How can you awaken your soul?

News from the soul

Talking about the soul -

is a matter of course in everyday language use. The word soul belongs to those of which we all have some idea and yet cannot properly grasp and explain it. The essence of the conception of the soul is expressed in linguistic expressions: Talking something of your soul, being one heart and one soul, something is on my mind, letting my soul wander.

Although the concept of the soul is important in everyday communication, in the last few decades, especially in Protestant theology, efforts to reach an understanding about the concept of soul have diminished. It has contributed to the abandonment of a view of people that separates them into soul and body, into spirit and body, that is, into two distinct “parts”. In the course of the talk of “holism” it became difficult to make the idea of ​​the soul tangible without promoting such a division of the human being.

The question of the holistic nature and the meaning of the soul in this context primarily had an impact on the idea of ​​the resurrection. The closer soul and body are thought to be in connection with one another, the stronger the thought must be that “the whole person dies”, and not just the body, while the soul is immortal, “escapes” from the lifeless body and into the Sky is rising.

In Protestant theology of the second half of the 20th century, the so-called total death theory gained great importance and with it the idea of ​​an immortality of the soul was quasi abandoned from Protestant theology. In the sixties, the New Testament scholar Oscar Cullmann asked programmatically "Immortality of the soul or resurrection of the dead?" and describes the Platonic idea of ​​immortality as incompatible with the New Testament idea of ​​the resurrection.

Eberhard Jüngel's understanding lies in this very line, as expressed in his book “Death”, which has gone through generations of theologians. Jüngel takes up the Barthian idea that individual resurrection can only be imagined as “perpetuating lived life”: “Man as such has no afterlife, and he does not need one either; because God is his beyond. " (153)

If eternity alone remains an eternity of what was, then an essential hope is lost: the hope for the completion of life. The brokenness and guiltiness of human existence not only asks about a divine reality in whose light the true destiny of man appears; it calls for an act that accomplishes the completion or transformation of my existence into precisely this eschatic determination and participation in the presence of God.

Protestant theology is about regaining an understanding of the human soul that avoids the Platonic dualism but does not exclude the hope of perfection and individual participation in eternal life.


Soul life - biblical

The Hebrew word “Näfäsch” is translated as “soul” in the Old Testament. It has different meanings:

Soul in the sense of 'Näfäsch' has the meaning of throat or throat. "They should thank the Lord that he saturates the thirsty throat ('Näfäsch') and fills the hungry with good." (Psalm 107). In this sense the expression soul is also related to the breath. “Yahweh made man out of the dust from the soil and breathed life into his nose; so man became a living soul. " (Gen 2.7)

It is the bodily organ that leads from ingesting food to feeling full, through which everything the body needs passes. Through the throat, humans absorb what they physically need to stay alive. In this respect, “Seele / Näfäsch” is the human “organ” with the help of which the elementary physical needs are satisfied.

That is why 'Näfäsch' in the figurative sense also means life in general or vitality. “Elijah wished to die and said: It is enough, so now, Lord, take my 'Näfasch'; I am no better than my fathers. " (1Ki 19.4)

After all, there are often expressions of feeling in connection with 'Näfäsch'. “That is why my heart rejoices, and my 'Näfäsch' is happy…” (Psalm 62: 2); "Tell me you, whom my 'nefasch' loves, where you graze, where you rest at noon." (Hoh 3,1f).

Soul in the sense of "Näfäsch" denotes the vitality of the human being; everything that makes him feel alive due to his physical movements. If everything is given what a person needs for this vitality, the soul is still; In it, however, people also experience their own need and dependency on the fulfillment of these needs through food, air or social relationships.

In the New Testament the word 'psyche' is translated as soul. In addition, 'psyche' also stands for life. “Because whoever wants to preserve his life (psyche) will lose it; and whoever loses his life (psyche) for my sake and for the sake of the gospel will get it. For what use would it help a person if he won the whole world and took damage to his soul (psyche)? " (Mk 8,35f) In all places there is psyche, translated once with life, once with soul. The word “psyche” appears much less often in the NT than “Näfäsch” in the OT. On the one hand, it is more generally related to life as a whole, on the other hand, differentiations between soul, spirit and body emerge. “But he, the God of peace, sanctify yourselves through and through and keep your spirit, soul and body intact…” (1 Thes 5:23). In the New Testament, too, there remains the tendency to relate the soul to the sensual, physical, needy and ephemeral existence. “A natural (psychikon) body will be sown and a spiritual (pneumatikon) body will be resurrected." (1 Cor 15:44).

