Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

June 23, 2008

Why I’m a Bi

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 8:34 pm

The tri-partite option hails from Greek philosophy. Oddly, Greek philosophers saw man quite naturally as a body and a spirit but felt compelled to introduce the soul as an intermediary element or agent to make possible a mutual or vital relationship between body and spirit. This trichotomy (another name for the tri-partite view) slipped into Christian theology like a trojan horse. Origen, Clement of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa all held to the tri-partite view. Though their implementations of trichotomy weren’t identical to each other or to that of the Greek philosophers, trichotomy was a fairly widespread view in the early church i.e. the third and fourth centuries A.D. Thanks to Apollinarius who employed this view and with it derived a seriously flawed Christology, the Christological debates which dominated this era resulted in the trichotomy position being abandoned. As well, Augustine among others challenged that view and gradually dichotomy held sway in the church pretty much without exception all the way well past the Reformation and even into the modern church.

The chair passage for the dichotomy position – and one that should settle the matter for any believer – is Gen 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (nephesh chayyah). This explicitly states the dichotomist position. There is no possible room for a third element. These words of Jesus himself offer more evidence, as if any was needed, for the dichotomist position. Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell“.

Again, consider this: Luke 1:46-47 “And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Agreeably, a virtual carbon of this verse, albeit with different context, is found in Isaiah 26:9 My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. The side-by-side placement of the soul and spirit in these two instances clearly point out that scripture uses soul and spirit interchangeably. The soul and the spirit thus are two aspects – amongst several other aspects – of the immaterial portion of man.

Trichotomists resort to 1 Thessalonians 5:23 “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.“and Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Sadly, they ignore the rest of scripture and conclude that man is a tri-partite being. My own observation about the seemingly more difficult Hebrews passage is that this verse actually supports the dichotomist position. Why would it require a living, active and sharp sword to divide what ostensibly are already two parts of man’s being? Rather, this verse suggests the difficulty man has in sorting out the various aspects of the non-material portion of man’s makeup.

Enough of this for now. My next post will detail some of the bad things that result when the trichotomist position is held.

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  1. This is frustrating. Why do you bring up the two staple verses of the tri position without actually explaining how they are misinterpreted?

    Nevertheless here is an opinion from a faithful “Conservative Charismatic” (or maybe “puny pentecostal” is more fitting?)

    Obviously there is a difference/distinction between the Spirit and the Soul. Otherwise verses like the aforementioned I Thess 5:23 are bizarre and meaningless…

    “May your whole Spirit, Spirit and Body be kept blameless”

    “May your whole soul, soul and body be kept blameless”

    of the Greek words
    Pneuma- Spirit
    Psuche- Soul
    Soma- Body

    only 1 actually shows up in the “greatest commandment”, Psuche
    There is also the…
    Kardia- Heart
    Dianoia- Mind
    Ischus- Strength

    So we have now at least 6 “parts” of man…
    spirit, soul, body, heart, mind, strength

    Thus we should be Sexchomists.
    Just kidding.

    Point is this…
    Differentiation between soul/spirit and Body is imperative to understanding man.

    Differentiating between spirit, soul, mind and heart is as beneficial to understanding yourself as differentiating between body and strength.

    So to say there is “no difference between Spirit and soul” is like saying there is “no difference between body and strength”

    There is a difference between heart and mind and between soul and spirit and between body and strength etc.

    Using the analogy of studying the human body we can see the importance of making these distinctions We can accurately say that we see through our eyes. But we should also know that our eye is more than just an eye. It is made up of a Retina, a Cornea, A Pupil, an Iris, Macula and so on.

    So while we may refer to an individual human as a “person”, we may also refer to him as a “soul” or even as a “spirit” or a “body” or (if we wanted to) a “mind”, “heart” or “strength”. But he is all of those corporately and none exclusively.

    Primarily though we need only two main parts (spirit/body or soul/body). But we must acknowledge how they many form one and what this means to God’s plan for our redemption.

    So if the Di will acknowledge that there is a difference between spirit and soul not in essence but in how it helps us understand our personalities; and the Tri will understand that the difference between Spirit and Soul is not one of the essence of man but rather of explaining parts of personalities then we can have a nice potluck.

    Comment by danielbalc — August 6, 2008 @ 8:46 am

  2. Hi DBalc. Thanks for stopping by. Sorry to have frustrated you. The entire “rebuttal” to the trichotomist view suggested by those scriptures has already been stated, and it is that these are all aspects of the immaterial portion of man. Most trichotomists, I suspect, don’t necessarily use those verses as the starting point but fall on this: since man is created in the image of God, who is triune, then man must have three parts. These other passages are then brought in secondarily.

    Thus, they literally believe that there are three portions, body, soul and spirit (even though God is not a body or a soul but a spirit). And therefore the spiritual portion is somehow completely separate from the soul. The “aspect” notion doesn’t come into play since they most likely will admit that the soul does indeed have multiple aspects – as you hint at as well. The spiritual portion is completely separate for the Tri.

    Scripture is loaded with numerous clues, some of which I have given, indicating that spirit and soul are used interchangeably and that there are a handful of aspects to the immaterial portion. Eph 4:22-23 is another one that I like a lot: …put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds ….

    Clearly the trichotomist position is untenable. And therefore your concluding sentence, which I like

    the Tri will understand that the difference between Spirit and Soul is not one of the essence of man but rather of explaining parts of personalities then we can have a nice potluck

    needed to add that the Tri will have to admit that he is wrong.

    Comment by Bruce S. — August 7, 2008 @ 8:40 pm

  3. Funny, I just read this post after commenting on the previous post, and you quote the exact verse I did (Gen. 2:7), which, to my mind absolutely rules out tri- but possibly calls into question bi- as well…

    I’m kind of uncomfortable with an “immaterial portion of man”; I think that’s a bit more philosophically Greek than we tend to realize.

    Comment by Chris — August 12, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

  4. bad things that result when the trichotomist position is held

    Ooh, ooh, I found some in today’s Daily Confession!

    Comment by RubeRad — August 23, 2008 @ 7:02 am

  5. Very good. Your Daily Confession link points exactly at the orthodox position that the fall is an ethical break versus the non-orthodox position that the fall resulted in a fracture of the constitutional makeup of man.

    Comment by Bruce S. — August 23, 2008 @ 9:15 am

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