A
few weeks ago on a discussion forum that I go to, we were talking about the human soul and spirit. As I was discussing and thinking about the topic, I had an interesting thought that I would like to share. I don’t know if it was a revelation, or just my own thought, but it’s something I have never read before. First, I want to go over the different views on this topic.

Among Christians, there are generally two schools of thought on the nature of mankind. There is the bipartite view, which is the view that human beings are made of body and soul/spirit. According to this view, the words “soul” and “spirit” refer to the same thing and can be used interchangeably.

Then there is the tripartite view, which states that human beings are comprised of 3 parts: body, soul and spirit. The spirit and the soul are not the same thing and have different functions, according to this view.

To me, the tripartite view is the one that makes the most sense, and I believe it has more scriptural backing than the bipartite view. I understand that there is much disagreement on this, so if anyone wants to debate this topic, I’d love to hear your thoughts, but the “bipartite or tripartite?” question wasn’t what I wanted to focus on here. I wanted to share some thoughts based on my view that we are body, soul and spirit.

Here is a summary of the three components. I won’t go into this in depth, because it’s a complicated subject – whole books have been written about it, and I’m no expert, so I’ll keep it simple.

Our Body

World-consciousness

Obviously, our body is the physical part of us, and it is through our body that we connect to the physical world through our 5 senses.

Our Soul

Self-consciousness

The soul is man’s self-consciousness, and is the seat of our personality. The soul is made up of the mind (Prov. 19:2, Lam. 3:20), the will (Psalm 27:12, Psalm 35:25, original words:”soul”) and emotions. (Sngs 1:7)

Our Spirit

God-consciousness

The spirit is the highest part of our being, the part of us that connects to God. The spirit serves three functions – to fellowship or commune with God (John 4:23) to know right from wrong through the conscience (Acts 17:16) and to perceive things through our intuition (Mark 2:8, 1 Cor. 2:11)

Unlike the body and the soul, the human spirit is said to be “dormant” or “dead” (Eph 2:1) until the time we experience spiritual birth or regeneration. At that time, the things that we once considered “foolish” we are now able to understand and see in a different way. (1 Cor 2:14)

Here are some graphics that show the different parts of our soul and spirit.

Parts of the soul Parts of the spirit

Now, on to my little revelation, or theory. Obviously, we know that as Christians we should be led by the Spirit. We are not to be controlled by our bodies, or flesh, but by the Spirit of God. And when we become born again, we are given a new spirit, which is straight from God. What occurred to me when I was looking at those graphics, was that the three parts that make up our spirit correlate with the three parts that make up our soul. So, each part of our soul should be guided by its “higher part” in our spirit.

Soul led by the spirit

When we make decisions, our will should be guided by our conscience. If we go solely by our own will, we all know there are times we will do the wrong thing, and go astray. Our conscience is like a judge in a courtroom, it’s the part of us that convicts when we do wrong and approves when we do right. So our conscience is a safe guide for determining if our actions are in line with God’s will or not. If should be stated that this is for believers. Everyone has a conscience, but the natural man is living by a very different standard, and his conscience may be weak or “defiled.” (1 Cor. 8:7, Titus 1:15) Once the natural man comes to God and is reborn spiritually, God will give him a new and cleansed spirit. (Heb. 10:22)

Our mind should be in tune with and enlightened by our intuition. It is not our mind or intellect that gives us true understanding, but a deeper, truer way of knowing, and that is our intuition. The dictionary describes intuition as: direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension. As you can see, it’s separate from the mind.

I believe that this is the highest way of knowing, because it is the foundation, or the way we start knowing anything. CS Lewis put it this way: “If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved.” There are many people – namely atheists – who believe that science or the scientific method is the only way of knowing truth. But what many of them fail to realize is that there are certain truths that must be in place before you can even go to the scientific method, and those things cannot be proven by science itself. Those are truths that come from intuition. Philosophers call this kind of knowledge “a priori” knowledge (which means, “from what is prior”). So, just as our will should be in line with our conscience, our mind should be in line with our intuition.

Lastly, our emotions, and the way we love and react to others, should follow the example of how God loves us. So the part of our spirit that connects to God (fellowship) correlates to the part of our soul that contains our emotions, and we should look to God’s fellowship with us, as a guide to how we fellowship with others.

So that was what I wanted to share. If anyone disagrees, or thinks that what I’ve said here is not biblically accurate, please don’t hesitate to post your thoughts and correct me if you think I’m wrong. I would like to hear your thoughts on this. Thank you for reading and God bless!

  • Hi lily,

    …just a couple of things I think you should consider.

    1) The points you make regarding mind and intuition seem to be based on the assumption that all thought is purely conscious – when in reality this is clearly not the case.

    2) I see no reason to assume that the human conscience is necessarily part of something god given, when actually there is no reason to assume it cannot have come from development as a social animal.

