Losing Self

And he (Jesus) said to all, ’If anyone wishes to come along after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his SOUL will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake, this one will save it. For what profit is there for a man gaining the whole cosmos but losing—or being deprived of—himself.’(Luke 9:23)

You do not exist—in fact ‘you’ were only ever a figment of metaphysical conjecture. indeed ‘you’ were not the person you once were—especially if ‘the mind’ has been ravaged by the effects of any form of degenerative disease (My wife and I when caring [over seven years] for my father-in-law evidenced the physical effects of such deterioration —from the accomplished engineer to the hapless victim of advanced dementia).

The view of Empiricist Philosophy is that, at birth, there exists the physical: That which is revealed at birth is a blank slate (tabula rasa) on which physiology and social mores dictate the outcome; well that is the normal state of affairs. However, Jesus cannot be referring to the kind of self of the above reasoning; there has to be something else—for if qualities that cannot be defined by physical laws, e.g., ‘redness’ or, in this case, ‘human identity (imago Dei) there has to be more to the story—a reason why the Gospels should record such a scary narrative, e.g., ‘the loss of personhood’. Edward Feser [1] offers the following:

For if sensible qualities as we experience them do not exist in the external material world, then they do not exist even in the brain and nervous system either, for these are, according to the Mechanical Philosophy, made up like everything else in the natural world of nothing more than colourless, odourless, tasteless particles governed by exceptionless laws of nature. And if these qualities do exist in the mind—and there is nowhere else to exist. According to Mechanical Philosophy—then the mind necessarily cannot be material, or at the very least not wholly material, since these sensitive qualities themselves cannot be material. The mind must instead be something like the soul as conceived of by Plato, an immaterial or non-physical substance, existing apart from the body and brain. P.190

There is, so much more to ‘me’ than meets the eye of the beholder—whether through what the latest medical technology has to offer or from the enquiring ‘musings’ of the most sophisticated philosophical enquirer.

Returning to the question posed by ‘the one who was, and is and is to come’—even Jesus. What would be the benefit of your or of my soul being lost for eternity? Of course, the challenge of following Christ is too much for so many of ‘us’; we’d rather not answer the King of King’s gracious invitation. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die.” (Deitrich Bonhoeffer). Moreover, Christ challenges us to live.

Derek J. White (03/01/22)

[1] The Last Superstition: A Refutation of New Atheism. 2008, P190

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