Strange Bedfellow

new-york-times-hed-2013In a recent New York Time article, Thomas Nagel offers a brief but robust explanation why a purely physical explanation of the universe will not work.  This may not seem, at first glance, to be a big issue.  However, if it is true that the universe is only physical, then there can be no human mind/soul and certainly no god.  Here is the kicker: Dr. Nagel is an atheist.  And, he is arguing for a position that is favorable to theists in general and Christians in specific.  How are we to understand this?

In short, Nagel is not arguing for Christianity nor for theism.  He is careful to say, “Even though the theistic outlook, in some versions, is consistent with the available scientific evidence, I don’t believe it, and am drawn instead to a naturalistic, though non-materialist, alternative.”  What Nagel is arguing is that, though he does not believe in a god, a dualist view of reality is more consistent with the human experience and knowledge.

Here Christians have common ground with Nagel.  Christians are dualists.  Dualists believe in both physical and non-physical aspects of reality.  Christians would augment Nagel’s view of this non-physical reality to include things like God, angels, demons, and so on.  Nagel, on the other hand, is simply arguing that there is a non-physical aspect to humans which he calls “mind.”

The important apologetic point to learn from Nagel is that, in certain cases, we can benefit from those who may argue for a different final position if we agree on a more foundational issue.  So, the foundational view of dualism is required to argue for a soul and for God.  In this case, any dualist argument will do, even if it is from a strange bedfellow like Thomas Nagel.