Tripartite or Bipartite
One way to view our nature is that we have a material part, our body, and an immaterial part, our soul and/or spirit. A frequently held view is that we have a bipartite nature where the “soul” and “spirit” are taken as different terms for the same entity. In a 1931 issue of The Evangelical Quarterly, A. McCaig wrote a comprehensive 17-page review of scripture in an article titled “Thoughts on the Tripartite Theory of Human Nature” in which the author makes the case that we are bipartite.
Many other theologians suggest that our immaterial nature has two distinctly different parts – a soul and a spirit. This is known as a tripartite view. Information to include scripture references are at this website and the site of Andrew Wommack Ministries.
We tend to lean towards those who hold a tripartite view and the following is my understanding of our design and how the spirit, soul and body are interconnected. Indeed, we are very, very complex beings and only a living God could have created us as we are. I urge you to study the scriptures to arrive at your own understanding of man’s design.
It is by our body that we function. It’s comprised of organs and cells which consists of protein carbohydrates and fats. Our body contains our nervous system with nerves and the brain. It’s through our bodies that we connect to the physical world with our five senses.
Psalm 139:14 says that “you are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Open this document for examples of how marvelously God made our bodies to function as they do.
Our soul is what gives us our personality and it’s through our soul that we live out our relationship with God, with other people and with our self. Our soul likely has three major components — our mind, will and emotions. Our mind has a conscious part and a subconscious part. The conscious mind is where we do our thinking and reasoning. The sub-conscious mind is where we hold our deep beliefs and our attitudes. It’s also where we have our feeling, our emotions and retain our memories. Our will is what gives us the ability to make choices. Through a very complex way, our mind, our will and our emotions are connected to the body through our endocrine, nervous and immune systems.
“The mind and body communicate constantly. What the mind thinks, perceives, and experiences is sent from our brain to the rest of the body.” Herbert Benson, M.D., The Benson – Henson Institute for Mind Body Medicine
It’s in our spirit that we have meaning and purpose in life. At the deepest level our spirit gives us meaning and purpose and our spirit enables us to love one another, our self and God. It’s through our spirit that we have communion and fellowship with God. Our spirit gives us intuition between right and wrong. For in-depth reading about the distinction between spirit, soul and body consider material written by Watchman Nee, especially The Spiritual Man which is a book online and free.
Our spiritual health will have a significant impact on our emotional health which will have a major influence on our physical health. The inter-connection between the spirit, the soul and the body is certainly a complex connection, nevertheless, the connection is very real. The apostle John was inspired by God to write in 3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” This is an indication of the importance of attending to matters of the soul as it relates to being healthy.
The Interaction Between Spirit, Soul and Body
Many of us are affected by how we handle the stress that life brings us. If chronic stress is left unchecked, over a period of time our bodies will take a toll. A strong faith can help us to cope with the stress that we experience in our life and enable the impact of that stress to be less significant. Without a strong personal faith we must resort to our own resources to cope with the stress present in our life. Often we attempt to cope with this stress through addictions and other methods of escape. This behavior can further exacerbate the effect of stress on our physical health. A strong personal faith can be a resource that helps to manage stress. Read more at Stress, Health and Faith.
Our beliefs and attitudes, determined in large degree by our faith, will play a major role in our thinking patterns. Our day to day thinking will have an impact on our emotions and feelings, and our emotions and feelings will have a major impact on our behaviors. In this regard, our thought patterns play a significant role in our emotional and physical health. In the page on Spiritual Exercises we address the importance of our thinking patterns and how we can change our thinking which can transform our life.
Caring for our heart – our ‘spiritual’ heart as well as our physical heart – is a huge part of being healthy.
Read more about spirituality and health to better understand why this connection between one’s faith and their health exists.
“Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23