Customer Reviews: Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate
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on January 4, 2007
A must read on eschathology. Very well written, balanced, fair, not triumphalistic but cautious, yet firm in its conclusions. Bravo Cooper!

The author notices that absolute, metaphysical and anthropological dualism (Augustine, Calvin, Aquinas and Swinburne) has fallen on hard times due to the influence of Materialism (Hobbes), Behaviorism, Spinozism, Psychology (which tends to support epiphenomenalism), and some Theology (e.g., Cullman). Nowadays, it seems that the old antithesis of body/soul; mind/matter; this life/the otherworld, is coming under increasing criticism. Some theologians no longer believe in an intermediate state after death (a state between death and final resurrection), denying that it is possible for the "soul" to survive physical death as a conscious, living subsistent being. These theologians prefer to support either: a) soul sleep (also known as extinction/re-creation theory; or b) immediate resurrection, which claims that at death we are immediately resurrected in the presence of God. The anthropological view advocated by these theologians is known as "ontological holism." Aristotle for instance, did not believe in immortality of the soul. Cooper does not agree with this view; in his book he examines the OT, the inter-testamental writings, the NT (in the Gospels, Pauline and non Pauline writings), to find evidence that supports the traditional Christian belief in an intermediate state after death. Himself no friend of metaphysical dualism, he proposes what he calls, "holistic dualism" or, to use another term, "functional holism." At the end of the book he considers six objections to his theory and concludes by citing the support that his theory has in traditional thinkers like Cobb, Pope John Paul II, Neo-Calvinism and Thomas Aquinas.
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on September 29, 2006
Cooper defends what he states has been the major view throughout church history: holistic dualism. By that term he means that human nature is of one substance with two primary modes of existence: body and soul inseparable in this life and the next. Cooper sees all other views of the nature of human nature as lacking biblical, theological, and historical support.

His study of Hebrews anthropological terms, while interesting, diminishes the conclusions of the classic work by H. W. Wolff. Though Wolfe would agree that there is great semantic overlap among the various terms, he expertly explains that the terms do have a semantic emphasis, and that we can develop a biblical anthropology from those terms. When all is said and done, Wolff's view might be called "Holistic polychotomy"--human nature is one nature with many functions, summarized as relational, rational, volitional, emotional, and physical.

Reviewer: Robert Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of "Biblical Psychology," "Soul Physicians," "Spiritual Friends," and "Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction."
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on June 24, 2015
In recent years, I have been influenced by several prominent and capable monist scholars. I considered their work exemplary and seriously considered the possibility of monism being true. When I discussed the topic with my childhood pastor, a theologian of high-caliber, he highly recommended this book to me. He told me that it had firmly established and settled for him that dualism (that is holistic dualism) is the strongest anthropological position from the Biblical data. I took his recommendation seriously. Yet I still started the book with trepidation, half expecting a polemic with shaky argumentation. Initially I found the introductory tone of his book to be a bit of an eye-roller. Nevertheless, I soon realized and came to respect the fact that the author had no intention of hiding behind the vain illusion of objectivity. He firmly believes in holistic dualism, argues from his presuppositional framework, and has no qualms doing so. The fact that he finds dualism under attack (which it certainly is) and in need of quality defense is ultimately noble of him. However, where some would fall prey to subjective blinders under such presuppositional conditions, Mr. Cooper does the exact opposite and argues his position with theological and philosophical precision. As I delved further into the book, I found that he precisely addressed many of my objections to dualism and gave very compelling Scriptural and philosophical answers.

The quality I most appreciated in this book was Mr. Cooper’s articulation of a dualism that is free from the errors of Platonic and Cartesian influence; a dualism that is Biblical and not pagan in origin; a dualism that is holistic and not dichotomous. Initially Mr. Cooper appears to side more with a Thomistic anthropology of the soul, which holds to the Aristotelian idea of the soul being the body’s form. However, speculations of Thomism aside, he argues that the Bible, by logical inference, minimally presents a substantival soul, intricately combined with the body, that is able to consciously survive the death of the physical body, and though not immortal (inherently impervious to destruction) it is nonetheless upheld by God in the intermediate state until the resurrection. Such a soul is weak and lethargic without the body, needing the body for fullness of life. Essentially, without God upholding its continued existence, and without an eventual reunion with the body, it would, like an artificially maintained organ, eventually run out of energy and cease to function. Such a soul squares plainly with the revelatory witness of Scripture and is compatible with both traditionalist and conditionalist eschatology of man’s final state.

