Lecture 15: Humankind
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An overview of the doctrine of humankind, including their origin, the biblical definition of spirit and soul, and the relationship between body and spirit.
I. Origin of Humankind
A. Adam and Eve
B. The Garden of Eden
II. Key Terms
III. Body and Spirit
A. An interactive dualism
Course: A Guide to Christian Theology
Lecture: Origin of Mankind
This is the 15th lecture in the online series of lectures on a Guide to Christian Theology by Dr Breshears. Recommended Reading includes: Biblical References from the Course and Study Guides 1 – 39.
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I. God created Humans in his Image
A. Adam and Eve
In looking in Genesis 1, we see that God created heaven and earth; he creates everything that exists and in the middle of this creation, he creates humans. So we will consider the nature of these humans. These are God like creatures with whom the God who creates everything are partners to do a building project. We find in Genesis 1 that the earth is good and after everything is created, it is very good, but it is not complete. We see that original creation isn’t complete yet; in Genesis 1:28 he commands Adam and Eve to fill the earth and cultivate it or subdue it. In Genesis 1:2, we find that the earth is without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. Void means that it was uninhabited and uncultivated. We compare this to Jeremiah chapter 4. So the original land is without people and uncultivated and God creates humans, like him and partnering with him, so that we can work together with him to fill the earth with people who will be worshiping him in a temple like environment. They will be working toward a city that isn’t there yet from Revelation 21 and 22.
So what does God tell us about these God like creatures? So where do humans come from? The debate focuses on whether there was Adam and Eve from where all other humans come that are created by God. Or has humans come from other beings, from a community of humans somewhere. There is a whole genetic research going on with this right now. The Christian biologists and geneticists have not been looked upon in favor in regards to this debate. But Biblically the first two human beings came direct from the creation of God. We have, ‘let us make man in our image’ in chapter 1; then in chapter 2, God formed man from the dust of the ground, not from the present application of natural law. This is an evolutionary idea that mankind was created due to natural law or naturalism. So God was directly involved in the creation of human beings and they have become his covenant partners. I believe that all humanity came from that original pair, from Adam and Eve and there is scientific evidence that support that. So humans were created and have a life time. Now the questions around that get really complicated in regards to the idea of purpose and hope in our lives.
B. The Garden of Eden
So humans are God like creatures that were put in a place (garden) called Eden to work with God. Eden is almost like a temple or tabernacle where we work and worship with God. Let’s look at the key terms that describe humans. The first word in Hebrew is ‘ruuh’ translated wind or spirit. The basic idea of spirit in both the Old and New Testament has to do with the whole person in a relationship with God. When we look at passages like in Romans 1 and 8 where it implies that we serve God with our spirit and there is an emphasis there on the inner person compared to the outer person. We see in 1st Corinthians 7 where the body is wasting away but the spirit gets stronger. This term can be used to describe what our soul is like, but the basic idea is spirit which is a person in relation to God. The second key term is the word nephesh or sukkah. Sometimes people use this word for soul but this is actually very rare. For example in Romans 13:1 KJV, it says, ‘let every soul be subject unto the higher power.’ In the ESV it says ‘person’ and most other translations say this. This word is talking about the whole person. So the basic idea of nephesh is a person. Occasionally in both the Old and New Testament, it refers to the immaterial aspect of the person. This is seen in Matthew chapter 10 when talking about the body and soul. There is often an idea of weakness or mortality that is associated with it.
II. The Soul
Now we have a dog here in class by the name of Rufial this morning. I very kind and obeying dog which seems to be well trained. Does Rufial, this dog, have a soul? We see in Genesis chapter 1, he is a nephesh hayar, a living soul. So there is Scripture that talk about animals having souls, but souls don’t mean the immaterial part that lives forever. In the Bible, it means a living being. A key idea when speaking about humans is that they are ‘a soul’ instead of having a soul; we just don’t have a soul as such. We are a living being created to live with and for God in this place. Biblically, humans don’t have a soul as such; again, they are a soul. So what goes to heaven when you die? We are not used to this terminology here. In 2nd Corinthians 5:6-8 it talks about being absent from the body. In English, we do use the word ‘soul’ to be something that is absent from the body. So be aware that the word ‘soul’ in the Bible doesn’t mean the same as the soul we use in English. Some people argue that soul doesn’t refer to the immaterial part of the person, therefore they argue like many others that the body transcends into death and at death, you die because the soul in the Bible is never translated in the way we translate it in English vernacular. But there, know that there is a something that survives after death as this is very clear Biblical teaching. Just remember that humans are a soul. The body is the physical part of a person but many times this refers to the whole person or a body can be referred to collectively and then there is an immaterial part of the body that goes to heaven.
