Table of Contents
Part II: The Nature of Man
THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF SPIRIT
THE BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL VIEW
If God is Sovereign
and has appointed to each of his redeemed children a specific
life work, and if each of us is a duality of body and spirit,
then it follows of necessity that both the genetic endowment
of the body and
the life experiences that mold the spirit must equally have been
divinely ordained. Task and talent have to
match if the plan is to work out.(1) God never calls us individually to a lifework for
which He has not also
equipped us both physically and spiritually.
Chosen and ordained by God
In John 15:16 the Lord said to
his disciples: "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen
you and ordained you that you should bring forth fruit and that
your fruit should remain." When we add to this Ephesians
2:10, "We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto
good works which God has before ordained that we should walk
in them," we have to assume that the prerequisite endowment
must in every way form part of that
1. Or as Gladden put it: "Heredity is
God working in us and environment is God working around us"
(quoted by A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, Valley Forge,
Pennsylvania, Judson Press, 1907, p.624).
2. Howard A. Synder put it this way: "It is not too much
to say that God in his foreknowledge has given to each person
at birth those talents that he later wills to awaken and ignite.
A spiritual gift is a God-given ability that has caught fire"
("Misunderstanding Spiritual Gifts", Christianity
Today, vol. 18, 12 Oct. 1973, p.17).
we find in Scripture the sovereign action of God displayed:
(a) in choosing the individual,
(b) to fulfil an appointed task,
(c) for which he has been providentially prepared in advance,
constitution and by foreordained experience.
Of course, it
might be argued that this means only that our constitution and
our circumstances of life are taken as they come and merely made
use of in the fulfilling of a call adjusted to fit them
God is only an
"opportunist" as it were. But David, in Psalm 139:13-17,
seems to have in mind a genetic endowment that is
not merely made use of but is specifically planned for. Thus
"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because
I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when
I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together
in the depths of the earth(3), your
eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were
in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts,
O God! How vast is the sum of them!" (NIV)
We might even
see the same thought expressed succinctly in Psalm 47:4, "He
shall choose our inheritance
for us." In the context of the rest of the passage, this
could indeed be taken to mean even our antecedents.
And why not? Is any thing too hard for the Lord? We are not merely
redeemed spirits in an inconsequential
3. The earth is sometimes used poetically
as a description of "the womb"; and has been variously
translated the Berkeley translation has "in utter seclusion";
Today's English Version has "before I was born";
the Jerusalem Bible, "in the limbo of the womb".
Further examples of equating the "earth" and the "womb"
can be seen in Job 1:21. Here Job says, "Naked came I out
of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither"
the "return thither" (i.e., to his mother's womb) is
simply a way of saying "to the earth". So also in Ecclesiasticus
40:1 [Apocrypha], "Hard work is the lot of every man, and
a heavy yoke is laid on the sons of Adam, from the day when they
came from their mother's womb until the day of their return to
the mother of us all."
body that we shall be
glad to be rid of, but whole persons with a potential in both
spirit and body to play an
appointed role in God's plan for the Universe.
But what a wonderful assurance
this should provide to the humblest child of God, that he was
the object of
the Father's special concern from the moment of his conception
indeed, long before that. For we werechosen in Him before
the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13;
2 Timothy 1:9;
and foreordained to a unique role in the unfolding plan of redemption,
a role for which,
according to 1 Peter 4:10,(5) each of us has been equipped with a gift (so
the Greek) not the gift, as the King
James Version has it.
The very angels are sent
to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation (Hebrews
a fact to which every saint who reflects upon the circumstances
of his or her pre-Christian experience can bear
witness. In retrospect, have we not all been aware of the hand
of God molding our circumstances long
before we became members of his blameless family? It is a testimony
to the truth of Exodus 19:4, "I bare you
on eagle's wings, and brought you unto myself."
How blessed it is to know
what we are here for! No wonder that Paul should lay such
emphasis upon both
body and mind in Romans 12:1 and 2 when we seek to find the Lord's
will for our life: "I beseech you,
therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present
your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable
unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed
to this world: but be transformed by the
4. "According as he has chosen us in
him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy
and without blame before him." Ephesians1:4.
"But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you,
brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning
chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit
and belief of the truth. . . ." 2 Thessalonians 2:13.
"[God] who has saved us and called us with an holy calling,
not according to our works, but according to his own purpose
and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world
began. . . ." 2 Timothy 1:9.
". . .and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose
names were not written in the book of life from the foundation
of the world. . . ." Revelation 178b.
5. "As every man has received the [a, so the Greek] gift,
even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of
the manifold grace of God." 1 Peter 4:10.
6. "Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits, sent
forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect
will of God."
Since God is Sovereign, how could it be otherwise than that his
chosen vessels will not only be kept through
all the vicissitudes of life by his providential care but will
also have been prepared in body and spirit for the
part they are to play in the unfolding drama. When that part
is fulfilled, and when we shall ourselves have
been brought to maturity by the very performing of it, why should
we not be ready to go home? So then, as
Augustine rightly observed, "a man is immortal until his
work is done."
Thus the biblical picture
of our constitution means that as to physical endowment, as to
spiritual gift, and as to the 'schooling' of life, there will
be a matching 'fit' that is perfect because it is divinely ordained.
