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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII


Part IX


Part VI: A Fresh Look at the Meaning of the Word "Soul".


Appendices to Part VI


1. Begotten Before All Worlds

     The three ecumenical creeds -- the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian -- were concerned to protect the doctrine of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and His absolute equality with the Father throughout all eternity prior to His Incarnation. The two latter creeds laid special emphasis upon this because there were those who tended toward the view that although Jesus was pre-eminent above all other creatures and uniquely the agent of God's creative activity, He was nevertheless Himself only a creature. Accordingly, great care was taken to emphasize the fact that He was uncreated, of one substance with the Father, sharing His glory throughout all eternity. To this I subscribe absolutely and unequivocally. He was eternally co-existent with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, equal in majesty and power, not merely of "like substance" as the Eastern Church has held, but of "one substance," very God of very God.
     I do not think, however, that such oneness with the Father has ever demanded an actual familial (Father-Son) relationship in order to establish His deity, any more than such a familial relationship is required to establish the deity of the Holy Spirit. The relationship as a Son to the Father was something which came historically into effect when the Lord Jesus, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, actually became man by laying aside for a little while some aspect of equality with the Father, thus taking a lower position (Philippians 2:6,7) in order to accomplish man's salvation; only that He might receive an even greater glory with the Father when this was achieved. The Old Testament prophecies which are cast in a future tense with respect to this relationship became the present fact, the "today" of Hebrews 1:5, when the Lord of Glory entered into our world of time and space as the Son begotten of the Father, conceived by the Holy Spirit and

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born of a virgin. The revelation of this tremendous moment is stated with great precision -- "This day have I begotten thee" -- and is made even more precise by the added words, "When He bringeth the first begotten into the world" (Hebrews 1:6). Even during fetal development the role of divine sonship was still future: "That which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). And Elizabeth's greeting of Mary was equally carefully worded -- not "What is this that my Lord should come to me" but "What is this that the mother of my Lord should come to me" (Luke 1:43), which seems to indicate that Elizabeth did not suppose she was actually in the presence of the Lord Himself, but only in the presence of a mother-to-be.
     In Hebrews 1:5 what we are actually told is that the Father in heaven that day had begotten ("brought forth") His Son. And yet it was not inappropriate for the creeds to state that He was "begotten before all worlds," for the future is always present with God. It is only historically that the event was properly spoken of as future: in the eternal purposes of both the Father and the Son, the event was already accomplished, in the same sense the Lamb was prophetically slain since the foundation of the world though historically not till thousands of years of human history had unfolded.
     The Edward VI Prayer Book of the Church of England says that the Son was "equall to the Father as touchying his godhead, and inferior to the Father as touchying his manhoode." This "inferior" status reflected the role of an actually begotten Son, but such a lower status surely cannot have been assumed prior to the Incarnation? He clearly sought on a number of occasions, when addressing the disciples, to contrast His position on earth with that position of glory which He had shared before His Incarnation, as though the previous glory was of a different and higher order. In this sense He humbled Himself and thought it not something that must be retained at all costs if such a retention meant He could not fulfill His role as a Redeemer (Philippians 2:18).
     It was the underlying tendency toward Arianism that the formulators of the creeds desired to protect the Faith against. The Lord was God and was with God from the very beginning. He was not merely a unique individual who so lived to the glory of God that He was elevated to a position of deity as Son of the Father, as a reward for His achievement on earth. He was always God, very God of very God. It was only when the fullness of time was come that He assumed a new relationship within the Godhead and was begotten of the Father that He might become the Saviour of men.

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2. Some Notes on the Roman Catholic View of the Soul

     I believe that anyone who has taken the trouble to investigate Roman Catholic theology with an honest attempt to understand it will be forced to admit that it is characterized by a refined system of logic that is almost compulsive -- provided that one grants the premises. This emphasis for this limiting phrase is very necessary because it is here that some of the most important differences between Protestant and Roman Catholic theology are to be found.
     It must be admitted also that much of Protestant theology has not been structured with the same rigid adherence to the laws of logic and contradiction. Scripture itself must, of course, be excluded from this judgment, and more especially the Book of Romans. To my mind, Calvinism makes the nearest approach to a completely logical system. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the system which was refined and virtually finalized by Thomas Aquinas comes closest to being rationally compulsive (though not morally so) -- again, granted the premises. I know from experience that one can submit oneself to a course of lectures in, for example, Thomistic psychology and find oneself anticipating the professor's conclusions time and time again merely by being logical in one's thinking. Unfortunately for the ordinary reader there is a technical jargon which goes with this theology, which has to be mastered before it makes sense: and the mastery of this jargon is complicated by the fact that Christian terminology which means one thing to us has been made to mean something quite different for them. This applies to the use of the word "soul." The first thing that is required, therefore, is to establish what is meant by the Roman Catholic theologians when they use the word "soul."
     It may be a slight misrepresentation of their thinking to say that by the word "soul" they mean what we mean by the word "spirit," but I think this is essentially true and this equation of terms may help to clarify what follows.
     In Thomistic theology, the "soul" constitutes the person, but not the personality. The soul is that which is created by God and which is added to the body to make a soul-body entity. This soul-body entity is not really a compound but a whole, i.e., man. They reject the idea that the body is governed by a soul in the sense that a horse is governed by its rider. If we are allowed to carry this analogy, man is a Centaur, a man-horse combination. The soul cannot exist apart from the body except, to use their rather apt phrase, "in a state

