Joel Green’s Anthropological Monism: Biblical, Theological, and Philosophical Considerations

Bibliographic information:

Smith, R. Scott. “Joel Green’s Anthropological Monism: Biblical, Theological, and Philosophical Considerations.” Criswell Theological Review 7.2 (Spring 2010): 18-36.



While it is not new for authors writing as biblical scholars to criticize body-soul substance dualism (roughly the view that, for humans, we are made up of a material body and immaterial soul and/or spirit), it is a fairly recent phenomenon for evangelicals to do so. One philosopher at an evangelical institution (Fuller) who defends a form of monism (humans are made up of one kind of thing, which is material) is Nancey Murphy. Yet, Joel Green, who also is at Fuller, seems to stand out as the foremost exegetical scholar who embraces monism. Indeed, Green’s recent book, “Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible” (hereafter “Body”), serves as a major statement of his own position, as well as a significant reply to dualists such as John Cooper, J.P. Moreland and Scott Rae.

Green bases his arguments upon a number of factors, including exegetical study of a number of biblical texts and word studies, philosophy, and the findings of neuroscience. His view includes how he conceives of the proper relationship of science and theology (and philosophy), as well as the importance of relationships (especially with God), embodiment, and community in terms of our identity. Along the way in this book, Green explores important, relevant issues such as sin, salvation, and the resurrection of the body.

Green has important concerns and offers helpful suggestions, especially in regards to the importance of relationships and embodiment. Nonetheless I will argue that his view is undermined by issues stemming from his own methodology, including a crucial text he fails to consider, as well as doctrinal implications stemming from his monism. All these considerations, when taken together, should move us to reject his monism.


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