One other quality I appreciated in Mr. Cooper’s work was his coverage of the scientific literature concerning the physiology and psychology of the brain. The simple truth that brain states generate mental states does not preclude the fact that mental states often and equally generate brain states. Scientists acknowledge and struggle with the fact that the causation of brain states is not always physiological, but often immaterially psychological. Thus, holistic dualism is a valid interpretation, which posits the existence of a substantival, psychological soul that affects the brain and is affected by the brain. They are intricately linked. There are well-known, respected scientists who agree that a soul of a separate (yet heretofore undiscovered) substance from the brain is a valid solution to psychophysiological interactionism. So while monists often charge dualism with being unscientific, to the contrary holistic dualism is able to enter the scientific arena and posit a solution that validly interprets the data.

In the end, this book has done exactly for me what my childhood pastor said it did for him: I am firmly settled. Furthermore, I greatly appreciate that Mr. Cooper has given me an anthropological framework that enables me to remain orthodox while remaining confident in its scientific and philosophical veracity. Well done Mr. Cooper!
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on March 3, 2014
Summary: A carefully written and researched defense of the traditional view of the soul over and against anthropological monism. Monism refers to the body and the soul being the same thing and dualism refers to the soul continuing to exist independently of an earthly body.

Under a variety of pressures, Christian scholars have been moving away from understanding the Bible to teach dualism in anthropology. In some circles dualism has become the supposed cause of almost all ills. The more academically palatable view is now monism.

Among Christians who have a high view of Scripture, the pressure comes from a concern to decouple biblical theology from Platonic or philosophical influences, an unfortunate confusion about proper inference and speculation in developing theological outcomes from the Bible, and confusing the historical literalism of Augustine and the Reformation with Spinoza’s literalism.

Among liberals the theological pressure includes a similar mix but also a bias towards materialism and against the supernatural. The materialistic bias is so ambient as to influence all parties.

Dr. Cooper shows that accepting monism requires jettisoning some biblical texts, heavy-handed interpretation of other texts, creating unique ad hoc explanations of the intermediate state (including immediate recreation at death), requiring Paul to change his views on the soul midstream, or embracing doctrines openly rejected by the historical church and the Bible for instance soul sleep. The rational deficiencies of monism in coordination with a resurrection are no less troubling.

Dr. Cooper argues that both the Old and New Testament require dualism and that while Greek dualism is similar to the Bible’s doctrine it is not identical. He notes that historically theologians like Augustine and Calvin were incautious in describing the soul along Platonic lines and that as Cartesian and Kantian dualism captured the academic imagination theologians tended to minimize the Bible’s more holistic dualism. Yet none of these historical mistakes warrant rejecting dualism.

Exemplar quote:

Let me outline my version of dualism. . .If to be absent from the body for me is to be with the Lord—still “in Christ” and “living together with him” as I am already now, then I must exist between my death and the resurrection. And I must be able to enjoy fellowship with Christ in some way. . .That is all we know from the New Testament. It does not say more. It does not elaborate. It does not describe in detail. For anyone to say more than this is indeed to speculate.

But certain things necessarily follow from this modest biblical teaching. If this doctrine is true, then other things must also be true, for they are contained in or entailed by its truth. Simply put, the doctrine cannot possibly be true if these other things are not true. For example, if I am with Christ, then I—my essential selfhood or core person—must survive physical death. The being or entity who I am must continue to exist. In striking ways that being might be different from the being who now lives embodied on earth. . .But the being or thing that I am must continue to exist. Otherwise it would not be I but someone or something else that is with Christ (176-177).

Benefits/Detriments: An extremely helpful resource in considering the body/soul distinction biblically, historically, and philosophically. Suggested for pastors and college students.
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on October 16, 2005
This book wasn't quite what I expected. What I thought it would be is a thorough survey of Biblical anthropology--that is, human nature as presented in the Bible--and a philosophically-minded hermeneutics thereof to extract some data with respect to the mind/body and monism/dualism question. And it is that, sort of. But a more complete description of what it is is an opinionated quasi-screed against monism as the philosophical Zeitgeist of our age. The author has an agenda, and he minces no words furthering it. The thing is, this kind of book is just the thing that could always stand more word-mincing, so to speak. I have no problem with the author having an opinion on his chosen subject and being open about it, it's just that the tone of his particular approach comes out sounding to this reader like at least two parts rhetoric for every one part argumentation.

