Thursday, February 26, 2015

Body and Soul

As well as being made in the image of God, human beings are made up of body and soul. We are connected to the spiritual and the physical realms. This was not a mistake; we were created to be this way (Genesis 2:7; 35:18; Matthew 10:28). Also, our goal involves the resurrection of our bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42; Romans 8:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:24). Therefore, our body, and how we use it, is important to God (Romans 12:1; 6:12-14; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20). This opens the door to all manner of interesting questions. Are we three parts: body, soul, and spirit, or two parts, spirit and soul being aspects of the same thing? What precisely is the state of the soul between death and the resurrection? These are interesting to speculate on, but are not worth contending or dividing over. But there is a more basic principle.

If the body is created by God, we are not able to dismiss the body and the physical world as simply evil. We should therefore avoid extreme moral positions based on harsh treatment of the body that is rooted in the assumption that matter itself is evil (Colossians 2:20-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; Titus 1:15). It also can result in a withdrawal from other people, which makes it hard to reach them (Matthew 9:10-12; Luke 7:36-50; 19:1-10). And if this is true, it is hard to believe that God could really become a man (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18). Those who hold it therefore end up frequently denying either Christ's deity or His humanity.

Or we can go to the opposite extreme and see life as simply physical. This leads to a total focus on sensual pleasures (Colossians 3:15-7; 1 Peter 2:11; Jude 4). It results in conformity to the world and its practices (1 John 2:15-17, James 4:4; Romans 12:2). This can end up in the idea that we are a mere cosmic accident without any meaning or purpose. And if we are nothing but a glorified mechanism, then all our thoughts and actions are a result of our programing, and it is questionable that we can know anything.

What we are left with is a delicate balance that has traditionally been called being in the world but not of it (John 17:14-19). This is something that Christians throughout their history have struggled to maintain. It is an ongoing quest to find the right combination. But we need to avoid straying off the path on one side or the other.

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