Do I have a soul - Part 2

SERMON TOPIC: Do I have a soul - Part 2

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 26 January 2014


Sermon synopsis: There are 3 main ways in which we can view the world:

1) Materialism holds that there is nothing in the world besides matter. Accordingly, materialists view subjective consciousness as nothing more than the product of the interactions among the neurons in the human brain.

2) Idealism holds that nothing exists in the world except our conscious experiences. Idealists therefore regard the material world as a mere illusion of our consciousness.

3) Dualism is the philosophical tradition embraced by those who wish to reject neither the existence of the material world nor the existence of the mind. Dualists believe that there are two worlds: one of mind, and one of matter.

Gen 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (KJV)
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(PART 2)

Last time we asked the question “Does man have a soul and/ or spirit?” The answer is “Not according to many atheistic psychiatrists and neuroscientists, but ‘Yes’ according to God’s Word.”

Materialists and atheists maintain that the physical world is all there is, and that man has no soul.

Chemical psychology/ psychiatry views man as only a physical being and simply a bunch of chemicals, denying the existence of the non-material soul of man.

NOTE: For the purpose of this study we shall use the terms ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ interchangeably, but we’ll address that aspect next time.


The materialist form of psychiatry says you’re only matter - therefore bad behaviour is due to a chemical imbalance in your brain. Thus you are sick and your behaviour can be treated by drugs which alter your chemical balance.


In contrast God’s Word says that, unlike disease, sin is something we can avoid and overcome.

Unlike real physical diseases, people sin because it is pleasurable and appealing.

People often encourage other people to join with them in sinning while, for example, they wouldn’t encourage others to have a heart attack or cancer.

God will hold you accountable for your actions – you cannot shift the blame to someone or something else.

Bad behaviour is your fault and the problem is with your spirit. You don’t need a pill! Your spirit (which many psychiatrists deny that you even have) needs to be regenerated by God – you become a “new creation”.


If criminal actions are not the acts of free will, but simply the result of chemical imbalances or physical problems in the brain, then we shouldn’t hold criminals accountable.

Michael Merzenich, neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco says, “We operate on the principle that the laws of psychology that govern behaviour are really brain laws that operate on a materialist philosophy. When Johnny can’t read, there’s an explanation in the brain… when Billy has murderous intent, there is explanation for Billy’s murderous intent… Ultimately our plan constitutes a challenge to the societal assessments that led to the principles of common law [based on the presumption of free will].” 1

1 “Neurophysiology, philosophy on collision course?” - Paul Cotton


There are 3 main ways in which we can view the world:

Materialism… holds that there is nothing in the world besides matter… Accordingly, materialists view subjective consciousness as nothing more than the product of the interactions among the neurons in the human brain. 1

Idealism holds that nothing exists in the world except our conscious experiences. Idealists therefore regard the material world as a mere illusion of our consciousness. 1

Dualism is the philosophical tradition embraced by those who wish to reject neither the existence of the material world nor the existence of the mind. Dualists believe that there are two worlds: one of mind, and one of matter. 1

1 "http:// flash/ d/ d_12/ d_12_p/ d_12_p_con/ d_12_p_con.html">http:// flash/ d/ d_12/ d_12_p/ d_12_p_con/ d_12_p_con.html


Besides spiritual and philosophic objections, there have been scientific challenges to the materialist viewpoint as well. Max Planck, the German theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, wrote:

As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter. 1

1 ‘Das Wesen der Materie’, 1944


The following concepts need to be considered when looking at the mind or soul.

Consciousness is the state of being aware of and responsive to one’s surroundings.

Self-awareness is the awareness that one exists as an individual being. It is the belief that certain experiences belong to a ‘me’ as distinct from one’s surroundings.

Will is the mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action.

Personality is the totality of qualities and traits, as of character or behaviour, that are peculiar to a specific person.


Intellect is the ability to learn and reason; the capacity for knowledge and understanding; the ability to think abstractly or profoundly.

Emotions are mental states that arise spontaneously rather than through conscious effort and are often accompanied by physiological changes; the part of the consciousness that involves feeling.

Memory is the mental faculty of retaining and recalling past experience.

Conscience is the awareness of a moral or ethical aspect to one’s conduct together with the urge to prefer right over wrong.



Like psychiatrists, many neuroscientists also adapt the view that all activity previously ascribed to man’s soul and or spirit is simply a function of the brain.