The Day of Atonement -- body and spirit
Even the ritual on the Day
of Atonement attests to this twofold nature of man's constitution,
for both body
and spirit are equally represented. On that Day two goats (Leviticus
16:5 (7)) were
appointed to be offered as
a single sacrifice.(8)
One goat was an offering for SIN(9) to make atonement for the body, the other an
offering for SINS (Leviticus 16:21, 22(10)) to make an atonement for the spirit. Since they
stood for a sacrifice to be made on our behalf by one Person,
the Lord Jesus Christ, it was important that the choice of which
was to serve in which role must be entirely out of man's hands
lest he be tempted to attach more
7. "And [Aaron] shall take of the congregation
of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin-offering." Leviticus
8. A single sacrifice but in two parts: signifying, perhaps,
that each person needed only one sacrifice but that it would
apply to both his body and his spirit, for both parts need redemption
but in different ways. Thus in Scripture the words SIN and SINS
have particular meaning and the author has spelled this out in
Doorway Paper #58,"The Compelling Logic of the Plan of Salvation"
(In Man in Adam and in Christ, part 7, vol.3 of The
Doorway Papers Series, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, pp.283-313).
9. "And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's
lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering". Leviticus 16:9.
10. "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of
the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the
children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their
sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send
him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness; and the
goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not
inhabited, and he shall let go the goat into the wilderness."
Leviticus 16:21, 22.
importance to the spirit
than the body. Thus the decision was to be made by lot (Leviticus
By this means, God seems
to have desired to ensure that the whole sacrifice should be
perceived in such a
way as to demonstrate that equal importance is to be attached
to both components of the human
constitution. We are not to set the importance of the spirit
above the body or of the body above the spirit.
The necessity of both body and spirit
It seems to me that this
matching of body and spirit has not been sufficiently recognized.
We talk much of our spiritual growth, but forget that the body
is an essential part of our identity and therefore of this
spiritual development. No man is spirit only: not even, be it
noted, in the world to come.
If man were a purely spirit
being like the angels, the situation would be quite otherwise.
Angels are not
propagated by birth, they are not born as helpless infants: they
do not "grow up." They are created "adult."
And although they can fall suddenly like "lightning"
as it were (Luke 10:18(12) ) they do not seem to
experience a slow maturing process such as man experiences, since
this involves time and is hardly
conceivable apart from a physical reality. So man is born and
slowly grows up, and his character is
developed as he matures and this maturing process takes
time and is accomplished within the
framework of the physical world. The perfection of the angels
seems to be a created perfection (cf. Ezekiel
an acquired one. There appears to have been no time-consuming
process involved. Angelic
"cherubs" are artistic creations, not adult angels-in-the-making.
There is no counterpart of the physical
babyhood that man experiences. In man, body and spirit or soul
develop together, and the interaction is manifest from the beginning.
The natural impulses of the body are "educated" by
the spirit, and the spirit
matures in the process. No such slow maturing seems possible
for a purely spirit creature like an angel to whom birth and
growth are unknown.
11. "And Aaron shall cast lots upon the
two goats; one for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat."
12. "And [Jesus] said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning
falling from heaven." Luke 10:18.
13. "You [an angelic being?] were perfect in your ways from
the day that you were created." Ezekiel 28:15.
man, the interaction between body and spirit is coincident with
life itself. The "traffic" is, however,
unfortunately heavily weighted in one direction, from body to
spirit rather than spirit to body; to the
detriment of them both. The reason that a fallen body has such
an advantage over the developing spirit is
that it has such a head start. Almost all conscious needs in
early infancy are physical needs food, warmth,
comfort, even cleansing. Since these are pampered in the newborn,
it is natural that the body gets the upper
hand from the very beginning, long before the self has had opportunity
to be taught to exercise restraint of
bodily impulses almost all of which are inherently degraded
by the effects of the Fall. The failure of the
"ought" of life to become the "is" of life
begins, therefore, very early because of the weakness or the
strength (depending upon how one looks at it) of the flesh (Romans
when the soul reaches the
age of accountability, instead of passing from a state of innocence
into a state of virtue as God intended, it
passes from a state of innocence into a state of guilt because
it is most challenged when it is least able to
meet the challenge. The demands of the flesh which assail it
have already been too strongly confirmed.
The appetites of the flesh are
thus developed in the direction of selfish interest before aspirations
spiritual growth have had a chance to assert themselves. As a
result the spirit is corrupted by the flesh. This
view is deeply rooted in the early theologies of the Reformers.
But because of the dangers of asceticism, the
relationship between the appetites of the body and the spiritual
longings of the soul has for too long been
We lay such stress upon the need
for spiritual discipline that we often fail to discipline the
appetites of the
body and thus greatly hinder the Lord's work in our lives. We
forget that we are body/spirit entities and cultivate only one
half of our being, neglecting the body half in the mistaken belief
that it does not matter. As
a consequence, the resurrection of the body seems remote and
unimportant to the life of the spirit.