The word flesh in the Old Testament and most of the New Testament is where it just refers to physicality as in John 1:14. The Word became flesh means that it was a real body. Interestingly for the Greek, flesh was an evil thing, but the Bible doesn’t see it that way. Sometimes flesh means sinful desires like in Paul’s writings. If we translate it as flesh, it sometimes makes us think that evil desires are in our physicality and one thing you find for sure that sinful desires come from the whole person. Galatians 5 says that if we walk by the spirit or by the flesh where the NIV talks about the sinful nature. Verse 19 says, ‘now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.’ So these are physically based things. I do a lot of work with people having sexual addictions and I believe that only part of those addictions is physical. Things like idolatry and hatred are not primarily physical at all. So in Paul when you see the word ‘flesh’, don’t think that our sinfulness comes out of our physicality, instead, our sinfulness comes out of our whole person. The Greek word ‘flesh’ doesn’t map exactly to the English word ‘flesh’. Well, think of the word ‘pig’ for example, I am not sure this is the best example. It is usually an animal but also it can be described as the way some people eat. It could be a response to a police officer or of course, other things. So the word can have different meanings and connotations as with other terms from the Bible.
C. Heart and Conscience
We have the word ‘heart’ which usually means emotions within English vernacular. In English it could also refer to thinking, feelings and actions but in the Bible the word head and heart is not very different. They both refer to the deepest part of the person with the head perhaps referring a little more to the cognitive side and the heart a little more to the feeling side. So when you get a new heart, your deepest desires change so if you love God with the deepest part of your heart; there isn’t a lot of difference with the idea of mind in this case. Conscience is the capacity to make decisions. Conscience in the Bible is not a dependable moral guide; in fact most of the references in Scripture are to a bad conscience. So let your conscience be your guide; no, that may not be a good idea as your conscience may be wrong. Some of these terms look at humans from a different perspective and where most are looking at the human as a whole person.
III. Body and Spirit
A. An Interactive Dualism
Okay, so how many parts in a person? Back in Genesis 2:7 we have the creation of Adam the individual where God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature, a nephesh hayar. So, we have dust and breath and we have living being. So how do they relate to each other? One pastor was arguing with me saying that there were three parts to a person: body, breath and soul. I showed him that body plus breath equaled soul or person. This is two parts. All evangelicals agree that there are two fundamentals parts to a person: a material body and an immaterial part which can be said to be breath or spirit. These two come together and melt together into an interactive dualism. My body impacts by thinking and emotions but my thinking and emotions can impact my body – it is a whole person. Many non-Christians are what is called a ‘monas’ arguing that there is only one part to the person. Most common in our society are the materialists who argue that one part is material. Those who believe this say that there is a material reality and when that dies, there is no more will or spirit, for they die. The idealists such as the New Age people believe that the only real part is the spiritual part. As Christians, we argue that there are two fundamental parts: material and immaterial which come together in an interactive dualism.
As Christians we are opposed to materialism or naturalism, instead we believe the person has two essences that interact with each other. We look later at the immaterial part which result in the difference between dichotomy and trichotomy where dichotomy argues that there are only two parts and trichotomy argue for a total of three parts, where the soul has two parts and then there is the spirit. Look at 1st Thessalonians 5:23 where it says, ‘may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ This is a key passage for the idea of trichotomy. For a long time I was a deeply committed to the idea of trichotomy but I saw in Mark 12:30 where it says, ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ This is Jesus quoting the great commandment from Deuteronomy chapter 6:5. So there are four parts to this: heart, soul, mind and strength. In Deuteronomy 6:5 it reads, ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.’ So we see three parts here and in Mark we see four parts. In Mark the fellow replies changing it to heart, understanding and strength. I actually think that there are many parts to a person with two basic essences: body and spirit or material and immaterial. However, you can look at a person from different perspectives and you can say: there is heart, mind, conscience, soul, spirit, flesh, bone and blood. I think there is one person with two interacting essences, the material and the immaterial. So we can say that humans are definitely complex.
B. You Are a Spiritual Being
I want to look at a person yet in a different way. In considering a person, a person is a spiritual being and when considering any person, I look at them spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, physically, volitionally, vocationally, familiarly and socially; I look at them in eight different ways. These are really practical. Accordingly, what a person tells me of what they are having trouble with, I will look at that part of their life. I look at a person deep thinking patterns, their basic belief structures that drives a person’s mind. We have Romans 12, be transformed by the renewing of your mind; this is the basic values of a person’s world view. These can be good or bad. If I believe in a certain way then that is my world view and it is very empowering. If I look down upon myself in a negative way, this is very disempowering to me. I look at what drives a person’s deep emotions such as bondages from your pass, a time when you have been really hurt or I look at you physically and see whether you need to go to the doctor or not. Then there is a volitional aspect, that is, your will and compulsive behavior. In regards to vocational, what has God called you to do? I also look at a person’s family line as this is important as with other structures that are in our lives. I look at the social side of a person, their friends and church environment. I try to look at all eight of these areas that make up the spiritual being.
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