Jean-Pierre Changeux, a French neuroscientist known for his research in several fields of biology says, “Man no longer has need for ‘Spirit’: it is enough for him to be Neuronal Man.” 1

1 Neuronal Man: The Biology of Mind (1983, tr. 1997).


Jean-Pierre Changeux (1936-)

Francis Crick, co-discoverer (with James Watson) of the structure of DNA claimed that “‘you,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules… each of us is the behaviours of a vast, interacting set of neurons.” 1

1 The astonishing Hypothesis, p 3, 206

Francis Crick (1916-2004)


American author and journalist Tom Wolfe wrote an article for Forbes magazine in 1996 titled “Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died”.

The title of the article comes from Nietzsche’s idea that “God is dead,” which the German philosopher presented as a historical fact about 19th century Europe’s abandonment of religion. Wolfe argues that the next step away from God is the idea that the soul is dead, which he believes a ‘prophet’/ scientist will soon proclaim, thus leading to an age of utter immorality (amorality) unparalleled in our history. 1

1 "http:// 2007/ 01/ your-soul-just-died-tom-wolfes.html">http:// 2007/ 01/ your-soul-just-died-tom-wolfes.html


“At that point it may become obvious to everyone that all we are looking at is a piece of machinery, an analog chemical computer, that processes information from the environment… since you can look and look and you will not find any ghostly self inside, or any mind, or any soul… Thereupon, in the year 2006 or 2026, some new Nietzsche will step forward to announce: ‘The soul, that last refuge of values, is dead, because educated people no longer believe it exists.’” 1

1 ‘Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died’

Tom Wolfe (1931-)


Frank Tipler, mathematical physicist and cosmologist made a personal journey from Christian fundamentalism through agnosticism and atheism and back to theism and Christianity. He believes that most physicists are good atheists and bad scientists.

In his book, “The Physics of Christianity” (2007) he argues that the essential beliefs of Christianity are wholly consistent with the laws of physics.


Frank Tipler (1947-)

However compared to traditional Christianity, Tipler has a very non-Orthodox way of defining human life:

I therefore regard a human being as nothing but a particular type of machine, the human brain as nothing but an information processing device, the human soul as nothing but a program being run on a computer called brain. 1


1 The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead (1994)

Philosopher, Karl Popper and neurophysiologist, John Eccles wrote, “And if we are asked why, in the case of a successful brain transplantation, we should expect the personality or the personal character to be transplanted… then we can hardly answer this question without speaking of the mind or the self; nor without speaking of its conjectural liaison with the brain… and we should have to predict … that, after the transplantation, the person will claim identity with the donor of the brain… we conjecture that due to this liaison the brain is the carrier of the self-identity of the person.” 1

1 The self and its brain, p 118, 1985


K. Popper (1902-94)



Mario Beauregard, Ph.D., is an associate research professor at the Departments of Psychology and Radiology and the Neuroscience Research Centre at the University of Montreal. Beauregard says, “I belong to a minority - nonmaterialist neuroscientists. Most scientists today are materialists who believe that the physical world is the only reality.” 1

1 The Spiritual Brain, 2007, p ix

Mario Beauregard


Q: Are mind and brain identical?

Beauregard’s response is:

A: Some materialists say that, but again, they have not demonstrated it. They assume it. Your mind is just the workings of your brain. Non-materialists neuroscientists think differently. They think that the mind relates to the brain the way a movie relates to your TV set. The set does not create the program; it shows it. Of course, that is only an image and does not capture more than one aspect of the relationship between the mind and the brain. But it is a start. 1

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Q: Is the mind an illusion created by the brain?

Beauregard responds, “Materialists generally say yes. However, they have not proved that. Quite the opposite. They start with that assumption, and then they fit anything they see into it. Non-materialist neuroscience demonstrates that the mind is real and can change the brain. For example, Jeffrey Schwartz, a nonmaterialist UCLA neuropsychiatrist, treats obsessive-compulsive disorder by getting patients to reprogram their brains.” 1

1 Ibid


Jeffrey Schwartz

He continues, “Similarly, some of my neuroscientist colleagues at the Université de Montréal and I have demonstrated, via brain imaging techniques, that women and girls can control sad thoughts, men can control responses to erotic films, and people who suffer from phobias such as spider phobia can reorganize their brains so that they lose the fear. Evidence of the mind’s control over the brain is actually captured in these studies. There is such a thing as “mind over matter.” We do have will power, consciousness, and emotions, and combined with a sense of purpose and meaning, we can effect change.” 1

