Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Constituent Elements of human Nature

If you all fall asleep reading this, it's Karen, over at Compost Happens, fault. She suggested that I recap my reading of Systematic Theology for you. So go to her blog and bug her, will ya?

I read about 70 pages yesterday, which, considering what I'm reading, is pretty darn good. And no, I won't try covering all 70 pages (tempting as that is). Just the stuff that's the most interesting to me. Starting with ... (da da da DAHH!) The Constituent Elements of Human Nature!

Earlier this year I was reading a journal compilation that Chris picked up at a Peacemaker's conference. The authors are all licensed counselors and the articles were fascinating. One in particular had me turned upside down, giving a perspective I'd never really considered. The author asserted that the concept of man as spirit, mind and body is unbiblical. It's called a trichotomy, and he claims that the biblical model is a dichotomy, man as body and spirit (otherwise known as soul). So I'm thinking, why haven't I heard this before, is it a new concept, and how on earth could he think such a thing? I know - what does it matter, right? But this is the kind of thing that gets under my skin and makes me dig for answers. The author made a pretty convincing argument, by the way.

So yesterday I'm reading the section on the Constitutional Nature of Man, and the very first section addresses the trichotomy vs. the dichotomy of man. See why I love this stuff? The author of ST claims that the view of man as a trichotomy is a relatively new idea for the Church, originating in Greek philosophy. Greek philosophy, in doing this, was putting man on equal footing with God and His triune nature (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). What a smart thing for those Greek philosophers to do! And it showed up in the early Church, was repudiated, and didn't show up again until the nineteenth century. So the Church, for nearly 2,000 years, pretty exclusively held the position that man is constituted of two parts - body and soul. And why did I believe differently?

I think that early 20th century theologians picked up this trichotomy thing and ran with it. It's all I've ever known. But these Reformed theologians and counselors make sense when they argue for a dichotomy. For instance, in the very beginning, when God is creating man, He forms Adam's body from the dust, then breathes life into him, he becomes a living soul. Man is one organic unit, body and soul, the two needing each other. And when Scripture talks about body, soul and spirit? The two words soul and spirit are interchangeable. Many times the Bible will just say "body and soul" or "flesh and spirit". We are a LIVING SOUL. That simple. Isn't that cool?

I'm sure that you can now see why I love this class, this book. I'll try not to bore you to tears again ... for those of you who might still be reading. Poor dears. Back to my reading.

Until I write again ...

Flea

8 comments:

Marguerite said...

That is very interesting; more like intriguing. I particularly like the "equal footing with God" part. Ooh, I can feel my brain twisting already. I can also tell my coffee is kicking in this morning because I already have a question. I was always under the belief that we are three parts because of the line, "Let Us make him in Our image," which is the Trinity. What does the book say about that?

Flea said...

Oh you're a tricky one! Remember in the beginning there was no concept of God as three. He portrayed Himself to Israel as "The Lord thy God is One." The great I Am.

You made me get my bifocals out ...

Modern theologians present the trichotomy the way you do in order to make it believable. That sounds crass, I know. But much of modern theology also starts with man then moves to God. Doing that would allow us to see ourselves as we see God. Most of systematic theology starts with God, working it's way to man - the proper order of things. So we ask, what does in His image mean?

Oh, I'm just pulling most of this out of what I think, based on what I've read. So it's just my thoughts.

In His image seems to mean (and that's the next section in the book) in the soul or spirit of man - his immortal soul and spirituality; man as a rational, intellectual being; man as a being of moral integrity; the material substance of the body, being fit exactly for the soul; and in man's dominion over the earth.

That's five things. Isn't that cool? I really do think trichotomy's a stretch. When you see the way the Greek philosophers set it up, then look at the way theologians break it down, there's an air of mysticism and gnosticism about it. They tend to separate the parts, making man almost a product of evolution (the body coming from the animal, when God clearly didn't even begin to make us the way He did animals) with God thrown in (the spirit) and the humanistic view of the mind and our own power. We're really much simpler than that, indivisible until death. Even in Heaven we'll get new bodies - they aren't really supposed to be separated.

Even medicine seems to be coming to some of the same conclusions. Look at holistic medicine, how they treat every part of the person. Treat us as a whole. We can't separate ourselves from ourselves or we become schitzophrenic (can't spell that). Every part of our being, our lives, affects every other part.

You asked. :) And I know it's not a complete answer. And parts of it may be very wrong. Maybe all of it. But here are some references: Gen. 2:7, Job 27:3, 32:8, 33:4, Eccl. 12:7.

KIDZMAMA said...

Flea, you are way over my head! I can't say for sure what I believe, but I do have an appreciation for new and different ideas.

I don't have the pleasure of enough time to go back in your blog, so tell me what the goal is of all your studying. Just for knowledge sake? A degree? What ever it is, you are taking it very seriously. Good for you!

Flea said...

OMG. That's the question of the year - why am I studying at all, much less theology? I always wanted to be a writer. When I actually began traveling down that path, I found I had nothing about which I wanted to write. So I evaluated all of my favorite authors - apologists. C.S. Lewis, Philip Yancey, others along that line. And the books I most despised? Apologists who did a poor job or contradicted themselves or Scripture. I like things to make sense, and I like to have questions answered in a satisfactory fashion. So I thought I'd learn as much as possible about the one thing which interests me most, which drives me, so I can write about it without frustrating other people. I obviously have a LOOOONG way to go in order to make the complicated simple. And part of this journey is to throw myself into all of it in order to use myself as an example in some way, to be relate-able in my writing. I still don't really know what that means. But I've just started!

These questions are hard to answer in one sentence or less, so I didn't even try. :) Sorry.

Candace said...

Okay, the first original blog writing was far from boring and really quite interesting. Now this comment section is requiring more brain cells than are currently available for use. I shall definitely need to come back when there are no distractions.... in oh.... say, 15-20 years?

Flea said...

LOL!!! Candace, your brain cells work fine. I'm confusing is all - even to myself. So it's not you!

Dianne said...

Yeah, wow - you are blowing me away here. Interesting stuff though. Not at all boring.

BlueNight said...

I've also been thinking on these questions. I'd appreciate any comment you have on my own post on my blog, Triessentialism.

I had always ignored these questions, because people seemed to be in a heightened state of emotions when discussing them, and I don't like yelling arguments. (I like logical discussion, but few people are willing to engage in it.) But when my pastor started a "bible study" on this matter, I did a little digging.

The best research I could find is on the Catholic encyclopedia. It turns out trichotomy does have a history involved with Gnosticism! As far as the distinction between soul and spirit, I chalk most of it up to bad etymology and lack of definition.