Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Implications of a Twofold Nature

Continuing the series on mental health, I want to first make sure an incredibly important foundation is poured.

Man is made up of two substances - Spirit and Body. When it comes to understanding the human makeup, history describes debates between monists (matter only), dualists (spirit and body), and tricohtomists (body, soul, and spirit.) And of course there are variations along the whole spectrum that mix elements of all three positions. The bible however is most clear in providing direction toward dualism. Again, man is made up of two substances - body and soul. Genesis 2:7 and 2 Corinthians 5:7 provide good biblical backing for dualism.

But, things get interesting in real life don't they? When real life takes hold of science and philosophy, an array of implications come from out of no where and we are forced to reckon with them. In other words, frankly, when sin enters the picture, dualism is much harder to keep clear and work with.

First off, what exactly is the immaterial side to man, also known as the spirit? Is Spirit synonymous with other seemingly immaterial aspects of man, like mind, soul, and heart?

Dr. Edward Welch in Blame It On the Brain? says:
"In the Bible, "spirit" (pneuma) shares its field of meaning with a number of words. Included are terms such as "heart" (kardia), "mind" (dianoia, phrenes, and nous), "soul" (Greek:psuche. Hebrew:nephesh), "conscience (suneidesis), "inner self" (1 Peter 3:4) and "inner man" (2 Cor 4:16). Even though these words have different emphasis, they can be used almost interchangeably."
When Welch says all these words share in the same field of meaning I think he means they are all connected and related to each other at the highest level of meaning. Welch says, and I am persuaded to agree:
"the basic idea behind all these terms is that every human being lives as a morally responsible creature before the face of God. We have a pervasive Godward orientation. Everything we do is related to the living God."
The foundation, or rather, the presuppositions of dualism and moral agents of God are key in understanding and living with mental health issues in a postmodern culture.

Next in the series...more on understanding what is the Spirit?


erin said...

I don't understand the difference between spirit and soul. Can you explain?

erin said...

Woops. Never mind. All I had to do was "read more." Sorry.