But should we not in fact
be concerning ourselves more than we do with the well-being of
constituents of our being? After all, we are called upon to glorify
God not only in our spirit but in our body
14. "For what the law could not do in
that it [the spirit] was weak through the flesh, God sending
his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned
sin in the flesh." Romans 8:3.
also (1 Corinthians 6:20(15)) since both belong to
God because they are both of God's ordaining. Even the
perfect garment of righteousness which is of Christ can be "spotted"
by the flesh (Jude 23(16)).
This does not mean that the
needs of the body are to be either pampered or suppressed. It
means they are
to be brought into subjection. Hugo St. Victor (10961141)
tells how this subjection relates to man's calling:(17)
To understand the spiritual
state of man, the creation and constitution of the whole world
be taken into consideration. For the world was made on account
of man; the spirit for God's
sake, the body for the spirit's sake, and the world . . .for
the body's sake. . . that the spirit might
be subject to God, the body to the spirit, and the world to
making man the bridge (through his embodiment) between the spiritual
order and the material
order, man becomes a mediator between two different worlds. To
see man in eternity as merely a ghost
without bodily existence is to reduce him to something that is
not man at all and to destroy his unique
position in the economy of God. And this in turn is to throw
away the key to the true meaning of the natural
order, and indeed of the universe, because as Hugh Dryden rightly
observed, man is the measure of all things.(18) As Genesis 1:28(19) says, man was actually
designed to exercise dominion over the world.
The "fit" of body and spirit
From the earliest times Christian
writers have held that the corruption of the pure spirit, which
and infuses into the newborn, results directly from the close
union which this infusion brings about.
Although Hastings Rashdall held somewhat liberal views on some
essential matters of faith, he was a
profound scholar and his study of the Atonement is a classic
in its way. He takes the position that Paul
15. "For you are bought with a price:
therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which
are God's." 1 Corinthians 6:20.
16. ". . .and others save with fear, pulling them out of
the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh."
17. Hugo St. Victor, De Sacramentis Christianae Fidei,
Book 1, prologue, chapter 3.
18. Dryden, Hugh, "The Scientist in Contemporary Life",
Science, vol. 120, 1954, p.1054.
19. "God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful,
and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have
dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air,
and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
attributes the initial
corruption of the spirit to the fallen state of the body. He
wrote: "All Paul's thought about the matter is that the
flesh is the source of moral evil (Romans 7:14, 17-18;(20) 8:3, 7, 10(21); and
1 Corinthians 15:44-50(22) in particular): man is necessarily sinful because
he has a body, which creates evil impulses and weighs down the
higher part of his nature."(23) Rashdall speaks of this as a view "powerfully
suggested by the obvious facts of experience" yet
he does not suggest that man would be better off without a body.
following Paul's line of reasoning and using his usual genius
for succinct expression,
proposed that in Adam "a person corrupted nature, now nature
corrupts the person": or, in the original
Latin, Persona corrupit naturam, natura corrumpit personam.(24) And it is clear from many
observations that he attributed this initial corruption to the
body. In one of his letters, for example, he
wrote: "It is only by the flesh that original sin is transmitted
from Adam" [# 164, chap. vii. 19]. Indeed, he even
20. "For we know that the law is spiritual:
but I am carnal [i.e., physical, flesh], sold under sin. . .
. Now, then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells
in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no
good thing: for to will is present with me, but how to perform
that which is good I find not." Romans 7:14, 17-18.
21. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak
through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of
sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; . . .because
the carnal mind is emnity against God; for it is not subject
to the law of God, neither, indeed, can be. . . . If Christ be
in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life
because of righteousness." Romans 8:3, 7 and 10.
22. It [the body] is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual
body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
And so it is written, The first man, Adam, was made [became]
a living soul; the last Adam a quickening [life-giving] spirit.
However, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which
is natural; and afterward the which is spiritual. The first man
is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.
As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as
is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as
we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the
image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and
blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither does corruption
inherit incorruption." 1 Corinthians 15:44-50.
23. Rashdall, Hastings, The Idea of the Atonement in Christian
Theology, London, Macmillan, 1921, p.88, 89.
24. "Augustine: quoted by F.W. Farrar, The Life and Works
of St. Paul, London, Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co., 1879,
vol. 2, p.216
ascribed this transmission
to impure seed or male semen.(25) It was just such a view that led to the thesis
that the body must be destroyed by death, not only as a penalty
for man's disobedience but as a necessary
step towards undoing the effects of the Fall. Francis Turretin
(16251687) wrote, "There are many other
weighty reasons rendering it necessary that all should die: such
as, that the remains of sin may be
Anselm of Canterbury (10331109)
wrote of the soul being "weakened from the corruption of
the body" and "the corruptible body being a burden
to the soul." (27)
Similarly, Stephen Langton (d. 1228) put it thus: "The soul
is infused into an unclean and corrupt body. . . . From the
corrupt and unclean vessel into which it is
infused it contracts an inclination to sin which is called
Chemnitz (15221586) commented on the development of this
doctrine: "Some [Medieval] writers
argue that original sin is merely a deficiency. . . . Others
argue that the tinder of sin inheres as an
unwholesome quality of the flesh only, which inclines the sensitive
appetite, and through its mediation also
inclines the will downward."(29)
25. Augustine's words are: "The question
now before us does not concern the nature of human seed [i.e.,
at creation] but its corruption. Now the nature had God for its
author; it is from its corruption that original sin is derived".
