Saturday, April 23, 2005

What is Man? Two Parts or Three?

Phillip Ross over at Pilgrim Platform raises an interesting topic concerning the composition of man. He writes:

"I bought a new Reformation Study Bible, edited by R.C. Sproul, and was reading Genesis 2 and the various comments and notes this morning. A brief article on page 10 discusses the composition of a human person."Each human being in this world consists of a material body animated by an immaterial personal self. Scripture calls this self a 'soul' or 'spirit.'"While the article argues for the traditional understanding of a dichotomous composition, there are many believers who argue for a trichotomous composition. Most of the discussion of this issue that I have read leaves my head spinning. There is much confusion about it. Some distinguish between mind, body and soul, other use body, soul and spirit. The first issue, though, is whether people are dichotomous or trichotomous."

Ross then makes a case for the trichotomous position. Arguing:

Genesis clearly reveals that man was created in the image of God. Exactly what that image is or what it means has been discussed for aeons. My take on it, following Van Til, is that since God is a Trinity, a trichotomous being whose various distinctions do not violate His unity and wholeness, man has a similar analogical trichotomous composition.

From there he raises the question of what distinguishes a believer from an unbeliever, positing that the difference lies in the void in the composition of the unbeliever.

I want to argue that both believers and unbelievers are trichotomous but unbelievers have an empty or unrealized element. Clearly, unbelievers are not whole, not complete. Someone has said that all people have a God-sized hole in them, and that they are not complete until God fills that hole. This lobbies for the fact that the Holy Spirit is dispatched to believers for the purpose of salvation, which amounts to the wholeness of believers in Christ. Believers are yoked with Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. That yoke is composed of human spirit (or soul) and Holy Spirit.

Unbelievers are not constitutionally different than believers, and are therefore trichotomous. However, only two of their three cylinders are firing, to borrow an engine analogy. Two of their three cavities are filled -- body and soul -- and the third cavity is devoid of the Holy Spirit.

Like I said, an interesting topic. I can see the reasoning behind the trichotomous position. However, I need to think further on the point raised concerning whether or not the Holy Spirit is the "missing" element or third part of man's makeup. How does all this fit into man's perfect state in the Garden ofEden? In what way does the doctrine of total depravity fit this scheme - since in it all the parts of man are corrupted - Body, Soul and Spirit? How is the Spirit's place in the Trinity kept separate from the Spirit's place in the composition of man?

For now I am more comfortable with the traditional understanding of the nature of man. Seeing the Holy Spirit's role as applying the total salvation of Christ to the whole of man - recreating in him the image of God lost in the fall. Believers having experienced the reclaimation of God's original design, while unbelievers still tragically and fatally flawed.

Let me know what you think...

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