/ Matthew Everhard

Edwards, Warfield, and Plato on the Immortality of the Soul

At first blush, Plato and Jonathan Edwards do not have all that much in common. One is an ancient Greek philosopher, the other a Colonial Calvinist. One is a pagan, the other a devoted Christian believer. There is no question whatsoever about the fact that these two writers (the former a philosopher and the latter a theologian) are both first-rate intellectuals that rank among the most interesting men in history.

When it comes to the question of the fate of the soul, there is an interesting "Venn Diagram" phenomenon that happens when we compare and contrast Edwards to Plato – that is, they agree in several interesting places and diverge in several crucial other places. Both believed that death is defined as the separation of body and soul, both believed that the soul persists alive after death in some form, and both believed that death should be faced courageously. Their differences are just as stark.

In my forthcoming article entitled "Immortality of the Soul: Edwards, Warfield, and Plato" for the third installment of the Miscellanies Companion series (JESociaty Press), I explore exactly how Edwards and Plato compare and contrast in their views on the soul. To do this, I use a very helpful rubric suggested by B.B. Warfield in his essay on "Annihilation" in his Collected Works, Volume IX.  

Here, Warfield gives four possible categories for theories on the soul which he entitles 1) Pure Mortalism (the soul does not persist after death at all), 2) Conditional Immortality (God must grant the soul life after death by grace), 3) Conditional Mortality (Annihilation Proper, God snuffs out the wicked), and by way of implication, 4) Unconditional Immortality (the soul must persist alive somewhere after death).

If you can't wait for the essay to come out in 2023, I am pleased to present these stirring concepts in a couple of 20-minute videos on my YouTube channel. Here they are:

Video One: Warfield and Plato on Immortality

Video Two: Jonathan Edwards on Immortality

Matthew Everhard

Matthew Everhard

Matthew Everhard is the pastor of Gospel Fellowship PCA in Valencia, PA. He is also a Jonathan Edwards scholar and has written a number of books, and articles. He hosts a popular YouTube channel.

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