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ABOUT THE SOUL AND THE SPIRIT

ABOUT THE SOUL AND THE SPIRIT

Soul this is one of the most important words in any vocabulary. The level of complexity linked to what is defined as “soul” is so vast that wisdom urges us to simplify it in order not to end up in utter confusion. Hebrews 4:12,13 tells us about the human inability to completely unravel the contents, the limits, the self-existences of the words used to define our inner world; And what is more, he affirms that only the Word of God can clearly and precisely separate such ethos. Because the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. All attempts to separate or to precisely divide what constitutes us interiorly are still far from being able to define “what is what” in us. In fact, human inner world can only be discerned, perhaps, by man himself; Even if ever ‘in part’. But it can never be totally explained. The self is discernable, but not explainable in words. A man may examine himself but cannot either explain or self-define his own inner structure. He is never able to fully know the limits and the intercommunications within himself. Mankind can develop Psychology but cannot ask a psychologist to explain perfectly and accurately who or what he/she is. When dealing with the ‘within ourselves’ we can only ask for the blessing of discerning... because trying to explain it would be a total waste of time. Paul is the author, in the New Testament, that mostly uses a psychological approach to discuss the human inner life. However, he doesn’t systematize or create any structured model. What matters today, here, is to informally look at how Paul applies the term psyche and what he associates this term with. Paul employs the word psyche only 12 times. In 6 of those cases, the meaning it conveys is life: Rm 11:3: Lord, they have killed your prophets, and digged down your altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. Rm 16:4: … who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. I Co 15:45: So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’, the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. II Co 1:23: I call God as witness upon my soul (life), that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Fp 2:30: Because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could ot give me. I Tess 2:8: We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you have become so dear to us. Amongst the 4 psychological applications of the word, 3 denote desire: Ef 6:6: Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your “heart”. Fp 1:27: ... that you stand firm in one spirit, with one ‘mind’ striving together for the faith of the gospel … Cl 3:23: Whatever you do, work at it with all your ‘heart’, as working for the Lord, not for men, ... Still applying a psychological value to this term, Paul also uses it to indicate emotion: May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ – 1 Tess 5:23 The 2 remaining examples drawn from the use Paul makes of the term ‘psyche’ are personal and specify the individual, the historically discernable being: Rm 2:9: . . . There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil . . . Rm 13:1: Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities . . . To demonstrate the most superior aspect of the inner human existence, Paul uses the term pneuma. In this way, he establishes a difference amongst the vital sources within the human interior. There is the ‘soulish’ man and the ‘spiritual’ man – the former dimension being the one that is more powerfully linked to what exists as emotion, affection, what the personality consists of , cultural influences and interpersonal relationships with all the exchanges that transform them in ‘accumulations’ and ‘heritages’ … derived from the existence of all human beings. So, the Psychikos Man expresses the human nature in itself. The second dimension – the spiritual – expresses the level of the self that transcends the here and now, the immediate. It is the transcendent aspect within the man … the part that transcends the man… without ever stopping being the man though. Paul then talks of the Pneumatikos Man that expresses the part of the self that has conscience of and is subject to the Spirit of God ... the Spirit of God who places the human spirit at the centre and control of their own soul. Thus, the spirit of prophets is subject to the control of prophets. Paul says: For the Psychikos Man (natural man) doesn’t accept the things that come from the Spirit of God because to him they are foolishness, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. But the Pneumatikos Man (spiritual man) makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment – 1 Co 2:14,15. Paul, however, doesn’t treat these ‘two men’ as schizophrenic traits present in the Man. This Man is one… although different dimensions co-exist within him … expressing a permanent inner battle. Romans 7 illustrates this inner war better than any other biblical passage. But Paul also uses psyche together with pneuma, and he does it in a holistic, all encompassing vision of the Grace of God operating for the redemption of the self as a whole. In 1 Tess 5:23 he describes the human materiality and immateriality – both the body with its natural desires ... and the psyche-immediate and the psyche-transcendent. He doesn’t separate these dimensions at any time; on the contrary, he uses the different functions of the human body as an illustration to help to bring all these dimensions together as one and the same thing that is the Self. Paul also submits all that is part of us to the Grace of God: May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ – 1 Tess 5:23 Hence, I have a soul that is a soul in the spirit and a spirit that is a spirit in the soul. The primary function of the spirit is to act as the spirit of the soul and the primary function of the soul is to act as the soul of the spirit. Blessed are those who mature not only to grasp this knowledge, but also to attain this Life. I sure want it Lord!! Caio Translation: Denize Chessa, England Original Title: Acerca da Alma e do Espírito Febrary 15, 2006 WM