potentially brings evangelical Anabaptism “down to earth” in several ways. Her “spirited body” theological proposal offers:

  1. Hebraic and holistic interpretations of Old and New Testaments
  2. Positive affirmation of embodiment and the incarnation
  3. Humble affirmation of persons as creatures in relationship
  4. Missional calling to engage in uniting the word of proclamation with deeds of mercy, justice, and peace
  5. Trusting acceptance of our creatureliness at the time of death
  6. Hope in God’s promise of resurrection and cosmic transformation

Anabaptists can be thankful for this corrective to a longstanding overemphasis on the personal hope of being taken up to heaven and away from the world. This emphasis potentially results in an unbiblical Gnosticism that despises God’s material creation. 72 By calling followers of Jesus down to a more embodied, relational, narrative, and incarnational life, Murphy shifts our attention toward the values pervading both the Old and New Testaments.

NOTES

  1. Di Brandt, “questions i asked my mother,” in questions i asked my mother (Winnipeg, MB: Turnstone, 1987), 5.
  2. Nancey Murphy, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
  3. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, s.v. “Death and Dying” (by A. J. Metzler), http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/D358ME.html (accessed July 16, 2008).
  4. Nancey Murphy, “Anabaptist Science and Epistemology?” in Engaging Anabaptism: Conversations with a Radical Tradition, ed. John D. Roth (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 2001), 59.
  5. Tom Wolfe, “Sorry But Your Soul Just Died,” in Athenaeum Library of Philosophy, compiled by Jud Evans, http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/wolfe.htm (accessed July 16, 2008).
  6. Daniel Dennett, Freedom Evolves (New York: Viking, 2003), 1. Quoted by Nancey Murphy in “Nonreductive Physicalism,” in In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem, ed. Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005), 115.
  7. Michael Sattler, “Letter to the Church at Horb,” in The Legacy of Michael Sattler, ed. John Howard Yoder (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1973), 59–60.
  8. Ibid., 61. Thomas Finger says that Zwingli accused Sattler and other Anabaptists of believing in soul sleep (Contemporary Anabaptist Theology [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004], 518).
  9. Sattler, “Horb,” 60–61.
  10. Wilhelm Reublin, “Report of Sattler’s Trial and Death,” in The Legacy of Michael Sattler, ed. John Howard Yoder (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1973), 78.
  11. Michael Sattler, “Sattler to the two Strasbourg Reformers,” in The Legacy of Michael Sattler, ed. John Howard Yoder (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1973), 22, 23. C. Arnold Snyder argues that Sattler’s Benedictine training was anti-speculative, scriptural and Christ-centered obedience based. See his The Life and Thought of Michael Sattler (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1984), 135–50.
  12. Finger (Contemporary, 468) says that we don’t really know what Sattler meant by spirit. Was it the human or divine spirit? Likely it was God’s spirit.
  13. H. Wayne Pipkin and John H. Yoder, trans. and eds., Balthasar Hubmaier: Theologian of Anabaptism (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1989), 433–34.
  14. Ibid., 435.
  15. Finger (Contemporary, 471) says that “Hubmaier identified the will with the power of the soul.”
  16. Pipkin, Hubmaier, 439.
  17. A. James Reimer, “Christian Anthropology: The Perils of the Believers Church View of the Humanum,” in his Mennonites and Classical Theology (Kitchener, ON: Pandora; Herald, 2001), 536.
  18. Pipkin, Hubmaier, 435. Finger (Contemporary, 520–21) notes that Hubmaier believed that the resurrection was undatable but this hope could still encourage Christians to follow Jesus in spite of severe suffering. The new creation would be spiritual and eternal life would consist of a vision of God inconceivable on earth.
  19. Pipkin, Hubmaier, 364. Hubmaier’s Catechism considers suffering, grief, persecution, and death for the sake of Christ to be the shortest path to eternal life.
