Immortality of the Soul Rooted in Platonism and Neoplatonism

Donald G. Bloesch, in The Last Things: Resurrection, Judgment, Glory (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2004), 114, says, “In the history of the church the Christian teaching of the resurrection of the body has again and again been challenged by the mystical notion of the inherent immortality of the soul, which has its roots in Platonism and Neoplatonism.”

Emil Brunner, in Eternal Hope (London: Lutterworth Press, 1954), 100, says, “For the history of Western thought, the Platonic teaching of the immortality of the soul became of special significance. It penetrated so deeply into the thought of Western man because, although with certain modifications, it was assimilated by Christian theology and church teaching, was even declared by the Lateran Council of 1512 to be dogma, to contradict which was a heresy, and likewise from Calvin onwards it was assumed in post-Reformation Protestantism to be a part of Christian doctrine. Only recently, as a result of deepened understanding of the New Testament, have strong doubts arisen as to its compatibility with the Christian conception of the relation between God and man, and its essentially pre-Christian origin has been ever more emphasized.”

He goes on to say, “That this dualistic conception of man does not correspond to the Christian outlook can be shown from various angles. The contrast stands out most clearly in the two following points. The effect of this Platonic dualism is not merely to make death innocuous but also to rob evil of its sting.” (p. 101 ).

“In the process there took place a substantial transformation of the New Testament hope of the end: it passed from being universal hope relevant to all mankind to being a personal hope relevant to the individual life.” (p. 133).

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