For centuries we, as a race, have speculated on the nature of our makeup. Do we have a soul? Is it eternal? What do we mean when we say “soul”? Is it the same as our spirit?
I think the fact that the average person has no clear answers speaks to the state of our knowledge. If there was clear cut understanding, we could all rest easy. But the truth of the matter is, we know little about who and what we are. In these posts, I will try and put on paper the different ideas within Christianity that speak to our makeup. My goal is not to espouse any particular doctrine, but to submit the evidence and so as to lay a foundation. From there I hope to travel down the road of sifting evidence from both science and the Text to synthesize a Theological Anthropological point of view.
Below is a graphic of the major points of view with Christianity today. Please feel free to use it on your own website – just make sure to give proper attribution. (Thanks!) What follows after the graphic is a better understanding of trichotomism. The other definitions I will save for later posts.
Trichotomism: The Body, The Soul, The Spirit
The idea that this doctrine gets across is that, humanity, in our original state consisted of three parts: body, soul, and spirit. Our body and soul are brought about by natural generation, or something that we are all born with. Our spirit, however, is given to only those that believe in saving work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Trichotomists believe that the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, had a spirit but it died the day that they actively sinned against God (Genesis 3:3). So every human since was born “dead in spirit”, and because our spirits are dead to us at birth, our bodies eventually too die (Romans 8:10). Thus, the “newness of life” (Romans 6:4), of which Paul the Apostle speaks, was a new creation by God (2 Corinthians 5:17). This new spirit is in direct opposition to our current body, which operates under the original rebellion of the first man (Romans 7:19). We, who are in Christ, then wait for our bodies to be translated into its eternal state so that our body, soul, and spirit can be in complete serve to God (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Two Scriptures that Trichotomists point to as clearly talking about the distinct parts of the person:
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:23
For the word of God is alive 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.
Hewbrews 4:12 NIV
Here are some others that also speak to the distinct portions of an individual:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'”