Until relatively recently, most people believed that human beings are constituted of both body and soul. With the rise of materialism, Darwinism, and neuroscience, however, this notion is under scrutiny and dismissed by most secular thinkers as ridiculous. The notion that humans have souls is tantamount to a “ghost in the machine,” as British philosopher Gilbert Ryle put it.
The existence of the soul is important to Christianity for a variety of reasons. First, the Scriptures teach that humans have souls. If we don’t, then Scripture is wrong. Second, if humans lack souls, then there is no life beyond the grave (at least prior to the resurrection). But apart from the Bible or human tradition, why should we think the soul exists? That is the subject of J.P. Moreland’s newest book, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters.
This is not the first book Moreland has written on the subject, but it is the first book that is easily accessible to a lay audience. In less than 200 pages, Moreland lays out the case for the existence of the soul, the nature of the soul/consciousness, and the afterlife. He manages to examine the Biblical teaching on the topic as well.
While the modern tendency is to reduce the mind to the brain (appealing to neuroscience for empirical evidence), Moreland argues that this is manifestly false because mental properties are not identical to brain properties. If mental properties cannot be reduced to physical properties, then the mind is not a physical thing, but an immaterial substance.