In both the Old and the New Testament, the soul is also a conversation partner in a person's dialogue with itself. It is addressed as “inner self”, so to speak: “Be content again, my soul, because the Lord is doing you good. (Psalm 116.7)


News from the soul

Recently there have been first attempts in Protestant theology to reformulate the understanding of the soul. Konrad Stock dedicates himself to a psychology in Protestant theology and defines the soul as "that original givenness by virtue of which personal existence experiences itself ... as originally desiring." What defines the person, their identity, can be experienced first-hand through their relationship with God as well as through their social relationships. The term “soul” stands for this well-founded self-experience. "In this respect, death may include the end of earthly self-experience (...), but by no means the end of self-experience at all." (TRE 30, 771)

Konrad Stock redefines the understanding of the soul from an interest in Protestant anthropology or psychology. Christof Gestrich is interested in a new evangelical eschatology and therefore asks about the understanding of the soul. Even more than stick, Gestrich determines the incompleteness of human development and the social dimension, even the almost creatural-cosmic dimension of the soul (cf. Gestrich's article in this issue). The dash then ties this understanding of the soul together with an eschatological concept that strengthens the aspect of perfection: “The problem of identity of a human person does not come to an end with biological death, nor does it come to an end. Work will then continue on me and my life. Achieving my 'I-identity' is not my private goal. My soul is not something just 'inwardly' to me. She is the epitome of sociality. " (Dash 2009, 156)

The soul as a place of connection between different experiences and lifelines in the person is not destroyed by death. “The fact that this person now had to die does not mean for this unique tissue of relationships that it must now question its own necessity and take it back. It means that the soul now needs a new shape. " (Dash 2009, 211)

Both approaches emphasize the importance of the soul as a mode of human self-experience in need and desire. Both approaches also assume that this self-experience is constituted by the relationship with God and that this self-experience, in whatever form, is not abolished by the earthly and physical limitation of human existence, but is finally completed. With this in mind, they go beyond 20th century Protestant theology.

The soul is the term for man's self-experience, which is expressed through his bodily being-in-the-world. The soul is earthly only soul in a physical, and thus social form. This expression remains. However, through death the physicality changes and the soul gains a new shape in the resurrection.


Didactic considerations

The individual experience as a self-experience in contrast to others, in demarcation from others and approaching others, plays a special role for young people. There is a confrontation with one's own “I” in which the importance of the subjective side of self-experience, feelings, desires, longings, is particularly great.

In a teaching unit on the soul, the individual and subjective approach to the phenomenon of the soul is therefore chosen as the starting point. At the same time, it is important to enable empathic approaches that address the importance of the social dimension of the human soul, its effect on others and the importance of the effect of others on one's own soul.

In addition, the topic offers the opportunity to work on terminology as a learning to interpret. A word does not say what is, but what we imagine it to be. Even the biblical content of meaning clearly shows the need for interpretation, but also the ability to interpret terms. The subject of the soul is also about deciphering and practicing hermeneutic thinking. This also includes choosing aesthetic approaches. They allow for subjective views rather than supposed factual realities.

After all, the question of the immortality of the soul hits widespread ideas of children and young people (and adults) that are shaped by many religious elements. Children and young people grapple with the question of “what remains”. Experience has shown that the talk of immortality is more capable of consensus than the talk of the resurrection. The idea of ​​continuity is closer than that of break-off, non-existence and a new creation. The young people's desire for “life” duration and the hope for change can also awaken theologically a new sensitivity in dealing with Christian ideas of hope. In this respect, the subject of the soul can help to make clear the Christian understanding of human beings in their finitude on the one hand and their eternal destiny on the other hand, and to concretise it anew through the interpretations and images, through the hopes and life interests of the students.


The unit at a glance

A. What is the soul?

  1. My soul - considered for yourself
  2. If the soul could smell - make soul impressions perceptible

B. The soul in the Bible

  1. Soul verses in the Bible
  2. Biblical Concepts of the Soul
  3. The soul and God - dialogue with the soul

C. The soul remains in eternity - soul and immortality

  1. How does it go on with the soul?
  2. “Immortal” beautiful - “immortal” in love - a word and its meanings
  3. The immortal soul


Course of the lesson

A. What is the soul?

A.1 My soul - considered for yourself
The German word “Seele” comes from “See”.
Imagine your soul is like a lake. There are times when she is very calm and quiet; and there are times when it storms and the waves go up. There are times when it shines and shines, and there are times when it is like cloudy water.

Take your time and think for yourself:

  • What helps your soul to calm down?
  • What makes you flare up?
  • What makes them shine?
  • What is it that makes them cloudy?

Take a picture (M 1) that you can think of something; write it down.


A.2 If the soul could smell - make soul impressions perceptible
The soul is not an organ in the body like the heart or the lungs. Nevertheless it is there and you can feel it.
Choose one of the pictures of the people (M 2). Look at it for a moment. Think about what is going on in this person. Then go along the stations, try to make something of the soul perceptible:

  1. If this soul had a color ...
    Find a color that suits this soul. Give the picture this color.
  2. If this soul would smell ...
    Find a scent that suits this soul and drizzle the edge of the picture a little with oil.
  3. If this soul could be felt ...
    Pick a piece of fabric and stick a piece of it on the sheet.
  4. If this soul were audible ...
    Find a tone that suits this soul and let it sound a few times.
  5. What this soul needs ... / What this soul gives ...
    Write on the picture or make signs for it:
    “What this soul needs” or “What this soul gives” or both.

(Material: station work with four tables: 1. colors, 2. oil scents, 3. scraps of cloth, 4. sound instruments)


B. The soul in the Bible

 B.1 Soul verses in the Bible
Lay out “Soul Verses” (M 3) either on a sheet of paper or individually.
The soul is common in the Bible. You can find some verses on the sheet (on the cards). Read the verses calmly. Which one do you like spontaneously? Which one fits your soul image? Which one goes with your own lake images that you initially edited? Write down your soul verses.