[On Marriage and Concupiscence, in Nicene and Post-Nicene
Fathers of the Christian Church, Buffalo, Christian Literature
Co., 1886, vol. 5, Bk. 2, chap. 20, p.290]. Luther was more specific
still. He wrote: "Through the fall of Adam sin entered into
the world and all men have as a result sinned. For the paternal
sperm conveys the corruption from generation to generation".
[Luther's Writings, Erlangen edition, as quoted by J.
L. Neve, History of Christian Thought, Philadelphia, Mulhenberg
Press, 1946, vol. 2, p.230].
26. Turretin, Francis, On the Atonement of Christ, translated
by J. R. Willsin, New York, Board of Publications of Reformed
Protestant Dutch Church, 1859, p.81.
27. Anselm of Canterbury: "Conception and Original Sin"
(Treatise V. chap. 2) in Scholastic Miscellany, edited
by E. R. Fairweather, Philadelphia, Westminster Press, Library
of Christian Classics, 1956, vol.10, p.185.
28. Langton, Stephen, "A Question of Original Sin"
in A Scholastic Miscellany, edited by E. R. Fairweather,
Philadelphia, Westminster Press,1956, vol.10, p. 353.
29. Chemnitz, Martin, Examination of the Council of Trent,
Part I, translated by Fred Kramer, St. Louis, MO, Concordia
Publishing House, 1971, p.315.
1576 Peter Martyr wrote: "If it be asked, what is the seat
of [original sin] we answer that it has its place in the flesh
as its root and principle: thereafter from that source it also
seizes the soul and so spreads through the whole man." He
believed it very probable that "a soul is not created with
sin but immediately contracts [a sinful nature] the moment it
is joined to a body derived from Adam".(30)
Zachariae Ursinus (15341583)
stated that the God-created soul is rendered corrupt by the perished
into which God pours it.(31) Benedictus Aretius, addressing the same question,
wrote in 1589: "The received
opinion is that [souls] are created daily by infusion and infused
by creation but in purity; yet they contract
defilement by union and intercourse with the body."(32)
In 1626 Johannes Wollebius wrote:
"Although man's soul is breathed directly into him by God,
nevertheless by its union with the body. . . infected by the
The idea that the soul in its perfection
as it comes from the hand of God is corrupted by its infusion
union with the body is therefore an ancient one, and one widely
held by theologians of the Reformation
movement. They did not, however, make the mistake of repudiating
the body as something evil -- as the
Greek philosophers and Gnostics had done. The body, it was believed,
was essential to man's being. Indeed,
it was as divinely appointed in each case as the soul which animated
it. In fact, in due course theologians
laid emphasis on the "fit" between body and soul, and
the importance of this "fitness" of the one for the
other has been underscored for centuries. It is a little surprising
that Evangelicals have so largely ignored
the issue in recent years.
Abraham Kuyper (18371920)
held that the soul or spirit is specifically created to match
the body which it
animates. And conversely, the body is specifically designed for
the soul which is to be assigned to it. Each belongs to the other.
He wrote: "The soul is indeed directly and instantly created
of God, but this does not
happen arbitrarily but rather so that the soul is created in
this man, at this time, in this country, in this
family, with characteristics which are suitable" [emphasis
30. Peter Martyr: quoted by Heinrich Heppe,
Reformed Dogmatics, translated from German by G. T. Thomson,
Grand Rapids reprint, 1978, p.341.
31. Ursinus, Zacharaiae: quoted by Heinrich Heppe, ibid.,
32. Aretius,Benedictus: quoted by Heinrich Heppe, ibid.
33. Wollebius, Johannes: quoted by Heinrich Heppe, ibid.,
34. Kuyper, Abraham: quoted by G. C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image
of God, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1975, p.290.
elaborating this view, Kuyper explained that "the soul takes
on characteristic traits from contact with the body, so that
the parents give to the child the outline of the soul, the portrait
of the 'I'." Perhaps the word
"frame" would have been even more appropriate than
"outline," but Kuyper's meaning is clear enough.
Whether for cultural reasons or genetic reasons (or both), it
often seems possible to match body type and
Thomas Aquinas (12261274)
long ago had observed:(36)
The human soul like every cosmic
form, is individuated by matter: not any matter, but matter
earmarked. . . . This soul is adapted to this body,
that soul to that body, as we have seen;
and such co-adaptation remains in the soul even after death.
It is possible
that Kuyper was influenced in his thinking by this statement.
If what Aquinas says is true, then
resurrection is not the resurrection of just any kind of body
so long as it is human, but rather of the
particular body that belongs to a particular soul.(37)
35. In modern times, W. H. Sheldon, without the least interest
in the theological implications of the matter, became convinced
that body type and personality type were related. He examined
some 50,000 individuals and grouped them into three personality
types. He then measured the same population with respect to 21
standardized body dimensions and accordingly divided them into
three body types (or somatotypes, as he called them). He found
a series of remarkably high correlations between the three categories,
all of which were in the neighbourhood of 80%. Such a level of
correlation is highly significant in his view, and suggests that
there is indeed a physique/temperament relation that is to a
remarkable degree predictable. In fact, Sheldon found that if
he were supplied with these 21 dimensions for a given individual,
he could predict within narrow limits, what kind of temperament
that individual would have, and vice versa. [Varieties of
Human Physique, New York, Harper, 1940; and Varieties of
Human Temperament, New York, Harper, 1942].