  • Hey, Lily!

    I am researching a paper, and came across your post. I agree that the tripartite view works the best.

    I wanted to throw this into your thinking and see where it lands. I agree that before Christ, a person’s spirit is dead. In my experience (13 years teaching in rural Africa), spiritually dead does not mean spiritually inactive. It just means that the person is cut off from the life (zoe) that is in God, therefore, ‘dead’. When we are born again, our spirit is made alive, not replaced with a new one. The core message of the Gospel is resurrection. Our spirit was created to be connected, in fellowship with, our Father. So, when we’re born again, and our spirit is made alive, that connection is made for the first time like it was designed to in the beginning.

    I’m writing a paper that has this idea in it, but I cannot for the life of me remember where I learned this stuff from! That’s how I came across your post…

    • lily

      Hi Reverend! Thank you so much for your reply. I actually agree with what you said. I realize that I worded it differently… I said that a person receives a “new” spirit when they come to God, but I guess I shouldn’t have put it that way. Because I agree that when we are born again, that connection is made with God that awakens, or brings to life our spirit. Thank you for pointing that out.

      The ‘revelation’ that I had (and I could be wrong) was how the parts of our soul correlate with the parts of our spirit – I noticed that when I looked at the graphics. So we should go by the higher part of ourselves, our spirit – which includes our conscience, intuition and fellowship with God…. instead of only following our emotions/mind/will. I hope that makes sense!

  • Anonymous

    I believe in the Bipartite view. I am a person (A Body and a Soul). When I die, my soul leaves my body and my body ceases to be “me”, but my soul continues to be “me”.

  • God transcends our human body time constraints, we are created into a non perfect world which is finite and follows explicit “physical” fundamental laws, such as entropy which drives the arrow of time. God is infinite and exists omnipresent across all of our demensional time and space, I think that all spirits are already created and that the soul is an interface for the spirit to interact with the artificial intelligence (computative physics driven as opposed to true imortal sentience) in our bodies, being quasi state as any interface must be it is pervious to demands of the body, the soul can wither in its physical manifestation from underuse and becoming tied up in physical trivialities cutting the physical mortal machine from its sentience/life, leaving just a machine with only it’s own drive and levels of pseudo sentience… Conversely spiritual activities such as praying to god strengthen the spiritual broadcasting abilities of our soul allowing us to better discover the true us.

    Look to Jesus, ask him to help you grow your soul so that your body might work with iyour spirit instead of against it.

    If you live by the world you will die by it, and I actually think one of the worst thing humans ever did was to create schools and allow a government to dictate what is taught. schools take a human and force the mind into a box, one which teaches human logic of the world we live in and systematically distroys any notions that we are each special,unique and loved by god, we are not designed to fight amongst each other, we are meant to control, not be controlled and enslaved , wake up to gods love, find yourself, and remember not everything is as real as it seems, trust god, no other.

  • Derek

    May I recommend the book “Free Indeed” by Tom Marshall (1975 and 1984) which relates the soul’s mind/will/emotions to the spirit’s knowledge/conscience/communion respectively by faith/obedience/hope. This is different from your diagram. Marshall also relates the soul’s mind/will/emotions to the body’s flesh/blood/bone respectively by relationships of confession/authority/joy.

    • That sounds interesting. Thank you, I’ll look into that book. I’m working on a new blog series now about the attributes of God, and how they all go together. So i’m revisiting this topic, and I definitely want to learn more. Blessings!

  • Jared

    Lily,
    When you talked about emotions, you used this scipture. (Sngs 1:7)… I took that as being Songs of Soloman which reads.. “Tell me, O you whom I love, Where you feed your flock, Where you make it rest at noon. For why should I be as one who veils herself By the flocks of your companions? (Song of Solomon 1:7 NKJV). ” And which does seem to go along with emotions…. Can you help me understand this verse or find the right one… I was looking for a verse on emtions.. I was looking for biblical info that proves that we have a mind, will, and emotion when I found your blog..

    Blessings!

    Jared

    • Hi Jared, I’m really sorry for taking so long to reply! Please forgive me. I’m not sure if you were still looking for info on this topic, but to answer your question…. In other translations, the word “soul” is used. For example, in the NASB, “Tell me, O you whom my soul loves…” The original word in Hebrew is nephesh, which means soul. You can look up the biblical usage of that word, in Strongs Hebrew lexicon, and see that the soul is the seat of our emotions and passions. (http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5315&t=NASB) Does that help? Thanks for your reply!!!

  • T.C

    This is an awesome passage it reminds me of time shared with me was the identity of the essence of the church and how the devil wants it for why he wants it. And when he so call discovers he don’t have it saying that he did…… The truth is when come the churches essence he never had it in the first place….for the truth was never in him.. Terrill T.C a.k.a Relic

  • Sweetluvofjesus

    Thank you allllllllllllllll.