  20. The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, ed. John C. Wenger (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1956, 1984), 90–91.
  21. See ibid., 503 on the immortal soul and pp. 54 and 56 on flesh/spirit and humans in the image of God.
  22. Ibid., 54.
  23. Ibid., 58.
  24. Ibid. Cf. pp. 61 and 494 where the first resurrection or new birth is referred to as rising from the sleep of sin and death. Menno repeatedly uses the phrase for rebirth and implies that awaking from sleep is paralleled in the final resurrection.
  25. Ibid., 1056.
  26. Ibid., 1057.
  27. More research is needed on Anabaptists like Hans Denck, Pilgram Marpeck, Hans Hut, and Peter Riedemann.
  28. George H. Williams, The Radical Reformation (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962), 581–92. Pope Leo X at the Fifth Lateran Council condemned psychopannychism as heresy because it seriously undercut Church teachings on merits and purgatory. This view was hotly debated in Italian humanist circles. Anabaptist views, however, were more motivated by biblicism than by Italian humanism.
  29. Karl Koop, Anabaptist-Mennonite Confessions of Faith (Kitchener, ON: Pandora; Herald, 2004), 9.
  30. Other confessions in this category are the Congregational Order (Swiss 1527), Strasbourg Discipline (S. German 1568), and Wismar Articles (N. German/Dutch 1554).
  31. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, s.v. “Schleitheim Confession (Anabaptist, 1527),” http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/S345.html (accessed July 19, 2008).
  32. Ibid.
  33. “Congregational Order (1527),” in Confessions of Faith in the Anabaptist Tradition 1527–1660, Classics of the Radical Reformation, ed. Karl Koop, trans. Cornelius J. Dyck et. al. (Kitchener, ON: Pandora; Herald, 2006), 22.
  34. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, s.v. “Confession of Faith (Waterlander, 1577),” http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/C6652.html (accessed July 19, 2008).
  35. Ibid.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Ibid.
  39. John Calvin, The Institutes I:15.2, Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iii.xvi.html (accessed July 19, 2008). “Moreover, there can be no question that man consists of a body and a soul; meaning by soul, an immortal though created essence, which is his nobler part.” Calvin taught that the soul had two parts, intellect and will. The intellect was the ruler of the body. The Waterlander Confession does not borrow from Hubmaier’s trichotomist view but, rather, holds similar positions on the immortality of soul and the soul reuniting with body at resurrection. Cf. Institutes, I:15.7
  40. John Smyth et al., “A Short Confession of Faith, 1610,” The Reformed Reader, http://www.reformedreader.org/ccc/scf1610.htm (accessed July 7 2008). The confession was written jointly by Hans de Ries (Waterlander) and John Smyth (English Separatists/Baptists).
  41. Several confessions are in this centrist position including: Confession of Jorg Maler (Swiss 1554), Peter Riedemann (1540–42), Kempen (1545), Twisck (1617), Thirteen Articles (1626), Olive Branch (1627), and Jan Cents (1630).
  42. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, s.v. “Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632),” http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/D674.html (accessed July 19, 2008).
  43. Ibid., Article I
  44. Ibid., Article XII
  45. Ibid.
  46. Ibid., Article XVIII. Dordrecht refers to death as sleep without further elaboration of the meaning. Article XXXI of the Confession of Faith (1617) by Twisck and Pieterz, which is heavily dependent on Menno’s thought, insists that God creates the soul immortal and death places the soul in a sleeping or dream state.
  47. The Mennonite Articles of Faith (1766) by Cornelius Ris represented the dualistic stream in the Netherlands and S.W. Germany. The Prussian Confession (1660), which predominated in Prussia and Russia, spoke about death and resurrection without mentioning the intermediate state. However, the Elbing Catechism (1778), an influential catechism in Prussia, Russia, and North America took a moderate position by mentioning an immortal soul and briefly alluding to an intermediate state while clearly focusing the expectation of the resurrection and judgment.
