A Christian Philosophy of The Psychological Nature of Man

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Much of Christian Theology today teaches a dualistic philosophy with the body and soul being the two components of its system.  Some philosophers have subscribed to the idea proposed by Descartes that man has a dualistic nature, that is, body and mind, with the physical being divisible, while the mental remains indivisible. The word metaphysics draws from these dualistic aspects of man.  Modern psychology also sees man as dualistic in nature, with its divisions being entitled physical and psychological.  But it differs from Descartes point of view in that it also divides the psychological aspects of man into three distinct categories, the id, theego, and thesuper-ego.  These three aspects of the inner-man have yet to be fully addressed or explained by Christian Theology.

Most Christians understand the words, soul andspirit to be synonymous, but the Apostle Paul writes of a dualistic nature of man’s inner person.  In Hebrews 4:12, he speaks of the division of soul andspirit by the word of God, which also discerns “the thoughts and intents of the heart.” This two-fold division of Paul’s inner-man is a reflection of a two-fold division of man’s physical person, mind and body.  Christ in the New Testament expounded this view of man’s being.

God and Christ in the Christian Scripture seem to be aware of a tri-fold psychological nature of man much like modern psychology is viewed. The first commandment God gave to mankind recognized this tri-fold nature of mankind’s inner-personage.  St. Mark quotes Jesus repeating the command, “AND THOU SHALT LOVE THE LORD THY GOD WITH ALL THY HEART, AND WITH ALL THY SOUL, AND WITH ALL THY MIND, AND WITH ALL THY STRENGTH” (Mark 12:30).  If these were synonymous words, why was this reiteration necessary here?  This passage can be understood to divide the outward man (strength) with a tri-fold nature of the inner man (Heart, soul, mind).  If these can be distinguished as separate realms, as Christ apparently does in this passage, then it is the Christian responsibility to discern how the aspects of man’s inner person fits each division and how they relate man, who was made in God’s image, to our Creator.  

Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, also recognized a tri-fold nature of the inner man.  He divided his concept of man’s psychological being into three distinguishable parts, as previously stated. The id, Freud believed, was man’s subconscious instincts, or as Paul would call it, man’s carnal nature or man’s soul. The second aspect of the psychological nature of man is his intellect or his conscious mind, which is the equivalent of Freud’s ego.   The super-ego, Freud believed was similar to the Christian idea of our subconscious inner conscience, and which the Apostle Paul would equate with our spiritual nature or spirit.  Freud believed our conscious perceptual state of mind was like an iceberg in the ocean with only the smallest portion being seen, while the larger portion of the subconscious mind is submerged under the surface. 

In Freud’s theory, the id, which is the impulses and responses of man, is more fully conscious at birth and becomes subject to the knowledge of the ego.  The ego sets boundaries on the id’s instincts, according to its knowledge of possible harms to the human body.  The last of his three divisions was the super-ego, which is the greatest portion of our sub-consciousness, and that part of the inner-man, Freud believed, where our most hideous and painful thoughts, fears, and urges reside.  Freud believed that the two subconscious aspects would strive to communicate through the conscious mind, much like Paul’s battleof the flesh andspirit.    Though Freud recognized this tri-une inner being, he did not discern the implications it held for the Christian perspective in the philosophy of man’s personage.  He perceived intellectually what his spirit could not conceive in its deadened state.  Had his spirit been restored in Christ, he may have understood man’s inner person with spiritual illumination.      

I Corinthians 15: 45-46 equates the living soul with that which is natural.  The soul is that part of man’s inner being that activates the mind, bringing about the unconscious animating drives of the flesh as seen in Freud’s id.  The mind, or the intellect and will, can be equated with Freud’s ego, and is involved in the choices of conscious decisions.  The heart, which seems to be synonymous with spirit in Scripture, involves the spiritual consciousness and the innate desire of man to commune with God.  Freud’s super-ego equates this aspect of our being with our conscience, our sense of right and wrong. 

One way to view this tri-une aspect of man’s psychological being is to equate the body with an object containing a battery.  The battery runs the inner-workings of the object to activate it.  The soul is the battery, which comes from outside the physical body, but is placed within in it and attached to it for the life of the battery.  The inner-workings would be the mind (brain) of the body, which is run by the battery.  The electrical impulses of the brain activate our body, making the mind subject to the chemical imbalances of genetics, but something foreign to the body gives it life, and that is the soul.  But the soul or battery must also receive its electrical charge from a greater source of energy.  That energy is the spirit of man, which is created and empowered by the Spirit of God, who made man in His own image.  

