Human Nature and Human Condition

Key Words

  • Soul - The spiritual/non-material part of a person
  • Immortality - The idea the soul lives on after the death of the body
  • Physicalism - The belief that the real world is nothing more than the physical one

Human Nature

  • IMAGO DEI - Humans created in the image of God.
  • Therefore have some God-like characteristics.
  • We can be rational, morally and spiritually aware.
  • We have free will (or believe we do)
  • Therefore, these qualities make us different from other animals and are part of what it is to be human.
  • However -
    • We are 'fallen'.
    • This means humans are inclined to sin.

St Augustine's View

  • 2 parts - body and soul
  • Both necessary to be human and both created by God.
  • Soul = more rational and moral
  • Body = more driven by instinct and physical drives
  • THEREFORE, soul should guide the body (like a rider and a horse)
  • Since 'The Fall', the body has become rebellious and sometimes refuses to obey soul. = CONCUPISCENCE
  • When people sin, they go against their better judgement.
  • Therefore, when people wrong, when they know it is wrong, = CONCUPISCENCE IN ACTION

Body, Soul and Spirit


  • Physical part of a human.
  • Gen 2, God creates Adam out of dust of the earth, out of physical 'stuff'
  • 'Your body is the temple of the holy spirit' (Corinthians 6:19)

Soul and Spirit:

  • Soul = life force
  • Spirit = breath of God
  • Essential to be human
  • 'The body apart from the spirit is dead' (James 2:26)

Why do people believe in a soul?

  • Some think NDEs prove consciousness doesn't come from brain, and argue consciousness survives death. Therefore must come from soul.
  • Bible says everyone has a soul.
  • Some think this is an explanation for moral conscience.
  • Can argue that without a soul, there is no 'you' throughout your life. - Nothing physical remains same (cells replaced etc)


  • Physicalism is the belief that only physical things exist.
  • Reject belief in spiritual beings
  • They say none of the 'evidence' for a soul is convincing.
  • Might argue religious experiences can be explained by brains activity.

  • No hard evidence for a soul.
  • Evidence for soul is weak, as it is subjective and hard to repeat in controlled circumstances.
  • Clear possible rational explanations for supposed evidence for soul (eg NDEs, numinous experiences etc)
  • Belief in soul is likely to be wishful thinking.