Continuing our discussion of Joel Green’s Body, Soul, and Human Life, here is the first of a few critical comments that I make about the book.
Green’s book is both commendable and unique for the way in which it brings together the neurosciences and biblical hermeneutics to understand the human person. This unique combination is timely and thought-provoking, and the book warrants close reading for that reason alone.
At the same time, however, Green’s work is marred by three significant flaws. First, because of his focus on the neurosciences and hermeneutics, he rarely deals with the important philosophical implications of his conclusions. Admittedly, Green does not pretend to be providing a philosophical account of human nature. Nonetheless, he deals with philosophically significant issues like freedom and personal identity, and he provides answers that are hotly debated in philosophical discussion. It would seem important, then, that he provide some comment, however brief, on what these issues are and how they might be addressed.
So, pretty much this criticism is similar to that which can be leveled against many against theologians and biblical scholars who are writing in areas of philosophical significance. There is a tendency for such authors to skim over (or entirely ignore) the philosophical discussions as though they had no bearing on the subject at hand. But whenever we’re dealing with issues like free will, moral responsibility, personal identity, and human ontology (among many others), we must address the philosphical objections that can raised against (and for) our conclusions. Unfortunately, our attention is often so focused on biblical/theological arguments that we neglect the important insights generated by other disciplines. While our framework for addressing such issues must be firmly grounded in biblical/theological considerations, we must not stop there.