David Augsburger

You’re probably not supposed to say this about your seminary professor, but…

I like the way Dr. David Augsburger’s eyebrows are caught in a permanent, sympathetic tilt, because they match his gracious personality.  Some people have angry faces, and then you discover that they are sweet.  But Augsburger tells you who he is when you see him coming, and then you get to find out that he really does care about how you’re feeling as much as you suspect he will.

Augsburger’s class on the soul gives an interesting tilt of another kind, on a long and variously used concept.  The soul in the old world was a ghost in the machine of sorts, and the modern world clings to that as the straw man through which the concept (and thus religion) is to be rejected entirely.  Steven Pinker, in The Blank Slate, thinks himself profound for having rehashed it (he is profound for completely different reasons, but his caricature of the soul is not part of that).  The empiricists first dismissed the soul, most clearly in David Hume, as something impossibly intangible and improbable.  The soul is a fairy tale, they assume to have proved.

Dallas Willard saved my soul, in a sense: my concept of the soul.  Willard, a professor of philosophy, took the terminology of modern phenomenologists

and rebranded the soul.  Because of Willard, I became open to understanding the soul as the projection of sustained identity created by consciousness.  You exist only in relation.  So even if ever cell in your body changes, even if you are struck with severe amnesia and lose “who you are,” even if your worldly belongings are stripped from you, nonetheless, we have sustained a perception of “you,” and that constancy is your soul.  And yes, that “we” includes God.

Augsburger is not an epistemologist.  Not that he doesn’t think about such things, only that they never rise above a curiosity for him.  For him, the soul is the holistic view of a personhood which presupposes the eternal value of the individual.  Thus, when he approaches, he honestly has the look of someone who has just watched a treasure chest being opened and is honestly and pleasantly surprised.

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4 thoughts on “David Augsburger

  1. forget my soul, my brain hurts. i don’t understand anything you guys are talking about. but i’m glad you like your class, jim, if that’s what you are saying.

  2. I agree with Chris. Nancy Murphy provides some good evidence for the soul/mind. There are synaptic action-potential that do not occur in our brain, when thinking abstractly, that present a conundrum for the neuro-reductionists. Warren Brown, another Fuller Professor, also argues this alongside of Murphy. They say that this absence of synapses mind suggest a
    ‘transcendent’ or ‘external’ factor that contributes into our decisions making, morality, and thought process; naturally, this makes a strong case for a soul/mind. They actually wrote a book together called “Did My Neurons Make Me Do it?” Regardless of their contirbutions, the war still wages between those loyal to the classic empiricists and the religious philosophers.

    Good post though!

  3. for fear of sounding too philosophical/seminariacal the concept of the soul was saved for my by Nancy Murphy and her eloquent presentation of non-reductive physicalism

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