1 Ibid


C.S. Lewis said, “Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”


C.S.Lewis (1898-1963)


There are clearly areas of the brain which control intellect and affect emotions, but contemporary scientists in ethology 1 and evolutionary psychology even seek to explain conscience as a function of the brain. 2

Some are even trying to prove that spiritual experiences have a neural basis and that spirituality ‘evolved’ in humans as a mechanism for coping with the difficulties of life. But they have not been able to discover a single “God spot” in the brain. Rather, according to an article in the Huffington Post, “Spiritual experiences use many different parts of the brain: the God spot is functional rather than anatomical.” 3

1 Ethology is the scientific and objective study of animal behaviour 2 "http:// wiki/ Conscience">http:// wiki/ Conscience 3 " nigel-barber/ the-god-spot-revisited-spirituality-as-evolved-brain-function_b_1779667.html"> nigel-barber/ the-god-spot-revisited-spirituality-as-evolved-brain-function_b_1779667.html


Vilayanur Ramachandran, a neuroscientist known for his work in the fields of Behavioural Neurology and Visual Psycho-physic says, “Even though it’s common knowledge these days, it never ceases to amaze me that all the richness of our mental life-our religious sentiments and even what each of us regards as his own intimate private self-is simply the activity of these little specks of jelly in your head, in your brain. There is nothing else.” 1

1 V. S. Ramachandran, Neuroscientist, Reith Lectures, Lecture 1, 2003

V. S. Ramachandran (1951-)


American geneticist, Dean Hamer says, “I think we follow the basic law of nature, which is that we’re a bunch of chemical reactions running around in a bag.” 1

He has written books proposing that there is both a “gay gene” and a “God gene” (the latter where he claims that spirituality is something that certain people are genetically disposed to). 2

1 “Is God in Our Genes?” Time, 25 Oct 2004 2In response to criticism from religious quarters, Hamer stated that the existence of such a gene would not be incompatible with the existence of a personal God.


Dean Hamer (1951-)

According to this hypothesis, the God gene (VMAT2) is a physiological arrangement that produces the sensations associated, by some, with mystic experiences, including the presence of God or others, or more specifically spirituality as a state of mind. 1

Scientific criticism: Carl Zimmer claimed that VMAT2 can be characterized as a gene that accounts for less than one percent of the variance of self-transcendence scores. These, Zimmer says, can signify anything from belonging to the Green Party to believing in ESP. Zimmer also points out that the God Gene theory is based on only one unpublished, unreplicated study. 1

1 "http:// wiki/ God_gene">http:// wiki/ God_gene


Scientific criticism: Although it is always difficult to determine the many interacting functions of a gene, VMAT2 appears to be involved in the transport of monoamine neurotransmitters across the synapses of the brain. PZ Myers argues: “It’s a pump. A teeny-tiny pump responsible for packaging a neurotransmitter for export during brain activity. Yes, it’s important, and it may even be active and necessary during higher order processing, like religious thought. But one thing it isn’t is a ‘god gene.’” 1

Religious response: John Polkinghorne, an Anglican priest: “You can’t cut faith down to the lowest common denominator of genetic survival. It shows the poverty of reductionist thinking.” 1

1 Ibid


… materialist neuroscientists and philosophers hold that mind, consciousness, and self are by-products of the brain’s electrical and chemical processes, and that RSMEs [religious/ spiritual/ mystical experiences] are ‘nothing but’ brain states or delusions created by neural activity. Accordingly these scientists and philosophers believe that there is no spiritual source for RSMEs, that is, they think that the human brain creates these experiences and, in so doing, creates God. 2

Q: Does the brain mediate spiritual experiences?

Beauregard: “Yes, because the brain mediates all experiences of living human beings. That does not mean that the brain creates the experiences.” 1

1 Ibid 2 Mario Beauregard - “The Spiritual Brain”, 2007, p289


How do neuroscientists conclude that certain areas of the brain are responsible for a particular behaviour pattern?

They will note that there is activity in a particular area of the brain when a certain behaviour occurs - and then proceed to tell us that the observed area of the brain must be the ‘source’ of that behaviour.

But the fact that there is activity in an area of the brain corresponding with a certain behaviour does not ‘prove’ that the brain is the source.



