From Marilynne Robinson’s When I Was a Child I Read Books…
Modern discourse is not really comfortable with the word “soul,” and in my opinion the loss of the word has been disabling, not only to religion but to literature and political thought and to every humane pursuit. In contemporary religious circles, souls, if they are mentioned at all, tend to be spoken of as saved or lost, having answered some set of divine expectations or failed to answer them, having arrived at some crucial realization or failed to arrive at it. So the soul, the masterpiece of creation, is more or less reduced to a token signifying cosmic acceptance or rejection, having little or nothing to do with that miraculous thing, the felt experience of life, except insofar as life offers distractions or temptations. (p. 8, from the essay “Freedom of Thought”)
According to Robinson, the human soul isn’t simply heaven-bound or hell-bound (though that remains true). The human soul is also an important thing here and now. Something to be studied, delighted in and cherished far more than it is. If anyone can do this, surely the church can.
[Aside: Robinson is one of my favorite authors, especially because of the striking beauty of Gilead. I hope to post some more thoughts from When I Was a Child soon.]