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SENSUAL (ψυχικός, G6035, animal, natural). A word found twice in the KJV of the NT (Jas 3:15 RSV UNSPIRITUAL; Jude 19 RSV WORLDLY PEOPLE), and having the meaning of “unspiritual.” As used in the NT it does not have the modern connotation of preoccupation with bodily or sexual pleasures. It stands in contrast with πνευματικός, G4461, spiritual, or characterized by the Spirit of God. A sensual person is one whose life is not controlled by the Holy Spirit, but by his own fallen nature.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Biblical psychology has no English equivalent for this Greek original. Man subject to the lower appetites is sarkikos, "fleshly"; in the communion of his spirit with God he is pneumatikos, "spiritual." Between the two is the psuche, "soul," the center of his personal being. This ego or "I"in each man is bound to the spirit, the higher nature; and to the body or lower nature.

The soul (psuche) as the seat of the senses, desires, affections, appetites, passions, i.e. the lower animal nature common to man with the beasts, was distinguished in the Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy from the higher rational nature (nous, pneuma).

The subjection of the soul to the animal nature is man’s debasement, to the spirit indwelt of God is his exaltation. The English equivalent for psuchikos, "psychic" does not express this debasement. In the New Testament "sensual" indicates man’s subjection to self and self-interest, whether animal or intellectual--the selfish man in whom the spirit is degraded into subordination to the debased psuche, "soul." This debasement may be

(1) intellectual, "not wisdom .... from above, but .... earthly, sensual" (Jas 3:15);

(2) carnal (and of course moral), "sensual, having not the Spirit" (Jude 1:19).

It ranges all the way from sensuous self-indulgence to gross immorality. In the utter subjection of the spirit to sense it is the utter exclusion of God from the life. Hence, "the natural (psuchikos) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" (1Co 2:14). The term is equivalent to "the mind of the flesh" (Ro 8:7) which "is not subject to the law of God."

See Psychology.

Dwight M. Pratt