There are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe that people have souls and those who do not. An ancient example of this dichotomy is Socrates who believed the soul is immortal and Lucretius who believed that people are just a collection of atoms and nothing more.
Socrates: “Is not what we call death a freeing and separation of the soul from the body?” Phaedo.
Lucretius: “Must we not grant that mind and soul consist of a corporeal nature?” On the Nature of Things Book III
If we do not have souls, then we certainly are pure material as Lucretius says. Among the materialists are those who believe that if we collect enough data about a person, we can always know what the best decision would be in each moment. “Dataists further believe that given enough biometric data and computing power, this all-encompassing system could understand humans much better than we understand ourselves. Once that happens, humans will lose their authority, and humanist practices such as democratic elections will become as obsolete as rain dances and flint knives.” (Financial Times) In this world, science and technology reign supreme. Picture a digital assistant who is always there to recommend the best decision. With enough computing power and enough data, we could always know the right thing to do, and we could know the future. It would be like having an electronic conscience. But this world would be a tyranny of our own creation.
As a Christian headmaster, I believe that human beings and their actions are more than just a collection of data and atoms. It is the grace of God in the soul of a human being that enables great acts of sacrifice and giving. It is the grace of God that breaks through into our everyday lives to give us the power to do the right thing. It is the grace of God that helps our children do the good, hard thing. It is the grace of God that makes us into something the data cannot predict. As a soul and a body joined together, human beings are walking miracles. As Christians we are walking miracles even more, for Paul in Romans 6:13b-14 says, “…but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” We are not people who do what we want, and because we are not enslaved to our wants, we are truly free, and we are not predictable!
During teacher prayer this morning, I reminded our teachers of these things and that God is in our classrooms, the Holy Spirit is in the hearts of God’s children, and that God does wonderful and miraculous things. We need to live like it, teach like it, and talk like it.