Just imagine you are observing behaviour at a bus stop. People start arriving until the area is crowded, and then - suddenly along comes a bus.

Did the people cause the bus to arrive (A caused B)?

Did the bus cause the people to arrive (B caused A)?

Neither, they both depended on a bus timetable (C caused both A and B).


Similarly we know that brain activity in parts of the motor cortex and frontal lobes correlates with our conscious decisions to act. But: (1) does the brain activity cause our decisions, (2) do our conscious decisions cause the brain activity, (3) are they both caused by something else, (4) or is the brain activity the same as the conscious decision?

So while many neuroscientists claim that our actions all originate in the brain, the truth is that neuroscience does not have a sufficiently detailed understanding of our decision-making to rule out the possibility of a non-physical component. They have observed correlations in brain activity and certain behaviour patterns and have assumed a certain cause-effect model.


Beauregard states, “… demonstrating that specific brain states are associated with RSMEs does not show that such experiences are “nothing but” brain states. And the fact that RSMEs have neural substrates does not mean that they are merely illusions. Thoughts and emotions are also associated with specific brain regions and circuits, but only radical materialists would say that they are illusions merely because they are neurally grounded.” 1

1 “The Spiritual Mind. A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul”, Dr. Mario Beauregard & Denyse O’Leary, Harper One, New York, 2007


Q: Can neuroscience demonstrate the existence of God?

Beauregard says, “No, because God cannot be compelled to serve as a subject in neuroscience research. Non-materialist neuroscience can demonstrate that the mind is not the same thing as the brain. It can propose treatments that work as a direct consequence of that fact. It can also help explain related phenomena such as telepathy and near death experiences that change lives. All of these things are consistent with belief in God, as the Mind behind the universe. No, they don’t prove God's existence, but they are consistent with it.” 1

1 Ibid



Materialists maintain that the physical world is all there is, and that man has no soul. Consequently, death results in physical extinction or annihilation and there is no such thing as immortality.



In contrast, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

As Christians we believe that there is more to the human being than can be proven scientifically, and there is more to life than what we perceive with our senses.

Q: What is a soul?

Firstly, it is something which is distinguished from the body:

Isa 10:18 And He will destroy the glory of his forest and of his fruitful garden, both soul and body, And it will be as when a sick man wastes away. (NASB)

3 John 2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.


The body of man was lifeless until he received the breath of God.

Gen 2:7 (KJV) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

So in answer to the question “Do I have a soul?” one might argue that the most accurate Biblical response is actually:

“You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” 1

… and man became a living soul. Gen 2:7 (KJV)

Phil 1:23-24 I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

Note how Paul refers to himself as something distinct from his body.

1 Incorrectly attributed by some to C.S. Lewis, but a paraphrase of a George McDonald quote in Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood. McDonald was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister. He was a pioneering figure in the field of fantasy literature and the mentor of fellow writer Lewis Carroll.


When the spirit leaves the body, the body is dead:

James 2:26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Matt 27:50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

If the spirit returns to the body, the person comes back to life:

Luke 8:55a Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up.


At death the soul / spirit returns to God. Note Stephen’s prayer while they were stoning him (Act 7:59).

Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

Materialists say that consciousness is simply a result of brain activity. Therefore when the brain dies, all consciousness ceases.

The Bible clearly teaches that there is a part of man which survives after the body is dead. In the passage below, although the soul survived, the phrase “they came to life” shows that man is incomplete without the body.

Rev 20:4 … And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.


I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. (Rev 6:9)

Rev 6:10-11 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

The above passage indicates the existence of a soul apart from the body and consciousness subsequent to death.


They had been killed (so their bodies were dead).

Their souls had survived death.



They had consciousness and self awareness - they were aware of who they were.

They had memories of how they had been killed.

There is a conversation going on indicating the capacity for speech and hearing.

They had intellect and reason – they were aware of the concept of justice and were pleading God to avenge their murder.

They had a will – they were encouraged to exercise patience.


With the story he related of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, Jesus taught that consciousness exists outside of the body after death.


The rich man could see (he saw Abraham and Lazarus), could speak (called out to Abraham), could hear (heard Abraham’s reply) and could feel (was in agony and was thirsty).


The rich man could remember. He recognized Lazarus and remembered that he had a father and brothers. (Luke 16:27-28)


… send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers.