36. Thomas Aquinas: noted by Robert E. Brennan, Thomistic
Psychology, New York, Macmillan, 1941, p.326.
37. This whole subject has a direct bearing on the current interest
in the possibility of reincarnation. Reincarnationists propose
that when the spirit leaves the body at death, it must suffer
a succession of re-entries into the world by re-embodiment appropriate
to its state of development at each cycle until it is perfected
as a pure spirit and can then be wholly absorbed in a form of
"fulfillment" which effectively terminates further
embodiment and individualized existence. By contrast, what the
New Testament tells us is that the spirit will indeed be reincarnated
but not at all with a view to the termination of either personal
identity or fulfillment. The Christian view is that the resurrection
of the body marks the beginning, not the end, of a fully satisfying
existence in which personal identity is preserved intact. Five
things are therefore revealed in Scripture about life after death
for the redeemed soul: 1). Reincarnation occurs but once.
2). Reincarnation occurs by reunion with one's own body,
resurrected in a perfect form by an act of God, and freed fromall
possible ills, including death itself. 3). The spirit which
animates it will be our own spirit, also brought by the
grace of God to a state of perfect maturity. 4). Personal identity
is thus fully maintained in spirit and body and will never
have any further need of amendment. 5). This glorified state
of personal existence will continue forever.
Nature of body/spirit
Many have in recent years discussed
the nature of this body/spirit interaction. Herman Bavinck (18541921)
came to a conclusion which brings out a nice distinction with
The body, although it is not
the cause of all these activities of the spirit, is the instrument
them. It is not the ear which hears but the spirit of man which
hears through the ears. . . . To the
extent, therefore, that the body serves as a tool and instrument
of the spirit, it exhibits a certain
resemblance to and gives us some notion of the way in which
God is busy in the world.
is interaction between mind and brain can hardly be doubted,
and there is every reason to
assume that we can and do by an act of will move our bodily members
purposefully. Yet the mode of this
interaction is still a mystery. How does my will to lift my hand
act upon the brain to send the necessary
signals to the arm that result in the movement I willed to perform?
It seems the answer should be obvious,
but we still don't really know, any more than Descartes did when
he effectively abandoned the search.
We are, today, confident
that the critical organ of mediation between will and movement
is certainly the
brain, but is this computer-like organ actually the "causal
agent" of both the will to movement and of
corresponding action? Or is the functioning brain merely the
"condition" that determines how speedily the
response will be made, or how efficiently? Here we may recall
an observation made by Viktor Frankl, the
Viennese psychiatrist who survived a Nazi Concentration Camp:
"My contention is that the physiological basis [i.e., the
brain] does not cause anything mental, but it does condition
it and there is a great
difference between causing and conditioning."(39)
If the brain conditions the capacity
and character of the mind or soul, how then could the soul be
itself than in a body which even in its fallenness has nevertheless
been the instrument of its self-expression
and development throughout life? A soul is best housed in its
own appointed vehicle. It is very difficult to
conceive of oneself as a ghost, a pure disembodied abstraction,
without some form of bodily representation
38. Bavinck, Herman, Our Reasonable Faith,
Grand Rapids, Baker reprint, 1956, p.213.
39. Frankl, Viktor, in discussion of a paper by J. R. Smythies,
"Some Aspects of Consciousness" in Beyond Reductionism,
edited by A. Koestler and J. R. Smythies, London, Hutchinson,
that is recognizably
''me'': and what better body can I desire to be reclothed in
than my own body, albeit
perfected? If on the other side of the grave, one half of our
being is missing, even if for only a little while -- it
matters little which half, the body or the spirit, the brain
or the mind the other half becomes a
non-person, a non-entity. Half a person is no person at all.
The corpse is not the person, and the risen Lordassured us that
He was not just a ghost. So a ghost is not a person either.
There is no more reason for
believing that a disembodied spirit is really a person than there
is for believing that an unanimated body is
really a person. Thus the existence of a functioning brain appears
to be essential for the establishment of
"personhood,"(40) and the possession of a brain means possession of
a body. Near the end of the last century W. G. T. Shedd
said that the soul, taken by itself, "is a particular intelligent
substance, yet not a
person because it is an incomplete part of a greater whole. It
requires to be joined to a body before there
can be an individual man"(41) [emphasis mine].
