Do we have souls? We have good reason to think so. Our transphysical souls (transcending the physical realm)—and God’s presence to them—allow for twelve capacities that are inaccessible to artificial and animal consciousness.
Our souls also give us the capacity to survive bodily death and experience continued existence in a transphysical domain.
The twelve capacities of the human soul are as follows:
- The capacity for self-consciousness—inwardness—allowing us to experience and apprehend ourselves, and to create a private inner world.
- The capacity for conceptual ideas allowing us to have abstract thoughts, syntactical control, and conceptual language.
- The desire for perfect truth—enabling us to recognize all imperfections in our knowledge—causing us to ask questions indefinitely until we reach perfect truth (the knowledge of everything about everything—complete intelligibility).
- The recognition of the spiritual-sacred-numinous-transcendent reality (God), causing fascination, worship, awe, and obedience—which draws us to enter into a deeper relationship with him—bringing us to his transcendent, eternal, and sacred essence.
- The desire for the perfect home—enabling us to recognize the imperfections of our worldly existence—causing us to pursue the sacred and its source until we have reached our perfect home.
- The capacity for empathy—which recognizes the unique goodness and lovability of the other—creating the desire to care about and care for the other even to the point of self-sacrificial love.
- The desire for perfect love—enabling us to recognize all imperfections in love—causing us to pursue deeper and more authentic love until we have reached perfect love.
- The capacity for moral reflection, originating from conscience—which is God’s moral presence to our self-consciousness.
- The desire for perfect justice/goodness, enabling us to recognize all imperfections in justice/goodness (in groups, organizations, and community) causing us to pursue more perfect forms of justice and the common good until we have reached perfect justice/goodness.
- The capacity to appreciate and be filled by the beautiful in nature, music, art, architecture, literature, intellectual ideas, love, and goodness—causing us to seek ever greater forms of beauty until we reach perfect beauty-majesty-splendor itself.
- The desire for perfect beauty—enabling us to recognize all imperfections in beauty—causing us to pursue ever greater beauty until we reach perfect beauty itself.
- The capacity for free will—self-consciousness’ orientation toward either itself or toward others and God (in goodness and love)—explained below.
When these capacities are understood properly in light of the evidence presented above in the first through fourth topic areas, there can be little doubt about the truth of the proclamation in Genesis that God has made us in his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:27).
So How Does Free Will Operate?
It arises out of a combination of several of the capacities of our transphysical soul (and God’s presence to it). At the center of free will is our capacity for self-consciousness enabling us to create our own inner world—indeed to create our own moral essence.
When God gave a transphysical soul to the first human beings—and to all subsequent human beings—he not only bestowed on them the capacity for self-awareness and self-definition, he also gave them the other capacities mentioned above.
Key among these are empathy, conscience, and the awareness of him (the spiritual-sacred-numinous-transcendent reality). This gave a fundamental option to human beings—to orient their thoughts and actions toward themselves—toward their inner world (self-centeredness or egocentricity)—or toward him (in worship and prayer), others (through empathy and care), and the good (through conscience).
Both options have a fundamental attraction, but in many respects, they are opposed to one another.
One might say that the first human beings felt a call to aggrandize and enrich themselves (to turn inward)—and a call to reverence God, respect and help their fellow human beings, and obey their conscience (to turn and contribute outwardly).
As will be discussed below, the call to God, others, and virtue was much stronger than the call to serve and aggrandize ourselves. One might say that God gave a substantial advantage to the call to holiness, love, and goodness. How?
By manifesting the immense beauty and lovability of his own essence—as well as his goodness and love. It was almost irresistible, but not completely irresistible; for God wanted human beings to choose him and his way over-against the possibility of choosing ourselves as our primary orientation.
Let’s call this “the original state of human beings.” In this state human beings were free to choose God and others as a primary orientation or to choose themselves—but the beauty and lovability of the first option was much stronger than that of the egocentric option.
With this brief introduction, we may now discuss the following three topics:
- The fall and original sin (Section I)
- What happened to human nature and free will after the fall? (Section II)
- The science and the biblical account of original sin. (Section III)
This article was first published on the Magis Center Blog. It has been republished here with permission.