Genesis  1:26-27 indicates that there is something that makes humanity distinct from  all the other creations. Human beings were intended to have a relationship with  God, and as such, God created us with both material and immaterial parts. The  material is obviously that which is tangible: the physical body, bones, organs,  etc., and exists as long as the person is alive. The immaterial aspects are  those which are intangible: soul, spirit, intellect, will, conscience, etc.  These exist beyond the physical lifespan of the individual.

All human  beings possess both material and immaterial characteristics. It is clear that  all mankind has a body containing flesh, blood, bones, organs, and cells.  However, it is the intangible qualities of mankind that are often debated. What  does Scripture say about these? Genesis 2:7 states that man was created as a living soul. Numbers  16:22 names God as the “God of the spirits” that are possessed by all  mankind. Proverbs  4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring  of life,” indicating that the heart is central to man’s will and emotions. Acts 23:1 says, “Paul looked  straight at the Sanhedrin and said, ‘My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to  God in all good conscience to this day.’” Here Paul refers to the conscience,  that part of the mind that convicts us of right and wrong. Romans 12:2 states, “Do not conform any longer to the  pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” These  verses, and numerous others, refer to the various aspects of the immaterial part  of humanity. We all share both material and immaterial qualities.

So,  Scripture outlines far more than just soul and spirit. Somehow, the soul,  spirit, heart, conscience, and mind are connected and interrelated. The soul and  spirit, though, definitely are the primary immaterial aspects of humanity. They  likely comprise the other aspects. With this is mind, is humanity dichotomous  (cut in two, body/soul-spirit), or trichotomous (cut in three,  body/soul/spirit). It is impossible to be dogmatic. There are good arguments for  both views. A key verse is Hebrews  4:12: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any  double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and  marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This verse tells us  at least two things about this debate. The soul and spirit can be divided, and  the division of soul and spirit is something that only God can discern. Rather  than focusing on something we cannot know for sure, it is better to focus on the  Creator, who has made us “fearfully and wonderfully” (Psalm 139:14).

Advertisements