To begin the book, we're harangued repeatedly with the reminder that if traditional dualism is false, then almost all of Christendom has believed a fundamental falsehood about human nature. Then, the traditional dualist view is presented as under attack from all fronts in Christian scholarship and direly needing defending. This dichotomy sort of sets the tone for the rest of the book.

The OT portion of the book mainly analyzes the various uses of the Hebrew words "ruach" and "nephesh," especially with respect to Sheol. I found all this thoroughly confusing, but Cooper, from somewhere, pulls the conclusion that the data _in toto_ support his own "holistic dualist" view. Then there's a lot of space given to analyzing such language in the intertestamental Apocrypha, and I just did not find this of much interest, these works being noncanonical in the Protestant church. There are all *kinds* of loopy stuff in the Apocrypha, and I really did not understand the point of trying to extract a coherent anthropology from it all. In total, the emphasis of this first 40% or so of the book seemed to be on "What various people through the ages have believed" rather than "What the Bible teaches or assumes". That's kind of disappointing.

Around the middle of the book, where the NT is discussed, a serious and identifiable problem emerges in Cooper's methodology: he sets up a trichotomy between dualism, and, with respect to the resurrection, "extinction-recreationism" and "immediate resurrectionism." Now, "immediate resurrectionism" seems all but untenable Biblically, yet the author spends a lot of time debunking it next to dualism. So all that just comes off as so much straw-man-beating. The deeper and purely philosophical problem with this approach is in Cooper's other straw man, "extinction-recreationism." He simply equates death with nonexistence, and this is a thesis that needs argument, not assumption. In fact, it seems to practically beg the question in favor of his own position.

To me, the mere future fact of the general resurrection just prima facie points to an anthropology of human persons as essentially material beings, to where there needs to be an independent reason shown for thinking that we're consciously disembodied in the interim before being reunited with our bodies: otherwise, it just seems blatantly arbitrary that there should be a resurrection. Cooper does not address this issue by giving reasons for thinking of ourselves this way, but rather simply demolishes some suspiciously gerrymandered-looking strawmen, leaving his own view as the sole remaining competitor. He does say against "extinction-recreation" that if a person is to be re-created, it is logically possible for duplicates of the person to be re-created, and hence there is a fundamental problem with reinstantiation of the original identity rather than duplication of the originally-born person. Here, at last, is an interesting philosophical argument (although not quite a persuasive one, seeing as how it leans on purely "logical possibility," which I'm inclined to be maximally skeptical about--it's "logically possible" I could wake up tomorrow morning as a centipede, but I'm also quite sure it's 100% metaphysically impossible, and hence impossible _tout court_, that I will, or could); unfortunately, it's about the only one in the book I could detect.

At the end of the book, I am still not sure what "holistic dualism" is and how to picture it conceptually. What it does smack of is giving a name to a sort of mathematical mean of all different positions and thereby trying to get the best of all worlds, rather than presenting a unified, explanatory, and independently desirable picture of human nature.

Up to now it probably sounds like I almost hated the book, yet I gave it three stars. Really, I'm being more cranky than I should (largely because it's late and I'm tired); _Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting_ is not totally unhelpful. Although lots of ink is spilled jostling ham-fistedly with strawmen or otherwise being awfully contentious, Cooper is quite conversant with the scholarly Biblical literature, although somewhat less so with the contemporary philosophical literature. The book does give a broad survey of views on the topic; it's just that I found the author's approach far more irksome than winning.
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on May 2, 2014
Gave great insight and depth to the topic at hand. It was well written and a joy to read. I will read it again soon.
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on March 11, 2015
A good book for the serious reader. Good discussion of the essentials of body and spirit.
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on July 4, 2014
Heavy reading but very good.
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on November 19, 2013
This book is the most influenced. I have questioned what condition a man who died before Jesus' second coming. This book makes me know correctly
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on August 27, 2010
In depth study - strong argument for position. A wealth of knowledge in one book.
I highly recommend reading and maintaining for reference.
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