Jon Stovell’s Notebook


On bodies and souls

Often people ask me about the relationship between our bodies and our souls or spirits. The explicit or implicit reason for the question is usually that people are wondering about what happens when we die, but sometimes there are other reasons. The following is an attempt to give an accessible explanation of this profound and complex matter.

First, for orientation, it is helpful to describe at least briefly some of the major views that circulate in our culture. The default assumption in Western culture, including for many Christians, is that humans have two parts, the body and the soul. Some Westerners are materialists, believing that there is only the body and that the mind, will, emotions, etc., are simply the byproduct of neurological processes. Others take the opposite tack and say that the material reality is only an appearance whereas the spiritual is the truly real. Somemore

Theological method, spiritual formation, and textual criticism - Thoughts on Croasmun and Kennedy’s “Improving on ‘Original Manuscripts’”

In 2012 at the Society of Vineyard Scholars annual conference, Matt Croasmun and Todd Kennedy described some problems with the notion of “original manuscripts” in regard to Scriptural texts. They suggest that the distinction between textual criticism and redaction criticism is based on a modern scholarly construct that we have imposed on the past—specifically, a distinction between licit and illicit revision of Scriptural texts, which happened in earlier and later periods, respectively. Croasmun and Kennedy suggest that the process of textual development is continuous, with no discernible transition from one phase to another, and therefore that we should set aside any attempt to distinguish between licit and illicit textual development on the basis of such phases. Instead, they suggest that identifying the authoritative Scriptural words among textual variants should be a matter ofmore

On history, truth, and postmodernism

It is interesting to observe the author of this article, “You Have Your History, I Have Mine.” He recognizes the validity of postmodern critiques of modernist approaches to history, but also the problems of (some forms of) postmodernist approaches. So far, so good. 

But his solution isn’t one at all. He simply wants to set up fences and say to the postmodern critique, “Thus far you may come, but no farther.” That won’t do at all. His “national parks” of historical fact would only be those areas where a given social group—a nation, for example—agreed not to question the traditional narrative. It’s a rearguard action, trying to preserve some modernist “truth” against postmodernism’s “relativistic” “opinion.” It is doomed to fail because there is no discernible rationale to determine where those fences and borders should be drawn. The author actually acknowledges the hopelessnessmore

On human suffering and the problem of evil

Problem: Human suffering.

God is all powerful. God is all loving. Choose one or the other.

Is it a paradox? A Mystery? Is God ‘hidden’ behind the work of Jesus?

Go, theologians.

—Posted by Roger Flyer on Tuesday, July 2, 2013, at 5:12pm

What kind of problem of suffering are you really asking about, Roger? The philosophical problem (or rather, some version of it), or the concrete problem?

To the philosophical problem, I’ll contribute two points:

1) Attempts to make sense of the existence of evil in God’s creation are doomed to failure. This is because trying to make sense of evil’s existence is equivalent to trying to find a reason why it is here, which is to try to give it a rational, proper place in God’s creation. But evil has no rational, proper place in God’s creation. It doesn’t belong heremore