God is the Creator of all aspects of man: spirit, soul, mind, and body.  He is the ultimate source of all energy.  The energy of the spirit is contained within the soul, which is contained within the mind, which is contained within the body.  Yet, as the mind is to the body, so is the spirit to the soul.  As the body is the physical manifestation of the mind, the soul is the outward manifestation of the spirit.  Therefore, the spirit and the soul are the immaterial substances, while the mind and body are the material substances. 

One of the problems with dualistic philosophies is how the immaterial aspect influences the material aspect.  The Monistic view popular today sees the body and mind as material, but it does not discern an immaterial soul or spirit because they do not understand how the immaterial can affect the material.  In the great commandment, Jesus preceded the soul with the heart, the mind with the soul, and the flesh with the mind.  In the perfection of creation, the spirit energized the soul, which activated the mind, which in turn animated the flesh.  Each aspect of man’s person is simply a more powerfully concentrated form of energy than its successor.  The spirit and soul flows through and binds the mind to the body as the energy from the battery is plugged into the inner-workings of an object and flows through it to activate and animate it.  

The body can also be viewed analogously as the tree, which puts forth its leaves and branches, and finally fruit containing seed.  The leaves absorb the light, which changes the energy into food for the growth of the tree and the production of the fruit. The soul could be equated with the light, which the mind’s eyes or pores of the leaves takes in, which is then changed into energy, which is the sap flowing through it for the growth of the tree or motivation for the body.  The spirit is the energy radiating from the sun or source, which represents the Spirit of God.  To continue this analogy, we can see that when the tree produces its fruit and the fruit its seed, the cycle begins anew.  The Spirit of God both plants and nurtures the seed of the spirit within mankind.

In creation our spirit was created in the image of God, which emanated from His Spirit and gave life to the soul of man.  “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).  The breath of life was the spirit placed within the living soul by God.  At this instance man was given free will or the capacity for choosing good or evil.  The soul is neither good, nor evil, but can be possessed or dominated by either God’s spirit or a spirit of evil, whichever man chooses to nurture his spirit-seed by.  Man’s soul is who he is as a person.  It can be influenced by his experiences in the world around him, but his spirit directs how he views his environment.  The spirit manifests the countenance of man’s internal and external disposition.  If his spirit is nurtured by God’s spirit, man views his world through spiritual eyes.  But, if his spirit is nurtured by evil, or by the darkness of this world, he sees through carnal eyes.  When the soul (id, flesh) supercedes the spirit (super-ego), it gains control over the mind (ego) and body of man and man lives in a carnal state of being.  If God’s Word divides the soul and spirit asunder, then they must be united before man can spiritually commune with God.  When the spirit supercedes the soul in regeneration, as man’s being was before the Fall, man is in a spiritual state, rather than a carnal state of being.  He can then commune freely with the Spirit of God.

In the Fall of man as told in Genesis 3, the soul of man lost it’s spirit and opened the eyes of man to the knowledge of good and evil.  The soul then became preeminent over the spirit, gaining control over the mind and body of man, who can then be “drawn away of his own lusts, and enticed.”(James 1:14).  With the carnal instincts or flesh controlling man, evil spirits entice man to wickedness, keeping the spirit-seed suppressed in darkness.  The spiritual being of man must be restored to its original state by the Holy Spirit or else his soul can be possessed, and his spirit-seed can be suppressed by the darkness of evil.  Modern psychology calls this by many other names, but it is possession of the soul nonetheless.  Only when man’s subconscious spirit-seed breaks the barrier of the darkness of the earth and comes into the knowledge and light of Christ, can the spirit-seed grow into a tree of life, which spiritually protects and covers the soul.  But the light of Christ must first reach down into the depths of darkness for the seed to be enabled to break free from its barrier. 

We were created to be in a spiritual relationship with God, but when the Fall occurred in the Garden of Eden, man’s spiritual covering died off and the spirit-seed was internalized and planted within.  Mankind became spiritually naked as well as physically naked.  We no longer had the power to commune with God on a spiritual plane, nor did we have the innocence of not knowing evil. The Law was given to man to limit his transgressions until a restoration or renewed growth of our spirit could take place.  It made us have a conscious awareness of right and wrong outside of ourselves, where before our spiritual conscience had dwelt within us and emanated outward to reflect our spiritual countenance.  The Law is outside of us and must be absorbed inward before the spirit-seed can be nurtured to new growth.

Our soul, which is the source of our natural instincts and drives, is rooted in self-preservation.  These fleshly desires such as hunger, thirst, pleasure, and the avoidance of pain influences our mind to choose what’s best for us, regardless of whether or not it is good for anyone else.  But the spirit, when it is restored in Christ teaches us to love our brothers and to consider them as we consider ourselves.  This balance makes man the moral being that he is.  But when the spirit within is not renewed, motives are usually driven by selfish desires, and even the good that is done serves selfish motives.  When man’s spirit is in the un-restored state of being, he is more susceptible to fleshly influences and lusts of the soul, which makes him more inclined to disobedience of the Law of God and maliciousness toward his fellowman.  Either, man is guided by the Spirit, or he must be controlled by the Law.

