Interpretations that pull us apart

split_personalityIs our humanity made up of three parts meaning trichotomy (body, soul and spirit) or two parts, meaning dichotomy (body and soul/spirit). From a theological and philosophical perspective, dichotomy makes the most sense. Trichotomy splits are humanity in ways that reek of Gnosticism and challenge the process of regeneration/sanctification. If our immaterial components are comprised of soul and spirit, which part is linked to our personhood (including will, intellect and emotions) and how does regeneration affect that in ways that aren’t ontologically schizophrenic?

Those defending trichotomy quickly cite certain proof-texts, like 1 Thess. 5:23 as proof that we are made up of three parts. A friend passed on this article recently and highlighted this quote that I thought really addressed why this is not good proof;

The trichotomist must admit, along with the dichotomist and in agreement with Berkouwer, that there is a certain ‘imprecision’ at times in the Bible’s use of the relevant terminology. One has only to consider the several New Testament quotations of Deuteronomy 6:5, for example, to see this. Where Luke 10:27 reads that we should love God with all our heart (kardia) and soul (psychē) and strength (ischys) and mind (dianoia), Matthew 22:37 reads that we should love God with all our heart and soul and mind, omitting strength, while Mark reports in 12:30 that we should love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (reversing the order of the last two Lukan words), and in 12:33 that we should love God with all our heart and understanding (syneseōs) and strength, using another word for ‘mind’ and omitting ‘soul’ altogether. In all, five different words are employed without even mentioning the body. Surely, no one would insist, on the basis of these series of words connected by ‘and,’ that each of these words refers to an immaterial, ontologically distinct entity, and that therefore Luke was a quintchotomist, Matthew was a quadchotomist, and Mark was a sexchotomist. With Berkouwer we must all admit that these parallel admonitions are simply saying that we are to love God with our entire or total being.

So much for using the actual words to prove the case. And to say that our total being is split in two, is ontologically and theologically challenged. Thanks Elizabeth for passing this on.

You can read the entire article here. Wayne Grudem also provides good food for thought on the subject in his Sytematic Theology (pp 472-482).

Should Christians Rejoice in the Death of Another?

funeral celebrationWell, here’s a bit of a dicey if not morbid topic.  I bring it up because  I find there is a tendency when Christians learn that another Christian has died, to have a celebratory response to death. Why? Because that saint has gone home to be with the Lord, which is a widely expressed statement regarding death of a Christian.

However, in consideration of the overall context of death, I’ve actually begun to question the appropriateness of it’s celebration. In fact, I think it may not be appropriate at all. I hate to rain on this popularly held parade but I believe it’s important to see the whole picture. We must have a holistic perspective of death.

One one hand, there does appear to be scriptural support for celebration. One of the main text that supports this joy is found in 2 Corinthians 5:8, where Paul says “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”  There’s also Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:21-23;

For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. And if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet, what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

Well, before get too excited about these passages, there’s some other factors to consider as it doesn’t really provide a complete picture.  Regarding this statement specifically, note what he is comparing – living in the pains of this world vs being with Christ. He is not so much rejoicing in death, but indicating that to be with Christ is better. Continue reading

Grief is not a Four-Letter Word

One of my profs posted this blog post on Facebook yesterday from a young lady that is grieving. No, she did not lose a loved one as that is typically what we associate with grief. But she is experiencing a loss of a dream, a desire, something that will make her whole. She wants a baby but for whatever reason, it’s just not happening.

Now for some of us, that doesn’t mean too much. It doesn’t touch me at all. My kids are 23 and 14 (almost 15) and that shop, along with any further desires have long been closed up. But for the person experiencing that loss, it is a hard thing to take regardless of whether we understand it or not.

For some odd reason, I find there to be a general expectation that grief should not touch the Christian. Or if it does, it is only for “qualified” reasons and should have a very short shelf life. I find that typically we treat grief like a four letter word – something that needs correcting that we really shouldn’t say. We’ll tell that grieving person that it’s their problem, their attitude needs adjusting or worse, that they are not devoted to Jesus enough. Not only is that insensitive to the grieving person, but it completely negates why the grief is experienced. Continue reading

Who Are You…Really?

Have you heard a preacher or pastor describe who we are like this?

“You are not the real you. You’re spirit is the real you and you just happen to live in a body” OR “you are a spirit who has a soul and lives in a body”

Please know that the preacher is regurgitating one of the oldest heresies the church has battled. Gnosticism arose out of Greek thought that split the physical from the spiritual.  The Father was this mysterious unknown being who produced spiritual beings that had attributes of Christ and represented a higher spirituality. The goal in Gnostic thought was to attain  this higher spirituality through secret knowledge.  Anything that was physical was bad, evil and essentially didn’t matter.  The ultimate goal was for the real you, the spirit, to be released from your body.

This was heresy for obvious reasons; it destroyed the personhood of God, the basis of redemption through Christ, and our humanity. This was not who God made you to be, a spirit being in a casing that didn’t matter. We are whole people. Now there are two views of humanity

Dichotomy: humans are made up of two parts – body and soul. The immaterial part is our soul and interchangeable for spirit.

Trichotomy: humans are made up of three parts – body, soul and spirit. I do have problems with this view because it splits our humanity up in ways that resemble Gnosticism. It also removes the part that connects with the Spirit of God from our humanity. Continue reading