Abraham also appealed to his memory of a misspent life. (Luke 16:25)

Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things…

He could reason – he reasoned that if his brothers were warned they would change and not suffer his fate (Luke 16:27-28). This also indicates emotion – he was concerned about his brothers’ fate.


Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.


Does consciousness and memory cease when the brain dies? Not according to the Bible and not according to many who have had NDEs (Near Death Experiences).

There are well documented incidents of people having NDEs while brain dead.

When asked, “Can the mind be active when the brain is non-functional?”, neuroscientist Mario Beauregard’s response was:

Much serious near death research suggests so. Reports of near death experiences are more common now, on account of the fact that high tech interventions frequently bring people back from states of death. 1

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Many people claim to have clinically died (zero brain activity and stopped heart) and then returned to live in the body. The atheistic response is that any experiences can be explained naturally from physical and chemical properties of the body. They argue that NDEs only occur during the time there is brain activity i.e. just before death or when regaining consciousness. It is maintained that NDEs are the product of the brain and so cannot happen whilst clinically brain dead. To counter the atheistic view, there are well documented incidents of people describing events, activity and conversations whilst in the state of brain death. They describe specific earthly events such as operating theatre activity that happened during brain death. This strongly suggests the existence of consciousness beyond physical death. 1

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At this point in near-death studies, researchers are particularly interested in studying those NDEs that may provide an answer to the question of whether the mind can function outside the physical body. This is the first step in determining whether consciousness can survive bodily death. One way is to discover this is to examine those NDEs which are ‘veridical’ (verifiable). Veridical NDEs occur when the experiencer acquires verifiable information which they could not have obtained by any normal means. 1

Often, near-death experiencers report witnessing events that happen at some distant location away from their body, such as another room of the hospital. 1

1 " experiences/ evidence02.html"> experiences/ evidence02.html


Raymond A. Moody, Jr. (born June 30, 1944) is a psychologist and medical doctor. He is most famous as an author of books about life after death and near-death experiences (NDE), a term that he coined in 1975 in his best-selling book Life After Life. 1

The book, which sold more than 13 million copies, is a report on a qualitative study in which Moody interviewed 150 people who had experienced NDEs.

1 "http:// wiki/ Raymond_Moody">http:// wiki/ Raymond_Moody


Dr. Raymond Moody (1944-)

The following are some examples of veridical NDEs documented by Moody:

EXAMPLE 1: One patient told Moody, “After it was all over the doctor told me that I had a really bad time, and I said, ‘Yeah, I know.’ He said, ‘Well, how do you know?’ and I said, ‘I can tell you everything that happened.’ He didn’t believe me, so I told him the whole story, from the time I stopped breathing until the time I was kind of coming around. He was really shocked to know that I knew everything that had happened. He didn’t know quite what to say, but he came in several times to ask me different things about it.” 1

1 experiences/ evidence02.html


EXAMPLE 2: An elderly woman had been blind since childhood. But, during her NDE, the woman had regained her sight and she was able to accurately describe the instruments and techniques used during the resuscitation her body. After the woman was revived, she reported the details to her doctor. She was able to tell her doctor who came in and out, what they said, what they wore, what they did, all of which was true. Her doctor then referred the woman to Moody who he knew was doing research at the time on NDEs. 1

Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see. - Helen Keller

1 experiences/ evidence03.html


EXAMPLE 3: In another instance a woman with a heart condition was dying at the same time that her sister was in a diabetic coma in another part of the same hospital. The subject reported having a conversation with her sister as both of them hovered near the ceiling watching the medical team work on her body below. When the woman awoke, she told the doctor that her sister had died while her own resuscitation was taking place. The doctor denied it, but when she insisted, he had a nurse check on it. The sister had, in fact, died during the time in question. 1

1 experiences/ evidence02.html


EXAMPLE 4: A dying girl left her body and into another room in the hospital where she found her older sister crying and saying: “Oh, Kathy, please don’t die, please don’t die.” The older sister was quite baffled when, later, Kathy told her exactly where she had been and what she had been saying during this time. 1

Perhaps the most famous case of this kind is that of Maria, originally reported by her critical care social worker, Kimberly Clark (1984). Maria was a migrant worker who, while visiting friends in Seattle, had a severe heart attack. She was rushed to Harborview Hospital and placed in the coronary care unit. A few days later, she had a cardiac arrest and an unusual out-of-body experience. 2

