Heart, Mind, Body and Soul Part 4: The Soul
In this, the final week of this series, I want to take a look at the soul. The soul is a living, spiritual person. It can be ascribed to humans, animals (Genesis 1:30, Revelation 8:9) and God (Leviticus 26:11). Although used interchangeably with spirit the Bible is clear about distinctions between the two. In the New Testament, the soul is seen as the spiritual portion of the human body, thus making a person a body-soul. Spirit is the gift from God that brings one into relationship with Him. Scripture tells us that Jesus gave His spirit to His Father (Luke 23:46, John 19:30) but gave His soul as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28, John 10:15). Therefore, the soul is conceived by God and attached to a physical body and then separates from the body at death and continues to exist (Matthew 10:28, James 5:20, Revelation 6:9).
The early church fathers were influenced by Greek philosophy when they thought about the soul. Origen, who accepted Plato’s view of the soul, felt that the soul was cooled down during the Fall and lost its heat as it fell, earthbound, from the Divine Fire.
Augustine felt that he needed to counterattack what the heretical were saying about the soul. During his time, there was a view that the soul was actually a part of God put inside each and every one of us. Augustine felt that the soul was a spiritual substance made “like God” and by God to sustain and direct the body back toward Him (Greatness of the Soul, XIII, 22). Augustine never fully tried to understand where the soul actually came from, but he was certain he knew where the soul was going, and that was back to God.
The origin of the soul has been a debate over the centuries. Origen and others believed it preexisted and that it was assigned to a body as a penalty for the sins it had done in heaven. Most people, however, as I do, believe the soul is assigned at the moment a body is created. I do not believe the traducianist theory that the soul is assigned by the parents, however, as Tertullian did. I believe God assigns the soul the moment the body is created.
There are however, Scriptural arguments that can be made for both creationism and traducianism views:
1) Scripture distinguishes the origin of man’s soul and body. (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Isaiah 42:5, Zechariah 12:1, Hebrews 12:9)
2) Supports the idea that the soul is simple and indivisible unlike the tradcianist view.
3) Makes Christ’s retention of a pure soul more credible.
1) Certain scriptures support it (Genesis 2:7, Hebrews 7:10, 1 Corinthians 11:8)
2) Offers the best theory for the whole race having sinned through Adam.
3) Teaches that parents beget the entire child, body and soul, not just the body.
4) It was necessary for Christ to receive his soul from Mary in order to redeem the human soul.
The debate goes on in the Christian church even today as theologians such as G. C. Berkouwer strive to continue to the debate.
I have presented many theories into the debate of heart, mind, body, and soul. One thing is clear, humankind was created with all four elements. So what do I believe? At the time of our conception, God planted in our mother a body and soul. This body has a mind and heart. The heart is central to our life. It is what is tainted by the world and births the seed of our evil desires and our good actions. The mind is where our thoughts occur. What we see in the physical world is translated into our minds and, based on where our heart is with Christ, we determine our actions toward what we experience. This leads us to using our bodies in a way that will be to either glorify or shame Christ. Christ came and died for transformation of our hearts and minds so that we could be used for the glory of the kingdom of heaven and make right choices. Throughout all of this, our soul, given to us by God and for God, is desiring to be used by and for God. Until we accept the gift that Christ has given us in His sacrifice and resurrection, our soul falls to the whim of our sinful states in our hearts, minds, and bodies. Once we give our lives over to Christ, however, our soul begins to energize and come to life for the glory of Christ. This happens through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, I would love to hear from you about this. I know there are more than a few amateur and professional theologians out there, and I am not a scholarly person by any stretch of the imagination. But I do believe that God has given us these four aspects of our existence for a reason, and that reason is to glorify Christ.