B.2 Biblical Concepts of the Soul

Read text M 4.
Read the Bible verses again. Try to match them to the meanings.

  • In which verse can one also insert throat for soul?
  • In which verse does soul mean something like feelings?
  • In which verse does soul represent human life as a whole?
  • What other meanings can you think of?

Create a collection each: The soul as throat / The emotional soul / The soul and the whole of life.
Create a poster with pictures that illustrate the verses.

B.3 The soul and God - dialogue with the soul

In some biblical texts the soul appears like a kind of inner conversation partner, or a kind of “emotional self” with whom one can speak. Pick one of the scriptures (M 5).

  • What do you learn about the “state” of the soul, how is it? Describe it in your own words.
  • Every text deals with the connection of the soul with God. What do you find out about what the soul wants from God, what it should do, or what God says about the soul? Mark the appropriate places.
  • Imagine you are this soul. What would you say to god What would you ask him for, what would you thank him for? Write a prayer in which this occurs. To help you choose the beginning: God, I am a ... soul ...
  • A theologian described the soul and said: "The soul is an ear for God." What could he mean by that? What do you think about? Find your own description of what the soul is.


C. The soul remains in eternity - soul and immortality

C.1 How does it go on with the soul?
Viewing a picture - angel takes the soul of a dying man, 15th century. (M 6)

C.2 Immortal beautiful - immortal in love - a word and its meanings

  • "I am immortal if I never cease to exist."
  • "I am immortal when others remember me."
  • "I am immortal when what I have created is also there after me."
  • "I am immortal in my children and grandchildren."

Are there other meanings of immortal? Searches in newspapers / possibly Obituaries / advertising etc. Examples of the context in which immortal is spoken of.

Describes the feeling of immortality in the song. “Immortal” from the “Toten Hosen” (M 7) Where does it come from? How does it work? What does “being immortal” look like in this song?

C.3 The immortal soul

“The human being is indestructible according to his soul. But the world cannot understand or believe that the soul is immortal.
Why do we fear death, we who cannot die but are necessarily immortal?
Whoever God speaks to (be it in anger or in grace) is certainly immortal. "
Martin Luther

Make a soul room. Make an installation out of material. What is in the soul and how should it be embodied? In it, he also artistically translates Luther's sentence: Whoever God speaks to is immortal.

I believe that God will complete the work He started with a human life. If God is God, violent death cannot prevent him from doing so. That is why I believe that the story of God will continue with our afterlife until that consummation is reached in which a soul finds rest.
Jürgen Moltmann

Man consists of two forces: we are free and sensible on the one hand, but we are also guided by instincts and powers on the other. The soul has to combine both. When both forces are in harmony with each other, man has become himself. Man's inner maturation is not yet complete when he dies. Just that he dies doesn't mean that the soul has made the match. Brain death is not the end of the soul either. Spiritual life does not end in dying and it is not tied up in the brain either. The soul remains at work until the end of days. It is God who creates the balance and that is why the soul needs God.
Christof Gestrich

When we die, all relationships with other people cease and we no longer experience ourselves either. There is no immortality of the soul. We are part of the history that God experienced with us humans, and only this history of God remains eternal.
after Eberhard Jüngel

Discuss the three different positions on the soul and on the further existence of the soul after death.

  • How do the three theologians each justify their position?
  • Which of the positions comes close to your imagination and why?
  • What thoughts in the positions are there that make sense to you?

All three positions make God strong. But everyone deduces something else from this for the further existence of the soul. Assigns the following sentences to the items:

God is strong. He has a story with us humans. We humans no longer live as individuals after death. But God and with him his history lives with each and every one of us.

God is strong. That is why he finishes what he started. The human soul is preserved even in death because God wants to perfect it.

God is strong. The human soul is more than the brain. It leads people to maturity so that they can live with their freedom and their dependency. God helps with that. He helps the soul until it has fully matured, even if the brain is no longer there and the earthly body is already dead.

God is strong. He has a story with us humans. We humans no longer live as individuals after death. But God and with him his history lives with each and every one of us.

God is strong. That is why he finishes what he started. The human soul is preserved even in death because God wants to perfect it.

God is strong. The human soul is more than the brain. It leads people to maturity so that they can live with their freedom and their dependency. God helps with that. He helps the soul until it is fully matured, even if the brain is no longer there and the earthly body is already dead.


  • Gestrich, Christof: The soul of man and the hope of Christians. Evangelical eschatology before renewal, Frankfurt 2009.
  • Nauer, Doris: Pastoral care. Care for the soul, Stuttgart 2010.
  • Jüngel, Eberhard: Death, Stuttgart ³1971.
  • Theologische Realenzyklopädie 30, Art. Seele, Berlin, New York 1999, pp. 733 - 773.
  • Soul. Draft 2/2011, 42nd year
  • Wolff, Hans Walter: Anthropology of the Old Testament, new ed. by Bernd Janowski, Gütersloh 2010.