Similarly, and about the same time,
H. P. Liddon observed: "When divorced from the personal
principle which governs and inspires it, the body is a lump of
lifeless clay. The body. . . supplies the personal soul with
instrument, it introduces it to a sphere of action; it is the
obedient slave, the plastic ductile form of the
personal soul which tenants it."(42)
This may be a rather idealistic view
of the "obedience" of the flesh to the spirit, but
his meaning is clear
enough. Yet it is by no means always certain which of the two
constituents is master and which is servant --
which is magister and which is minister. Augustine,
speaking of Paul's sense of impotence as expressed in
Romans 7 and clearly recognizing the problem in his own life,
stated the matter thus:(43)
40. Though the word personhood has not yet found its
way into any dictionary of my acquaintance, it is a useful creation
and has appeared in several scientific journals of impeccable
character. See Leon Kass, "Death as an Event: a Commentary
on Robert Morison", Science, vol.173, 20 Aug. 1971,
p.200; also see Barbara Culleton, "Manslaughter: the Charge
Against Edlin of Boston City Hospital", Science,
vol. 186, 25 Oct. 1974, p.328.
41. Shedd, W. G. T., Dogmatic Theology, Grand Rapids,
Zondervan reprint (no date), vol. 2, p.287.
42. Liddon, H. P., The Divinity of our Lord, London, Rivington,
43. Augustine: Confessions, Book VIII, chapter 9, section
is this monstrous thing? And why is it? The mind commands the
body and it obeys
forthwith: the mind commands itself and is resisted. The mind
commands the hand to be moved,
and such readiness is there that the command is scarce to be
distinguished from the
obedience. The mind commands the mind to command the will, and
yet though it be itself, it
obeyeth not. Whence this monstrous thing? It commands itself
to will and would not give the
command unless it willed, yet is not done that which it commandeth.
But it willeth not entirely;
therefore it commandeth not entirely. [emphasis mine]
work (see chapter 8) fully supports
Augustine's careful observation that "the command is scarce to be
distinguished from the obedience." A delay does exist between
will to action and the action willed, but it indeed requires highly refined
scientific instrumentation to demonstrate it! Yet
Augustine perceived it merely by reflecting upon it; and beautifully
stated it. And he was just as perceptive
as to the reasons why the will is sometimes so "reluctant
John Taylor sought to underscore
this dual nature of man's person and the need for the child of
God not to
downgrade the significance of the body. He wrote:(44)
It is important
that we should not confuse these two dimensions of duality, nor
body belongs more to the animal pole and soul to the spiritual
pole of man's personality. Body
and soul are parallel and interpenetrating along the whole range
of man's being; his soul is
involved in his animal nature no less than his body, the body
shares in his spiritual experience
as well as the soul.
Bavinck summed up his view of the relationship by saying simply,
"The soul is a spirit designed for physical life"
Augustine put the relationship thus: "Each man is a soul
using a body"
(anima utens corpore).(46) Robert E. Brennan stated the Roman Catholic position
by saying, "The soul of man
44. Taylor, John, Man in the Midst,
London, Highway Press, 1955, p.17. |
45. Bavinck, H., Our Reasonable Faith, Grand Rapids, Baker
reprint, 1956, p.203.
46. Augustine: quoted by Vernon J. Bourke, The Essential Augustine,
New York, New American Library, Mentor Books, 1964, p.257.
is designed by nature
to be united with matter which it needs in order to accomplish
its perfection."(47) The role of the body in the maturing and the
perfecting of the soul was long ago stated by Anselm of Laon
1117) when, in a fragment of a treatise on Original Sin, he wrote:(48)
[God] created rational spirits
and set them in bodies so that, by ruling the body and subjecting
it to itself in obedience to God, the soul itself might in due
time be made blessed with the body in
Furthermore, such a union brings
with it a great kindship between the two, so that . . . . one
thing is wonderfully made from two, and the soul naturally
possesses such a great love for the
body that it is frightened beyond measure at the thought of separation
from it. [my emphasis]
is extremely close, and this fact was never entirely lost sight
of though often neglected by the
general Christian public. Now, it seems, modern science has also
begun to recognize this truth. Christian
people have paid remarkably little attention to the importance
of the body in the maintenance of spiritual
health, and indeed all too frequently have well-nigh neutralized
their testimony by over-indulgence and
pampering the flesh. It is not surprising, therefore, that the
crucial importance of the resurrection of the
body for the completion of personhood in the world to come should
similarly have been sadly neglected.
Nature of personhood
One of the most vocal and articulate
writers of the last century on the duality of man's constitution
James Orr (18441913). He, too, believed that the abhorrence
we have at the thought of disembodiment and
the deep feelings of repugnance in the presence of a corpse (especially
one unburied and uncared for)
stems from the natural attachment of soul for body in every healthy
individual. The promise of bodily
resurrection is probably far more crucial to our spiritual well-being
and peace of mind than we commonly
realize. We give little thought to the possibility that in the
future state the body will be just as important to
our identity as the spirit will be. James Orr put the issue thus:(49)
47. Brennan, Robert E., Thomistic Psychology,
New York, Macmillan, 1941, p.195.
48. Anselm of Laon: "A Fragment on Original Sin" in
A Scholastic Miscellany, edited and translated by E. R.
Fairweather, Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1956, vol. 10,
49. Orr, James, The Christian View of God and the World,
New York, Scribners, 1893, p.198, 199
The true biblical doctrine of
immortality, I think, includes the following points: (1) Man
compound being (not, like God and the angels -- pure spirit
-- but an embodied spirit), a being
made up of body and soul. . . . (2) It was no part. . . of the
Creator's design for man in his ideal
constitution that body and soul ever be separated. The immortality
man was to enjoy was an
immortality in which the body was to have its share. . . . (3)
The soul, in separation from the body
is in a state of imperfection and mutilation. . . and deprivation.