I Peter 1:22-23 says that we purify our souls “in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren . . . Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.”  Christ came to restore us to a spiritual relationship with God so that we might worship Him in spirit and in truth.   But until man is restored to that relationship with God through Christ he is bound by the law, which gives mankind its sense of righteousness.  If man is unaware or neglectful of the Law, nor has been restored spiritually through Christ, his conscience is seared to the level of base instincts or the soul.  This may be seen in some uncivilized native tribes who seem to have no sense of morality and also in some habitual criminals who seem to not have any code of ethics.   But when man is spiritually restored through his faith in Jesus Christ, his spirit takes its proper position in the tri-fold psychological nature of man’s inner-being.  The Seed of the Spirit is planted within us, so that we may become a tree of life, which shades or covers our soul from the evils of this world.  Every seed has the potential for growth, though not all complete the growth cycle.  As Christ has stated, some seeds fell on the rocks by the wayside and were eaten by birds, some had no depth and withered, and only some fell on good ground.   

The visible portion of man’s psychological being, his actions, is the result of the inward state of the spirit-seed.  The battle between the id and the super-ego, or as Paul would say the battle between flesh and spirit determines the upward growth of the spirit-seed.  The flesh is the darkness of the earth, our worldly desires, while the spirit must break free from the hull of its seed and be nurtured by the light and water of God’s spirit.  We must be born of water and spirit.  The light is God’s Word and the water is the Church.  The Church is the womb or hull from which we must be nurtured and born spiritually.  God’s people must water the seeds that God’s light has illuminated.

The mind is the seat of man’s will and it is here that man must choose whether he will serve the fleshly desires of his soul or feed his spiritual needs.  Man is not complete until he is restored spiritually by faith in Christ Jesus.  His search for peace of mind, soul identity, and spiritual fulfillment can not be truly discovered until his spirit rests in the fullness of his being, which is completed in him by his acceptance of the gift of God’s Son.  But God has given the mind of man free will to accept His perfect sacrifice or to reject it. 

The carnal nature of man’s soul must be covered by his spiritual nature, as Adam’s transgression was covered by the blood-sacrifice, from which the skins that God covered his nakedness in the garden came.  Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross to shed His sinless blood that man may be spiritually covered once again.  He was the sacrificial lamb that covers the spiritual nakedness of our soul.  Christ clothes the soul of man, restoring the fallen spirit to God’s image, and unites it once again with His spirit, which will in turn restore the mind and body. 

The spirit surrounds and covers us in the spiritual realm as the animal skins surrounded and covered Adam’s and Eve’s nakedness in the Garden.  This surrounding of spirit can be described as the spiritual countenance of a person.  In the Fall, man experienced a fallen countenance of spirit, which separated Adam and Eve from each other and from God.  This separation did not come from God, but rather from man.  God did not turn away from man, but man turned away and hid from God.  The first thing Adam and Eve did when they had sinned, by eating of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, was to sew fig leaves upon themselves to hide their nakedness from each other.  Afterwards, when they heard God calling, they hid themselves from Him among the trees of the Garden. But just as God sought Adam and Eve in the Garden and found out their sin and covered them, He seeks mankind today and discovers our sin to us and covers our spiritual nakedness with His Spirit.  When man’s spiritual countenance is fallen in sin, we hide our true selves from God and from our fellowman.  Sin separates man from man, and man from God. 

But man’s spirit is renewed when he accepts the blood sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Son, who died on the cross of Calvary as his sacrificial lamb, to cover his spiritual nakedness. The Spirit of God restores his fallen spirit, which surrounds and covers his soul with a spiritual countenance.  Man must have that spiritual atmosphere surrounding him before the seed of the Spirit within him can grow into a tree of life. The Spirit plants the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden, and as in the analogy of the tree, it is this tree’s fruit, which plants the spirit-seed within us.  But though every seed that is planted will not develop into a tree of life, many will grow and become shades filled with the fruits of the spirit.  If the atmosphere of God’s grace and the conditions of man’s knowledge and faith are not met, the spirit-seed within man will lay dormant, buried beneath the earth of his soul. 

The relationship between this tri-fold view of man’s psychological being and the Christian view of the Trinity cannot be ignored.  The book of Genesis clearly states that man was made in the image of God.  God in Genesis is in a plural form, which many believe denotes the earliest idea man had of the tri-une Godhead.  In the Trinitarian view held by Christians, The Godhead consists of a tri-une being, which is described in human terms as three persons in one Godhead: the Father, theSon, and theHoly Ghost.  Jesus of Nazareth was the physical manifestation of God, completely human and completely God.  Jesus is that part of God that communicates with man, the Word of God.  The Father being the representation of the Soul of God, the Son being the representation of the Mind of God (Christ), and of course the Holy Ghost being the representation of the Spirit of God. 