  48. Murphy, Bodies and Souls, 9–11.
  49. Murphy describes the scientific developments in “Human Nature: Historical, Scientific, and Religious Issues,” in Whatever Happened to the Soul? ed. Warren S. Brown, Nancey Murphy and H. Newton Maloney (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998), 11–19. On the metaphysical thesis, see Murphy, “Nonreductive Physicalism: Philosophical Issues,” ibid., 139.
  50. Murphy, “Nonreductive Physicalism,” in Green, In Search of the Soul, 116.
  51. Nancey Murphy, Religion and Science: God, Evolution and the Soul: Proceedings of the 2001 Goshen Conference on Religion and Science, ed. Carl S. Helrich (Kitchener, ON: Pandora, 2002), 27.
  52. Murphy, Bodies and Souls, 27.
  53. Ibid., 17.
  54. Joel Green, “ ‘Bodies—That is, Human Lives’: A Re-Examination of Human Nature in the Bible,” in Brown, Whatever Happened, 158.
  55. Murphy, Bodies and Souls, 21, quoting James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of the Apostle Paul (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 54.
  56. Joel B. Green, “Resurrection of the Body: New Testament Voices Concerning Personal Continuity and the Afterlife,” in What About the Soul? Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology, ed. Joel B. Green (Nashville: Abingdon, 2004), 94–95. Green argues that, between his death and resurrection, duration did not matter to Jesus because he was with God in a different time dimension.
  57. Green, “Bodies,” in Brown, Whatever Happened, 172.
  58. Green, “Resurrection,” in Green, What About the Soul? 93; Green, “Bodies,” in Brown, Whatever Happened, 173.
  59. Murphy, “Human Nature,” in Brown, Whatever Happened, 23.
  60. Green, “Resurrection,” in Green, What About the Soul? 100.
  61. Murphy, Bodies and Souls, 3.
  62. John Cooper, Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 2. See also J. P. Moreland and Scott B. Rae, Body and Soul (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000) on the vitalistic function of the soul in their version of Thomistic dualism. James R. Beck and Bruce Demarest, The Human Person in Theology and Psychology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2005) present a case for holistic dualism.
  63. Green, “Bodies” in Brown, Whatever Happened, 158. Consider also Moreland and Rae’s comment that “the body is in the soul as the soul is in the body.” Body and Soul, 202.
  64. “Confession of Faith Detailed Version,” Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, http://www.mbconf.ca/home/products_and_services/resources/theology/confession_of_faith/ (accessed July 25, 2008).
  65. Beck, The Human Person, 130–136. “Image of God” is rarely used in the Bible, whereas “soul” is a translation of nephesh 114 times in the Old Testament and of psychē 25 times in the New (NIV). While the range of meaning in the original terms is wide, the soul remains an important biblical theme.
  66. Lawson G. Stone’s suggestion that the question of body, soul, spirit, mind, and brain might “boil down to bandwidth” is intriguing. See his “The Soul: Possession, Part, or Person?” in Green, What about the Soul? 61.
  67. Beck, The Human Person, 177. Beck cites the opinion of prominent philosopher of mind, Jaegwon Kim, that NRP is an unstable theory that will result in either eliminativism or dualism.
  68. Finger, Contemporary, 559–60.
  69. “Confession of Faith Detailed Version,” Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.
  70. Murphy, “Nonreductive Physicalism,” in Brown, Whatever Happened, 127.
  71. Ibid., 147–8.
  72. Murphy, Religion and Science, 22. See also Dordrecht Confession, Article XVIII.
Terry G. Hiebert is Academic Dean and theology faculty at Steinbach Bible College, Steinbach, Manitoba. He has a Ph.D. in Religion from Baylor University in Texas. He and his wife, Luann, have three married children and two grandchildren. They attend the Gospel Fellowship Church (Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference) in Steinbach.

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