. . . (4) True immortality is through
Redemption, and this Redemption embraces the Resurrection of
Then, in another
place, he rightly observed,(50)
As Materialism ignores
the rights of the spirit. . . so an ultra-spirituality is too
apt to ignore the
rights of the body and to regard it as a mere accident of man's
personality. . . The Bible. . . knows
nothing of an abstract immortality of the soul. . . nor is its
Redemption a Redemption of the soul
only, but of the body as well. It is a Redemption of man in
his whole complex personality body
and soul together. It was in the body that Christ arose from
the dead; in the body that He ascended
into heaven; in the body that He lives and reigns there forever
more. It is his promise that, if He lives,
we shall live also. [John 14:19(51)]; and this promise includes
a pledge of the resurrection of the body.
We cannot retain
our true manhood, as God designed it, in the defective vehicle
in which we now find
ourselves clothed, since the result of Adam's Fall is communicated
to us by natural generation and we are
reduced to a form of manhood quite other than what God intended.
Perfect manhood for us lies only on the
other side of the grave, in a resurrected body animated by a
spirit redeemed and made perfect.
To return to James Orr again, he
50. Orr, James, ibid, p.136, 196.
51. "Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more,
but you shall see me. Because I live, you shall live also."
52. Orr, James, ibid., p. 197f.
is not the whole of the man. It is a false view of the constitution
of human nature to
regard the body as a mere appendage to the soul, or to suppose
that the human being can be
equally complete whether he has his body or is deprived of it.
This is not the biblical view, nor, I
venture to say, is it the view to which the facts of modern psychology
and physiology point. If
anything is evident, it is that soul and body are made for each
other, that the perfect life for man
is a corporeal one.
Biblical view of personhood
In recent times the most
comprehensive study of the human constitution from the biblical
point of view is
probably that of Robert H. Gundry. In his discussion of the Judaic
beliefs, Gundry observes that when we turn
to Jewish literature of the Intertestamental and New Testament
period, God is seen as making the body to
suit the spirit which it contains "just as the potter suits
a vessel to its intended contents." Thus in the
Testament of Naphtali (2:2-4), we find the following observation:
As the potter knows the
vessel, how much it is to contain, and brings clay accordingly,
does the Lord make the body in accordance with the spirit and
according to the capacity of the
body does He implant the spirit. . . . And as the potter
knows the use of each vessel, what it is meet
to be used for, so also does the Lord know how far it is capable.
that the soul was held to be unable to lead a normal life without
the body, and that,
contrary to the Greek view, the divestiture of the body by the
soul was regarded as entirely undesirable.(53)
He suggests that "Man is an animated body rather than an
incarnated soul. . . . Man does not have a body;
he is a body a psychophysical unity. The body is
the soul in its outward form. . . . Death is not cessation,
but a separation in which each part suffers. . . ."(54) The consequence of this
is that "the designations 'animated body' and 'incarnated
soul' no longer oppose each other, for because of their interpenetration
soul is the animation of the body and the body is
the incarnation of the soul. The soul has a body and the
53. Gundry, Robert H., Soma in Biblical
Theology, Cambridge University Press, 1976, p.108.
54. Gundry, Robert H., ibid, p.119, 120.
body has a soul and
man as a whole is both, a psychological unity but a unity,
not a monad."(55)
Since man was designed for life
on earth and appointed its "manager" (Genesis 1:26(56)), he naturally was
equipped with a physical means of interaction with the material
world. But this physical means must in turn
have its manager. So the will must be able to act upon
an instrument that can, in response, effectively
manipulate and act upon the physical order. God acts upon the
spirit, the spirit upon the body, and the body
upon the world.
While the Greeks saw the body as
fundamentally a handicap to the spirit, the biblical view is
Thus Gundry writes of Paul's position:(57)
effects of sin (which touch the spirit as well as the body),
the body as such does not
shackle the spirit. It provides the spirit
with an organ of expression and action, just as the
spirit provides the body with animation and direction. By
total separation, then, body and spirit
die together. The whole man dies.
the spirit was designed to act through a body, and because the
body without the spirit soon loses
its inner structure and organic unity and purposeful character,
both spirit and body are effectively
destroyed when they are separated. Gundry therefore concludes:
biblical touchstone for truly human life is not mere consciousness
of the spirit, let alone the
material being of a physical object such as the body. Rather,
man is fully himself in the unity of
his body and spirit, in order that the body may be animated
and the spirit may express itself in
obedience to God. Both parts of the human constitution share
in the dignity of the divine image.
That dignity lies in man's service to God as representative caretaker
over the material creation.
For such a task man needs a physical medium of action as much
as an incorporeal source for
the conscious willing of action. [Emphasis mine]
55. Gundry, Robert H., ibid, p.121.
A monad is an absolute unit, indivisible into parts. In this
sense angels, being pure spirit, are monads.
56. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our
likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all
the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the
earth." Genesis 1:26.