The Soul of Godis the great I Am, that which makes God –Godin all of His attributes, the Fatherof the Trinitarian unit.  The Mind of Godis the Word of God, which spoke all of creation into existence and communicates the Soul of God to mankind.  The Spirit of Godis that aspect of the Trinitarian unit which completes the God-head into the Tri-une Being.  It is Eternal, the beginning of all things and the end of all things, the Alphaand Omega, the Firstand the Last.  In creation, the Soul of God desired to create and have communion with man, the Word of God commanded the creation, and the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.  The Soul was the motivator, the Word was the Instructor, and the Spirit was the Creator.  The Spirit of God is that which touches the heart of man, moving over the face of the earth.

It makes sense that if the Godhead is a tri-une being, with a Soul, Mind, and Spirit, then man, made in His image, would also be a tri-une being with the physical representation of a body, just as Jesus was the physical representation of the Godhead.  The physical being held within the boundary of time with the tri-une aspects being eternal.  God commanded that the eternal aspects of the spiritual and psychological energies be concentrated into one physical form for a specifically determined period of time.  He commanded that the molecules be held together and energized by the tri-une inner-man’s being.  But man in his fallen state differs from God in that the spirit, soul, and mind are not fully conscious of one another and cannot communicate freely with one another.  Man has a limited use of his inner capacity, as it is well known that man uses only a small portion of his brain.  The unused portion could be equated with his spiritual capacity.  In the man Jesus, His spiritual capacity was fully conscious along with His physical capacity. 

The three aspects of the Tri-une being were fully and physically manifest in the person of Christ Jesus.  Colossians 1:19 proclaims that “it pleased the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell,” and again in Colossians 2:9 “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” But when the Word became flesh the Spirit and Soul of God were separated by the Word, just as the spirit and soul of man is divided by the Word.  Though each aspect of the Godhead was present in Jesus, the Father and the Spirit became the subconscious aspect in Christ, while the Mind of God was fully conscious in Christ.  The conscious Mind in Christ communicated with each of the other attributes of God, but They were limited of communication between themselves.  God emptied Himself out and became man so that man could be spiritually restored.  God chose to limit His Omniscience, His Omnipotence, and His Omnipresence that He might be contained in human form. 

In John 16:7 Christ professes “ . . . for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.  The Spirit and Soul was reduced and contained in the Mind of Christ while He yet lived, but was released when Jesus died.  His body was resurrected a new and incorruptible body, a spiritual body with a spiritual mind.  The body of Christ, which is the Seed of the Spirit, must have died and been buried, that he might grow unto us a tree of life, raised up out of the earth and reaching into heaven that His branches might bear fruit unto us.    

In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God was manifest in the prophets by wisdom and power.  In the New Testament the Spirit of God descended on Jesus in the form of a dove and later on the day of Pentecost descended on the new converts as tongues of fire, empowering them with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  The restored spirit of man is empowered by the Holy Spirit with wisdom and grace in the same way, if he continues in the Spirit, nurturing his own spirit.  We must remain in the fruit until it ripens before we can be planted and nurtured elsewhere.  And when we are mature enough we can then be transplanted where we can grow fruit of our own.  Hence, the spirit of God yields an abundance of spiritual fruit.  When the spiritual aspect of man’s nature overcomes his selfish carnal desires, and the mind of man conforms to the Mind of God (Christ), he lives a transformed life.  He becomes a new creation in Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God is made manifest on earth as in Heaven. 

Just as the Spirit of God transcended the death of Jesus physical body, which was resurrected in new life, so man’s redeemed spirit will survive the death of his physical body, which will be raised from death in a glorified body.  The spirit, soul, mind and body of man will be a redeemed whole unit just as God is eternally complete in Spirit, Soul, Mind, and Body. 

If God is a tri-une being, as I believe He is, and man is created in His image, then I believe man is truly a tri-une being like his Creator.  This tri-une philosophy of man, I believe is consistent with Descartes’ system of dualism, in that man is primarily body and mind, but with the exception that the inner-being (mind) of man, I believe, is divisible.  It is consistent with modern psychology based on the Freudian view, in that it understands man to be primarily physical and psychological, while it also recognizes the tri-fold nature of man’s inner person.  I also believe it is consistent with the Christian concept of man’s total person and with Biblical Scripture.  I realize that others may not see it this way, but I pray that my insights might at least bring this view under scrutiny.  This is only the beginning of a concept that I believe will be perfected by other philosophers and theologians of a greater caliber than I.  


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