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Articles - The Bible

There Is More To You Than Matter

The sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams, wrote some remarkable letters to one of his sons while the boy was attending school in Massachusetts. Nine of the letters were published in 1848 in a book titled Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teaching. In Letter II, Adams says, “There are three points of doctrine, the belief of which, forms the foundation of all morality. The first is, the existence of a God; the second is the immortality of the human soul; and the third is, a future state of rewards and punishments.” Adams continued “Suppose it possible for a man to disbelieve either of these articles of faith, and that man will have no conscience, he will have no other law than that of the tiger or the shark; the laws of man may bind him in chains, or may put him to death, but they never can make him wise, virtuous, or happy” (22-23).

Materialism as a philosophical worldview holds that everything is materially constituted. Materialism says that what we call thought is explicable solely in physical terms, because it (as everything) is purely and simply a series of physical motions. The doctrine says “whatever exists is either matter, or entirely dependent on matter for its existence” (Flew 205). Thomas B. Warren set forth the implications of materialism in his debate with Professor Flew when he stated that Flew could not “prove that God does not exist unless he [could] first prove that matter really does exist non-contingently, that it is eternal, that it does not have a beginning . . . that matter is all that exists . . . that no one piece of matter is worth any more than any other piece of matter. . . . [I]f everything that exists is matter, simply molecules in motion, there really can be no ultimate or significant difference in any piece of matter. There can only be different arrangements of matter” (Warren and Flew 55).

It is disastrous for people who profess Christian faith to compromise with materialism by becoming (1) soft on the proofs for the existence of God, (2) soft on the immortality of the soul, or (3) soft on the eternal conscious state of all humans after death and judgment. Any compromise of these three propositions is the result, in some fashion, of the pernicious influence of skeptical philosophy. Such does not represent true historic Christian theism.

In his book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, atheist Daniel Dennett of Tufts University asserts: “There is no reason at all why a disbelief in the immateriality or immortality of the soul should make a person less caring, less moral, less committed to the well-being of everybody on Earth than somebody who believes in ‘the spirit’” (305). Notwithstanding Professor Dennett’s assertion, two expert history professors from Oxford and Cambridge respectively argued otherwise more than fifty years ago. E. L. Woodward said “justice, mercy, kindness, tolerance, self-sacrifice are incompatible with materialism. . . . [T]hese values will wither away in a materialist culture. It is meaningless to talk about human ‘rights’ in a materialist society; one might as well make a moral appeal to the Atlantic ocean.” At Cambridge, Herbert Butterfield concurred with his colleague’s evaluation of the destructive consequences in believing that man is but a conglomerate of electrical circuits in a complex of brain cells: “I am not sure that there exists a firm barrier against this kind of error save for those who hold the Christian view that each individual soul is of eternal moment and has a value incommensurate with the value of anything else in the created universe” (28).

As Dr. Warren has shown in the book Immortality: All of Us will Be Somewhere Forever, there is a sense in which every human being is “immortal” from the moment of conception. Christian revelation argues for the persistence of human personality after death, the resurrection, and the judgment. Every human being will exist forever as a unique center of personality and consciousness. You and I are more than matter and, in a sense, nothing matters more.

Charles C. Pugh III
Executive Director

Works Cited:

Adams, John Quincy. Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings. 1848. Auburn: Alden, 1850. 

Butterfield, Herbert. Christianity and History. London: G. Bell & Sons, 1949.

Dennett, Daniel C. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. New York: Viking, 2006.

Flew, Antony. A Dictionary of Philosophy. New York: St Martins, 1979.

Warren, Thomas B. Immortality:  All of Us Will be Somewhere Forever. Moore: National Christian, 1992.

Warren, Thomas B. and Antony G. N. Flew. The Warren-Flew Debate on the Existence of God. Jonesboro: National Christian, 1977.