Years ago when I was the member of local church here in the area where I live, I found myself listening to one of many a sermons where my then pastor was not quite sure about the direction of his teaching. It was during this teaching that he began to try to describe the make up of man. I anticipated where he was going and I steeled myself for what I knew was coming. He didn’t fail to disappoint. Like so many who have fallen for the false, non-biblical, New Age explanation of this, he laid out that the make up of man was of mind, body, and spirit. I sighed rather heavily because I knew this was simply wrong.
Afterward, I addressed him and respectfully made him aware that he was in error on that point. He proceeded to argue that he wasn’t. This led to a long discussion in his office where I took a good chunk of time explaining why man is dichotomous, not trichotomous, and that it was what the Bible taught. He refused to assent, not based on sound exegesis of what the scriptures said, which is what I kept going back to, but on flawed eisegesis which I pointed out to him on several occasions during our conversation. As you may expect, it was some months after that where me and my wife left that church because the teaching got progressively worse and went straight into heresy.
We must be sure that whatever view we hold onto, that it’s a view that is in agreement with the scriptures and that we are “rightly dividing the word of truth”. That being said, I’d like to take a look at the trichotomous vs dichotomous composition of man.
In Genesis 2:7, the Bible says:
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.
Here we have the explicit dichotomous embodiment of man: the dust of the ground and the breath of life. The result is a living soul. This dichotomous make up is supported throughout scripture. In Matthew 10:28, the Lord says:
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Here the Lord makes it clear that a human has a body and a soul or spirit which is used interchangeably in the scripture. He never talks about a third component.
Paul also talks about the makeup of a human being being dichotomous in body and spirit:
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)
In both cases, the speakers are describing the nature of a human in their entirety. They are outlining the whole of a human being. There are several other scriptures which affirm this as well (Romans 8:10, 1 Corinthians 5:3, Colossians 2:5).
“But what about those scriptures that use the mind, body, and soul as a description of man?”
We’ll take a look at that in Part II of this series.