57. Gundry, Robert H., ibid., p. 159.
the soul or spirit provides the body with an ordered economy
and unifies its multitude of parts. In its turn the body guarantees
the soul a means of expressing its individuality and establishing
its identity. This
truth long ago led Martin Chemnitz to observe:(58)
The soul has its own body,
to which it has been personally united to constitute. . . human
nature, which is neither body alone nor soul alone but a composite
nature . . . . The soul, not by
itself or of itself but through the organs of the body, manifests
and exercises its powers and
activities, and the organs of the body use these powers of the
soul to grow, feel, and live. . . .
We must note that in man
neither the soul nor the body by itself has the condition of
and the union takes place in order that the person of man may
be constituted. [Emphasis mine]
How, then, one
may ask, can the "person" exist at all as a disembodied
ghost? Without its proper vessel it
has no means of self-expression, unless we depart radically from
the implications of a truly biblical
psychology. When the soul is first given to the earthly body,
that body will certainly have genetically
determined endowments or pre-formed characteristics (i.
e., gifts). But it is largely empty of content in so
far as any actual character is concerned. The vessel has
its "structure" and shape, but it awaits for the
events of life to supply the "content" that will be
poured into it and will then reflect its shape. When in due
course the spirit or soul is once again "given" to
the resurrected body, both structure and content have
already matured with realized fulfillment. Neither soul nor body
require a fresh beginning. The whole person
is thus made perfect by a single act, the reunion of body and
As a result of living in
the body, the soul has taken the shape of the vessel and to that
extent acquired its
destined character. When, at death, it returns to God to await
the body's resurrection, that which was of God
in Christ of this developed character is preserved in its perfected
state. Thus the 'making alive' of the saints
is, as J. N. Sevenster put it, "a unique total event."(59) It is a total fulfillment
of the total potential of the spirit
and its body, rejoined forever.
58. Chemnitz, Martin, The Two Natures of
Christ, translated by J. A. O. Preuss, St. Louis, Missouri,
Concordia Publishing House, 1971,p.90, 92, 94. 59. Sevenster,
J.N.: quoted by G.C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image of God,
Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1975, p.254
In some way, therefore, the soul is preserved as to
its identity even as the body is preserved as to its
identity. While the body "waits" in the earth, the
spirit "waits" with God in heaven, each needing reunion
with the other. And it seems highly unlikely that there can be
conscious personal identity until this reunion
has taken place a reunion that hinges upon the resurrection
of the body and its re-animation.
It is a remarkable thing
that for all our multiplication of the "tools" of biblical
study, some of the older Bible Dictionaries seem to have enjoyed
far more freedom in discussing such matters than the later ones
Daniel R. Goodwin, who contributed the article on Resurrection
in Smith's four volume Dictionary of the
Bible (the American edition is dated 1870) has this to say
on the present subject:
Inasmuch as all we have
ever experienced, and all we thus positively know of [the soul's]
and development, has been in connection with and by means of
a bodily organization, by what
sort of philosophy are we to conclude that of course and of a
certainty, it will have no need of its
bodily organization, either for its continued existence or even
for its full action, progress, and
enjoyment in a future state?
How do we know that the human soul
is not, in its very nature, so constituted as to need a bodily
organization for the complete play and exercise of its powers
in every stage of its existence? So
that it would, perhaps, be inconsistent with the wisdom of its
Creator to preserve it in an
imperfect and mutilated state, a mere wreck and relic of itself
and its noble functions, to all
eternity? And thus, if the soul is to be continued in immortal
life, is it not certainly in the end to
be reunited to the body?
The redemption of the body is constantly
set forth as the highest and ultimate goal of Christian
hope. . . .
In saying, therefore, that
if the body be not raised there is no Scriptural hope of a future
the soul, we do not exalt the flesh above the spirit, or the
resurrection of the body above the
immortality of the soul. We only designate the condition
on which alone the Scriptures assure
us of spiritual immortality, [emphasis mine] the evidence
by which alone it is proved. . . . Christ
brought life and. . . immortality to light, not by authoritatively
asserting the dogma of the
immortality of the soul, but by his own bodily resurrection
from the dead. . . . The New
Testament doctrine of immortality is, then, its doctrine
of the resurrection. . . . The New
Testament doctrine of the resurrection is the doctrine of the
resurrection of the body.
We must therefore assume that some circumstance which
has hitherto been given insufficient attention
guarantees that in departing this life we do not enter into the
Lord's presence bodiless. In leaving this
body, our now perfected spirit is at once united with a glorified
body so that the believer will literally "never
taste of death" at all (John 8:52 and 11:26(60)): somehow the expected
"interim" will never be experienced.
I am persuaded that to speak of
the conscious experience of a creature of God who throughout
the whole of life has no such conscious experience save through
the agency of a body designed specifically to serve that
very function, is to fly in the face of all the evidence. We
not only have every assurance that a body is
essential and is promised unequivocally, but we also have every
assurance that to be absent from this
body is to be consciously present with the Lord in a condition
which is not less fulfilling but "far better"
than our present one.
How such a thing can be possible
is the subject of Part III.
60. "Then said the Jews to [Jesus]: . . . . Abraham
is dead, and the prophets; [yet] you say that if a man keep my
saying he shall never taste of death." (John 8:52). "Whosoever
lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:26).
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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