Body, Soul, and Spirit: Monism, Dichotomy, or Trichotomy?

BODY, SOUL, AND SPIRIT- Introduction
What is man? Is he merely a body? Is he a union of body and soul, or are human beings threefold unions of body, soul, and spirit? Most importantly, what does the Bible say? And what difference does it make?

BODY, SOUL, AND SPIRIT- Material and Immaterial
The Bible clearly teaches that man is a unified being. However, this unity is divisible into two aspects, material and immaterial. In the Bible these aspects are variously termed, body and soul [e.g., Matt. 10:28], body and mind [e.g., Rom. 12:1-2], body and spirit [e.g., 1 Cor. 7:34; James 2:26], flesh and spirit [e.g., 1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 7:1], flesh and heart [e.g., Rom. 2:28-29], and, of course, the outer man and inner man [e.g., 2 Cor. 4:16]. Human beings, though they were created to live in the physical world, are also capable of existing in the spiritual realm as disembodied souls or spirits [e.g., Heb. 12:23; Rev. 6:9-11].

BODY, SOUL, AND SPIRIT- A Trichotomy?
Now there are a few texts which, because they seem to distinguish between the soul and the spirit, lead Christians to hold that man has three parts — not only the body and soul, but the body, soul, and spirit [1 Thes. 5:18; Heb. 4:12; 1 Cor. 14:14]. Although, this threefold view, or trichotomy (as it’s called), is a possible interpretation of these Scriptures, the weight of evidence, in my opinion, from Scripture is clearly against it. If there is a biblical distinction between the soul and spirit, it is between the natural and supernatural dimensions of the inner, immaterial aspect of our being. In our inner man we can relate both to the world around us and to God. So if there’s truth in the trichotomist viewpoint, I’d say this is probably it. However, let me quickly add that these two dimensions, namely soul and spirit, are inseparable perspectives or functions of our inner man.

BODY, SOUL, AND SPIRIT- What Difference Does it Make?
Well, what difference does all of this really make in terms of what view we are going to hold? The answer is that it does make a difference because the view that man is merely a material being undermines the biblical truth that we were made in God’s image to know God. The trichotomist view is typically used to support the idea that God communicates mystically with our spirits and thus bypasses our intellects. Remember, the heart can not fully rejoice in what the mind does not comprehend, and this false teaching leads people to swallow other false and destructive heresies as well. The teaching that man is two parts or unified dichotomy of body and soul, I think, avoids these errors and is most faithful to Scripture.On the nature of man, that’s the CRI Perspective. I’m Hank Hanegraaff.

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