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of violence," and when the soul leaves the body, the body is no longer a body either -- it is a thing, a corpse, a miscellaneous collection of atoms.
     The created soul which is given to every body that lives is equal in all men. When it has gained attributes and developed its potentialities it becomes more than a person, it becomes a personality. And while all persons are of equal value in the sight of God, all personalities are not.
     They hold that this soul is a direct creation of God and is indivisible and cannot, therefore, be derived from the mother and father, since the soul of the mother and the soul of the father are both likewise indivisible. It is not only indivisible but occupies and gives meaning to every part of the body equally. The soul is the seat of all man's consciousness and life processes, including the unconscious ones. It is in no sense derived from the body. These conclusions are important for an understanding of Roman Catholic psychology, in that, for example, they reject behaviourism entirely, since this would be to derive the soul from the body. While they hold strongly for the reality (substantialness) of the soul, they also believe that it can only find expression properly through a body. They therefore argue, quite logically, that angels do not have souls since they are bodiless spirits. They also hold that the soul is the seat of emotions, but that this emotion is rooted in the soul-body entity as a combination. And, logically enough, they argue that angels thus do not experience emotion. Personally, I think this conclusion is contrary to Revelation because it seems difficult to conceive of worship without emotion, and we seem to be given a picture not only of angels worshipping (Isaiah 6), but also of angels rejoicing greatly when the creation was first completed, "and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7). This surely shows that it is not enough to be logically consistent; one must start with the truth for one's premises.
     The proper subject of psychology is the study of the soul, according to Aristotle. The proper subject of psychology, according to Aquinas, is the soul-body entity, in which both soul and body must always be considered as one and yet always be regarded as being composed of two elements each existing in their own right. Aquinas therefore was the first to underline the importance of the psychosomatic view of human nature. It is because of the failure to recognize this last point that modern psychology, according to these Roman Catholic theologians, has tended to become merely a branch of physiology. If the soul is wholly derived from the body, then the fundamentally important subject matter of the study of man is not

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psychology, but physiology; and psychology becomes a by-product. The end result is the annihilation of man as man. To the Roman Catholic, the soul "informs" the body, by which is meant that it gives to the body its organization, its value, its capacity, its sanctity, its distinctiveness as human. The body provides the soul with that whereby a potentiality becomes a reality, a person becomes a personality. As has already been stated, the soul cannot exist except in a state of violence and temporarily without the body. In theory at least the body becomes of far greater importance in this light, since every cell within it is made human by being possessed by a human soul. And, correspondingly, they say that every animal cell is animal by reason of its being possessed by animal soul. Animal body is spiritually distinct from human body. The care which is taken, therefore, to ensure that every member of a human body (even including amputated limbs) is given proper consideration by "decent burial" follows quite logically from this conception. Though it may seem rather like foolish superstition to be so greatly concerned with an amputated limb, in the light of this system of psychology it is logical enough. So long as it exists as a physical thing it is more than a physical thing: it has been identified and still is identified as part of the soul-body entity that was the individual.
     Their major criticism of modern psychology is that it has lost sight of the soul as having a reality by creation. Nor would they be satisfied if psychology should admit the real existence of the soul but then treat it as though it were acting through the body. The soul does not act through the body, but with the body as a substantial unity. When the Church established its official position in the formulation of the Nicene Creed by stating that the Lord was of one substance with the Father, it was using the word "substance" in this sense. The unity of the body and the soul is a substantial one. It may be said that in their view, person is the theological aspect, personality the psychological aspect, character the moral aspect, and function or behaviour the biological aspect of man. In this system of psychology, "individual" differences are personality differences, not person differences, for all persons are of equal value in the sight of God. They are in the habit of tracing the development of psychology from Descartes to the present time by pointing out that with Descartes psychology lost its soul and found its mind; with the British Empiricists, soul lost its mind and found its consciousness; with Watson soul lost its consciousness and found its reflexes. So the scientific study of man without theological guidance led, in effect, to the disappearance of the soul of man altogether.

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     In conclusion, I think that if we make allowances for the fact that soul in this context is perhaps more exactly spirit, in accordance with our thesis, there is much of value to ponder in this system of thought, however much we may disagree with some of their premises and consequently with some of their conclusions. Until psychology recovers its faith in the soul or spirit of man as something which has a reality in its own right, yet which cannot exist in completeness apart from the body, there will be little or no advance in our understanding of man. The saving of the soul is only possible by the saving of the whole man. Psychosomatic medicine is a step in the right direction, but it can never be realistic so long as the psyche is tacitly derived from the soma.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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