1 Ibid 2 evidence.php


At one point in this experience, she found herself outside the hospital and spotted a single tennis shoe sitting on the ledge of the north side of the third floor of the building. Maria not only was able to indicate the whereabouts of this oddly situated object, but was able to provide precise details concerning its appearance, such as that its little toe was worn and one of its laces was stuck underneath its heel. 1

1 Ibid


Kimberly Clark Sharpe

Upon hearing Maria’s story, Clark, with some considerable degree of skepticism and metaphysical misgiving, went to the location described to see whether any such shoe could be found. Indeed it was, just where and precisely as Maria had described it, except that from the window through which Clark was able to see it, the details of its appearance that Maria had specified could not be discerned. Clark concluded: “The only way she could have had such a perspective was if she had been floating right outside and at very close range to the tennis shoe. I retrieved the shoe and brought it back to Maria; it was very concrete evidence for me.” (Clark, 1984, p.243). 1

1 Ibid.


Pam Reynolds Lowery… from Atlanta, Georgia, was an American singer-songwriter. In 1991, at the age of 35, she stated that she had a near-death experience (NDE) during a brain operation performed by Robert F. Spetzler at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Her experience is one of the most notable and widely documented in near-death studies because of the unusual circumstances under which it happened. Reynolds was under close medical monitoring during the entire operation. 1

1 http:// wiki/ Pam_Reynolds_case


Pam Reynolds (1956-2010) [Photo: Rick Diamond]

During part of the operation she had no brain-wave activity and no blood flowing in her brain, which rendered her clinically dead. She claimed to have made several observations during the procedure which later medical personnel reported to be accurate. 1

In an interview that took place for a BBC documentary in 2002, Spetlzer affirmed many of the observations that Pam had made and later admitted that he had no explanation for them. 2

1 Ibid 2 http:// wiki/ Robert_F._Spetzler


Robert F. Spetzler (1944-)

Dr. Michael Sabom is a cardiologist in Atlanta who researches NDEs. His book “Light and Death” investigates almost 50 cases including a detailed analysis of the NDE of Pam Reynolds which occurred while undergoing a rare operation to remove a basilar artery aneurysm in her brain.

This operation, nicknamed ‘standstill’ by the doctors who perform it, required that Pam’s body temperature be lowered to 60 degrees, her heartbeat and breathing stopped, her brain waves flattened, and the blood drained from her head. 1

1 experiences/ evidence01.html

Michael Sabom


When all of Pam’s vital signs were stopped, the doctor turned on a surgical saw and began to cut through Pam’s skull. While this was going on, Pam reported that she felt herself ‘pop’ outside her body and hover above the operating table. Then she watched the doctors working on her lifeless body for awhile. 1

Pam recalled what the nurses had said in the operating room and events that happened during the operation.

From her out-of-body position, she observed the doctor sawing into her skull with what looked to her like an electric toothbrush. 1 Sabom got a photo from the manufacturer — and it does indeed look like an electric toothbrush.

1 experiences/ evidence01.html


There were 20 doctors in the room. She recalls a conversation about the veins in her left leg. She was defibrillated (i.e. delivered a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the heart). They were playing “Hotel California.”

Prior to the operation proceeding, Reynolds was placed under general anaesthesia, then had her eyes taped shut and a monitoring device placed in both of her ears. She was later induced into clinical death by Spetzler and his team, which was necessary for the operation to take place. 1

At this time, every monitor attached to Pam’s body registered ‘no life’ whatsoever. For practical purposes outside the world of academic debate, three clinical tests commonly determine brain death. 2

1 http:// wiki/ Robert_F._Spetzler 2 experiences/ evidence01.html


First, a standard electroencephalogram, or EEG, measures brain-wave activity. A ‘flat’ EEG denotes non-function of the cerebral cortex – the outer shell of the cerebrum. 1

1 Ibid


EEG sensing device

Second, auditory evoked potentials, similar to those [clicks] elicited by the ear speakers in Pam’s surgery, measure brain-stem viability. Absence of these potentials indicates non-function of the brain stem. 1

And third, documentation of no blood flow to the brain is a marker for a generalized absence of brain function. 1

But during “standstill”, Pam’s brain was found “dead” by all three clinical tests - her electroencephalogram was silent, her brain-stem response was absent, and no blood flowed through her brain. Interestingly, while in this state, she encountered the “deepest” NDE of all Atlanta Study participants. 1

