Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

June 16, 2008

Are you Bi ? Or are you Tri ?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 6:03 pm

Or maybe you’re mono. What am I talking about, you ask? I am talking about a seemingly minor point of doctrine that in the case of a few of my readers (a quick check of my blog stats indicates that I do indeed have few readers) is so trivial and inconsequential that it really isn’t worth the time of day. But for me, having been fully indoctrinated into a teaching that [on further review] turns out to be very suspect, discovering the reformed teaching on this point has elevated this minor point into a cause celebre, if you will.

The doctrine of man, among other things, addresses the question: Is man a bi-partite being or a tri-partite being? Before diving in, I guess it is only fair to consider the mono option. You may be a mono in either of two ways. Atheists are mono in that they maintain that man, in fact everything in the universe, is physical. There is no immaterial thing whatever. On the other hand, the Hindoos (don’t you like the way they formerly spelled that word) maintain that man, indeed the entire universe, is entirely immaterial and the physical world is an illusion. [I could be corrected on that point, but it doesn’t matter – pun intended.]

But for the rest of us, the question comes down to this: Is man a bi-partite being or a tri-partite being? As you might guess, all the while I was in the pentecostal non-denomination world, I was told that man is a tri-partite being. Man consists of a body, a soul and a spirit. The Reformed position on this doctrine is that man consists of exactly two parts, the material and the immaterial. I will weigh in with a subsequent post. Meanwhile, comments are open for your thoughts.

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  1. Bi…man is body and soul. What is the difference between soul and spirit anyway?

    Comment by Standing Solus Christus — June 16, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

  2. In the first commandment (Mt 22:37, Mk 12:30, Lk 10:27) Jesus shows us that “soul” is distinct from “mind” (=spirit?), both of which of course are distinct from body(strength?). And then there’s heart.

    Comment by RubeRad — June 17, 2008 @ 5:52 am

  3. Rube,

    So are you Quad?


    Comment by Standing Solus Christus — June 17, 2008 @ 7:11 am

  4. Distinct from? You could have used interchangeable with, but you didn’t. How do you know your word choice there is correct?

    Comment by Bruce S. — June 17, 2008 @ 9:06 am

  5. So are you Quad?

    I’m a lawer for Satan.

    Distinct from? You could have used interchangeable with

    I’m just askin’, why were different words used? How do you know interchangeable is the right hermeneutic? Seems to me, if different words are used in the same sentence, the starting point would be to assume they take distinct meanings.

    Comment by RubeRad — June 17, 2008 @ 10:29 am

  6. Unless it all comes out in the wash of these comments, which I doubt, this will all become clear on my follow up post. For now, I can say that “interchangeable” is right based on the same way we figure out anything in scripture. Let scripture interpret itself. More later.

    Comment by Bruce S. — June 17, 2008 @ 11:05 am

  7. Rube,

    Here is an interesting counter to the verse you cited:

    Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destory both soul and body in hell. (Matt 10:28 NASB).

    Why are the mind (or spirit) and heart omitted here? Could it be that soul, spirit, and/or heart are synonmous terms relative to the ontological composition of human beings? Essentially dealing with the non-physical aspect of human beings.


    Comment by Standing Solus Christus — June 17, 2008 @ 11:32 am

  8. Jesus quotes Deut 6:5

    5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

    Heart = mind. In other words, in your thoughts, you shall love God. You shall not hate God in thought. The desires of your heart (mind) must be in loving devotion to God.

    Might = strength. In other words, you are to expend your full strength, all of your energy in loving God.

    Soul = this is the tricky word to figure out. The meaning of this word has a big range. BDB, the most trusted Hebrew lexicon, suggests that perhaps it means all of yourself, or it may mean all of your life essence, but that’s the basic point. In other words, your very self is to be utterly devoted to loving God.

    So the force of the Hebrew of this verse is that you are to love God in the very depths of your heart, with all of the life in you, with your very self, and to do so with all of your energy and strength. Not one calorie can be burned in the mind or the body that is not used in devotion to God. You are to be utterly and completely devoted to loving God, spending all your time on it, expending all your effort doing it, and pondering it constantly in your heart, taking every thought captive to the love of God.

    This verse is not an ontological statement.

    In the NT, “heart” is expanded to “mind” and “heart”. Maybe that’s because by Jesus’ day, they perhaps distinguished between the mind and heart, whereas in Moses’ day they didn’t. The distinction here would be between reason and the intellect on the one hand, and the affections and emotions on the other.

    This is not an ontological statement in either case. That’s not the point of the passage.

    The point is for you to be FULLY engaged in loving devotion to God all the time with every thought, word and deed. The very desires of your heart, whether acted on or not will come under the scrutiny of judgment.

    But some will say, what are you saying, that the Bible is WRONG about ontology?

    No, just that it’s speaking in commonly used figures of speech to make a point, which is NOT ontology.

    To insist from these verses that man is actually made up of four parts is like saying that there MUST be water under the earth, which MUST have four corners.

    But anyway, for the sake of comparison, check out phil 4:8. Rhetorically, Paul is very redundant there using different words (pure, good, lovely, commendable, etc). And an example in Hebrew comes in Ex 34:6-7 (iniquities, transgressions and sin). It’s a rhetorical device.


    Comment by Echo_ohcE — June 17, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

  9. Let me recommend this book: Figures of Speech Used In The Bible, by E.W. Bullinger. While one cannot go his way with dispensational thought, his use of Greek word studies, and much of this use of Figures, etc. is worth having.

    Fr. Robert

    Comment by irishanglican — June 21, 2008 @ 6:27 pm

  10. Interesting post. Let me ruminate on it after I get through Sunday’s services and I’ll come back.

    Comment by Albino Hayford — July 5, 2008 @ 1:12 pm

  11. “…the pentecostal non-denomination world, I was told that man is a tri-partite being. Man consists of a body, a soul and a spirit. The Reformed position on this doctrine is that man consists of exactly two parts, the material and the immaterial.”

    I’m rountinely amazed at the arithmatic skills of penties who find numbers that don’t exist: middle ways though soteriological matters (Calminians) and creating existential categories (body, soul and spirit).

    The bi-partite creature (material and immaterial) exists in a triadal world (redeemed, common and damned). One of the beauties of the Reformed tradition is that it knows no creative math.

    Comment by Zrim — July 8, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

  12. Thank you

    Comment by LedGlypeAped — August 3, 2008 @ 4:22 am

  13. Interesting question, to be sure. I don’t think it’s all that important, but I suppose it does have a few ramifications down the line.

    Regarding the so-called mono position, however, you’ve not quite captured all the options: “…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath [spirit, neshamah] of life, and the man became a living creature [soul, nephesh].”

    “Soul” almost everywhere refers to the holistic life of the individual in Scripture. Thus, the difference between soul and spirit is that the latter is some kind of wispy thing — “the breath” that God blew into the first man. Surely there’s some kind of consciousness after death, but we probably shouldn’t call it a “soul” — for whatever it’s worth. And I didn’t know there was a “Reformed position” on this; maybe a (overwhelming) majority position within the Reformed tradition?

    Comment by Chris — August 12, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

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