1 Ibid


Some scientists theorize that NDEs are produced by brain chemistry. But, Dr. Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist and the leading authority in Britain concerning NDEs, believes that these theories fall far short of the facts. 1

1 Ibid


Peter Fenwick (1935-)

In the documentary, “Into the Unknown: Strange But True,” Dr. Fenwick describes the state of the brain during a NDE: “The brain isn’t functioning. It’s not there. It’s destroyed. It’s abnormal. But, yet, it can produce these very clear experiences… an unconscious state is when the brain ceases to function. For example, if you faint, you fall to the floor, you don’t know what’s happening and the brain isn’t working. The memory systems are particularly sensitive to unconsciousness. So, you won’t remember anything. But, yet, after one of these experiences [a NDE], you come out with clear, lucid memories… This is a real puzzle for science. I have not yet seen any good scientific explanation which can explain that fact.” 1

1 Ibid


Then there are cases where people born blind can see during a NDE. Vicki Umipeg was one of the more than 30 people interviewed by Dr. Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper (authors of the book ‘Mindsight’) during a 2-year study concerning NDEs of the blind.

Vicki was born blind, her optic nerve having been completely destroyed at birth because of an excess of oxygen she received in the incubator. Yet, she appears to have been able to see during her NDE. Her story is a particularly clear instance of how NDEs of the congenitally blind can unfold in precisely the same way as do those of sighted persons. 1

1 experiences/ evidence03.html


Vicki Umipeg


The Bible teaches that man’s soul continues to live after the body dies. We read of Rachel:

It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. (Gen 35:18 NASB)

If the soul survives death, this necessitates the soul being something distinct from the physical body.


We know that Jesus’ body was laid in a tomb, so how could he be in paradise unless he had a distinct soul?

Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)

Paul speaks of remaining in his body as opposed to departing from his body and being with Christ. He thus considers the body to be a housing place for the real person (the soul).

Phil 1:21-24 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.


The body is a tent in which the real person lives:

2 Cor 5:1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.


The body simply houses the soul, which is the “real you”.

2 Cor 5:2-9 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. 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.


In 2 Cor 5:8 (NASB) Paul says that when we are “absent from the body” we will be “at home with the Lord”. When Jesus returns, he brings those who have died with him:

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (1 Thess 5:13-14)


As dualists, most Christians believe that we have a non-physical soul that controls our bodies by causing effects in the brain that propagate via the nervous system to our muscles. Those who understand the world solely in terms of physical causes raise an objection known as the “interaction problem”: How could a non-physical cause have an effect on something physical? Here is an interesting response to that objection by Alexander Pruss:

The interaction problem is a red herring (a “red herring” is a fallacy in argumentation that distracts from the real issue). Yes, it is very mysterious how a non-physical cause could have a physical effect. But (at least given a non-deterministic physics like quantum mechanics) it is no more mysterious than how any cause could have an effect. 1

1 http:// blog/ 2013/ aug/ 19/ can-soul-interact-body/


Sir Isaac Newton said that the sun has a gravitational effect on distant planets. Philosophers wondered: How could that be? Certainly such causation at a distance is mysterious, but it is not just a thing’s being at a distance that makes it mysterious—it is causation that is a mysterious tie between distinct events. How can one thing cause another? That is the mystery of causation, but it is no more puzzling when one of the things is physical and the other is non-physical than when they are both physical. 1

1 Ibid


This passage in Ecclesiastes seems to be using metaphors about the connection between the soul / spirit and the body being severed at the time of death. 1

Eccl 12:6-7 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

1 The general break-up of life is here delineated, not the progress of destruction in certain organs or parts of the human frame. The cord is what we should call the thread of life, on which hangs the body lit by the animating soul; when the connection between these is severed, the latter perishes, like a fallen lamp lying crushed on the ground. In this our view the cord is the living power which keeps the corporeal substance from failing to ruin; the bowl is the body itself thus upheld. (Pulpit Commentary ecclesiastes/ 12-6.htm)


Jesus promised his followers eternal life:

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life

John 10: 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

John 17:2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

John 6:40 “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”


John 3:14-16 … the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.” (John 5:24-26)

John 5:28-29 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

The epistles reaffirm that, in Jesus, we have been promised immortality by God:

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Tim 1:10 … our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Titus 1:2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time

1 John 2:25 And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.



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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (